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

sloppychops

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I'm no expert on the machinations of Fender and Gibson's marketing, but it seems to me Fender is way ahead both on identifying trends and capitalizing on them and on expanding both their high end and entry level offerings in innovative ways. The only thing I see Gibson doing right is with the Epiphone line. All I see from Gibson, marketing wise, is pricey signature models from a toad in a top hat. I'll admit I may have missed some of what they're doing, though, because I pretty much don't care. The only Gibson I'd be interested in is a J45.
 

Happy Enchilada

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Fender seems to be marketing to NEW players with lots of their products, as well as offering CS and "Vintera" etc. for the old guard. Squier and MIM instruments are affordable and attractive to beginners and their parents. Lots of electric guitars painted pastel and metalflake shades of pink, turquoise, etc. to appeal to the fast-growing young female market segment. Their acoustics have always been "entry-level" IMHO, and that too is aimed at the beginners. I owned one Fender acoustic years ago and it was horrid, so I never went back.

Gibson offers Epiphone to these same beginners and those who want something Gibson-shaped for less. With the exception of some of the semi-hollow electrics, I have never been impressed with Epiphone and have always passed them over. The "real" Gibsons are out of reach for most beginners, which doesn't seem to bother the company. Let's face it, we all aspire to a "real" LP of some sort (standard, junior, special, etc.), but the pricetag is tough to swallow in today's market when there are so many other choices that do what they do for less.

Gibson acoustics are also priced at the top of what most sane folks will spend on a box of air - right up there with Martin and Taylor and about double the price of US Guilds (which are fine guitars these days - check 'em out). I owned a J200 several years ago when they were first turning them out in Bozeman, and for what I had invested, it wasn't that spectacular. I'm much happier with my Guild F55 and my D40 - which together cost less than the J200 at the time I bought them.

It will be interesting to see a couple decades hence whether Gibson is still profitable. My guess is they will have a die-hard collector fanbase and some rock stars and professionals who buy their product new, and they'll do good in the secondhand market. Fender, OTOH, will be going great guns, at least with their electrics. Such is life: Adapt or die.
 

HaWE

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I have two Gibson LP Studios.I like the more simple design and look of the Studio. They play great but are nothing special, they just do their job like my other guitars.I have nothing against Gibson in general.But I always had more love for Fender guitars.I don`t know -maybe its the whole idea how -lets say "simple" - they are made - for example that you can easily change the parts of a Fender. Gibsons to me always were a little bit "fragile" - although I played gigs with my Les Paul. I just took more care of that guitar.Fortunately with my Les Paul bad things never happened.(Funny that some players did NOT like the volute when Gibson tried to increase the strength of the headstock for some years.)
I think Fenders are a lot more uncomplicated.I always take care of all my guitars .But for me using a Fender is just more calming.
 

Wooly Fox

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PXL_20220430_031959796.jpg


Evidence from a rock duo that Gibsons do still have a following among the younger touring bands. His other guitar was a SG which he broke the G string, he was thrashing those guitars hard. Also pleasing he had a real amp on stage too.
 

buster poser

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"...R&B, rap, indie, and pop that our generation plays these days."

These are definitely new genres that require Fenders > Gibsons. How interesting.
 

Dave W

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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.
American-made Fenders aren't 4x the price of Gibsons. They're comparable in price.
 

Maguchi

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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.
Gibson does have their Tribute series which is weight relieved Les Pauls and solid slab bodied LP Specials in both P-90 and humbucker version. They're priced very competitively. I got a couple of the Specials and like them a lot. However both the LPs and LP Specials have flat satin finishes which might not appeal to younger players. And the colors are kind of traditional. A couple different shades of sunbursts for the LPs and wine red, white, natural and black for the Specials.

20211004_223932.jpg
20210703_120518.jpg
 

StrangerNY

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American-made Fenders aren't 4x the price of Gibsons. They're comparable in price.

That's a good point. The people who always talk about how expensive Gibsons are disregard the fact that Fenders at all price points have gotten more expensive. Even Squiers! I remember when you could buy a MIM Fender for les than you pay for a CV Squier now.

Of course, prices are going to go up, and Squiers and MIM Fenders still cost a lot less than the average Les Paul. But to the average kid who wants a guitar, even a MIM Fender would probably be out of their price range.

And all the talk of 'affordable' Fenders (including Squier) usually end up leaving Epiphone out of the equation as well.

- D
 

Jackroadkill

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Same here.

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

- D

I must have had yours, then! One of my LP's has had four headstock repairs over the years. Now, I should qualify this: I bought it with a broken headstock after it was knocked off a guitar stand and had it repaired. I played it as my main stage guitars in a very rock and roll band, breaking the headstock again at a particularly hair-raising gig a couple of years later. It went off to be repaired again, and then as soon as I got it back that repair failed. The luthier then grafted a new headstock onto it and touch wood, it's held since then. The only problem is that the new headstock is too thick and has an ugly volute. Next time (if there is a next time), it'll have a new neck.
 

hnryclay

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What is out of style now, will come back again later. Gibson really has never done well with beginner guitars since they purchased Epiphone, and they will not put the Gibson name on a foriegn made guitar. I love my Fenders, I love my Gibsons, but I think that youtube video is click bait from a guy that knows exactly how to get people to watch his channel. No disrespect to him, thats how he makes a living.
 
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StrangerNY

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I must have had yours, then! One of my LP's has had four headstock repairs over the years. Now, I should qualify this: I bought it with a broken headstock after it was knocked off a guitar stand and had it repaired. I played it as my main stage guitars in a very rock and roll band, breaking the headstock again at a particularly hair-raising gig a couple of years later. It went off to be repaired again, and then as soon as I got it back that repair failed. The luthier then grafted a new headstock onto it and touch wood, it's held since then. The only problem is that the new headstock is too thick and has an ugly volute. Next time (if there is a next time), it'll have a new neck.

I've solved that problem with the two latest LPs I've bought - they're both Norlins with 3 piece maple necks (only the '81 Custom has a volute, the '82 Standard doesn't have one).

norlins.jpg


I'm a lot more confident about them than I am about my '03 Special, which has a mahogany neck.

- D
 

burntfrijoles

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It will be interesting to see a couple decades hence whether Gibson is still profitable. My guess is they will have a die-hard collector fanbase and some rock stars and professionals who buy their product new, and they'll do good in the secondhand market. Fender, OTOH, will be going great guns, at least with their electrics. Such is life: Adapt or die.

Exactly what has Fender done that is so innovative? They have great marketing but, other than include some different pickups in their standard line and add a new color or two, what is so great? PRS made a Strat copy and got John Mayer to endorse it. It clever marketing but nothing earth shattering.
Remember a few years ago, pundits were saying the guitar is dying. Cow chips!!!
Folks like Rhett can pontificate like they're expert authorities but they're just voicing an opinion to feed their bank accounts without contributing crap to the guitar community.
I think Gibson will be selling Les Pauls, ES-335s, SG's, J-45s, J200's, etc for years to come and do just fine.
Fender will continue to produce Frankencasters by combining concepts from different models into a single guitar and offering new puketastic colors for all to enjoy. I can't wait for the eventual three pickup model with a soapbox, filter-iron, and stacked humbucker with a snakehead Tele neck and JagStang body.
 

Wrighty

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American-made Fenders aren't 4x the price of Gibsons. They're comparable in price.
If you take a ‘standard’ model, a Fender Player here is £550 give or take. A LP Standard is around £1,900. Real Fender vs real Gibson. If you deem a MIA Fender to Feb a fairer comparison, an Am Pro is around £1,500. OK, not four times the price but still a significant difference. From my experience of a LP Studio pitched over here at about £1,300, the quality was inferior by far to an AmPro, which woukd be worth the extra. I’m not doubting that the price structures are probably different where you are but I think that Fenders prevalence is due to their clever price points which carry a lot of players from first strum to guitar player step by step.
 

Wrighty

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Exactly what has Fender done that is so innovative? They have great marketing but, other than include some different pickups in their standard line and add a new color or two, what is so great? PRS made a Strat copy and got John Mayer to endorse it. It clever marketing but nothing earth shattering.
Remember a few years ago, pundits were saying the guitar is dying. Cow chips!!!
Folks like Rhett can pontificate like they're expert authorities but they're just voicing an opinion to feed their bank accounts without contributing crap to the guitar community.
I think Gibson will be selling Les Pauls, ES-335s, SG's, J-45s, J200's, etc for years to come and do just fine.
Fender will continue to produce Frankencasters by combining concepts from different models into a single guitar and offering new puketastic colors for all to enjoy. I can't wait for the eventual three pickup model with a soapbox, filter-iron, and stacked humbucker with a snakehead Tele neck and JagStang body.
What gave you heard????? I NEED one of those NOW!
 

Dave W

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If you take a ‘standard’ model, a Fender Player here is £550 give or take. A LP Standard is around £1,900. Real Fender vs real Gibson. If you deem a MIA Fender to Feb a fairer comparison, an Am Pro is around £1,500. OK, not four times the price but still a significant difference. From my experience of a LP Studio pitched over here at about £1,300, the quality was inferior by far to an AmPro, which woukd be worth the extra. I’m not doubting that the price structures are probably different where you are but I think that Fenders prevalence is due to their clever price points which carry a lot of players from first strum to guitar player step by step.
A Fender Player is MIM with far lower labor and overhead costs.

LP Studio and Fender Am Pro and Am Pro II are in the same price range here, $1500-$1700. Comparable features and quality, and the Studio has a nitro finish. LP Classic and Standard at $2300 and $2700 are far more expensive to make. And Fender has no US-made models to compete with Gibson's Tribute series.

So no, not 4x the price, or 2x the price.

I'm not bashing Fender at all. My Am Special Tele and Strat are my #1 and #2. But the price points of American models are comparable, and again, Gibson sells everything they can manufacture to their dealers. They aren't losing, no matter what some YT idiot claims.
 

brenn

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I'm no expert on the machinations of Fender and Gibson's marketing, but it seems to me Fender is way ahead both on identifying trends and capitalizing on them and on expanding both their high end and entry level offerings in innovative ways. The only thing I see Gibson doing right is with the Epiphone line. All I see from Gibson, marketing wise, is pricey signature models from a toad in a top hat. I'll admit I may have missed some of what they're doing, though, because I pretty much don't care. The only Gibson I'd be interested in is a J45.
It seems the opposite to me. Fender chases trends which is costly to any company in any business. To sell a million guitars you have to pay to build and ship a million guitars. Selling more cheap guitars makes your high end guitars worth less. In the end, a massive corporation with billions in sales doesn't really mean you are doing any better than one small factory.

Those are lessons both Gibson and Fender learned in the '70s, but Fender has forgotten and gone full corporate again.
 

radiocaster

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If you model your musical experiences on the gear choices of others, you are doing yourself a disservice. I own guitars that I enjoy playing and speak to me. This includes old Silvertones, recent and old Fenders, and recent and old Gibsons. The guitars I don't like don't last long in my small collection. I am NOT a professional, nor do I even consider myself a real musician.

Gibson has many problems, but it can still make a good guitar. One reason you don't see many new Gibson's in circulation is they have a poor distribution system. In MANY areas, you have to search long and hard to find a Gibson dealer with significant inventory. With guitarists who will not buy a guitar until they play it, this is obviously a prescription for poor sales. I have spoken to a few dealers in my area (there are very few) that don't have a good thing to say about dealing with Gibson. They don't hate the guitars, just the distributor system. I believe when Gibson re-tools their sales/distribution system to provide more availability to consumers, you will see more Gibson logos on stage.
Pretty much all Gibsons are limited run models. I'm not talking about vague notions like "Les Pauls", but specific models. I really wanted one of those Govt. Series Explorers, but they weren't around long enough.

Although the same can be said about Fender for some models. I wanted a Modern Player Jaguar with P90s. Also wanted one of those orange HH Squier Teles. By the time I decided to get one, they weren't around anymore.

I did get an Epiphone Firebird Studio, and even that was not too easy because I had to order it from Germany. But I really wanted the Korina one with glossy finish, which I couldn't find. The red one is ok though.
 

Linderflomann

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It seems the opposite to me. Fender chases trends which is costly to any company in any business. To sell a million guitars you have to pay to build and ship a million guitars. Selling more cheap guitars makes your high end guitars worth less. In the end, a massive corporation with billions in sales doesn't really mean you are doing any better than one small factory.
There's some truth to that when you are a small builder; there are probably advantages to doing it that way and if you are turning a consistent profit and are happy with where the company is at, then by all means continue as you please. But isn't Gibson owned by some investment fund right now? It seems doubtful they wouldn't want to sell more guitars and amass a greater market share. Owning a stable brand that brings in a steady profit is generally not what these types are after.

I'm also confused by the "Fender chases trends" bit. Which trends?
 
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