Within a few days of posting this article, the Washington Post ran two stories based on electric guitars. One with Vernon Reid and another about a guy who wrote a song for every single Metro stop in Maryland, DC and Virginia.
I do think he's being hyperbolic, though. The dip in sales coincides withe the Great Recession (makes sense) and seems to have leveled off. Far from "death" if you ask me. The question is, why haven't sales started an upward trend back to pre-recession levels?
Anecdotally, the electric guitar is still all over popular music today, just not in the starring role it has played in the past.
It's not a "sky is falling" piece, though clearly a few major players in too much debt might fall by the wayside.
But it sure speaks to what we see out there.
What we all need to grasp is that the 60s-70s thing was a unique moment in history. Ignoring all the politics and other things, in music it seemed like anything was possible. But it still required actual performance!! To play a guitar or keyboards or drums onstage, you had to practice and become good at it. And that was something to emulate, something worth emulating. Thus you had guitar gods and keyboard wizards and dazzling drummers plying sold-out shows of amazing music, performed with dexterity, to crowds that wanted to be those people.
Now? Wanting to be a star means becoming a singer on American Idol. Instrumentalists no longer matter in the public consciousness. So even though today's players are indeed better than their forebears (as we would hope), they are mere sidemen.
Financial crisis has done a lot of that. There have been other times when people screamed: Rock is dead! Long live pop/dance/rap/electronic/reaggeton...! But rock stood there. Difference is that now support a rock band at any level is more expensive than supporting a pop/reaggeton band at the same level and companies don't want to spend money on an uncertable product. They want the salable "same song but different singer/key/lyric"
I read the article and drew a different conclusion than the author. Guitar is not declining, it is just morphing into something new. Yes the numbers are down, yet there are more used guitar sales excluded from those numbers. As we all know, the sites are flooded with used guitars which is probably hurting new guitar sales which is not talked about in the article.
As far as Guitar Center goes, they were acquired by Bain Capitol. What do companies like Bain do, they buy a company, put massive debt on the books and hopes they hit their return numbers through growth. Guitar Center was actually better off being a publicly traded company. I made some money trading it from time to time. Until they hit their return number, they will not let it go under.
And, yes, there are still guitar hero's, the same guitar hero's. Sadly, there are a ton of awesome guitar hero's but they are so splintered i the marketplace. Guys like Tremont and Zach Meyers are good but I also think they have a rabid fan base in a very small niche.
I've got two teenagers. I believe the market will keep shrinking. They would rather look at their phones or play 1st person killing games than anything else. My son can learn a Hendrix song in a day, but he's still not too interested because none of his friends care about anything but electronic music. He has too many things going on in the phone and PlayStation to practice guitar regularly. No battle of the bands in high schools any more. There is still a metal and punk subculture, but it's not mainstream like it was.
Wayne Kramer could probably take on most of today's guitar anti heroes with three rusty strings and one double stop tied behind his back. The attitude just isn't quite the same. The sickest current pure attitude player who pops to mind prefers the banjo... and now even her songs are selling stuff on TV commercials. But it's cyclical. Maybe all the political stuff going on will inadvertently make guitar great again, lol.
While there is one video rebuttal make its rounds on the Internet disputing the article and asserting that the popularity of guitars is NOT diminishing, to that I would say this... If guitar stores keep going out of business as I continue to see happening, then it doesn't really matter how popular guitars are, does it? I'm including one small PRS dealer I have frequented for years who already knows he's going out of business and it just waiting for it to actually happen.
I may see things differently than others, but these are my personal thoughts. In 2008-2009 when the economy fell off the cliff, PRS went through some really lean years. Both employees and management dug deep, we worked hard and we kept our collective noses to the grindstone and we made a strong turn-around. Right now, PRS is in the middle of our best year ever. If sales continue to track in the same direction and our backorder remains strong, we will crush all previous sales years. This was a long, hard fought battle, but we stuck together and pulled through stronger, smarter and better than we were in the past.
The business model for retail has changed drastically. Most large retailers now have a strong online presence, so while foot traffic may be down at the store level, web sales continue to rise. PRS is a good position because people feel confident buying PRS gear online because they know PRS makes a solid product and that authorized dealers will treat them fairly.
Trends change, technology changes, times change. So we know we need to continue to build the best products possible, we know we need to respond to customer changing tastes and we know we can't rest on our laurels. But we aint dead yet