Gibson = Dad Rock? Has Gibson miscalculated for the future?
Does Gibson no longer appeal to a younger audience?
Does Gibson = Dad Rock? It would appear that it may well do. “Why new bands don’t play Gibson guitars” is the title for YouTuber Rhett Shull’s video. There is talk of “Boomer Guitar” and “Your Dad’s Guitar.” But is there anything to it? Is Gibson looking old and outdated?
Gibson = Dad Rock?
The video entitled Why new bands don’t play Gibson guitars lasts about 9 minutes and you can watch it below. In the video, Rhett Shull talks about the Gibson brand and what he sees as a big problem. Young bands and musicians hardly play Gibson guitars anymore.
In the ’80s when I was a teenager, Slash saved the Gibson brand. No teenager wanted a Les Paul until Slash was seen playing them. It was all SuperStrats and Shred guitars, and it kind of feels like that is happening again.
If you watch younger bands in music videos – well, bands that have not existed for at least 20 years – then the members usually aren’t playing Gibson guitars. Instead, you’ll find models from Fender and brands like Ibanez, or ESP/LTD, which are often marketed specifically for these younger groups. Usually, they have been adapted to the requirements of the respective styles of music. Things like a thin speed neck, angular bodies, special pickups with switchable voicing, or new modern colour options.
Les Pauls, Explorer, Firebirds, SGs? You don’t see them very often with younger players. But I often see these new bands playing Fender models. Strats, Jazzmasters, Mustangs. Why is that?
Below is an example of how the two brands promote new guitar models. They both tell very different stories, and one looks quite dated.
Gibson vs. Fender
Both brands have been around for years. But their marketing strategies could not be more different. Let’s take a look at the recent Gibson signature or Artist models.
Gibson signature models are pretty much always seasoned (insert old) musicians.
These guys are all aged 50 and above. All these musicians aren’t exactly attractive to younger people anymore, because they make the music that their parents and grandparents listen to.
The topic of Dad Rock or Dad Metal, which includes bands such as Metallica, is now a thing. Children usually do not listen to their parents’ music. And therefore, these older bands, musicians, and their choice of instruments don’t really appeal to the younger generation who are just starting out on their musical journey.
Also, those Gibson designs are looking very dated in 2022.
Fender uses a very different strategy.
In addition to the slightly boring and often overpriced custom shop relics, which are typically made for the old rockers and seasoned guitarists from the golden era of ‘Boomers’, the brand also creates a lot of models for more contemporary artists such as H.E.R., Hama Okamoto, Billie Eilish, Daiki Tsuneta, and Silent Siren.
Fender also works with artists from the LGBTQI+ community. Plus, the company caters for things like the video game Final Fantasy which appeals to younger audiences as well as gamers. And it feels like more artist models are being developed with women compared with Gibson.
Sure, Gibson has Lzzy Hale, who is now a Gibson brand ambassador, and Sheryl Crow. But as a brand, it isn’t exactly known for working with female artists. You are far more likely to see a Joe Bonamassa model from Gibson every year, rather than something new from an up and coming female artist.
Future of the two brands?
According to YouTuber Rhett Shull, Gibson has the reputation of “Your Dad’s Guitar” and a “Guitar for Boomers” and “People, who’re still living in the ’60s and ’70s“.
Gibson is actually aimed at the older generation with the artist models. They definitely have their justification and are great guitars. But younger people from the “Next Gen” aren’t really into this old music anymore.
KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Black Sabbath?
With exceptions, these bands no longer make music for younger audiences. Plus, Fender is also often cheaper to purchase. Which does not mean that a Gibson is not worth the money, as production is more expensive and lengthy.
Younger bands play more modern instruments and, of course, this is seen by the fans. If you don’t see a Gibson Les Paul, then you probably won’t want to buy one. But when, for example, Tash Sultana plays a Fender Jazzmaster, this arouses interest in that model among the often younger fanbase. Fender has worked this out and has even worked with the artist on a signature guitar.
Both Fender and Gibson have their place in the market, and it would be a great pity if a brand disappeared because it misses the mark.
Gibson has just freed itself from years of mismanagement and questionable business decisions. Now, however, its models have to be made more palatable to younger musicians.
Another good example would be the recent Leo Scala Flying V run, which is probably only going to appeal to someone in their late 40s and above. They literally scream Dad Rock.
Will Gibson ever move out of the 1950s and 1960s? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Gibson « triple » miscalculated by underestimated these markets
Guitar companies are lucky to be selling ANY guitars. The music business has turned to solo singers/rappers backed by electronic tracks, lavish stage props and scores of dancers. Real musicians are redundant. Hey, I’m an old rocker and am rooted in my music, but it’s a new world, not so much mine anymore, and the young deserve their own legagy.
Actually, the statistics are that Taylor Swift has encouraged a whole wave of young women to buy guitars. The idea that no-one’s buying guitars because of rap and electronic pop is a bit “get off my lawn”. https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/fender-study-finds-half-of-new-guitarists-are-women-738025/
Those three are not even the biggest miscalculations. They kept making short scale guitars when the overall best sellers were metal axes primarily for down tuning. 7-string in 24 3/4″ just doesn’t work even in standard B. Gibson complely missed that train.
In 2021 there wasn’t a single new rock band in the Billboard top 200, let alone any virtuosic guitar performance. It’s lots of samples and beats. What guitars there are are merely used for strumming chords. It doesn’t matter what type of guitar you play if you’re just playing the rudiments. I’m a Fender player, but calling something Dad rock to me implies someone who is actually a good guitarist, can play more than just chords.
I’m completely rewrote my comment in a process.
We can see that Gibson aimed to be an elite manufacturer. Less is more. Few pieces from custom shop as production level. Some exclusives from Murphy Labs or Master Artisan as higher grade collections. There still exists “basic” production line for those who can’t afford custom shop level.
They invited Mesa/Boogie. When you know the story behind this brand there shouldn’t be hesitation.
I would describe it “Traditions for those who care”. Gibson want to become classical manufacturer as Bösendorfer with grandpiano.
Do youngsters plays at old-fashioned 88 keys?
Maybe not, but they certainly play 7 and 8-string guitars, which is just a lot better on a longer scale instrument. Only now are they starting to come around with the Mustaine signature in a proper scale length – only two decades too late!
There are loads of young streamers and popular Instagram/TikTok guitarists playing Epiphone Les Pauls and ES style guitars. Just because the mainstream pop stars aren’t playing Gibson and Epiphone guitars, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. My local Guitar Center can barely keep Epiphones in stock, meanwhile the Squire offsets sit on the walls for months. And I’m in a major metropolitan area with bustling suburbs surrounding it. I do agree that Gibson seems to have lopsided efforts and focus on their target targets, but if you look at their product chief and the executive board, it’s all former bankers in their 50’s/60’s who are more in touch with high net worth individuals than the common folk.
I agree. I also absolutely love my Les Paul DC Tribute bass.
Prvate Equity firms rarely innovate, they cash in. Gibson will target the old men with money until the the money is gone. That could last another twenty years I guess. With no need for research and development, selling expensive artist models, it’s a profitable plan in the short term.
I sold off all my Gibsons in the last few years, they’re not a brand I want to be associated with.
What are you playing now that you’ve sold your gibsons?
I have two Reverends and a Yamaha Revstar. All three guitars are amazing. I also sold my Hummingbird but haven’t yet picked up another acoustic. There are a lot of choices!
How about you, John? What guitars are you playing these days?
I would never buy a Gibson personally, unless the quality of their products improve. To their defence, they did have a “Gibson Generation Group” where they sponsored and gave guitars to a new generation of young and upcoming musicians. Also, these younger players were almost equal number men and women and they were very culturally diverse. So they did try to appeal to the younger generation and get Gibsons in the hands of younger players.
Also, I think an important point that Rhett made in the video that hasn’t been mentioned in the article is the entry price point of Fender. Gibson has the mentality that if it’s not “the real deal” (i.e. an Epiphone) then it shouldn’t be a Gibson. Whereas PRS and Fender’s lower priced guitars actually has the same name.
So it’s a lot more appealing for younger player to actually own the “same” guitar as their heroes when it’s a Fender or a PRS (or even an Ibanez). Gibson has that weird “you get the headstock you can afford” mentality that probably isn’t helping them out in any way.
Just my two cent
I think your last line sums it up. They are stuck in the past. Even the new model: Theodore is based off an old sketch. To me, a lot of the models just look dated.
Their other issue is that they are charging a lot of money that people just don’t have these days and you can get better guitars for a lot less. I have seen some reviews slamming the QC.
Prime reason has got to be the expense of Gibsons.
Gibson ist genau wie Fender die Referenzmarke überhaupt. Entscheidend ist meiner .Meinung nicht was gerade mal hipp ist, sondern der Klang u.die Spielfreude die einen dazu anregt Gitarre zu spielen.Dabei muß es nicht immer eine Gibson oder Fender sein aber diese Marken sind und bleiben absolut Top . Es gibt für mich kein entweder- oder sondern nur ein sowie als auch .Trotzdem ist es immer wieder spannend auch andere hervorragende Gitarrenmarken zu spielen ,
Seems like Gibson are prioritising being a “classy big budget brand”. Meanwhile, Fender are making instruments from $200-2500, literally -GIVING- up and coming artists their brand new products, and keeping relevant by actively engaging with/supporting said musicians. Can’t see Agnesi and Gibson looking to do anything similair after their whole “play authentic” thing. Don’t get me wrong, love their guitars, but they just have a bit of an unapproachable, “better than X or Y” sort of vibe these days.. They know their gear will sell, so what if it’s to the older heads.
(also, any time they try anything new 90% of the playerbase fkn hate it)
Are there successful bands anymore anyway? Besides… Gretta Van Fleet was pretty big a few years ago, that guitarist uses SGs, I believe. Also, if you break this down via genre, I’m pretty sure you’re going to find a lot of Les Pauls still around in the stoner rock genre.
It’s totally accurate that Gibson (and Fender) are largely antique furniture reproduction companies now, but that’s what the market demands. Every time they try anything new, it’s derided and bitched about. Even something as innocuous as the slightly wider fretboard on the 2015 guitars was unacceptable, people immediately tear out the volume/tone PCB mounted pots circuitry to put in cloth wiring, etc., etc., what do you expect?
It’s a clickbait title from someone I’ve never heard of, and it’s as accurate as you want to try to force it to be. There are sill plenty of rock bands playing ~24.75″ scale guitars through marshall full stacks if you want to go looking for it.
Go looking for it? Really?
Is that the stock you are going to buy?
“Hey, our research shows that some people are still using out brand. It wasn’t easy to find them but we did it!”
I think I would rather have invested in those brands making 7-string guitars in a proper scale length already 20 years ago. What a gigantic market that has been.
No doubt the rock stars influence sales but the proper way to buy a guitar is to play as many as you can before purchasing. Corporate music stores and the pandemic have placed limitations on inventory and price points. Fender has introduced the more affordable ‘player’ line of guitars that younger budget minded players can choose from. Gibson guitar price points are too high for most people. The ES335 I bought years ago was expensive at the time, today it’s four to five times that cost!
Maybe certain guitars are ‘Dad’ guitars and maybe there are ‘posers’ who are swayed by these comments but a musician is more concerned with the sound of the guitar, it’s playability, ease of modification, dependability, affordability and psychic value. You have to want to pick it up everytime you see it. This the way your guitar heros chose their guitars.
Old dudes have disposable income. Besides, everything is cyclical, so these young cats will all discover some rock pioneer with his Gibson and the road will go on and on. I’m just happy to hear there may still be kids that put down their phones and take an interest in forming a garage band. There is hope. I’ve seen lots of flashy guitar trends amongst the kids. Charvel, Ibanez, PRS some brands will always stick around
Actually every teenager in the 80’s wanted a Les Paul. I had a Custom, it was beautiful and sounded great. Yes Gibson would keep up with times having new models such as a “vagi” line for the youth of today with inlayed tears on the fretboard.
Taking into account that Fender had their best year very recently without them either smelling like Gwenyth Paltrow’s birth canal nor being called “Free Bleed” or “Ovary Ovation,” I think your comment is pretty misguided and out of touch.
I was a teenage guitar slinger in the 80’s and I didn’t know anyone who wanted a Les Paul. We all dreamed of super strats from Charvel, Kramer, Hamer, Jackson and the likes. That’s what literally all our favorite players were using and Gibson was nowhere to be found. Sure Iommi looked cool with his SG but it wasn’t our next gen look and certainly not playability either.
I doubt this is the biggest reason that lead to Gibsons failure, but one thing I haven’t seen mentioned enough is the other concurrence that Gibson is facing aside Fender – specifically due to their upmarket pricing. Fender dominates the below 2k offerings. But thats’ where a lot of Gibsons models only start. At 2.5k you can start looking into semi-customisable guitars from the likes of Balaguer. At 3 to 4k you’ll start finding smaller luthiers who can get you something tailor-made to your liking. A Dunable for example. Hell, I could get the aluminum guitar of my dreams made by Baguley at that price point. A freaking aluminum guitar, built to my specs. What do I get from Gibson for that kind of money? A vanilla Gibson with a nice top. Wow. It’s not just that Gibson is unaffordable so the youth prefers Fender – it’s also that once you got enough money to get a “nice guitar” (and I’m not even talking all the 7k Murphy Labs or custom shop shit) there are so many more attractive options than them for the same, or even less money.
It seems now more than ever, in order to be considered a proper guitar player, you have to at least strive for a real vintage guitar, especially among youtube guitarists. At some point they all make a video about their first true vintage guitar, as if owning a vintage guitar is the ticket into the club of real guitarists.
So why would Gibson do anything other than putting out old fashioned guitars, as there seems to be a market for those? And as somebody mentioned earlier, whenever they try to be innovative, they get booed.
Besides, young folks are usually more into sugary pop music, which seems to go better with Fender guitars. But for those more into Blues and Rock, Gibson guitars are still very popular.
You don’t buy a Jeep if you’re into racing, likewise you like the guitar, that goes well with the music you’re into.
So they should just cater to special single unit models for YouTubers? Lol.
Metal and shred is what has really been selling since the 80’s and Gibson had nothing. They might finally be starting to wake up but don’t you think it’s a tad late?
$1500 CAD gets you a Fender Mexican Vintera Strat. Comes with terrible, sharp fretwork and a warped neck (which will be replaced under warranty by Fender with another warped neck), all packed into a gig bag worse in quality than the cheapest reputable generic.
$1600 CAD gets you a Gibson Les Paul Tribute. Plek’d at the factory, hand wired, nitro finish, all packed into a solidly-made Gibson soft shell case superior in quality to the most expensive reputable generic. Not Tric case or Aero case good, but leather exterior w/ almost 2cm padding all around.
Considering the difference between a DOA Mexican-made Strat and a great USA-made Les Paul is $100 CAD, I’d say Gibson is more interested in offering something of value.
My son learnt to play on my old Gibson, but now plays a HSS Strat, a Tele and Yamaha acoustic. When I took out the LP to give it is spring set-up the stings I put on last spring were still not played in. When I ask why, I just get a shrug of the shoulders. Standard teen response. I think part of it is fact a fender is near indestructible and a Gibson will break if you look at it wrong. All those times I worried about him braking the headstock when he started out may have scared him for life.
I bought my first electric guitars recently. I tried everything from a PRS to a Casino to an Eastman to a Gibson, priced from $500 to $3,300. My prime consideration was how it felt to play. Hands down the best for me was a $1,500 Vox Bobcat V90 Hollowbody. So easy to play and it sounds more Casino than a Casino (chime!). Then I bought a Gretsch Electromatic 12 string, which was also very smooth to play ($800) and a Yamaha Pacifica for the Tele feel ($800), which I found by reading the glowing reviews. All 3 guitars were perfect out of the box, no setup needed except for slight adjustment on the Yamaha. I was not impressed with Gibsons — they feel clunky to me. And in going online to learn more, I find forums full of older guitar players (all male) posting pics of their guitar collections and congratulating each other on their new purchases. It seems if there were no internet they’d meet up at Bob’s Big Boy and talk about guitars. Seems like Gibsons are for collectors, not players.
I use my guitars to play on my productions to add a bit of color and texture (mostly rhythm) for otherwise synth-heavy tracks. I am a player, not a collector. And when I see reviews of guitars on youtube, I rarely see them playing the kind of music I use mine for — they’re doing blues and old rock riffs. That’s great, but who the hell plays like that on the Spotify 100 chart? I use my P90 guitars and 12 string to get chime and an analog vibe or provide rhythm that’s heavily processed.
I think you should change the name of the article to “Grandad rock!”
Gretsch rules! Oh wait…they’re made by Fender!
its all to do with quality and price. Gibson aren’t cheap, and their quality is still lacking even after new ownership. Fender and other brands in contrast offer a myriad of products at various price points that looks correct and are generally good out of the factory.
Gibson have offered modern takes on their instruments but people don’t want them. For me it has to be about price point and quality.
I was in the market for a Gibson a little while ago. I’m a 40+ guitarist with the cash to afford one, but my music tastes are definitely not Dad anything. But what I saw when I went shopping were instruments aimed at those who wanted to hang them on a wall, or make an investment, or be seen to have a “real Gibson”. Ended up spending half as much on 2 Epi Moderns which played better. Right now, there is very little shortfall in quality compared the vast gulf in prices. And I’ll confess to being a brand snob, but even for me it was a no contest.
Being honest, it’s been a year now and I completely stopped wanting a “genuine” Gibson Les Paul once I put a pair of Seymour Duncan’s in my old beat up Epiphone LP Standard. Once and a while I pine for a ES-339, but new pups in my Jay Turser copy (It came out before the (339, but I call it a copy anyway) will probably kill that want also.
This article is absolute garbage. Call an instrument Dad Rock because of a moronic opinion of this writer, get out. And what have these ‘great’ new artists as you call them have done for music? As most of these that you mention here will be meaningless 10 years from now. Musicians don’t preferably purchase instruments because of the names sponsoring the brands. Music business has gone wrong since the 2000s and there aren’t really many iconic guitar players to inspire a generation right now, who’s gonna do that Billie Eilish? Lol — show me her tune when she composes a song that rivals Jeff Beck or The Edge playing the guitar… Until then shut up. When the tides turn to real music, if that ever happens again, that’s when we will see new wonderful creations with guitars and it won’t matter what brand it is.
“… who’s gonna do that Billie Eilish? Lol —show me her tune when she composes a song that rivals Jeff Beck or The Edge playing the guitar… Until then shut up. When the tides turn to real music, if that ever happens again…”
Correspondent rails against the term ‘Dad Rock’ and criticises the opinion of a writer… then immediately goes on to sound precisely like the sort of grumpy old man who said writer (and YouTuber) are describing… 🙂
Please stop putting the king of one trick ponies with a innovative use of a delay pedal alongside the absolute legend of Jeff Beck. Sure the Edge has written song great songs but they are not peers.
Beck is an legendary player who has never stopped reinventing himself. The Edge still plays at a high school garage band level and is playing at the same rudimentary level as he did in the 80s.
Regarding the article, I have always loved the Fenders Strat and Tele necks (none have ever been warped) but I bought a new Black Les Paul Classic about 18 months ago and it is a flawlessly built instrument that is better then my 2014 Gibson Trad Pro. With that said, my Les Pauls finish second behind my hot rodded Teles, all upgraded w locking tuners and SD Hot Rails pickups, which sound better than either of my Les Pauls and stay in tune much better than my Pauls.
Gibsons pricing is absurd. And wtf about spending $1500 on a Gibson Les Paul and they don’t include binding??
I doubt anyone will forget Billie Eilish, as she did a Bond theme which was heard all over the world. I love Jeff Beck, he has to be one of my favourite all-time guitarists, but he isn’t exactly a household name outside of the world of guitar is he. You could say he played with Rod Stewart, or that he is a maestro on the guitar. But he is definitely in the ‘older gentleman’s cabinet of guitar heros’. And The Edge, well all I can say is “Okay Edge, Play the Blues” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9NaIYULk6s
In the 1980s my parents were saying that the music business had ‘gone wrong’ (or words to that effect) since the 1960s because Billy May and his orchestra and Bing Crosby weren’t as popular any more.
If criticising contemporary music isn’t the absolute epitome of the ‘Dad Rock’ attitude, I don’t know what is 🙂
Even in my personal older gentleman’s cabinet of guitar heroes (love that expression, Jef!) the likes of Michael Schenker and James Hetfield have long turned their backs on Gibson in favour of other brands.
But Gibson does have a new, young gun, hot shot whizz kid endorsee in the shape of Dave Mustai… Oh, hang on 🙂
You think Gibson is bad with the elitism now? Look up some of their ads when Orville was alive. And really, who cares? Not every instrument is designed to cater to you. There are plenty of other options.
I care. I’d hate to see Gibson end up as only appealing to grumpy old men with the sort of disposable income that means they buy guitars and hang them on the wall, afraid to play them in case they get scratched.
But I think it’s important to note that there is also a degree of Gibson being unable to win. Every time it tries to be ‘contemporary’ or ‘down with the kids’, the company falls on its backside.
In the 80s it came up with its own sort of SuperStrat which nobody appeared to like (later buying Kramer ticked that particular box) and, more recently, the fluorescent Les Pauls, pastel coloured cheapo Gibsons and robot guitars were universally disliked. It’s not as if the brand hasn’t at least tried to keep up with the times. It just seems spectacularly bad at doing so.
Intrestingly, with the endless moans about quality control, I’ve owned a few Gibbos over the past 20+ years and the most recent – the 70s Explorer – has been the best sounding and playing of the lot.
I don’t see the point in caring how a company markets their products. When it comes to guitars, I’m buying what I need plus some visual traits that I might like. But other than that, I couldn’t care less whether the company has signature models made for men, women, or gender non-binary artists. It’s absolutely irrelevant.
I think the styles of music allowed now for the netburnt masses don’t take include guitars exceptAs one of the mini tone colors available in Digital production. I just made up the term netburnt Because that’s what the constant dopamine prodding from Facebook and to some extent this forum allows. Attention spans are gone visual circuits or turned on more, the sound has to be connected to some Primarily visual stimulus. Two guys with turntables and a light show. The textures and arrangements are amazing, but it was fascinating for me to see the brilliant writer and singer from Owl City, I forget his name, trying to do a live gig with excellent musicians. They just could not gel as a unit , no years of playing together with other musicians, rushing and dragging and making things alive. Where’s my click track? Glad I lived when I did.
Gibson has been almost dead before. The Les Paul was out of production until the likes of Michael Bloomfield, Peter Green, Paul Kossoff, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page started playing them. That led to successive generations also picking up that same guitar and it will undoubtedly happen again. Some players will get sick of marching in lockstep with current trends and pick up a Les Paul, an SG, or a 335 just to be different. I have a 2021 70s Les Paul Deluxe that I purchased as a unloaded body and neck. With all the parts and a pair of real 1970s mini humbuckers which absolutely do chime, I’m into it for $2K. While I also love my American Standard Fenders, Japanese Teiscos, Swedish Hägstroms, Indonesian Squiers, Korean Danelectros, and even my Norlin era Gibsons, this guitar is a completely different ballgame and worth every penny. It sounds, plays, and looks great. As to Gibson’s current quality control, I’ve been over it with a magnifying glass and it is flawless. While certain guitars do lend themselves to certain styles, if you feel a guitar makes you unable to play contemporary music, it’s more a failure of your imagination than that of the instrument.
Gibson dad rock? So let’s see, fender Strat and tele changed how over the past 70 yrs? Guitar music as a whole is slowing. It’s mainly dumbed down rap and electronic music.
Rhett Shull is a horrible guitar player and just copies Rick Beatos style of content.
Wonder if luthiers everywhere were payed the same rates , would you still be giving your favourite the same rap. Inflation where some countries would have to go the cheaper version to own any at all. Yes l know then there is quality of the sound and materials and how long is taken to produce good quality straight out of the box.
Would rather get a good one out of the box than spend lots of time replacing what is not,and then you can put a value on it. Maybe you’ll love it then but those who don’t know how much time and dollars you put in , might go and buy what’s not ready to be played..
I’m a Gibson player from way back. I think that Gibson’s pricing has a lot to do with it. I’m a “dad-rocker” and I see many younger players who works live to get their hands on a new Les Paul. But not many of these younger guys and girls can cough up the $2800 that they cost.