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Issue 188

Topics     News     User Reviews     Forums     Articles     Videos     Classifieds

Dear Musician,

DSC\_0074ew.jpgExperience PRS 2012. Paul Reed Smith Guitars recently held an open house at their headquarters near Annapolis, Maryland, and Harmony Central was there to cover the event.

Called “Experience PRS,” the three-day fest is now in its sixth year, and features live performances by major artists, factory tours, guitar-building workshops, and clinics on everything from dialing in your amp sound to recording lead guitar to arranging for 7-string guitar. We have an exclusive video interview with the man himself, Paul Reed Smith, plus photos of the event, and performance videos of Creed and Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti (pictured at right), Journey's Neal Schon, fusion legend John McLaughlin, country picker Brent Mason, and Texas rocker David Grissom.

Click here to go to the Video Page to select among the live performances of Mark Tremonti, Brent Mason, John McLaughlin, Neal Schon, Brent Mason, Paul Smith & Brent Mason, David Grissom, Tony McManus.

Click here to go to the photo gallery of the PRS Factory Tour (including videos of the CNC body-routing machine and the pickup-winding machine in action).

Click here to go to the photo gallery of the PRS Archivesrare and beautiful prototypes and one-off guitars.

Like a growing number of other manufacturers, including PreSonus, who holds “PreSonusphere” annually, PRS is learning that hosting its own “show” is the most targeted way to reach a focused dealer network and a cadre of loyalists, provided they’re willing to travel to the manufacturer’s headquarters. Since PRS Guitars are made in the U.S., interested parties have only to book a trip to Stevensville, Maryland—right outside of Annapolis and nestled in the scenic Chesapeake Bay—to get the goods on production, marketing, and sales. And September is the perfect time of year for a three-day outdoor event in southern Maryland.

PRS’s move was not borne out of some grandstanding impulse to rob the NAMM Show of its due. It was a business necessity: Paul Smith publicly stated that PRS “did not sell one guitar at Summer NAMM. Not one.” This seems unbelievable, especially for a show so close to PRS in location (there is only one state between Maryland and Tennessee) and vibe (Summer NAMM is considered a “guitar show”), not to mention how much attention the PRS booth receives during these shows. Yet the reality is that PRS could not capitalize on the NAMM Show’s primary purpose: bringing dealers and manufacturers together to conduct business. For whatever reason, it wasn’t working for PRS.

So PRS made lemonade of out of lemons. If the music industry’s trade show disappoints, PRS creates its own trade show. And it works. Fabulously so. The bad news: You must travel to Maryland to see a single manufacturer. The good news: Once you get there, you will not leave uninformed, uneducated, unentertained, nor uninspired. The PRS folks really know how to throw a party, and they educate and inculcate their audience to all things PRS. That includes the making of the instruments (factory tours), the application of the instruments (through performances and clinics), and the complete transparency into the operation by virtue of throwing open their doors and making available every single staffer—from the craftspeople on the factory floor to the marketing folks to the endorsing artists to the executives to PRS’s president, Jack Higginbotham, and Paul Reed Smith himself. PRS also gives dealers their own exhibition space, a kind of Dealers’ Row right inside the factory.

DM\_188.jpgAs a PRS enthusiast, one of the highlights for me is the factory tour. I take it every year, because the process of making a guitar is a constantly evolving process—especially for PRS and their commitment to ever-improve the manufacturing aspect of it. I always notice something different, and with the acoustic guitars and amp manufacturing now resident in the same factory with the electric guitars, there’s even more to see and learn.

Beyond the tour and performances, you can learn all about PRS guitars just by attending the new model introductions and visiting the archives, the Private Stock collection, the Vault (i.e., valuable materials, like rare woods and abalone), and talking to helpful PRS employees. Paul Smith himself is everywhere, as host, performer, spiritual guru, and standup comedian. He will answer any question fully, honestly, and with refreshing candor (yes, even about the Gibson lawsuit). The only caveat is that your question may turned back on you, so you have to be prepared to respond to his questions to get answers to your own. Paul is constantly searching and probing, and asking questions of his audience is just part of his ongoing research.

There’s no one more credible for representing the PRS brand than Paul himself, and you simply can’t get what PRS is about just by visiting the booth. Not after you’ve been to Stevensville. If I were a manufacturer, I’d be looking very hard at Experience PRS. Sure, it’s expensive, disruptive, and requires a huge commitment of time and personnel. But if PRS had 3,000 attendees that weekend, I can tell you this: They also had 3,000 fans.

The evening performances at Experience PRS are often cited as the main attraction, and indeed they provide hours of thrilling, world-class music-making by today’s top artists. But perhaps the best thing about the PRS Experience is how it all hangs together. It’s the connective tissue that allows you to effortlessly go from a conversation with Mark Tremonti at the beer tent to a factory tour to a workshop to a mainstage performance. And it’s how the experience maintains a relaxed, festival-like atmosphere, despite the fact that there are schedules to keep and business to transact. To pull that off means having motivated and intelligent organizers—that is, the PRS staff, who, it must be remember, have pretty intense day jobs. That it continues to satisfy, year after year, is evidence in and of itself of a business well run.

I have attended these PRS fêtes since their inception (as have many of my media colleagues), and if I were to launch a guitar-making enterprise, I can’t imagine doing it differently—let alone better—than PRS Guitars. We don’t have Orville Gibson, Leo Fender, Fred Gretsch, Jr., or Adolph Rickenbacker any more, but we do have Paul Reed Smith, and he’ll tell you everything you want to know about the guitars that bear his name. That is a singularity in this business. Just be prepared to answer a couple of questions yourself.


Jon Chappell

This Week on HC

Got a Favorite Forumite? Follow HimJust Like on Twitter!

ThisWeek2.jpgCrowd-sourcing is often the best way to get a specific question answered by a cadre of experts, and nowhere do more experts exist per square pixel than on Harmony Central’s Forums.

Whether it’s guitars, keyboards, amps, recording, drums, or anything DIY or technical, chances are that someone frequenting the forums can, and will respond to your question. And most often, you’ll get several opinions, from which you can triangulate the best solution for your situation.

But what if you develop a liking for a specific person’s wisdom, irrespective of the subject or question at hand? In other words, what if you’re just a fan of some Forumite, and want to hear what they’re talking about lately? After all, that’s how popular bloggers get audiences, and how people garner Twitter followers, so why should it be any different for a Forumite with his ear to the rail and a compelling way of expressing himself?

If you find a Forumite you like, that’s when you can invoke the Advanced Search feature offered in the Forums. Try this out using a couple of popular names, including two of our humble moderators Phil O’Keefe and Craig Anderton (HC username Anderton). Three others to try are blue2blue (recording, technology, songwriting), MikeRivers (analog recording), and Freeman Keller (acoustic guitar).

The above names are people who always write posts that are thoughtful, fully realized, and meaningful—no “+1,” "bump" or “In before the ban” posts for these guys. Do occasional Advanced Searches by username, and you’ll be sure not to miss what your favorite prognosticators have to say about trends in our industry—just as you would with a favorite magazine or newspaper columnist.

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EditoriaCraig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor


Advertising  adsales@harmonycentral.com


Publisher • Kirit Sarvaiya

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