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Living in the Present

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
  • March 2018
• Created: March 12, 2018

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This – our March issue – is one of MMR’s two annual “fretted focus” issues.

Anyone who reads MMR regularly and checks this Editorial page is likely aware that I’m a full-on guitar geek. I love guitars and “guitar-ish” instruments – solid body electrics, hollow bodies, semi-hollows, acoustics, vintage, cutting-edge, wacky, traditional, basses, ukuleles, dulcimers, mandolins, lutes: you name it, I’m interested.

Trying to narrow my attention for this here editorial was something of a daunting task.

See, I’m a shameless “Gibson guy” (I’m also a “Dan Armstrong guy,” but seeing as Ampeg has once again pressed Pause on the distribution of those badass guitars, I’ll leave that to the side for current purposes) and, as such, it’d be tempting to devote this column to speculating about what’s going on at Gibson, the stories of the organization’s impending doom, former employees’ tales of disorganization and mismanagement, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz’ recent assertion – as printed in Billboard – that the problem boils down to MI retailers not having qualified sales staff or adequate facilities for customers to sit and check out gear in the stores, or the belief of some that Mr. Juszkiewicz, himself, is the root cause of Gibson’s woes (open up Google, type in “Gibson CEO,“ and the first suggested search is, “Gibson CEO crazy”).

But, I prefer to remain agnostic on this topic until the dust settles. Financial ratings groups are having their say, Mr. Juszkiewicz was kind enough to speak with MMR to offer his side of the current story (a completely cordial, professional conversation, for what it’s worth), and I don’t see any need to add further speculative fuel to the fire. I was interested to read Menzie Pittman’s comments on the subject of “guitar heroes” in this issue’s “Small Business Matters” as that general topic was where I’d been headed for this Editorial.

Menzie talks about how an appropriate focus for those bemoaning the lack of guitar heroes these days might be female players – in particular female bassists. It’s a fair point.

From Esperanza Spalding to Kim Gordon to Tal Wilkenfield to Tina Weymouth and beyond there are any number of women who play bass – from all styles and every age range – who, by shining the spotlight a little brighter, both marketers and retailers could benefit from. But what resonated even more with me was Pittman’s attention to folks like Ed Sheeran.

Whether you love his music or not, Sheeran is a perfectly competent songwriter and rhythm guitarist. Does that assessment put him in the same category as Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads? No, not at all. But it’s been bothering me for years when I talk to an MI retailer and he or she complain that guitars aren’t selling because we don’t have “this year’s Eddie Van Halen.” George Harrison was a lovely slide player and John Lennon was a good guitarist in his own way, but were they virtuosos? Nope. And The Beatles were the single biggest driver of rock combo instrument sales in the history of the genre. Add Kurt Cobain and Billie Joe Armstrong to the list of fine-but-not-amazing guitarists responsible for temporary upticks in sales.

If the current guitar heroes are the likes of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, let’s just live with that and make the most of it. I like Appetite for Destruction, too, but that was 30 years ago. Just because there isn’t currently a “2018 Slash” doesn’t mean the world’s ending.

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