Why Electric Guitars Are in Danger of Burning Out, Fading Away

Reasons for decline in popularity include an industry in free-fall and demise of the 'guitar hero.'

June 24, 2017 5:00 am
Electric Guitars Are Dying
Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin performs live on stage at Madison Square Garden, New York on June 07 1977 (Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

Your electric guitar might be gently weeping—but for its own funeral. Per the Washington Post, the six-string electric guitar is suffering a long, slow death—and it’s not going to be getting any better anytime soon.

According to the Post, electric guitar sales are down by 500,000 units in the last decade, and the two biggest manufacturers—Fender and Gibson—are both in debt. Back in April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, which is facing $1.6 billion in debt.

One prominent guitar store owner, George Gruhn, who’s sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney, thinks it has to do with the death of the “guitar hero.”

Of course, there is no dearth of legacy heroes like Clapton, Young, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and B.B. King. But young guitarists who are learning the instrument for the first time don’t have contemporaries to look up to. As Gruhn notes, young guitar players aren’t trying to emulate pop star-guitarists like John Mayer.

It’s also about how the younger generation of musicians is making music—as the impact of all the digital shortcuts and more electronically minded music that kids are streaming or listening to on their mobile devices.

The real questions the industry needs to answer going forward, according to the Post, are: “How do you get the product into a teenager’s hands? And once it’s there, how do you get them to fall in love with it?”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.