Thoughts on Fender and Gibson to the new generation of players.

JDB2

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I think OP is right though that Fender is doing a much better job of getting young players.
Just some anecdotal evidence. I have teen daughters. One takes lessons and is interested in all things guitar. And they have a surprising number of young female friends who play guitar. On more than one occasion a friend visiting noticed by guitars, and in particular my Tele. One said the Telecaster is her favorite kind of guitar. Another referred to it as her "dream guitar." I don't know why or how, but Fender definitely has something going in this young demographic. (Either that or Telecasters are just awesome guitars.)
 

OmegaWoods

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.

Gibson suffers from being "your father's guitar", the kids don't want to play them.
(a lot of Strat tones in this advertising music, lol).





Every generation chooses the guitars to make their music with that can be found inexpensively at the local pawn shops. Led Zeppelin found beater LPs for cheap (discontinued because they sold so poorly), Hendrix found beater Strats for cheap, Cobain found beater Jaguars for cheap, J Mascis found a beater Jazzmaster for cheap, Eddie VanHalen bought 'seconds' body and neck to marry with a broken pickup out of a smashed 335. Fans and markets opened up after this to revitalize those old models.

Youtube is more important than signature artists were back in the old days.

So if Gibson wants to be relevant they need to be at the price points the kids can afford. Or fade off into oblivion with the older generation as "your father's guitar".

They also need to fix that fragile headstock problem, that becomes a real cost to younger players who are naturally rougher on their gear.

.

This is a highly relevant comparison, in my mind. There is less competition in the “upper-middle class” guitar choice bin than there is in the “upper-middle” class auto bin but it’s still an apt comparison for sure.

My dad ALWAYS bought Oldsmobiles. My first car (after high school) was also an Olds. I’m 54 now and wouldn’t buy an Olds if they still sold them. I have a Honda and a Toyota. If I wanted a “luxe-lite” car, it would be a Lexus or an Infiniti. I think Gibson will linger for a long time because they have a lot of market share but the world of music and, more importantly, musical instrument marketing is profoundly changing.
 

Wrighty

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This makes sense to my generation, teenagers to young adults, everybody wants a strat or tele or an offset. Every kid and friend that I hear, wants a strat or a tele. For humbuckers, we would prefer an HH Tele or a D'Angelico or an Ibanez semi-hollow or a PRS SE or a Les Paul copy. Starting musicians won't even prefer buying a Gibson coz of its price tbh and the genre of R&B, rap, indie, and pop that our generation plays these days. (A few young jazz musicians play Gibson 335s but mostly they have Ibanez Artstars or D'Angelico). I felt as well that the designs of Les Pauls and 335s and SGs, the color finishes are too vintage (burst, yellow, cherry, red) that most kids won't even consider that even I would not consider buying any of these colors. I don't know why Gibson/Epi doesn't ever release or release limited solid-color versions of their guitars. How I wish they would make another blue 335s.

On the other hand, Leo Fender really did a good job in making the most versatile and durable guitar, teles, and strats (I think the tele is the most versatile but strats do something as well that are versatile haha). The humility on the Fender Corp was commendable to receive feedback from the new generation of players like "we want a lighter guitar", "we want more color", and "we want pickups that sound more on this genre". I felt like for e.g. the Ultras were designed as a response to feedback of session and professional guitar players coz I heard for e.g. Rob Gueringer and Cory Wong wanting light guitars, (Rob hates heavier guitars, and I never saw him with Gibsons in interviews) (Cory mentioned that he wanted a lighter strat, and his signature strat has an Ultra body and neck with Cory Wong's pickups made by SD. The new generation of players such as Melanie Faye, Rob Gueringer, Cory Wong plays either a Strat, Tele, or D'Angelico.


Here is a compilation of session guitarists of my generation that I look up to. Mostly Strat, Teles, or offset or a non-Gibson semi-hollow.

This made me ponder about still buying either a Gibson 335 or a Les Paul coz these guitars would be a rarity that I feel like Gibson would be gone someday. But still, I don't know why Gibson don't ever do something about this, I hope they would improve their guitars and price points. Personally, I would buy a Gibson but have a paint job, and change its pickups. This puts me in a struggle to buy an Ibanez or D'Angelico semi-hollows instead of doing those modifications.

Seems to me that Fender are happy to be market leader, by all of the market and design products very carefully to keep customers on side for years. The Squires were /are a master stroke. They look good but the magic is that a beginner can buy a very good quality guitar, relatively cheaply, that doesn’t play so bad that it puts him / her off guitar for life. Then, as they progress through MIM and onwards, they appreciate the subtle differences but never think of their original guitar as a POS.
 

Wrighty

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Gibson's not going anywhere. The Les Paul and ES-335 alone would keep them in good company for many years to come. Throw in their recent purchase of Mesa Boogie Amplifiers and I see a great future coming their way. I will say that current bands are favoring Fender, Ibanez, etc. but I think a lot of that has to do with price point. With the influx of computer generated sounds and electronic instruments in general bands are looking closely at what they spend on what and Gibson's are probably out of many of their price points. At some point quality of build, tone, etc. will pull many guitarists back to Gibson. Bands don't really seem to care what they use as long as they can make a dollar but, guitarists as instrumentalists looking back at the beauty of the instrument as used and demonstrated by so many Mega Name Guitarists, will make the necessary jump to prove / compare their own skill level to the past masters.
From the quality of the LP Studio I bought a while back, I doubt quality will be what pulls people back to Gibson.
 

Wrighty

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Let's face it. Gibson and Fender have both been making the same guitar models for 70 years. The problem for Gibson is that they have never been allowed to innovate; purists do not like it when Gibson strays from the original designs. Other companies (like PRS) have been left to pick up the evolutionary process, while Gibson is stuck making the originals. Fender gets a bit more leeway/freedom due to the super strat offshoots. Luckily, for Fender, their price point is more obtainable for most, so it isn't surprising that they are more popular with new artists. Same with other brands like PRS, EVH, etc.

Gibson falling out of favor is nothing new. The SG replaced the LP because of low sales until people saw their rock heros in the 60s (Clapton, Page) using them. They again fell out of favor until Slash introduced a new generation to the Les Paul.

With the era of processed music and no MTV, can it happen again?
Eric bought a job lot of Strats at Manny’s one time…………these things are cyclical.
 

Wrighty

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A lot of generalizations in that first post... I'm 21 and have zero desire for an offset or a tele and am more or less indifferent to strats. My main is a 2018 Gibson SG Standard, completely unmodded. I didn't pay for it myself, a bunch of family members chipped in and got it for me as a collective gift for graduating high school and for getting serious about music. I wanted to sound like Tony Iommi, Matt Pike, Bongzilla, not play the music that you claim the collective 'we' of younger people play.

I agree that Fender does market better and present options at price points that Gibson doesn't, but Gibson will never die because there are plenty of snobs like me that are willing to save up to continue purchasing their product. It's about the vibe, the look, the history, the sound. I could never get the same fulfillment out of another guitar. There's nothing out there like standing in front of a cranked tube head with an SG or a Les Paul.

Maybe it's different because I'm off in the extreme metal world (and that opens a whole new can of worms in this discussion). But keep me out of that collective 'we' next time. I want to see some more Gibsons and Gibson-style guitars out here.
But, unless I’m misreading you, you’re exactly the sort of person who Gibson have as customers. Buy one, expensive, guitar and then don’t, won’t or can’t buy another. Kinda throttles their future market. Not a criticism of you my friend, just an observation of how it might be.
 

Wrighty

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Seems to me that Fender are happy to be market leader, for all of the market, and design products very carefully to keep customers on side for years. The Squires were /are a master stroke. They look good but the magic is that a beginner can buy a very good quality guitar, relatively cheaply, that doesn’t play so bad that it puts him / her off guitar for life. Then, as they progress through MIM and onwards, they appreciate the subtle differences but never think of their original guitar as a POS.
 

Wrighty

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I remember discussions like this online 20 years ago, and the people making these claims were just as wrong.

Gibson sells everything it produces to its dealers, and could sell more if they wanted to expand.

Compare Gibson's lines and prices with the US-made guitars of any of the other manufacturers and you'll see that Gibsons are no more expensive.

I remember the same things being said about Rickenbacker. There was always someone jumping into discussions at the Rick Resoure Forum, predicting doom. Ricks were only bought by old timers who would die out. So the company doubled its capacity and all these years later they still sell everything they make.

Bottom line: don't fall for clickbait.
The thing is, if a dealer can stock four Fenders for tge price of one Gibson, the guitars on his wall will be 4 to 1 Fender to Gibson. If he sells the Fenders over, say, four weeks and the Gibson at four weeks, the Fenders gave probably generated tge same gross margin but have given him a steady income from which to pay his bills and pay Fender. The Gibson hasn’t. Furthermore, four people, newbies or old timers, have a Fender. One guy has a Gibson. Four to one potential upgrades. Hard to justify passing on a £3K Gibson, easier to sell a used Strat or, perhaps, just buy another one.
 

StrangerNY

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But, unless I’m misreading you, you’re exactly the sort of person who Gibson have as customers. Buy one, expensive, guitar and then don’t, won’t or can’t buy another. Kinda throttles their future market. Not a criticism of you my friend, just an observation of how it might be.

I have a few old Gibsons and I love them, but I have no interest at all in buying a new one. I've played a few Custom Shop and Murphy Lab guitars of friends, and they seem really well built, but I'm not going to drop the money on one.

OTOH, in the past few years I've bought guitars by Reverend, Fret-King and Logan, and I like them a lot and use them often.

Although I have a number of T-body partscasters, I own one Squier Strat and one proper Fender (again, an old one that I bought used). My one Fender is a Telecaster, and outside of one Jazzmaster I built from parts I can't see buying another offset.

So basically, I'm all over the map as far as guitars go. Brand loyalty is one thing, but I've found that if you don't limit yourself to the Big Two and look for good playing and sounding guitars your options increase dramatically.

- D
 

Wrighty

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I'm an old fart, and as such, should only favor the Big F and G brands (note I qualified that with "should"). However ...

Gibson seems to indeed be stuck in the past, re-issuing LPs that weigh 10+ pounds in your choice of black, white, or ketchup-and-mustard sunburst. All for a measly three grand. They also offer "studio" versions at about half the price, but they still cost twice what a good Korean or Indonesian copy does. And if I was a kid starting out and didn't have "collector money," this would be the way I'd go. Case in point:
View attachment 978252
For under $600, this Indonesian Agile has a nech-through-entire-body build, a GORGEOUS carved maple (not veneer) top, ebony fingerboard, GraphTech nut and saddles on the TOM bridge, two humbuckers with coil tapping, and gold hardware (if that's your thing). It's stunning. And this photo came from my personal Reverb Watchlist, which tells you something.

My own personal go-to LP style is an Indonesian Hamer Special: Lightweight Korina body, set neck, ebony fingerboard, 2 great P90s - and I bought it new for $450. After owning a sackful of "real" LPs over decades, this little jewel satisfies my need for that type of guitar and sounds great doing it. And I saved a couple grand over the equivalent Gibson model.
View attachment 978259
Fender started making guitars in Mexico several decades ago, and they're doing a swell job. The only legit Fender I own these days is a MIM Player Tele I picked up back when they were under $600, albeit equipped with SD Hot Tele pickups, GraphTech nut, and locking tuners since. It's a highly capable and great-sounding workhorse of a guitar that I wouldn't trade for anything. However, if I was going out to buy something Tele-shaped today, this would be my choice:
View attachment 978261
Schecter PT Secial. P90 neck, singlecoil bridge. Locking tuners. 4-way switch that allows for series or parallel. TUSQ nut. Bound neck and body. All for under $700 - less than the current crop of MIMs. And oh yeah, it's finished in transparent purple, which I dig.

That being said, most of my acoustic guitars are US Guilds (except for the one that gets played the most, a humble entry-level Chinese Teton dreadnaught I got for under $300). Why? They just sound great, feel great, and I grew up in love with a big blonde jumbo FJ30 whose departure I regretted for about 30 years until my new F55 and D40 and even more recent vintage J30 12 string filled the void.
View attachment 978266

This is very similar to the discussions about tube vs. solid state amps. I grew up worshipping vacuum tube "tone," but experience and the wisdom that comes with 50+ years of playing has converted me to solid state. With the right stompbox, you can't tell a lot of difference. But when it's time to load in or out, your back knows the difference.

Nowadays I prefer to build a Tele partscaster over paying megabucks for a custom shop instrument. You get exactly what you want, and the last one I built cost me under $600. But there are plenty of folks who dig the American Fenders still, and there's room in the sandbox for all of us.
Yeah, all fine guitars, but a MIM Strat has ‘Fender’ on the headstock and unlike a pair of Nike trainers or a sweatshirt with ‘SUPERDRY’ writ large right across the front, you’re getting a named product for the cost of (what to most) is an off brand.
 

colchar

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This makes sense to my generation, teenagers to young adults, everybody wants a strat or tele or an offset. Every kid and friend that I hear, wants a strat or a tele. For humbuckers, we would prefer an HH Tele or a D'Angelico or an Ibanez semi-hollow or a PRS SE or a Les Paul copy. Starting musicians won't even prefer buying a Gibson coz of its price tbh and the genre of R&B, rap, indie, and pop that our generation plays these days. (A few young jazz musicians play Gibson 335s but mostly they have Ibanez Artstars or D'Angelico). I felt as well that the designs of Les Pauls and 335s and SGs, the color finishes are too vintage (burst, yellow, cherry, red) that most kids won't even consider that even I would not consider buying any of these colors. I don't know why Gibson/Epi doesn't ever release or release limited solid-color versions of their guitars. How I wish they would make another blue 335s.

On the other hand, Leo Fender really did a good job in making the most versatile and durable guitar, teles, and strats (I think the tele is the most versatile but strats do something as well that are versatile haha). The humility on the Fender Corp was commendable to receive feedback from the new generation of players like "we want a lighter guitar", "we want more color", and "we want pickups that sound more on this genre". I felt like for e.g. the Ultras were designed as a response to feedback of session and professional guitar players coz I heard for e.g. Rob Gueringer and Cory Wong wanting light guitars, (Rob hates heavier guitars, and I never saw him with Gibsons in interviews) (Cory mentioned that he wanted a lighter strat, and his signature strat has an Ultra body and neck with Cory Wong's pickups made by SD. The new generation of players such as Melanie Faye, Rob Gueringer, Cory Wong plays either a Strat, Tele, or D'Angelico.


Here is a compilation of session guitarists of my generation that I look up to. Mostly Strat, Teles, or offset or a non-Gibson semi-hollow.

This made me ponder about still buying either a Gibson 335 or a Les Paul coz these guitars would be a rarity that I feel like Gibson would be gone someday. But still, I don't know why Gibson don't ever do something about this, I hope they would improve their guitars and price points. Personally, I would buy a Gibson but have a paint job, and change its pickups. This puts me in a struggle to buy an Ibanez or D'Angelico semi-hollows instead of doing those modifications.



One day you'll learn that A) your limited experience is not representative of everyone else; and B) that your opinions are not facts. That second one is something your generation desperately needs to learn.
 

Wrighty

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Gibson and Fender have very different marketing strategies. While they compete at certain price points Fender targets a broader spectrum of target customers from both a styling and price point perspective. Gibson is more focused on a niche market.

Why doesn't Gibson do more_____ (fill in the blank)? They choose not to. It's not about how many you sell, it's not about how much gross profit you make, it's about how much you net/keep. A well run $1 million dollar business can net you more profit than a poorly run $10 million dollar business.
Until you turn around to see your market dying, literally.
 

Wrighty

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FWIW, the only guitar I own that‘s held its value is my 2012 Gibson Les Paul Junior Special. I got it like new in ‘12 in a trade for a guitar worth CDN$450 at the time. It was selling new for $999. I see them selling now for $1500 on Reverb.
Ten years on you’ve hired it for nothing.
 

drumtime

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The thing is, if a dealer can stock four Fenders for tge price of one Gibson, the guitars on his wall will be 4 to 1 Fender to Gibson. If he sells the Fenders over, say, four weeks and the Gibson at four weeks, the Fenders gave probably generated tge same gross margin but have given him a steady income from which to pay his bills and pay Fender. The Gibson hasn’t. Furthermore, four people, newbies or old timers, have a Fender. One guy has a Gibson. Four to one potential upgrades. Hard to justify passing on a £3K Gibson, easier to sell a used Strat or, perhaps, just buy another one.
Also, I'd have to imagine that a larger selection of guitars on the wall to try out would be more attractive to a potential buyer. It's hard to keep a large selection of Gibsons around -- and higher-end Fenders as well, so most stores, especially in smaller markets, i.e. anywhere outside a major metro area, will be full of Squiers and Epiphones, with a few higher-end models. And most customers - again in my imagination - will be hard pressed to find those expensive ones that much better than the Squiers, MIMs, and Epis.
 

colchar

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I'm an old fart, and as such, should only favor the Big F and G brands (note I qualified that with "should"). However ...

Gibson seems to indeed be stuck in the past, re-issuing LPs that weigh 10+ pounds in your choice of black, white, or ketchup-and-mustard sunburst.

Because that's what their customers want. If you aren't one of their customers, you clearly don't get it.



For under $600, this Indonesian Agile has a nech-through-entire-body build, a GORGEOUS carved maple (not veneer) top, ebony fingerboard, GraphTech nut and saddles on the TOM bridge, two humbuckers with coil tapping, and gold hardware (if that's your thing). It's stunning.


Many of us wouldn't own an Agile if it were given to us for free. If you like them that's fair, but do not try to pretend that they are anywhere near as good as a Gibson or that anyone else should make the same choice as you.
 

aFewGoodTaters

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I love my Gibsons - I'm fortunate to own six ranging from satin finish USA to Custom Shop. I've probably had 12 or so over the years. All of them have been great to exceptional guitars. I've never experienced any of the QA issues one would think are so prevalent based upon guitar forum brand bashing.

That said, they are expensive (as they historically have always been) and it is expected that young people wouldn't be playing them. Is that a problem for Gibson? So far it hasn't been but I guess we'll see going forward.
 

Wrighty

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Also, I'd have to imagine that a larger selection of guitars on the wall to try out would be more attractive to a potential buyer. It's hard to keep a large selection of Gibsons around -- and higher-end Fenders as well, so most stores, especially in smaller markets, i.e. anywhere outside a major metro area, will be full of Squiers and Epiphones, with a few higher-end models. And most customers - again in my imagination - will be hard pressed to find those expensive ones that much better than the Squiers, MIMs, and Epis.
 

StrangerNY

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I love my Gibsons - I'm fortunate to own six ranging from satin finish USA to Custom Shop. I've probably had 12 or so over the years. All of them have been great to exceptional guitars. I've never experienced any of the QA issues one would think are so prevalent based upon guitar forum brand bashing.

Same here.

Never had one of those exploding headstocks that Gibson allegedly puts on their guitars, either. Must be born lucky.

- D
 




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