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Thread: Gibson Guitars in trouble

  1. #26
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Part of what brought the company down may have been their recent acquisition of Cakewalk software, which they botched. The last version of Sonar I bought was X3. After Gibson changed the licensing to a either a monthly or annual premium, rather than owning the software outright, I said no thank you. Apparently, I wasn't the only one because they discontinued updating the software a couple of months ago.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  2. #27
    I didnt know that about SONAR. I still use the 8.5 version and have for 15 years. (well earlier versions) I didnt know they had gone to leasing software. What a stupid, idiotic, bogus, greedy thing to do. As a practice, I do not upgrade until there is a valid reason for doing it. I'm still on Windows '95! (kidding!)
    I got nothin'

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  3. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Yodelgoat View Post
    I didnt know that about SONAR. I still use the 8.5 version and have for 15 years. (well earlier versions) I didnt know they had gone to leasing software. What a stupid, idiotic, bogus, greedy thing to do. As a practice, I do not upgrade until there is a valid reason for doing it. I'm still on Windows '95! (kidding!)
    Yeah, this was discussed here, I think, in the Artists forum... I upgraded to SONAR Professional back in July 17 (after using 7.0 for like 12 years) THEN they decide to let SONAR float away to the etherland...THAT was yet another sign to me the GIBBY lost the plot/jumped the shark, you name it.

    Orville must be spinning in his grave. Lloyd Loar too....this really does make me sad.
    G.A.S -aholic

  4. #29
    well throwing out the software is just kind of nuts. All they really had to do was to keep maintaining what they had already developed. Seems like you could keep milking that for a long time before you announce you are trashing the entire line. My next purchase will be pro-tools - probably. I'm hoping my SONAR .cwp files will be convertible. I have a ton of those I would sure like to hold on to for a long time to come.
    I got nothin'

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  5. #30
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    I have an Epiphone acoustic and it has held together pretty well. But after all the tales I have heard I'd never consider buying a new electric Gibson.
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    Guitar Geek has explained that most Fender and Gibson guitars have been crappy since the 70's, especially for the prices asked.

    For decades, Fender has had inferior brands (like Squire) to sell bigger amounts of guitars.

    Hasn't Gibson relied on Epiphone for decades??

    Those original Squires from the early-mid 80s (in particular the JV series) were remarkable instruments - much better than their equivalent (and much more expensive) US-made models at the time. Ultimately, Fender stopped US production of instruments entirely for a couple of years in the mid-80s and totally re-tooled its American production line. The results were the Standard series of instruments and their variations that continue in production to the present and are, for the most part, fine guitars that you can really take out and use. I can remember years ago taking the '92 Strat Plus that was my workhorse for years into a local guitar shop for a set-up. At the same time a '79 Stratocaster in that horrible grey Antigua finish was also in for some work. It was interesting to compare the two, and not at all complementary to the older instrument, which displayed pretty much every issue with American guitars from that era: horribly heavy, acoustically dead ash body; virtually no body contouring to speak of (Fender's jigs had become seriously worn by then, which mean that the contouring on Strat bodies became progressively shallower as the 70s progressed); weedy, microphonic pickups and those awful Mazak bridge saddles; neck swathed in polyester lacquer with a quite horrendous amount of build-up around the frets; general lack of quality to the all-round fit and finish. It's no coincidence that the Japanese guitar manufacturers ran rings around Fender and Gibson through much of the latter 70s and the 1980s. In addition to making guitars that sold at considerably lower prices than their American counterparts (who showed a quite remarkable degree of complacency about this competition until it was almost too late), the Japanese produced replicas of Fenders and Gibsons that represented the specific versions of the guitars people actually wanted to buy. Moreover, once the likes of Yamaha and Ibanez began producing their own original designs which accommodated the innovations in guitar technology and playing that took place in the 80s, it's no surprise that the US manufacturers were, for the most part, left in the dust. You can only trade on your heritage for so long, as it appears that Gibson is once again discovering.
    Last edited by kid_runningfox; 02-20-2018 at 11:53 PM.

  7. #32
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    Gibson was founded in my hometown of Kalamazoo MI in 1902. They pulled up stakes and closed their plant in 1984 and moved to Nashville. There are still some bitter feelings about it here. A group of former Gibson employees founded Heritage Guitars which are still made in a portion the old Gibson building.

  8. #33
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    I just looked at the Heritage website. I couldn't stop drooling.
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  9. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    I just looked at the Heritage website. I couldn't stop drooling.
    A friend of mine has a Heritage "ES-335" type GTR......Sounds/plays/feels great.
    G.A.S -aholic

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    I just looked at the Heritage website. I couldn't stop drooling.
    I am not a guitar player myself, so can't personally speak to the quality of their instruments, but around here they have a very good reputation. Everything they make is by hand, and as mentioned they were founded by the guys that used to work for Gibson, but did not want to move to Nashville.

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    Part of what brought the company down may have been their recent acquisition of Cakewalk software, which they botched. The last version of Sonar I bought was X3. After Gibson changed the licensing to a either a monthly or annual premium, rather than owning the software outright, I said no thank you. Apparently, I wasn't the only one because they discontinued updating the software a couple of months ago.
    Gibson has a long history of buying up other successful musical instrument companies and effectively killing them. They did it to both Trace Elliot and Steinberger back in the 80/90s, and Gibson's parent company in the 70s, Norlin bought Moog, and proceeded to run that horrendously at the same time they were destroying Gibson's reputation for quality. This inherent stupidity seems to have a long history.

  12. #37
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    MBA-itis, it's sometimes called.

    It's the concept that successfully running any business can be reduced to a matter of dollars-and-cents calculations. And that further expertise concerning whatever that business makes, or buys, or sells, or provides is unnecessary. Furthermore, that such expertise may even be counterproductive: it makes "out-of-the-box-thinking" unlikely to even be conceived of, and causes the man responsible to avoid "the hard decisions".

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by kid_runningfox View Post
    Gibson has a long history of buying up other successful musical instrument companies and effectively killing them. They did it to both Trace Elliot and Steinberger back in the 80/90s, and Gibson's parent company in the 70s, Norlin bought Moog, and proceeded to run that horrendously at the same time they were destroying Gibson's reputation for quality. This inherent stupidity seems to have a long history.
    When they bought the Baldwin Piano company around the turn of the century, the hope (at Baldwin, I presume) was that the deep pockets would re-elevate a brand that had already lost it's reputation for quality. Didn't quite work out that way.
    David
    Happy with what I have to be happy with.

  14. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    MBA-itis, it's sometimes called.

    It's the concept that successfully running any business can be reduced to a matter of dollars-and-cents calculations. And that further expertise concerning whatever that business makes, or buys, or sells, or provides is unnecessary. Furthermore, that such expertise may even be counterproductive: it makes "out-of-the-box-thinking" unlikely to even be conceived of, and causes the man responsible to avoid "the hard decisions".
    Being an MBA holder, I think there's some truth in this. But by the time you're bringing MBAs to bear on your business, many decisions have already been made, some good some bad, and your business is of a size that those dollars and cents calculations are necessary to compete in a different kind of macro environment. In the case of Gibson, they have had a history of poor choices dating back decades. Honestly, most instrument manufactures that go big and start to become conglomerates make poor choices at times, but Gibson seems to just keep making mistake after mistake. When I was in Nashville in the early 1990s, Gibson was re-tooling and riding a bit of a popularity wave thanks to G&R making the Les Paul cool again. But they were digging out from some major holes. Some of my fellow students at Vanderbilt did internships at Gibson in this period, and they said the company needed a lot of work from the shop floor to the executive suite.

    In my estimation, Fender has navigated the challenges of being a large, segmented musical corporation far better than Gibson, and there's no doubt MBAs make their presence felt there. So to me, it's a question of choices, and perhaps the quality of the MBAs you get on the job, not the need for business expertise. Many MBAs are extremely out-of-the-box thinkers. But you could argue in some respects that it is this out-of-the-box thinking that has hurt Gibson the most, diluting the brand into areas their core constituency doesn't care about, while sacrificing quality on instruments that are far overpriced in today's market. But those are choices they made. Fender made choices too, and their choices have been better, but then their whole approach to guitar making has always been different than Gibson's.

    Ultimately though, Gibson made the choice to go big, and if you go big, you start to encounter problems that instrument-maker dudes on the shop floor can't solve any more. Business expertise becomes necessary, but you have to harness it to a vision of what you want to do. Gibson's problem is a crisis of vision and making poor choices. To survive, they'll have to re-tool, yet again. Hopefully they come up with a vision that works this time.

    Bill

  15. #40
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    The list of instrument makers who went bankrupt and are no longer around is long and illustrious.

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    So to me, it's a question of... ...perhaps the quality of the MBAs you get on the job, not the need for business expertise. Many MBAs are extremely out-of-the-box thinkers. But you could argue in some respects that it is this out-of-the-box thinking that has hurt Gibson the most, diluting the brand into areas their core constituency doesn't care about, while sacrificing quality on instruments that are far overpriced in today's market.

    Bill
    I meant part of that ironically, and part of it I just wasn't clear about. When I referred to "expertise", for example, I meant an understanding of that particular business and what its customers wanted and expected, the sort of understanding you typically get from years of experience. Not so much an understanding of costs, marketing, and profitability. And I meant "out-of-the-box-thinking" and "the hard decisions" ironically, as buzzword euphemisms for the sort of unethical, counterproductive, and ruthless activities that prize quick profits over long-term solvency. Such as cutting quality and figuring that only a few customers will notice, or firing experienced craftsmen and bringing in kids off the street because they work cheap, or running the whole concern into the ground and either taking a tax loss or selling it to poorly informed foreigners who don't realize how little it's worth.

  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    Being an MBA holder...
    I know that the answer to this problem is much longer than a hundred word forum post, but wouldn't separating Gibson up into individual entities, each serving a different demographic be a partial answer. And wouldn't Gibson be better off appealing to the high end? Off the top of my head, I am thinking of companies like Apple, Porsche, and Rolls-Royce (I know RR isn't really a good example) who don't appeal to the masses. Their retail prices are targeted at those who are more recession-proof than the rest of us. And there is a "hand-crafted/craftsman" specialty segment that appeals to the more affluent. The "if you have to ask, you can't afford it".

    Epiphone could be the entry-level and your goal is to aspire to be good enough to earn the prestige of owning a Gibson. It is much the same with how much bike do you want to buy? Do you want an off-the-rack Trek or Specialized or are you going to buy a custom Cervelo or Pinarello? I am no where flush enough nor even close to be good enough to buy custom-molded Simmons Racing speed skate boots at $1400. I have off-the-rack $300 Luiginos.

    I ask this from a COMPLETELY naive stance as to the inner workings, but I will admit that (present company excepted) I have little respect for most MBAs who love to spout buzz words like "synergy" and "paradigm".

  18. #43
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    ...wouldn't separating Gibson up into individual entities, each serving a different demographic be a partial answer. And wouldn't Gibson be better off appealing to the high end?
    There are LOTS OF THINGS Gibson could do to stay competitive and turn a profit. They have a $1 billion/year revenue stream!

    It takes a special kind of stupid to go bankrupt with a billion dollars a year coming in the door.

  19. #44
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    Sad story but not too surprising. I'm thinking there will be tougher times ahead for instrument manufacturers that built an empire off of rock music. I think the big retail players like Guitar Center and Sam Ash are starting to feel the pinch. Rock N Roll ain't what it used to be - who's out there right now that's inspiring teenagers to get a guitar, get some buddies together and form a band?? I honestly can't think of anyone. Rock musicians are going the way of the Shriners and there ain't now young ones coming up that are going to be buying $8000-10,000 historic reissue Les Pauls (or even know who Les Paul was).

  20. #45
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Computer software, meanwhile, will continue to improve.

  21. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    I know that the answer to this problem is much longer than a hundred word forum post, but wouldn't separating Gibson up into individual entities, each serving a different demographic be a partial answer.
    That's an interesting question. The answer to that could well be yes, however many of the spin-off benefits of a conglomerate are centralized administrative functions like IT, HR and Payroll, accounting, etc. And if there is any synergy across brands, larger companies can command better prices from vendors due to sheer buying power. I'm not 100% certain of the companies Gibson owns right now, but if you think about their various guitar or electronic companies, each likely uses similar components or vendors, thus favorable pricing could come into play.

    Is TEAC or Onkyo better off on their own? Is Epiphone better off independent of Gibson? What do those two arms of the company bring to the whole to make it better? I don't know. Theoretically they have done the analysis that shows having these diversifications add value to the whole. How that plays out in practice may be very different. Or what made sense at one time may not make sense now. It's a complex question, and I don't know enough about it to fashion an answer. But there are reasons to go big, and reasons to stay small. The key is being successful with either choice you make, one is not innately better than the other.


    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    And wouldn't Gibson be better off appealing to the high end?
    In a sense, that's what they already do. Their instruments are priced in line with boutique instruments from other, smaller vendors. Though Gibson does have less expensive lines and then Epiphone beneath that. The problem is that for the most part what you're paying for is the name on the headstock, not really a quality differential. In some ways, Gibson has tried to have it both ways, be a brand you can buy at Guitar Center and Musician's Friend, and be perceived as boutique. But anyone in the know realizes the quality simply isn't there. But is that a function of Gibson brand guitars being part of a conglomerate? I don't think that's an inevitability. Fender does excellent work at many price points, and they are part of a conglomerate. The key is making sure you have quality in each of your sub-brands. This is really where Gibson has failed, and why their appeal in the true high end is limited to their vintage instruments.


    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    Off the top of my head, I am thinking of companies like Apple, Porsche, and Rolls-Royce (I know RR isn't really a good example) who don't appeal to the masses.
    Um, Porche is owned by Volkswagen, and Rolls Royce is owned by BMW. And Apple nearly went out of business at one point. So what Gibson is doing isn't like some weird outlier case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    Epiphone could be the entry-level and your goal is to aspire to be good enough to earn the prestige of owning a Gibson. It is much the same with how much bike do you want to buy? Do you want an off-the-rack Trek or Specialized or are you going to buy a custom Cervelo or Pinarello? I am no where flush enough nor even close to be good enough to buy custom-molded Simmons Racing speed skate boots at $1400. I have off-the-rack $300 Luiginos.
    But that's already true of Gibson/Epiphone, and has been for decades. How does that change anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Painter View Post
    I ask this from a COMPLETELY naive stance as to the inner workings, but I will admit that (present company excepted) I have little respect for most MBAs who love to spout buzz words like "synergy" and "paradigm".
    Well, you can disrespect those words all you want, and I agree they can be overused (though I used one above and I stand by it because it is descriptive of exactly what I wanted to demonstrate). But the fact remains that there are reasons to go big, and that boutique brands can benefit from their affiliation with larger conglomerates (see Porche and Rolls Royce). The key is to retain that aura of quality, and Gibson Guitars has been pissing that down the toilet for decades. Ironically, Epiphone, at their price point, probably have a higher price to quality perception than Gibson.

    I have no idea about TEAC, Onkyo, Phillips and whatever else they own. But it's up to them to justify the integrations, and if they aren't working, then there's clearly a problem. But it isn't just a problem of being big, or too big. My sense is they've been far too concerned with maximizing shareholder wealth over reinvesting in quality. Couple that with bad product decisions in the Gibson brand, and it's causing issues. Like Apple, they can turn it around. It's not like people aren't buying their stuff. But they need a new paradigm, one that focuses on quality over short-term wealth generation.

    Now that I've used both your buzz words, I'll leave it to you to ponder what the truth may be.

    Bill

  22. #47
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    My sense is they've been far too concerned with maximizing shareholder wealth over reinvesting in quality.
    Sadly, that's what many MBA-CEOs are taught.

    It doesn't work in the long run.

  23. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Sadly, that's what many MBA-CEOs are taught.
    I don't think they're taught that at all, particularly in MBA programs where the focus is overwhelmingly on sound management practices. More to the point, I think MBA programs attract a certain percentage of ruthless borderline sociopaths, who bring their own assertive and greedy agendas with them, and use the knowledge they gain in MBA programs and in their working experience to perverted ends.

    Juszkiewicz seems like one of these to me, in it for all the wrong reasons. Plus he seems like a total asshole who makes Gibson an unfriendly place to work, and that surely plays into the woes as well. Unfortunately, to my knowledge Gibson is not a publicly traded company and Juszkiewicz is a part-owner, probably majority owner. So there's really no governance or way to control a person like this to keep them from effing up the whole thing. If he turned it over to an MBA-CEO with a different temperament and gave that person the mandate to run it for the long-term, you'd likely get a different result.

    Both MBA-CEOs, two different results. What's at issue, MBA programs or individuals who happen to posses MBAs?

    Bill

  24. #49
    From what I heard over the past few days, Gibson hired a new CFO. Maybe this person can be a "new-pair-of-eyes" on the financial landscape for Gibson. AND, if Henry J can stop and listen for a minute, MAYBE, just maybe things can be brought back from the brink.

    From a personal standpoint:

    Professionally, I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (a fancy term for a trained person specializing in Process improvement) The ONE THING that I've learned over all of these years is this: the SMARTEST people are the ones that actually work on the factory floor. They experience all of the process failures and ultimately are the ones that come up with the best ideas on how to fix process problems.....MBA-types and upper management-types who never came-up from the blue collar path will NEVER be good at getting down to the ROOT CAUSE of a problem(s)...and if you can't get down to the root cause you'll never truly solve anything....I doubt that Henry could care less about what the factory people think or say.

    my 2 cents
    G.A.S -aholic

  25. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by Supersonic Scientist View Post
    From what I heard over the past few days, Gibson hired a new CFO. Maybe this person can be a "new-pair-of-eyes" on the financial landscape for Gibson. AND, if Henry J can stop and listen for a minute, MAYBE, just maybe things can be brought back from the brink.

    From a personal standpoint:

    Professionally, I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (a fancy term for a trained person specializing in Process improvement) The ONE THING that I've learned over all of these years is this: the SMARTEST people are the ones that actually work on the factory floor. They experience all of the process failures and ultimately are the ones that come up with the best ideas on how to fix process problems.....MBA-types and upper management-types who never came-up from the blue collar path will NEVER be good at getting down to the ROOT CAUSE of a problem(s)...and if you can't get down to the root cause you'll never truly solve anything....I doubt that Henry could care less about what the factory people think or say.

    my 2 cents
    We could use you at my company. Being run by people who brag that the highlight of the company successes are the harassment training courses they made us all take. And stateside 95 percent of us work out of our homes and have no office building to go to to interact with other employees. Now that was time well spent!

    Clarify: I love my company! Management is brilliant! They do monitor my social media from time to time - that's what I love best!
    Last edited by Yodelgoat; 02-23-2018 at 09:23 AM. Reason: Someone else posted this... it wasn't me
    I got nothin'

    ...avoiding any implication that I have ever entertained a cognizant thought.

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