Last summer the rock music industry was all abuzz after the Washington Post reported on the decline of the guitar, an instrument whose sales are down by a full third in the last decade and whose retailers are drowning in debt (don’t be surprised if Guitar Center and Sam Ash go the way of Blockbuster and Circuit City). Virtually every musician I know read the article, and many agreed with its conclusion: that music today isn’t generating the guitar heroes necessary to sustain sales. Gone are the days of Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Vaughn and Van Halen, and as a result young talent is gravitating toward beats and loops rather than six stringed instruments.
There’s another issue that wasn’t touched on in the Washington Post: why buy a new guitar when the market has been flooded with superior used instruments? Poke around on-line forums and you’ll find a universal conclusion that a new Gibson Les Paul is widely inferior to one built three decades ago, and as the aging baby boomers shed the guitars they used to shred, there are deals to be had.
I’m not really a guitar player, so the above would seem not to have a direct impact on me, except that I am a DAW user (that’s Digital Audio Workstation for you novices out there), and last week I learned that the software I’ve been using for over twenty years is being discontinued by – of all things – a guitar manufacturer: the aforementioned Gibson, who bought out Cakewalk – the company that produces its flagship DAW software, Sonar – in 2013. Guitar sales had been declining, cost-cutting measures had already been adopted, and the thought was that Gibson needed to diversify into consumer electronics and software. Since then, it seems that in addition to screwing up their guitars, the company is now screwing up other sides of their business.
At least that appears to be the consensus on-line. Check out this blog and you may agree that Gibson – in addition to bungling a valued piece of software – handled the discontinuation of Sonar poorly, giving little notice to its users and collecting money for recent upgrades and “lifetime” subscriptions for products that were about to be shelved.
Depending how you look at it, my having to learn an entirely new DAW at a point in my life when all I want to do is record music without having to think about it can be directly attributed to the dearth of guitar heroes today that resulted in the diversification and mismanagement of the premier guitar manufacturer.
Damn you, guitarists, or lack thereof!
I purchased my first Cakewalk software in 1995 (back when the company was called Twelve Tone Systems), and four short years later I was producing entire albums using Cakewalk on my Compaq computer running Windows 97. It was a time of slow processors and tiny hard drives, when each song I recorded had to be stored on rewritable CDs costing over $20 a piece (remember the CD manufacturer, Smart and Friendly?). We’ve come a long way since then, and early next year I’ll complete my tenth and last album using Cakewalk software. Then it’s off to new horizons as I devote valuable time to learning another DAW – likely Cubase.
It’s been a good run, but it’s a run that shouldn’t have ended this soon.