Guitar Center LayOffs A Musicians Perspective

I wanted to take a minute and write an article about all the press that Guitar Center has been receiving in regards to layoffs of high level executives. Initially posted at Geargods.net was an email sent to all employees at the corporate and field-supervision level detailing the situation GC is in. It’s been no secret that GC is in trouble. They have been going through executives, some stores are actually becoming union stores, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating them, as well as unfair labor practices. The list goes on and on. Just after the Namm show, CEO Darrell Webb who has also held executive and board positions at companies like The Sports Authority, Jo-ann Fabric and several others sent this email to the aforementioned employees….

After a comprehensive evaluation of our staffing levels, including a detailed benchmarking of staffing levels by function and department compared to similar size specialty retailers, Guitar Center’s leadership team made the difficult decision to reduce corporate and field supervision staff. The reduction included less than one percent of the overall workforce and consisted of reductions at the corporate offices in Westlake Village and field management positions. This action was designed to create a more effective and efficient organization and was based on functional area. Despite this reduction, we continue to actively recruit for a variety of positions in Westlake Village that are matched with the needs of our ongoing growth plans.

Guitar Center thanks these individuals for their dedicated service and we all wish them the best in their future endeavors.
There are no plans to reduce staff at our 260+ stores. Our customer base is strong and for them business will continue as usual. Our store opening and remodeling program continues, as does our ongoing dedication to the opportunities we offer musicians — unparalleled inventory and selection, clinics, lessons, repairs, our nationwide searches and competitions and unmatched service every day. In spite of how difficult these decisions were to make, and the challenges that these reductions present to some of our dedicated associates, this restructuring was made to put us in a more positive position to serve our customers and vendors.

Now I don’t want to go into the corporate issues deep in the belly of Guitar Center. But I would like to discuss part of why they’re financially in trouble. As big box stores go Guitar Center has been able to stick around longer than many huge names with broader appeal. Think Circuit City and Montgomery Wards for example. Selling gear is a huge business, if you’re reading this you probably have some gear close to you. But where Guitar Center fails on a MASSIVE scale is they don’t understand music, musicians what people need/want to have. Honestly, GC your stores suck. You know who loves them?? My kids. And that is what these stores are geared for. People that don’t really take music seriously. It caters to the school kid wanting his first guitar, or the 40 year old man that really wanted a kick ass Stratocaster or Les Paul when he was younger and couldn’t afford it until adulthood. What they don’t cater to is the serious musician. Guitar Center needs someone to steer this ship in the direction of its customers and that’s all customers.

My amount of travel has picked up a lot of the last few years. I’m trying to grow this blog into something I can do forever and maybe even make a living at. I attend the Namm shows and interview gear manufacturers, I make demo videos of equipment and while doing all this, I visit music stores. A lot of those are Guitar Centers when I can’t find anything else.

My actual market is a small one. Guitar Center is fairly new to us maybe 7 years or so. Before that a good friend of mine and I used to take weekend trips up to Minneapolis to hit Guitar Center and what was a much better chain Mars Music. I still miss Mars Music as it was the super-mega center for musicians built by former Office Depot CEO Mark Begelman. . Giant stage in the middle, INCREDIBLE selection of gear. Whatever you needed. It was geared for musicians. Unfortunately, due to rapid expansion, lack of capital, huge stores and a recession they were unable to keep the franchise above water closing all stores in 2002. Which I’m sure plays into the Guitar Center format. But here’s the real problem with GC.

Go into a Guitar Center and pick a guitar off the wall. Is it set up? Are you holding a $1500 Strat that plays terrible? Ask one of the employees a real question. Can they answer it? Can they even come close? Go in and look for accessories do they have what you need? Go into pro audio and ask a question period.
Guitar Center staffs their stores with people that are wet behind the ears musicians. Not in 100% of the cases but largely you will be talking to a kid that couldn’t tell you squat about anything in the store. They’re programmed to cram their promotions down your throat like String Club…. “Hey Bro, have you heard of our string club”??? No, because I don’t buy strings here. I just had to buy 2 separate sets in an emergency to cover my 7 string because you guys have no string options…. “Ohh well I could tell you about it if you want”…… As a drummer it’s just as bad.

They’re missing out on the used market even as they have knocked out a lot of second hand music stores. While they have a small section of used generally they’ve taken no time to make sure those instruments are playable. So what you’re stuck with is a tiny section of a wall with uninteresting used pieces. If amps are your thing forget about it.

My store pretty much has 1 head. The Peavey 6505. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love that head but that’s about it. Plenty of small combos, plenty of guitars on the bottom end of the spectrum. And a wall of Strats. If you’re an Ibanez fan like myself your selection will be generally in the $499 and below range, extended range instruments are not really stocked. The bottom of the line 7 and 8 string models will be there but nothing someone that actually plays will want. But what’s really shocking is that it’s not just the one in my market. Over Namm I stayed near the store in Orange and it was the same thing. No selection. I honestly would buy a lot (A LOT) more gear from Guitar Center if I could touch it. Or if I could ask a question and get a real answer about it from a knowledgeable person in their field.

They don’t want to pay for talent in the stores they kind of want to be the fast food of music retail. But to be honest being a musician is a personal experience. The music retail can survive but that path must be examined. When my kids go into a music store and they have that magic look in their eyes, to them it’s a dream. The excitement of being around all that cool stuff is what tattoos the thought of being a rock star on their brain. But if they start to truly play the $399 Ibanez is probably not going to be what they want to play. Maybe they want to play and Orange or a Bogner or an Engl. And when the minimum wage kid tries to fill them full of nonsense about the gear, well that’s only going to work as long as they’re naïve.
I didn’t mean for this article to be this long but retail is just another part of how screwed music is in general right now. No if you’ll excuse me I need to order some new pickups for an old Ibanez RG I picked up. I need to order them because I can’t get them locally, and I need to order strings to cuz well… Same thing. Till next time, keep your head up and keep working those strings , sticks or keys!!

GearZombiee

About the author

GearZombiee

What up!!! I am a musician. I try to be a musicians musician at that. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable as a guitar/bass player, drummer and fairly decent in the studio. I also work very hard on my song writing skills. I'm not claiming to be an expert by any means and in my opinion few people really are. What I am however is a guy that has learned a lot from trial and error and watching others follow the same process. What this site is designed to do is help others along the way. Maybe you're looking for a piece of gear and want a users perspective on it rather than the manufacturers sales pitch or the paid for sales pitch by most of today's biased publications. Or, maybe you're trying to accomplish something sound wise and just can't hit the nail on the head. My goal is this page is going to provide a resource for all things in today's guitar, drum, studio... bla bla bla.... You get the point. If you see a video or article you like please comment, if you don't like it comment too. But whatever you do be respectful of everyone involved. All I want is a cool place to discuss all things rock!! Later, Gearzombiee


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