People need to like the product to buy it, but not like it too long — so they get the urge to get another one.
All of this explains the rise of the guitar, but its slide?
Guitar sales around the world are in decline. In the US, sales are down about 30% to about a million guitars a year over the past decade. Gibson is in bankruptcy. Fender is also deep in debt, and PRS Guitars recently had to cut staff. The largest guitar-selling retail chain in the US, Guitar Centre, is about R1.6-billion in debt.
Yet, there are more guitar makes than ever on the market. Their beauty, originality, and variety are just extraordinary: flying Vs, lopsided Ss, the normal “bubble and points” shape. But here is the problem, and like everything in the modern world, it’s about digital disruption.
The Beatles’ iconic Sgt Pepper‘s album was recorded on a four-track tape system, and studio time was frighteningly expensive. Nowadays, Apple ships its recording software, GarageBand, free with its computers, and it can record 64 tracks simultaneously. The quasi-pro system Apple provides, Logic Pro X, costs R2,700, and with a plastic keyboard, you can make any sound you want. It has 256 tracks. The cheapest Fender Stratocaster you can buy costs about R8,000.
Digital recording has turned every bedroom into a recording studio. The guitar — its beauty, its workmanship — is just another “input device” now. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one for Christmas, but eyes might glisten brighter if you splashed out on some software instead.
- Tim Cohen is the former editor of Business Day, a current senior editor at the paper, and a guitarist in a band (surprise, surprise).