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FMIC’s Billy Martinez

Christian Wissmuller • July 2020Upfront Q&A • June 30, 2020

The “Ukulele Craze” that began back in 2007, and which many predicted would be a short-lived fad, never really went away. These days, with more folks staying at home in response to concerns regarding the pandemic, people are embracing the entertainment options provided by these relatively low-cost and easy to learn little four-string (usually) instruments.

Billy Martinez, Fender’s VP Category Management, Acoustics & Squier, recently discussed Fender’s newly introduced Fullerton line, which draws upon the brand’s many iconic and widely recognizable body shapes, with MMR.

Can you talk about the catalyst behind the new Fullerton ukulele line? What prompted Fender to go in this direction?

We love to embrace our rich history in all we do at Fender and these ukes were no different. We love the idea of using our iconic body shapes in a unique and fun new way. And what better space to do that than in the ukulele world?

Starting way back in the recession of ‘07/’08, the “uke craze” really took off. At the time, I recall talking with dealers who predicted that it would be short-lived trend, that it was driven specifically by economic factors. Why do you think ukuleles continue to be so popular?

Ukuleles appeal to a broad base, from first-time beginners to touring musicians and everyone in between. They are a great way to start your musical journey with how easy they are to learn on and play. We also know that the lifestyle aspect of them can be an outward extension of the players personality, so it’s become more than an instrument.

The Fullerton line obviously draws upon the shapes of many iconic Fender guitars. To what extent do you think having a uke that resembles, say, a Strat or a Jazzmaster makes these instruments perhaps more accessible or appealing to players who maybe haven’t yet “taken the plunge” with respect to ukuleles?

The Fullerton Ukes have a unique appeal in that most electric players own either a Strat, Tele or Jazzmaster. This gives them a chance to have the familiarity of the look, which tends to entice “the Plunge” you mentioned. It also allows us the chance to use iconic Fender colors in other areas of the brand.

Obviously we’re all experiencing a very unusual, unprecedented reality right now. In the sense that these Fullerton instruments are both relatively affordable and also that the learning curve for ukes is pretty forgiving, it would seem that – completely not by design – now is an especially good time for both dealers and players to have this new line available, wouldn’t you agree?

I agree and with our Fender Play app at their fingertips, it is easier than ever to learn how to play the ukulele. The response to our three month giveaway of Fender Play has been tremendous, which just furthers the idea that people do want to learn how to play more than ever!

It’s still quite early stages, but what particular models have been generating the most buzz since the introduction at NAMM?

The Jazzmaster seems to be the winner out of the gate, but the Butterscotch Blonde Tele is making a name for itself rather quickly!

Expectations for this line and this market segment in the coming months?

With a color palate so extensive in the Fender brand, don’t be surprised to see some fun new options in the ukulele world!

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