Live shows, studio sessions, promotional campaigns and even video shoots are all still feeling the intense restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic but with people spending more time at home in the last six months there's been one part of the music industry experiencing an upsurge; sales of acoustic and electric guitar (opens in new tab).
Fender especially are having a bumper 2020 so far. “I would never have predicted that we would be looking at having a record year,” Andy Mooney (opens in new tab), the chief executive of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, told the New York Times (opens in new tab).
“We’ve broken so many records,” Mooney added. “It will be the biggest year of sales volume in Fender history, record days of double-digit growth, e-commerce sales and beginner gear sales. I never would have thought we would be where we are today if you asked me back in March.”
The rise has been noticed elsewhere, and as shops closed during the Spring and early summer, online retail reaped the benefit. The Times reports that Guitar Center in the US was seeing 'triple-digit sales growth' for most of the top guitar brands on its website.
Acoustic guitars (opens in new tab) have enjoyed the sales rise as well as electric. “It’s crazy,” Chris Martin, the chief executive of C.F. Martin & Co told the New York Times. “It’s unbelievable the demand there is right now for acoustic guitars. I’ve been through guitar booms before, but this one caught me completely by surprise.”
“We just had the biggest June, in terms of orders received, that we’ve ever had since we’ve been in business,” said co-founder Kurt Listug.
Some of this boom is being attributed to growing demographics as well as people with more time on their hands; females and new young players. Indeed, Fender were planning to release more signature models for female players in 2020 than at any time in its history. We're still waiting for those to emerge but the figures of a rise in female beginners are encouraging the industry.
The Fender Play (opens in new tab) learning platform saw new user numbers surge 930,000 from 150,000 between late March and late June, with a combination of lockdown and a generous three-month free trial offer fuelling demand.
A three month trial for Fender's online guitar tuition (opens in new tab)
Even on MusicRadar we noticed a sharp rise in demand after lockdown for our own guitar tuition (opens in new tab) output for beginners and experienced players that we're constantly updating and adding to.
Fender noted that 20% of the newcomers to Fender Play were under 24, and 70% were under 45, the company reported. Female guitar players accounted for 45% of these new users, compared to 30% before the pandemic in March.
Learning guitar takes time, and as more people return to work and spend less time in their homes now, the test will be whether new players will stick with the instrument. Especially in light of the high percentage of beginners who don't continue that Andy Mooney revealed to us (opens in new tab) last year.