‘They Want Something Better:’ Fretted Instrument Players are Willing to Pay More for a Superior Case or Gig Bag

Christian Wissmuller • September 2019Survey • August 30, 2019

With nearly 90 percent (86.7) of participants in this month’s survey reporting that sales of cases and bags for fretted instruments are either up or level when compared to 2018, this market segment is certainly a bright spot in the world of MI.

Not surprisingly, gig bags are seen to be the more frequent sellers when compared to hardshell cases (HSC), but these days there’s more to it than simply price. As Paul Lewis of Lewis Music Store (Kissimmee, Florida) observes, “Bags have taken over the market because of the prices for hardshell cases and the ease of carrying in a bag. We sell a bag with almost every instrument we move.” “Most of our customers who take multiple axes to a gig will opt to buy high quality gig bags rather than the heavier HSC,” adds Jerry Vesely of Parowan, Utah’s Vesely Music.

And the high quality gig bags available today – stronger, more durable, more features – represent more profit than the flimsy lower-tier models. Tim Bascom of Lebanon, Missouri’s Morgan Music Services states, “If you take the time to explain the benefits of a higher-end gig bag you have an excellent chance of selling one!”

One other reason for this market segment’s resiliency simply comes down to necessity: virtually all fretted instrument players feel they must have at least one case or bag. “This is one of the few categories where the brand doesn’t matter,” offers Anthony Mantova of Mantova’s Two Street Music in Eureka, California. “Everyone needs cases and bags, and nobody walks away if the case is an unknown make.”

“It varies, typically a purchase is led first by price and then need. A good ‘gig’ bag with padding and pockets will work for many since it eases the entry/exit to an actual gig and meets the need for a lot of circumstances. For general home storage a gig bag is also a good choice. For those who own several instruments some might be kept stored in a thin gig bag, but transferred to a more durable hard shell case for transport. With more guitars being purchased and shipped without a case, the gig bag option seems to be a popular way to go. I will provide cases to customers who I do upgrades and builds for, so I’m not a high volume provider by any stretch. I deal with primarily working musicians and collectors second, so that’s my customer base.”

John Ruiz

North Bay Guitar

Sonoma, California


“We inventory a wide variety of protection to meet the demand created by the price point of the instrument.”

Jerry Vesely

Vesely Music

Parowan, Utah


“Case = one hand, one handle. Gig bags go over the shoulder. A gig bag frees up my hands for carrying more stuff and makes me take one less trip to my car to load in my gear.”

Larry Gosch

Encore Music Center

Auburn, California


“Since we carry so many high-end guitars, banjos, and mandolins it’s not out of the question for our customers to spend an extra $800 to $1,200 on a high-quality case to protect their expensive instrument… Gig bag-wise we sell a good amount in the $50 to $70 range, but we also do well with the upper-end Gator Pro Series bass bags which sell for around $150. I even have one myself!”

Tim Bascom

Morgan Music Services

Lebanon, Missouri


“I believe in hard cases and try to steer a number of people that way, but they don’t always listen. Many of our nicer guitars come with bags or hard cases.”

Gary Manuel

RAMP, Fairport, New York


“People want nicer bags. The run-of-the-mill bag that every Chinese manufacturer produces in mass quantities is not what our customers want. They want something better.”

– Mark Bolos

Big Apple Music


“Customers are not afraid to pay for quality bags.”

– Jim Terry

Jim Terry Music


Have you been observing any trends of note when it comes to cases and bags for fretted Instruments?

“People want nicer bags. The run-of-the-mill bag that every Chinese manufacturer

produces in mass quantities is not what our customers want. They want something better.”

Mark Bolos

Big Apple Music

New Hartford, New York


“There is much more call for pro-level bags at the $100-149 price range.”

Joe Chiappone

Northfield Music

Pittsford, New York


“Under $100 [are selling] – more so than two years ago. I sell used cases $50-$70. People like a padded handle, especially if $95 or less. People prefer a 10mm or greater padded bag. I sell a bit better bag and case than the other local businesses.”

Keta Tom

The Fingerboard Extension

Corvallis, Oregon


“Yes. Better, more expensive cases are selling better.”

Claude Campbell

eVillage Music

New York, New York


“Customers are not afraid to pay for quality bags.”

Jim Terry

Jim Terry Music

Palm Harbor, Florida


“Customers are purchasing nicer bags rather than the cheaper ones.”

Michael Murphy

Murphy’s Guitars, Inc.

Bountiful, Utah


“Customers are choosing well-padded gig bags with multiple pockets and shoulder straps in the $40 to $50 price range over hardshell cases which typically are $80-plus.”

Ed Intagliata

Cassell’s Music

San Francisco, California


“We’ve sold more cases over the counter (not associated with a guitar purchase) CYTD than the same period in 2018.”

Jonathon Breen

The Music Shoppe, Inc.

Normal, Illinois


“We are seeing an acceptance of higher price point gig bags. With hard cases pretty much at $100 and up our $49.95 and $99.95 price point bags are selling.”

Kevin Hedley

Uncle Ike’s Music

Dubuque, Iowa


“We have been making more headless basses and sourcing high end guitar gig bags (TKL) for the basses. This allows for airline travel and overhead storage.”

Keith Roscoe

Roscoe Guitars, Inc.

Greensboro, North Carolina


“Most people prefer a hardshell case, but the affordability of polyfoam cases always lead to an easy sale.”

Chris Teesdale

Willis Music Company

Lexington, Kentucky

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