Good: It appears that folks around here, i.e., in southern New England, have relaxed just a tiny bit about their personal situations and the “big picture” when it comes to whether they can afford to make or continue to have the playing of music be a part of their lives. That is, buying a new guitar and taking lessons seems to be less of a burden than it might have been a couple years ago. Yes, it is still something of a luxury for many people – particularly older people on fixed (read: low) incomes – but these days when I get inquiries the first question is not “how much?” as it was not long ago. This is gratifying because it allows me to explain what I offer before someone ends the conversation almost before it begins if the price seems too high. I price my lessons as low as I can afford and in fact I am lower than many of the teachers in the area.
Guitar purchases are showing a definite upturn too. However, there are some disturbing things on the horizon (more on that below) that could impact that in the near future. In any case, I will continue to do my utmost to offer the best instruments I can find at the most competitive prices I can afford to offer. I do think that astute buyers who take the time to investigate what I offer know this.
Bad: I heard a very disturbing story a couple weeks ago, told to me by a person with intimate knowledge of the music business. Apparently the Fender company is seriously in debt and to make matters worse they have a huge note that is coming due on the near future, something in the range of $126 million that there is no way they will be able to pay. They have invested heavily in offshore manufacturing and with prices rising globally, plus the fact that they offer way, way too many models and options there is the very real possibility they will have to radically shrink their company – assuming they can stay in business at all. I have heard whispers that even the more fiscally responsible American manufacturers are hanging on by their fingernails. My opinion is that in the years to come guitar buyers will have many fewer choices, and the ones they have will be even more expensive.
Very bad: Between E-commerce and mega stores that sell guitars, your local music store will most likely be extinct in a few years. But the scary wild card that affects every business, big or small, is the cost of shipping. World events are in a precarious place right now, and if a war breaks out in the Middle East and oil prices skyrocket you can be sure guitar prices (not to mention accessories, and of course everything else) will follow suit. The only reason Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend and the like can offer free shipping is the fact that fuel costs in this country are artificially low compared to most of the rest of the developed world. Plus the infrastructure to deliver that oil and gas is precarious – just look at the lines for gas in the New York area after Superstorm Sandy. All it takes is a catastrophic event, man made or natural, to severely affect fuel prices and availability and a long term event means long term consequences. So I guess all I’m really saying is – buy that new or special guitar NOW because the big picture ain’t good.
Very good: I’ve talked about this a bit before but I’m seeing more and more interest in more organic music. From the Americana movement of groups like Mumford & Son to commercial pop and country music and even (gulp!) hip-hop, I see more and more guitars being played. This is gratifying and encouraging for me from a business perspective of course but also in terms of the general health of American music. I really do believe that more and more people are discovering the joy of creating music in its purest sense, not on a computer or with some artificial mechanism. And when you combine that trend with the slight loosening of the purse strings, this is very good for all professional musicians.
So…. My opinions only. Obviously. Your comments are welcomed, as always.
Peace & good music,