Dear Musician - When Musical Icons Stumble
By Dendy Jarrett |
Dear Musician - When Musical Icons Stumble
Will you kick it while it’s down?
by Dendy Jarrett
Let’s face it – there are very few American Icons left when it comes to brand names that are still manufactured in the U.S.A. Coke, Harley-Davidson, Jack Daniels, and Airstream are just a few. These brands are all internationally recognized and represent top quality that's made in America.
This week, we learned that Gibson has stumbled, announcing it has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization and protection through the bankruptcy courts in Delaware. Maybe Gibson isn’t as ubiquitous as a brand like Coke, but their logo is instantly recognizable the world over, as is the iconic Les Paul body shape.
Now, to the Gibson haters who rejoiced at the announcement of the brand's stumbling, I remind you that there are only a few of these hallowed 100-plus-year-old brands left in the US. Gibson is trying for a comeback. You can kick it while it’s down...or you can help it get back up.
I’m left thinking about the over 800 families who are supported by this fantastic brand. I’m left thinking of the guy who has cut necks from blocks of wood for 18 years. He’s done it for so long he doesn’t even need the cut lines any longer – he does it by touch and sight. That’s what happens when you’ve done something for so long that it becomes a part of you. I’m thinking about the woman who has scraped bindings on these guitars for 30 years and wears the worn calloused tape-wrapped fingers to show for it. I’m thinking about the guy who stands in front of a buffing wheel all day buffing the nitro finish into an amazing work of art for some aspiring guitarist. None of these people makes a tremendous amount of money, but each does his or her job because of the love of working for such an iconic and historic brand.
There’s been talk about the quality suffering over the last few years. None of these people had anything to do with that. When companies feel pressure to make numbers, something’s got to give. Of course, Gibson could have resorted to robotics manufacturing years ago to increase production so they could pump more and more guitars into the marketplace. But wouldn’t something have been lost in that sort of measure? Any product that’s hand made is going to have “characteristics” that may be viewed as flaws. It’s impossible to have something touched by humans without some inconsistencies and issues. But without the human touch, Gibson’s guitars wouldn’t have maintained their mystique and prestige—they would have become sterile representations of craftsmanship lost.
Fortunately, that craftsmanship has not been lost--it has been re-awakened. What I’ve heard from guitarists is that the 2018 models are some of the best-produced in years. That’s a good foundation to start a comeback.
And let’s look at something else that's unique about Gibson. Did you know that if you call their customer service line, you get a live human every time you call? No robotic prompts, no clearing- customer-service house in Bangladesh – just dedicated American guitar enthusiasts to take your call 24/7 - 365 days a year. Who does this anymore?
I won’t go into what caused this magnificent century-old company to stumble. I have my opinions, and you probably have yours. Chances are our opinions are pretty close. And it's complicated. But I implore you not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Don’t punish the people who labor under circumstances beyond their control, yet remain dedicated to making musical instruments as only they know how.
Now that this iconic brand has stumbled, I ask you to stand behind them as the re-gain their footing under new leadership. Stand behind the guy cutting the necks. Stand behind the woman scraping bindings. Stand behind the guy who stands behind the buffing wheel who’s covered in buffing compound from head to toe. You’ll be providing them with a job and a paycheck to feed their children. You’ll be protecting an iconic American-made product. You’ll help support over 800 families who rely on guitar sales to pay their mortgage. They are people just like you, but, more importantly, they are the Gibson brand. They are why 'only a Gibson is good enough.'
There are other guitar companies to whom you could send your business, and perhaps you need a Fender to go with your Les Paul or vice-versa—and that’s great…go for it. But please think about this century-old piece of American history. Don’t kick this brand when it’s down. Help it get back up.
Oh, and since Harmony Central is owned by Gibson, we’ll thank you as well. We’re here to inspire people to make better music, and this time we’re asking you to make some music with a Gibson. In the meantime, if you do, we’ll leave a light on for you.
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.