Category Archives: Gibson

No more Haggling at Guitar Center: Employee Comment Follow-up

As a follow-up to my Guitar Center bought by Mitt Romney’s Company: No More Haggling Allowed I recently received a good comment from a Guitar Center employee. It provoked me to delve further into the whole Guitar Center issue. I was going to email this person, but I felt the comments were valuable, and merited posting in the main blog, including my wordy responses.

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…yes….the prospect of the commission thing going away is quite probable. However, employees are and still will be REQUIRED to pass certifications on their knowledge. Also, despite not being a commission based job, you are still required to hit your goal (sales figures based on your skill/lenth of job/job title….all business’s have a daily goal people…not a huge industry secret). So, if you think that average ‘Joe Blow’ can just waltz in and get a job, think again.

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How long will that last? I wanted to get a job at Guitar Center because I was pretty sure that I knew more about guitar stuff than most of the people on the floor, and therefore I felt I would do a good job informing people and selling guitars, earning a good commission by developing a dialogue with them. Incentive being that I could take the price down and get them coming back. Without commission, it wouldn’t matter at all if the person knew anything about guitars, a wage job is a wage job.

It’s like most big name stores without commission; salespeople don’t go around asking people if they want anything, they just sit at the register waiting to check someone out. There’s no incentive or reason for them to ask, so they just sit around waiting. Deals and commission were all about incentive. Incentive to work at Guitar Center, incentive to sell, incentive to buy, incentive to get a deal.

Now Guitar Center can’t have the whole friendly vibe, or at least there’s no point to it. I went in to the store that day looking for the guy I knew, and he knew me.  He would give me good deals on things and I wouldn’t waste his time with other people, i’d ask for what I wanted and pay. Instead, if I go I can just buy whatever from whoever and know i’m paying full price, and the salespeople no longer matter. People with knowledge won’t matter, they’ll just show it on the computer if someone asks for information.

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People can whine all they want about having to finally pay what the instrument is worth. If you want to go to a mom and pop shop, that is your business and your right. GC is simply trying to get away from that archaic way of doing business. Car dealerships have been doing away with it as well. There are many flaws in the “haggle” way of selling. Look at it from a different perspective…..Let’s say you own a business, and you have to pay rent, utilities, insurance (public, employment, property), overhead (cost of goods and the cost to maintain those goods) and so forth…..and then you get Johnny McDouchebag coming into your store…. occupies 3 hours of your time, and then when it gets down to the sale, he grinds the hell out of you until you are 5-10% above cost. That 5-10% will not cover your overall costs of selling that piece. You actually lose money. Do you honestly think that is fair? Is it fair to the business? Without income, the business cannot grow. Is it fair to the
employee who is trying to earn a living? If someone feels the need to grind me on a price, I feel like that person doesn’t care about my time, my livelihood or my knowledge and it’s disrespectful.

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That was the thing, it was the only reason I went to Guitar Center. By creating a haggling atmosphere, it was an entirely different entity and it was the reason I didn’t go to mom and pops. If I have the option now of paying full price at Guitar Center or at a small store, i’m going to the small store. I feel my money is going to better use, i’ve had a better experience, and i’m making sure they’ll be there by supporting their livelihood. Before this new price set thing was in action, I would care if Guitar Center left. Now not so much. Unlike technology stores and emporium stores, there’s still a grassroots guitar store movement out there, and if Guitar Center is just another one of the options, i’ll let them go.

I was willing to buy more things overall because I knew I would get good prices on things I wanted, and by talking to people for hours who gave me a deal, i’d always come back and give them my business. Unlike a Car Dealership, you don’t just go to Guitar Center once. Most people have more than one guitar, amp, pedal, and accessories. If I know your name, and I know you treat me well and give me good prices, i’ll just keep talking to you and probably buy things I don’t need, but get them just because it’s a good price. Same reason I went in there in the first place. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. Tourists, beginners, rich people with money to burn.

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Obviously, I work at GC. I spend an enormous amount of my time learning all I can to insure that the information I give to someone is correct. I’m not very high up in the ranks (just an AM), but I do believe in the direction the company is taking. It will take some time to get all the bugs worked out, but believe me…I know what’s up the road and it looks good. Try not to be so negative people. GC is trying to make a change for the better. Yeah, sure, you may have to pay the tagged price now….so what? Do you haggle your groceries? Best Buy? Anywhere else? This is a business, and it has to be run as such. Why else do you think the company was in trouble before Bain bought it? We were giving away too much stuff below the price to cover our overall costs. I’ve seen the IBITA (your overall costs vs. profits…..that is if I spelled it right) reports, and it was UGLY. Cost was not outweighing our income.
Hopefully, a few open minds out there will see where I was coming from with this and perhaps see reasoning.
-Z-

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Guitars are a store driven market, and Guitar Center was the only big chain out there. I feel no loyalty to a Best Buy or a grocery store because those are things I need. More people need and buy cell phones, cameras, TVs, computers, and food than they ever buy guitars. It’s why Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, SHARP, and so forth are household names and brands, while i’d give a guess and say that if you asked someone to name a guitar company, you’d be lucky with a “Fender”, “Martin” or “Gibson.”

They don’t offer haggling because they don’t have to. Guitar Center is purely luxury items for a specific market, and in order to captivate an outside, seemingly uninterested market, there needs to be some (back to square one) incentive that will cross the mental barrier of them wanting to spend money. Guitar Center is all over America, but the consistency was that we could get good deals at all of the stores if there were good people there. And the salespeople were unique instead of just a clan of blue-wearing khaki pants robots. As I said, people wanted to work there, and Guitar Center knew it. It has/had an extremely high employee turnover rate because GC knew if someone wasn’t performing, they could get another worker in quick.

So here’s an open question to employees and readers alike:

What sets Guitar Center above anyone else now?

Give your comments and thoughts.

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Filed under center, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, Guitar Hero, guitar player, guitar rant, Guitar store, mitt romney, music, Nay-saying, negativity, story

“Music is a Business”: A Longwinded NAMM Recovery Story

I’ll probably get some flack here, but in this case, not from the people who I usually get it from. I am making plenty of assumptions, and most of these ideas are based off of opinions and views I have seen. Having said that, I don’t feel like i’m going out on a limb here. I think i’m verbalizing things we hoped weren’t true, but I don’t feel I originated these feelings.

These are my thoughts after going to NAMM. It’s been 3 months, and it’s taken about that much time for my euphoria to wear off, and ideas to settle in, or at least have some effect on me. So lets get going.

Going to NAMM was a life changing experience for me. It really was. Being someone who wants to spend their life involved in musical instruments and music, experiencing something like NAMM was valuable and necessary. And while the experience NAMM gave me was inevitable, i’m glad it happened early in my life. Rather than dancing around it with pseudoartistic jabber, I might as well just come out and say it:

Music is a business.

You hear those words spoken – “Music Business” is household fodder for future (un)employees – but it took a very large event for it to set in.

My pre-namm experience was involved in blogs and magazines, seeing all the new gear surrounded by musical A-listers and scantily clad women who wouldn’t know a Fender from a Gibson if the booths were right next to each other. And if you’ll excuse the self-righteous NAMM booth humor (something I’ll try to avoid it from now on) you’ll get a slight glimpse at what I mean by “business.” All I knew about NAMM were in journalist pictures and magazines, but they don’t show you who is really there, and why it’s really there.

I’m going to guess that 99% of the people there are just lookers, gawkers, rubberneckers and the like, enjoying the new eye candy of musical instruments that are being created. And out of a tens of thousands of people that go to NAMM, those (we, actually) aren’t the people that matter much. We are dressed in musical oriented clothes, walking shoes, and our wallets don’t have much in mind except for the food.

And then you see the people and sights they never show you in the magazines. The suits, ties, briefcases, back rooms, two-story booths, soundproof rooms, velvet ropes, business schedules, meetings, power lunches, special areas, the entire hotel 1st floor bought by Yamaha, the Roundtables with the candy dish in the middle, the paperwork, and the nicely combed hair. Guitar World/Player/One would never show you that. Well, why would they? It’s not like it would sell issues (Re: Business).

You start to realize that the stores that sell a lot of guitars are not guitar meritocracies. The best guitars aren’t sold at Guitar Center, Samash, Musicians Friend or Music123. They are merely (I should say “probably, because this is all hearsay now) there for their name, and the amount of money they bring in. For instance, a Fender Relic, now the basis for all things overpriced in the guitar industry, costs a few thousand dollars to sell. Chances are, that guitar cost the exact same to make as the Made In Mexico 70’s reissues, and even they are overpriced.

So the manufacturers sell them wholesale to one of these big musical instrument selling companies for a low price, and then the company sells them to us for a higher price. I’m going to make an educated guess and assume the reason all of those guitars are at the big-name stores, is solely because they bring in the most money. Thus reducing your guitar buying options at the big stores to profit margins, rather than quality. Gibson, Fender, PRS, ESP, are only known brands because the people buy them, and the retailers get a good deal. You’d probably never see a Suhr or a Vigier at a big namer because they probably couldn’t turn a good profit.

I think what solidified my ideas that it’s a business was being in the ESP booth. It was all rock-and-rolled, videos playing, cool guitars on the wall. Then I standing in a certain place, and a door opened. Out of the door came around 8 men in business suits, shaking hands and smiling. Not a single one looked like a guitar player, or even a guitar player in disguise. I am in the room which is a large upstairs conference room, dressed to the nines in the finest in metal regalia, and there went what looked to be wall street’s finest. They probably just sold a couple thousand guitars in futures, or made a deal with an overseas manufacturing company to lower the manufacturing costs of parts fifteen percent.

That’s when it dawned on me to look at everything there in a different light. All of the manufacturers of cheap guitars probably couldn’t play one if handed to them. They were there for a profit, and turning plywood, lumber scraps, and cheap mass produced parts into money was why they were there.

You go to a hardware store, and there are rows and rows and rows of screws, big and small, costing a couple cents. Metal door brackets and hinges, a few dollars. Plastic knobs and plates for switches, a dollar or two. Lumberyard’s full of wood, a couple bucks for large pieces. All of these mass produced parts parallel to guitars. Tuners, bridges, knobs, switches, plates, and all of the simple things don’t add up to the cost of a Squier strat, especially when they are being mass produced. Necks, bodies, pickups, and everything but painting and assembly are automated, but we are still paying big bucks. It’s what we expect, as guitar players.

Want something with a clear finish? Extra 70 bucks. Gold plated hardware? 50 bucks. Floating bridge? 200 bucks. Hollowbody? Upper range. Thin nitro finish? Upper range. Locking tuners? Extra 100 bucks. New pickups? 70 bucks. You all know this, and you’ve come to expect this.

But knowing the details is not very rock and roll. This hobby of mine was born and raised in the ear canals of rock and roll Venice, and I didn’t want it to be sold to the lowest bidder. I didn’t want to know that the reason Guitar Center had my Gibson SG was because they probably made a huge deal of money off of it. I didn’t want to know that my gear heaven known as NAMM, is really just for big businesses to make deals. I didn’t want to see the Chinese manufacturers sitting at a table, waiting for one of the big companies to come to them so they could make the most profit.

You try and justify the price you pay that there’s some guy working in a factory on your guitar. That the measly 400 dollars you spend on a Mexican Strat is worth it. Then you realize that there are a good amount of people who specialize in that part, and they spend the better part of 5 minutes on it. Bolting on a neck, clamping the sides, installing tuners, drilling holes, removing things from giant machines. They get paid wage a few bucks above minimum, if not minimum. Aside from the paint and finish drying, it probably spends very little time in someone’s hands. Probably a good 15 dollars out of the company’s pocket worth of labor, and that’s pushing it. 20 bucks total for the parts, pushing it again. Manufacturing has been paid off, so probably a dollar or two for maintenance of the machines. We’re talking anywhere from 8 to 30 times the profit for something people yearn for.

The problem is there’s no competition. I’m beating the dead horse of my ill-fated “Why I Hate Guitar Center” post, but unlike the computer industry all prices just keep going up for us while quality drops.

I saw NAMM. I saw the celebrities paid to be there. I saw the small companies trying to break into the market. I saw the new gear, the booth babes, the lights, the smells. I got the blisters from walking, I saw Johnny Demarco (!!!), I saw the elaborate booths. And I realized that none of it was for me. Any guitar player would be happy with a booth full of guitars, and had the bar not been set so high, i’m sure that’s what NAMM would’ve been like. Instead it was the largest building i’d ever been to, enormous booths, louder than hell, and it was an overload.

But what does it all mean? Will it change a thing that I know this? Nope. I’m still going to go to Guitar Center, i’m going to pay 1700 dollars for the Eric Johnson Strat (someday…) which cost probably under a hundred to make. I’m going to keep on truckin through the business part of it. Pay a dollar for a song, 2 for a ringtone,
50 for a doorknob or whatever I buy, and continue to realize that music is a business. But so is everything else, so I should shut my mouth because some day i’m going to be in this business, and you’re going to pay for my Eric Johnson strat.

The end.

I await loads of criticism, both foreign and domestic. Including the job offers from Fender and Gibson for a billion dollar a year contract for me to sit around in the Charvel office or the Gibson Supreme office being the guy who criticizes everything, but still enjoys it all.

Me and music, we have a love/hate relationship. I love all of this stuff, but I hate seeing people in suits.

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Filed under Carvin, center, Charvel, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Fender Mexico, Fender Telecaster, floyd rose, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Ibanez, Jackson guitars, Made in China, Made in Mexico, money, music, NAMM, NAMM 2008, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Roland, San Dimas, story, Uncategorized

Winter NAMM 2008

I will be there, so there will be pictures.

Look for a big post on NAMM 2008 on what I find interesting or uninteresting.

Yes, there will be pictures.

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Filed under Electric Bass, electric guitar, Fender Guitars, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, Ibanez, Jackson guitars, NAMM, NAMM 2008, player

Tis been quite awhile.

It has been some time since i’ve written anything here, so I figured i’d check in and give some musical instrument related thoughts on the current status of music and such.

gibsonrobot

Technology keeps getting better, but it makes us lazier.
Case and point the cyber-Gibson or whatever it’s called that tunes itself. It’s a really good idea, but I think they should limit the ownership of that to people who already know how to tune a guitar well. People who seem to never progress in the tuning area don’t need more reason to be lazy, and by giving them this guitar it’ll just mean they’ll be bad at guitar in tune, instead of retaining the somewhat redeeming quality of trying to accomplish something out of tune. Kind of harsh words, but I imagine guitarists know what i’m talking about. Either that, or make this guitar only allowed to do alternate tunings and to go to standard from alternates. It doesn’t change the fact that I want one, but I want one in a Les Paul Custom, not a studio, and not in a color that looks like it’s the background to a Bob Ross painting.

Fender, Keep Quiet for Awhile.tripletele
Every week or so, Fender releases another guitar, only making one simple adjustment which they believe qualifies them to add a few hundred dollars to the price tag. If you look at the New for 2007 page on Fender’s website, you’ll know what i’m talking about. Models from different years, signature models for people no one wants to own. For example, I love John 5, but no one will want to own that guitar of his, the Triple Tele. Anyone who would want that guitar would want to make theirs custom because NO one wants a guitar that specific unless they’ve been playing guitar for a long time, in which case they probably know about custom shops, and don’t want something like that. Tele body, 70’s headstock, 3 humbuckers, mirror pickguard, all with a tremolo? This is barely a telecaster. They should name the guitar the John 5 25% Telecaster, 25% Stratocaster, 25% Gibson 3 pickup, and 25% awful tremolo. Seriously, it needs that long name on it so the telecaster people know what it is when they put their standard teles down, look up and see this thing. It’s a cool idea, but is this really profitable?

mascis

And the J. Mascis Jazzmaster? Jazzmasters look awesome and sound awesome (feel wise and hardware wise, not so much) but is it really necessary to release a custom shop model just because it’s purple?

Gibson, Why did you Guitar Hero?                                                                                             
Why? Why? Why? Why couldn’t they have just made their guitar shapes and not haveGibson logos on thegibherom? If it’s not a musical instrument or directly connected to the use of one, then what the heck is Gibson’s name doing on it. Same goes for their flash drives! I mean, I want one of the flash drives, but really, Gibson, you’re GIBSON! Of the two household names of guitar, you’re one of them. You’re the Coca-Cola, the Hershey’s, the Gatorade of the guitar world, and you’re putting your name on a plastic guitar-shaped device which has absolutely no connection to real musical talent. 5 buttons, a switch and a stick of metal. It takes a 10 year old an hour to master Jessica by the Allman Brothers, but how long did it actually take the Allman Brothers to collectively get the musical talent to create such a song?!

Still a fun game to play though.

Alright. I’m done for now. I’m “interning” at a guitar company around here, and I want to get there early.

Your friend in bitterness,

The Guitarist!

Yes, i’m looking for things to rant about because i’m bored as hell, but there are some things that just need to be said.

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Filed under complaining, Fender, Fender Guitars, Gibson, guitar, Guitar Hero, guitar player, guitar rant, music, Nay-saying, negativity, player, Rabble Rousing, story, Uncategorized

Gibson 1961 Reissue SG

Being made aware that a some money is coming in my direction, it opens up the floodgates for the guitar player who is always in search of new gear. Every single piece of musical gear that I see, I always think that I might want it. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it just seems that at some point in my life I’ll need it. It can be a guitar, it can be a contrabassoon; if I see it I want it. However, very few of them caught me like the guitar you see above. Having been listening to Derek Trucks lately, i’ve been curious as to where he gets his tone. It seems to be the perfect tone for slide guitar. I looked up what guitar he had, and it was this one. He along with Daron Malakian from System of a Down, Pete Townshend from The Who and Eric Clapton in his Cream years have all used an incarnation of this guitar.

I’ll put this out there before I get to the meat and ‘taters of it all, i’ve always hated Gibson SGs. I’ve hated the thick neck, i’ve hated how they felt to play, and i’ve hated the current users of them. It’s a very popular guitar for the new alternative/emo/hardcore genre, and that clouded my judgment towards the Gibson SG until I found out that all of those people are using Gibson SG Standards.

But this guitar changed everything. It’s taken the SG from my most hated guitar, to the top of my list of favorites.

The Specs: It looks like a normal SG, but it’s got a lot of differences. This is the reissue of the first SG ever made. When Gibson did a few modifications to the Les Paul to make a lighter, all-access, more visually striking guitar, this was the result. With the exception of the Rosewood fretboard, it’s all mahogany. The standard Gibson tuners, standard top hat volume and tone knobs. And that’s where the similarities end. Instead of 490 series pickups, they use 57 Classics. Instead of having the neck heel meet at at the 19th fret, it meets at the 22nd. It’s got a smaller pickguard than the Standard, a holly inlay instead of the usual crown, and nickel plating instead of chrome for the aged look. The biggest difference,- and the selling point for me – is 60’s era, slim-taper neck. All of which will be explained in a bit.
The Neck: It’s thinner and flatter than all other Gibson necks, and the best part is that access to the first fret is just as easy as the 22nd. There’s no wood to get in the way of fretting any notes. It’s comfortable everywhere. The neck heel at the 22nd fret means that there’s no giant chunks of mahogany to get in the way of any of the frets. The SG Standard connects at the 19th fret, and the neck is the same profile as the old rounder Gibson Les Pauls, something not meant for someone used to small necks. The binding job around the neck could use a little quality control, and it would be better if the frets were crowned properly instead of having a flat top. But all of these factors add to the mystique of the Gibson SG 1961 Reissue.

The Body: I’ve always loved the look of a Gibson SG. In the realm of guitars, it’s in the top three for most recognizeable body shapes out there. There are many things associated with a Gibson SG, and when most people see it, they know there’s going to be some rock played. The Beatles, Cream, The Who, The Allman Brothers, System of a Down, The Doors, The Derek Trucks Band, AC/DC, all have used an SG to define a look. If Gibson did anything to the body, it wouldn’t be an SG, and it would need a different review.

The Electronics: Plugging this in gave me the same electricity as the Charvel I reviewed, but for a different purpose. It had that great rock sound coming out of the 57 pickups, and they went with the classic 2 volume, 2 tone configuration. Again, not messing with a classic keeps it classic.

The Hardware: I’ve never been a fan of Gibson tuners. It always seem like they’re going to break or crack off. However, I have seen versions of the SG with sturdier, more sensitive Grover tuners, an option I might take advantage of if I get my own.

The Whole Shebang : The second I put this guitar in my hands, I could feel Rock and Blues riffs about to fall out of my fingers. It felt like Picasso had just been using a ballpoint pen and had been handed a palette and some brushes. (I’m definitely not Picasso, but if there’s any better metaphor for feeling almost unlimited in capabilities, I have yet to see it) All of a sudden, it just feels like there’s some form of supernatural entity in your hands telling you what to do with it. I had to keep the volume low so people didn’t know I was ripping off Eric Clapton with Cream riffs, but the guitar was just telling me “Do it. You know you’ll enjoy it. Forget the store employees.” I kicked on the neck pickup, rolled off the tone, and just started to play “SWLABR” by Cream. Had I brought my slide, I probably would’ve spent 3 hours butchering Derek Trucks licks. It felt perfect for almost every song I could throw at it. John Mclaughlin style, Santana style, Angus Young style: didn’t matter, it just seemed to flow out of it like water from a fountain.

I could spend a lot of time waxing poetic about the ’61 reissue, but i’d rather just cut myself off and make a summation of the stuff I didn’t like. Don’t make my griping seem like I don’t like the guitar, just pretend I had 15 pages of the things I liked about the guitar before this section:

-The price is a big issue; at $1800+ you’d think it would be made of gold, not using the cheaper materials involved with SG maintenance. They just slap the 61 reissue logo on there to make it cost more than the 1100+ for a standard.

-I’ve never liked the front mounted input jack. It just seems to be conducive to cable fatigue.

– More color variations would be nice. The red is GORGEOUS, but different colors would be even more enticing. They came out with a Sapphire blue version as a limited edition, but what self-respecting guitarist wants to play Jessica by the Allman Brothers with a guitar that’s “Sapphire” blue?

– Gibson, you’re the most well known company, couldn’t you have put some effort into the fretboard? Make it out of Ebony for the price? Finish the binding properly? Crown the frets? Try and put some effort into it if i’m going to pay almost two grand for it.

Those are really the things I had problems with. And even those things i’d probably forget the second I had it in my hands again.

The Pros: Gibson SG style without the standard fat neck, Slim taper neck, awesome pickups, amazing sound all around, looks spectacular. The best blues/rock guitar i’ve ever played .

The Cons: The price. Low quality neck workmanship in a “top of the line” instrument. It’s the reason there’s no plus next to the A.

The Grade:

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Filed under 1961 Reissue, Derek Trucks, electric guitar, Gibson, Gibson 1961 SG Reissue, guitar, guitar review, SG