Youth Radio: Why Are Guitar Sales Declining?

Dec 29, 2017

A collection of different types of guitars hanging in "The Vault" at Bizarre Guitar Store.
Credit Alexis Harris

All guitar sales in the United States have declined, according to statistics from Music Trades Magazine. Reno Youth Radio reporter Spencer Ellison talked to a long-time Reno musician and a guitar salesman about the trend.

 

I love the guitar, so I was really worried when I heard that guitar sales were declining, down 500,000 for electric guitars in 10 years. Why is this happening and what are the local impacts? I went to Bizarre Guitar in Sparks to talk to an old-timer, Greg Golden. He is the original owner for more than 40 years.

In Bizarre Guitar, a cut out pin-up hides behind a collection of guitars.
Credit Alexis Harris

After I was greeted by the staff, I headed down to a room with a crazy cool guitar collection, and if you know your stuff, you know about it, whether they are local, from out of town, or Carlos Santana. It’s known simply as “The Vault.”

That is where I met Golden and we talked about the decline in sales. He says it’s simple: instant gratification. People no longer want to put in the effort necessary to learn the instrument.

“People would rather spend 5 minutes on their phones to get that instant gratification than spend a few years learning an instrument," Golden says.

For another opinion, I headed over to Guitar Center. They are like the polar opposite of Golden, a giant national corporation. Assistant Manager Jaden Lynch doesn’t think the cell phone is the downfall of the guitar.

“I think regarding learning and picking up an instrument, that’s just totally up to somebody,” Lynch explains, “If they have the drive for it, they’re going to do it, but if they don’t have the drive for it, they’re not going to do it. I feel like it really has nothing to do with the phone.”

Golden also blames guitar shops. He says they aren’t what they used to be and are more interested in the bottom line. But Lynch says huge shops like Guitar Center are a hub for aspiring musicians.

Display of instruments in "The Vault" of Bizarre Guitar.
Credit Alexis Harris

“People come in here and meet and form bands,” Lynch says.

While Lynch and Golden don’t agree on the impact of cell phones or who is to blame for the decline in sales, they both think that the guitar could use a new set of “Rock Gods.” That would boost sales.

...Rock gods like Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

I wondered if some of our current talent like John Mayer, Mark Tremonti, and Joe Bonamassa are good enough. Golden thinks so.

“Oh, of course, well, I think Joe Bonamassa is the most widely recognized newer rock god, like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani as well, I think it would definitely help.”

In my quest to find out if sales are declining and why, I feel there are a lot of unanswered questions. And what is the future of music going to be like? Well, that’s up to people like you and me, so I will just keep playing my guitar and I hope you do, too.