there when snowboarding came . It was “ death to skiers ” and “ snowboarders are taking over .” But what we see today is that snowboarding actually gave skiing a wakeup call . Now there are more skiers on the mountain than snowboarders , by far , as a ratio . That ’ s just a mountain fact . But what happened was snowboarders said , “ You can have more fun , you can access more turf … and actually have an all-mountain experience .” That ’ s what snowboarding brought back to skiing …
But one of the challenges guitars face that ’ s not like sports is , for example , if you ’ re a cyclist and I said , “ Hey man , I got a 1959 bike that ’ s really cool and you can still ride it today and go win a race ,” you ’ d be like , “ What are you talking about ?” But that ’ s how we covet the ‘ 59 Burst , like Kirk Hammett ’ s “ Greeny ” that he plays . It sounds amazing and it ’ s got the tone and the richness and the heritage in it . That ’ s interesting , but what can potentially happen if we ’ re not smart , strategic , and a little bit lucky is we ’ re only going to honour the iconic past and not accept innovation for the future . And when Gibson tried that novelty move with the robot tuners , that was frustrating to me because I ’ m like , at the right time and with the right artists , that might have been a really interesting solution for a select group of artists who persevered with it .
So , I believe as an industry , if we listen to the deep dark troll land of social media , you ’ ll always stay in the past . And I ’ m not talking about the constructive , awesome passion on social media , which is the majority . If you listen to the loud minority , you will always stay in the past . So , I think our obligation and opportunity – as an industry , as musicians , as guitarists , as the broader zeitgeist of music – is to lean into innovation .
CM : Let ’ s end by talking about dealers and MI retail . COVID has accelerated a lot of speculation about brick and mortar retail ’ s long-term health . If you were to project five or 10 years into the future of MI retail , what do you think that landscape looks like ?
Curleigh : I think there ’ s obviously this concept of omnichannel , right ? Think about the bigger platforms , like the Amazon Primes of the world , or where people almost on a daily basis are now connected to the modern economy , whether it ’ s through an app called Uber for transportation or through Grubhub for restaurants . I think those that fight it end up chasing it , and those that lean into it ended up learning from it faster to move forward .
So , as an example , you used to measure a restaurant by how many seats you had and how many turns you got in a night . Well , I got friends who run restaurants who say that ’ s now an irrelevant measure because they ’ re selling more out the side door for curbside pickup . And by the way , when COVID is over , that ’ s not going to go away , because if you can ’ t get a reservation at The Chef & I , you can pick it up and go back to your place and throw together a great meal from The Chef & I and delivered by JC . Like wow , that ’ s a cool experience . So that ’ s leaning into it .
I tell my guys , we grew up in a world where it ’ s about , “ How many doors are you in ?”, and “ What ’ s the dollars per door ?” That ’ s an irrelevant measure … I do think there ’ s always got to be this place where you can come and sit down , and whether that ’ s to learn about the guitar or see some choices or try something , there ’ s got to be that very real experience . But at the same time , the quality of image , the quality of content , and the quality of delivery of something new online has to give people confidence .
Well , now fast forward and what role does music play in the sharing economy ? We ’ re seeing a whole generation of 18- to 28-year-olds growing up in cities who go , “ I don ’ t even own a car . When I need one , I get it .” What would be our equivalent to the sharing economy in the future ? Like , try a guitar and for $ 50 you rent it and , by the way , if you want to buy it in three months , we ’ ll put that purchase back to that . I mean , that ’ s not tricky , it ’ s just a very real concept
THE GIBSON ROOM AT THE 2019 NAMM SHOW
that I think we ’ ve got to start embracing . And for the record , Canada is a market that embraces that more than any market in the world . I know because when I go to Nova Scotia , I don ’ t bring anything with me . I go into Long & McQuade , I call the boys and say , “ Give me two J-45s , a small mixer , and a PA system ,” and it ’ s there . I pick it up and three months later it ’ s back to them .
So , deliver an experience and think about the sharing economy , and think about services beyond the actual guitar . When you come down to Nashville , come into the Gibson Garage as Sheryl Crow or Luke Combs are picking up their guitar . You won ’ t see them because they ’ re going to be in the cool artist relations spot , but they ’ re going walk out and play three songs and if you happen to be in there , they ’ re there and you go , “ Oh my god , that ’ s Luke Combs ” and by the time you tell all your friends , he ’ s gone and you ’ ve captured the moment . That ’ s the experience , you know ? Or on a Friday night when Adam Jones from Tool will come in and he ’ ll talk about building his ‘ 79 Silverburst and the process he went through , how we launched it , and why it inspired him to do his own movie and write his own song for it . And anyone who bought one of his guitars is going to get a VIP invite to the Gibson Garage . That ’ s not retail as we knew it , but that ’ s an experience as it should be . Fans want more .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Musician .
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