Category Archives: money

Fear of Musical Opinion

Until 3 weeks ago, the email I had associated with TheGuitarist (The collection of words and letters you are currently reading) was one I hadn’t had access to in 5 years leftover from an educational institution that deleted my internet existence 6 months after graduation. Now that this account is associated with me as a person in real life with a real business, and not an anonymous internet entity, I am experiencing some fear.

The people of the internet frighten me, and I am one of them.

Yesterday an article about the zeitgeist of internet negativity (Psychology and Online Bullying) was enough to remind me that I was guilty (is there such thing as excessive guilt? ++guilt?) of the “online disinhibition effect”. I abuse the internet from my throne of anonymity, spewing opinions under the assumption that my unique and valuable (eyes currently rolled, crying sarcastic tears) opinion of whatever I’m opining will change the world. Is there a megalomania clause in the Terms of Agreement for the internet?

I put a post on here titled “Why I Hate Guitar Center”. I seriously put that I hate a business? A need fulfilling mixture of people with a goal? Hate?

A verbal extremist reflects: Hyperbolic speaking is the best thing on earth. Ugh. It’s a shame moderation and being reasonable hasn’t my first inclination for the internet, but rather a divisive, active attempt to rally the battle cry and shun something I spuriously disapprove of. I question why I can’t merely pose a question and let others decide for themselves. Although I did reflect on why “I” didn’t like something, it’s still a testament to where I put my priorities.

I pause to trademark the phrase “Comment Section Phenomenon”. I’ll be waiting for a stipend for the rights, National Institute of Health.

I realize hatred is the go-to response for most internet opinions. Positivity and gratitude — rarefied air that is hard to make funny. The question I ask of myself (rhetorically, of course) is whether I want to continue this onslaught of words intended to spark strong opinions. I’m not a fan of trying to get people to care about things that have no meaning. Gossip, fashion, music reviews, movie critics, sports, and to a greater extent, political punditry are are somehow responsible for inciting fierce debate? Is that the writing style I look to? I have to make a concerted effort to not write that way any more. It’s too easy, and I’m doing it right now in a way. I feel my difference is that I don’t want people to hate anything anymore. What a useless sentiment.

Back to guitar: For a long time I’ve had a desire to write how much I dislike acoustic guitar pickups (Such controversy!) and realized I was radicalizing my feelings because I felt it would get more attention. I like having an opinion on things; it’s a real testament to creativity and free expression, but I really would like to eliminate extremist, all or nothing, black or white, smooth and crunchy from my blog about such lofty topics as strings and capos. I write this as a reminder that I’d like to write about things I like and don’t, but not turn the things I don’t like into exiled thought lepers. Internet opinion is sadly slanted towards the incitement of riot, and realizing that this is a blog about guitar, I’d rather stay out of it.

I look to the Fender Stratocaster vs. Gibson Les Paul debate as my template. There is no better. “Better” is not the word. Choice is the word. I would like to continue trying to create a culture where your mind is your bed: don’t get hateful at the way I make mine up. Dialogue v. Monologue.

As for my opinion on the matter of Strat vs. Les Paul?

Telecaster and SG.

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Filed under complaining, guitar, guitar blogs, guitar center, guitar rant, guitars, money, SFGT, sfguitartech, story, Uncategorized

NAMM 2009 Pre-Show

For those of you to whom NAMM is a fabled event, full of mystery and wonder…you are somewhat correct. NAMM is like MACWorld/CES for the music related industry. It’s where new products are released, companies get to show off their products, dealers look for, umm, deals,  and where the famous people who are sponsored by the companies have to pay their dues and show up. All the big music companies spend what I can only assume to be hundreds of thousands of dollars on booths, publicity,  models and personel aimed at getting people to buy what they’re selling. From the smallest of companies (the reason I’m going) with 10×10 booths, to Fender, Gibson, Steinway and Yamaha with their own rooms in the Anaheim Convention Center. The fact that we are right across the street from Disneyland is not lost, as it is a musical Disneyland. Basically every piece of gear you’ve ever heard of is there, and every company that matters is there.

That’s a lot of stuff, and speaking of stuff, here’s some random facts about NAMM 2009 I learned reading the 45 page exhibitor’s manual:

If your booth cannot be assembled in 30 minutes by one person, you must hire union labor.

You may not have performances, only “Demonstrations”.

Demonstrations can only be 5 minutes.

Those 5 minute demonstrations and all demonstrations cannot exceed 85 Decibels.*

If you know you are going to exceed 85 decibels, you must have a sound booth.

If you have a soundbooth, a notice must be posted, warning people of the loud noises.

All 2 story booths (There are plenty…Dean Markley, Sennheiser, Kaman music) must be approved by building engineers by December 12th.

No one gets a building permit on site, so if you mess up your booth, you’re outenze.

If you have more than 900 square feet of indoor booth, you must install a smoke detector.

You are not allowed to talk in the aisles.

There is a special area for exhibitors and dealers to talk in private. There is a receptionist, copy machine and beverages.

You are not to have food brought in. Food may only be supplied by the hired union food specialists on site.

Brochures with an adhesive inside constitute stickers, and are prohibited.

No one under 16 is allowed at NAMM, at all, unless they are an artist or registered, documented employee accompanied by parents at all times.

*Having been to NAMM, I know for a fact no one pays attention to this. Ambient noise in the place probably hovers near 90 decibels. Try selling acoustic guitars when your in the same isle as a drum manufacturer.

Those are just a few of my favorites. There is a whole lot of legal going on at NAMM. People are building house-sized structures inside of a convention center, and they have to have real contractors build it up. Not only that, but they have 4 days to do it. The floor opens on monday, and the show opens thursday. The whole thing is just insanity. I’d love to be there from when the floor is blank to when the place turns into a circus.

I am going to be there this year as an exhibitor (I think…I hope my boss got me an Exhibitor’s pass) attempting to sell things in a time of economic downfall. It’s going to be an odd atmosphere, and despite the fact that i’ve been hearing some companies are closing up shop, the show is about 98% sold out in terms of booth space.

And for the good stuff: The things at NAMM i’m looking forward to.

Ibanez 17 MM Super Wizard neck.

Actually, any new Ibanez things.

Vigier single-cutaway.

RacerX Reunion.

Paul Gilbert is going to be there every day.

Whatever Ernie Ball does.

Whatever Charvel doesn’t do.

Bernard Purdie performing.

Whatever Suhr does.

The Blackbird Super-OM…read their description in the pamphlet…yikes.

Trem-king’s new bridge.

Schaller’s new bridge design.

And basically everything new. I look forward to meeting/seeing famous industry people like Rick Turner, Thomas Nordegg (techie to the stars), Seymour Duncan, Bob Taylor, Dick Boke (of Martin), Dean Markley, Ed Roman, and damn near anyone else. Not to mention the famous people: Kerry King, Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan, Mike Portnoy, Terry Bozzio, and basically everyone else who is sponsored by a big company.

It’s going to be insane this year. I hope all goes well and billions of dollars are made, and that all of the cheap overseas knockoff companies don’t show their poorly made guitars. I want them to just sit there and wait for the big companies to hire them to produce their budget models in a room marked “Outsourcing”.

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Filed under guitar, guitars, Ibanez, Made in China, money, NAMM, NAMM 2009, story

Guitar Center bought by Mitt Romney’s Company: No More Haggling Allowed

It came to my attention today as I bought a set of pickups from a guy at guitar center who usually gives me good deals, that he wasn’t giving me a discount like he always did. I felt it odd, but for what I was buying I figured maybe they couldn’t do it with accessories, despite getting pretty big discounts on a single pack of strings.  In my venture, I needed something from Radio Shack, and oddly enough, a former Guitar Center employee was there at Radio Shack. I asked him why he does work at Guitar Center any more, and he says:

“Mitt Romney’s Equity firm bought Guitar Center, and we’re not allowed to discount or haggle any more. All the prices that are on the tags are what you have to pay.”

I was taken aback, considering that’s my main reason for going to Guitar Center, is the thought of getting a better deal. I talked to the guy awhile, and I basically interpreted it as the commission guys can’t really make good money any more from giving people deals on gear, so what’s the incentive of staying at one of the most competitive companies with the highest turnover rate? Also, I hear that they might be doing away with commission altogether. At which point the guitarists, bassists, techies and everyone else with a specialty in music will have no reason to work at guitar center any more. If you don’t have to try to sell things to make more money,what’s to say Joe Everyman who’s doesn’t know jack about guitars doesn’t just come in for a part time job?

Commission was incentive to for musicians to work at Guitar Center. The more you know, the more convincing you sound, the more you sell.

As a background, Bain Capital, an equity fund that was founded by 3 people, including Mitt Romney (take that in whatever way you want), recently bought Guitar Center for 2.1 Billion dollars. Why people who own Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Toys R Us, and Sealy mattresses (among a few other HUGE names in their specific markets) have anything to do with guitars is beyond me. I’m sure all of the companies felt the same way. Why are we all being managed by the same people? Bunch of marketing/financial geniuses who wouldn’t know a Squier from a Martin if you magnified the logos.

All of these companies started as small places, only to now be owned by some 50 Billion dollar equity firm. I’m sure they all originally had little secrets which customers knew. I knew that the prices at guitar center were flexible, while most others don’t.

What i’m thinking (dreaming?) is that this might bring back competition. I did find out that they are allowed to do price matching ,where they match/slightly beat a competitive price. It’s how I got my now retail 2089.99 SG Reissue for 1400 flat.

Will this be the return of the mom and pop stores? Will guitar competition return and prices drop naturally?

My guess is no. Guitar Center’s super management people will probably realize that this is a major screwup,  and return to normalcy.

But if they keep it this way, it’ll turn Guitar Center into Circuit City or Compusa. Stores with even more lackluster sales people with no enthusiasm for what they’re selling, and they’ll start to close down.

As for me, I really have no reason to go there any more. If there’s no chance that I can get a really good discount, I might as well just go to a mom and pop store and pay normal price and give it to people who actually need the money.

Excuse me if my Guitar Center post-apocalyptic thought process was a little difficult, but I found this revelation to be a big mind changer. Understood it’s a slippery slope, but damn if it aint greasey on that guitar hill.

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Filed under center, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, escapism, guitar, guitar center, guitar rant, Guitar store, mitt romney, money, music, Nay-saying, negativity, player, Rabble Rousing, 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