Upfront Q&A
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MMR sits down with Daisy Rock Guitars’ Tish Ciravolo to discuss why she started the brand, how the company has evolved, her recent partnership with KMC Music, and why the “Girl Guitar Revolution” can’t be stopped (and can represent serious profits for your MI retail operation)…

Most of our readers are at least somewhat familiar with both you and the story of Daisy Rock, but for the uninitiated, can you provide a brief background – both for yourself and your involvement in music, as well as the origins of Daisy Rock Guitars, leading to its initial launch in 2000?

Tish Ciravolo: Of course! I started playing in bands in the ‘80s in LA. I went to a music store with my boyfriend to buy my first bass guitar; suddenly, my boyfriend and the male employee took it upon themselves to decide what bass I should buy because “girls rarely went into music stores to buy their own instruments.” The bass that was chosen for me was too heavy and had the girth of baseball bat. I took it back to the store the next day and proceeded to play every bass there until I found one that worked for me. This was my first encounter with the unfounded notion that instrument could be gender- specific simply because “girls don’t play guitar.” When my all-girl band LYPSTIK would play shows, we heard a lot of comments like, “Not bad for a girl.” The idea that the rock scene was such a boys club felt like discrimination.

Eventually, my husband assisted me in creating a bass I could play comfortably, with customizations like a slimmer neck, lighter weight and purple color. Fast-forward a few years to when my daughter, Nicole, is 1-and-a-half years old and she draws a daisy on a piece of paper. I curiously looked at the drawing before penciling in a neck and headstock in the shape of a leaf on it. When I showed my husband, Michael Ciravolo, who is president at Schecter Guitars, we began talking about making guitars for girls and what that could be and how that could shape the guitar world. What could the future of the music industry look like if we built something lighter in weight, with a slimmer neck, fun colors, shapes, and designs? And when we got the first samples in of the very first Daisy-shaped instruments, we came up with a name: Daisy Rock Girl Guitars. But when all our musician friends saw what we were doing, women and girls of all ages asked us for one that they could play. Immediately it became a guitar line for females – not just young girls who like daisies, butterflies, hearts, or star guitars. However, as years passed, what was once such a stark line drawn between the genders has began to blend into a spectrum. We are beginning to re-evaluate what was once a statement to be the first “girl” guitar company and venturing into the idea that perhaps we are the first feminist-specific guitar company. Any little kid who likes butterflies or stars or hearts can learn to play on Daisy Rock. Any person, regardless of what gender-identity they resonate with, can play a guitar just because they like the way it sparkles. The black and white rules of the past are greying, and we are just here to provide a fun-colored time for the musically inclined.

What has been the MI industry’s reception to Daisy Rock in the past 17 years? How many dealers and fellow instrument suppliers “get it” and appreciate what you’re doing? How many try and reduce the whole concept to something that’s “cute,” but not particularly relevant?

The first year was challenging and frustrating and, at times, heartbreaking. However, while the challenge continues, it’s become more of a joy to conquer. Every single person I have seen at NAMM over the last 17 years either gets it immediately or doesn’t get it all. Usually, if it’s a guy who has had little to no female-led music influence in his life, he tends to be on the fence about whether “chicks need their own guitars.” But most men have a wife, sister, daughter, niece, or aunt in their life who they have seen struggle with trying to learn how to play guitar with a gigantic, heavy piece of wood. Overall, dealers seem to get it now. When I started the company, I heard the term “cute” 1,000 times, but dealers didn’t know if girls would come into their music stores. So I did consignment sales and I told every dealer, “Just put it in your window and see if you can build your female client base.” Every dealer came back with a story about how they finally starting building their female demographic and getting girls and mothers and grandmothers in their stores. Why? Because there was finally diversity amongst their selections. Amidst all the guitars colored tan and black and red, there was a pop of pink, a dash of purple, an eye-catching sparkle. There was representation for something specifically marketed away from the traditional.

Can you talk a little about the partnership with KMC and the relaunch of Daisy Rock last winter? How did the relationship come about and how have things evolved since then?

2017 NAMM started off very differently for Daisy Rock Guitars because we ended a 13 year relationship with Alfred Music Publishing serving as our distributor. The experience with Alfred Music was so wonderful and I had made such great friends during my time there that I didn’t know what to expect with a new company. But what an amazing transformation we have been going through with the KMC team. Though we had several companies pitching us about picking up the guitar line, I really loved how professional KMC presented itself in the guitar market. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that they could help me grow and expand Daisy Rock Guitars into territories that we had not been in. It’s been a very different experience to be distributed by a company that predominantly distributes musical instruments as opposed to books. We’ve made great strides in our first year of working together and I look forward to an even better year in 2018.

While Daisy Rock Guitars are – or at least initially were – “girl guitars,” can personally attest that I’ve seen plenty of guys playing the instruments. What’s your take on male guitarists who embrace Daisy Rock instruments?

Guys play our guitars because our guitars kick ass. Ron Manus had come up with a really great slogan when I was at Alfred – “ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH?” That was hilarious to me! Due to the expertise employed to help make the guitars sound amazing from the very first one we designed, they have always attracted anyone and everyone. Our guitars aren’t just made for women. Initially, they were designed and crafted with women in mind in a refusal to conform to the music stores of the ‘80s that didn’t even bother to cater to female players. However, Daisy Rock Guitars has grown into a company who caters to everyone – after all, pink isn’t just for girls and blue isn’t just for boys. We wish to market towards all spectrums of people because our guitars are easier to play, fun to marvel at and, of course, sound incredible.

There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of decades – and this was a topic that was reignited this summer, thanks in no small part to that Washington Post article – about how kids are losing interest in playing the electric guitar, how there aren’t any new “guitar heroes,” et cetera. What’s your take on all of that? Do you feel that interest in guitar playing will come around again?

I think this is the dawning of the age of the girl guitar player. When I started, we looked through all the research that magazines, like MMR, had done and determined that female players made up four percent of the music scene. This year, it is coming up closer to 30 percent. Ask me again in 10 years – it will hopefully be closer to 50 percent. We started the Girl Guitar Revolution and it keeps growing, expanding beyond genders and colors and the young and the young at heart.

I think I can guess as to the answer, but related to that last question, do you feel female players represent a segment of the market that has been largely untapped?

Completely untapped. And when you look beyond our industry, you see the actual rock stars out there that totally want to support girls playing guitar. The discrimination against anyone who isn’t a man in music is still prevalent in MI, but it’s changing every day, especially thanks to events like the She Rocks Awards and all the different women’s networking sites that have started.

Recently, of course, there was the blowback in light of the Vice article, which made it seem as if, prior to St. Vincent, there had never been a signature guitar with design input from a female artist. Apparently they forgot to run that bit of news by Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, Taylor Swift, and others – all of whom have had or have their own signature guitars which they helped to oversee the design of – not to mention Vicki Peterson, Wanda Jackson, and others who’ve had their own signature Daisy Rock models. Do you chalk Vice’s error up to poor research, systemic sexism, ignorance, or a combination of all three?

Definitely a combination of all those factors. Women in this industry have always had to struggle to get their justly deserved recognition. Unfortunately, many in the media haven’t helped the situation either. This is one example of that. All any of us women can do is to keep challenging the lies when they occur and keep on fighting for our achievements.

Are there any new Daisy Rock models or developments for you or the company on the horizon that you’d like to share with our readers?

We are developing new models and you will see some new ukulele models at Winter NAMM 2018. But our focus today is supporting the dealers by driving the consumers into their store and demanding their Daisy Rock Guitars!!!



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