Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz: “Guitars from the ’50s are what the purists want, but we have to have something new and exciting”

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(Image: © EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has continued his defiant response to reports of Gibson’s potential bankruptcy, blaming the company’s financial troubles on “problems with the guitar retail industry” and "purists".

In a wide-ranging interview with Billboard, Juszkiewicz stated, “[The industry is] stuck in a time warp, and the ‘purists’ have a very loud voice on the online forums.

“Kids today may think some music from the '50s is kind of cool here and there, but what other industry do you know that hasn't changed since the '50s? 

"Those guitars from the 50s are what the purists want, but we have to have something new and exciting.

Innovation is a part of every business to some degree, but [the guitar industry] hates it

“Imagine if the camera had never changed. Innovation is a part of every business to some degree, but [the guitar industry] hates it. The kids demand it, and if you don't have it, they walk.”

Recent Gibson releases, including the Boogie Van Les Paul and Modern Flying V, have received mixed reactions on social media, while reissues, such as the RD, have received more positive responses.

Previous attempts at innovation from Gibson, including the Firebird X (pictured with Juszkiewicz above), and the installation of its Min-ETune (later G-Force) robot tuning system across entire lines, also proved controversial.

New approaches

The CEO goes on to say that finding new guitarists is something the company approaches with “great difficulty”, in contrast to Fender’s efforts to encourage new players via the Fender Play learning platform.

Juszkiewicz also defended the company’s reputation with retailers, while pointing towards a future in direct sales.

“I've been called someone that hates retailers, and I don't; we make a real effort in making sure our retailers make a good profit off of our product.

“We've always been loyal to retail; we still don't have a site where we sell directly [to consumers]. We probably will in the future, and part of that is in reaction to general trending toward e-commerce.”

The interview follows a string of headlines from the company, including a no-show at NAMM, and sell-off of its Memphis factory and the end of development for Cakewalk music software - which was purchased from Gibson by BandLab last week.

Gibson’s current strategy is to “focus its Philips brand consumer audio business on those products that have greater growth potential” - its audio brand roster currently includes KRK Systems, TASCAM, Cerwin-Vega!, Stanton, Onkyo, Integra, TEAC, TASCAM Professional Software, and Esoteric.

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