R.I.P. Six Strings: Is The Death Of The Electric Guitar Near?
Fred Jacobs surveys market trends of the past several years, many of which (including the bankruptcy of Gibson) point to the dwindling popularity of that most iconic of instruments, the electric guitar.
Guest post by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Strategies
Disruption impacts virtually every business and platform – including the guitar.
Over the past couple of years, a possible trend signaling the decreasing influence of the electric guitar appears to be emerging. The trend toward electronic music, Gibson Guitars recently declaring bankruptcy, and guitar master Eric Clapton downsizing his vast collection are all read as signs of the instrument’s waning impact on music.
And recently, even Metallica’s Kirk Hammett got on the downer bandwagon when he made this pronouncement:
“Like all instruments, there’s a time when it goes out of fashion.”
Then there’s the fate of Guitar Center, a retail music mecca where millions of would-be rockers have grabbed a 6-string axe off the wall and started playing those power chords from “Smoke On The Water.” The bad news for this national chain of music stores – built around the guitar – is that many believe it is flirting with bankruptcy, much like other specialty retailers who have gone under in recent years, including Toys “R” Us, Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and others.
Guitar Center is facing $1 billion in debt, but is fighting the good fight, attempting to battle against the forces of financial ruin.
Gibson’s bad news was especially poignant for me. For the past decade, I’ve managed to squeeze in a visit to their massive parking lot exhibit at CES, a fixture in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center. With hundreds of guitars available for convention-goers to play, a runway stage featuring live bands, and a tribute to old school technology, Gibson has been traditional must-see point of interest for me at CES.
In fact, the first year we put together our CES CEO Jacobs Tour, the Gibson exhibit was the final stop – a place to kick back, play a little guitar, and grab a cold beer.
It looks like at CES 2019, there won’t be that iconic Gibson tent representing the music community.
Somehow, the entire concept of the guitar going out of style just seems incongruous, especially to those of us who grew up with rock n’ roll – and the electric guitar. Most rockers just look so comfortable with their guitars.
It’s hard to picture a favorite rock star who somehow looks like they’re missing an appendage without their signature guitar slung over their shoulders.
Rumors of the guitar’s death may be a bit exagerrated. Towering over the Hollywood, Florida landscape, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel has become an unusual shrine to the electric guitar.
Of course, the guitar represents the Hard Rock’s brand, but the physical concept of a guitar-shaped hotel hasn’t been an easy one to design and build. There’s an artist rendering pictured at the top of today’s post that depicts just how dramatic a structure this facility truly is.
The hotel tower containing 638 rooms turned out to be a bigger challenge than Jimi Hendrix playing an electric guitar solo with his teeth.
The concept was the dream of Hard Rock honcho Jim Allen who hatched the idea back in 2007. As he explained to Casino.org, “I said ‘We are talking about a building that is actually shaped like a guitar. This is another time in my life when people thought I was certifiably crazy.”
Or visionary. Or maybe just stubborn.
There are rumors of guitar-shaped Hard Rock Hotels coming to Barcelona, and maybe even Japan.
Allen’s edifice to the guitar gods might symbolize a comeback for an instrument that is inexorably tied to rock n’ roll. I will make it a point to visit the Hard Rock the next time I’m in Southeast Florida.
And I’ll look forward to saying:
“Hold the D string elevator for me, please.”
In writing today’s post, I happened across a cool website dedicated to the guitar and rock ‘n roll. 108 Rock Star Guitars looks to be a cool coffee table book, and a fun, interactive website. You can check it out here.
Fred Jacobs founded Jacobs Media in 1983, and quickly became known for the creation of the Classic Rock radio format.
In 2008, jacapps was launched – a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created – a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.