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 Is Gibson looking old and outdated?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.