photo & text by nacrowe
in an effort to maintain relevancy in a marketplace that had long looked at their celebrated guitars as INACCESSIBLE showpieces for the wealthy rather than working musicians, GIBSON BRANDS initiated a multi-prong charm offensive through its YOUTUBE channel with various video series such as THE COLLECTION (linked HERE), ICONS (linked HERE) and THE SONGBOOK (linked HERE) that sought to reconnect the storied brand to their core audience. this was especially need in the wake of the ILL-CONCEIVED and staggeringly DEVASTATING 2019 misfire that was the PLAY AUTHENTIC campaign which came off both PATRONIZING and knuckle-draggingly BOORISH that alienated musicians from the brand.
THE SCENE is another MARK AGNESI-hosted video series on GIBSON's YOUTUBE channel that sought to connect the brand to various famous venues, guitar shops and even record stores that promote and support the musicians that utilize their wares. my personal opinion is that i cannot get enough of the history and working knowledge of all three of those institutions, in any context. so in that regard i am a complete pushover when it comes to this material. i only major gripe is that fact that everything covered is only in NASHVILLE and LOS ANGELES, which feels more than a little SHORT-SIGHTED and MYOPIC in scope. there is more than a valid argument for the inclusion of LOS ANGELES, but no offense to NASHVILLE, actually scratch that, all offense to NASHVILLE because the place is beyond OVERRATED. the musicians, the industry, the music. nothing of distinction emanates from that town, in fact, it is not even the most important "music city" in TENNESSEE, that distinction easily goes to MEMPHIS. my guess is that these two locations were easy film in, but it seems very odd that historically prominent cultural incubators like NEW YORK CITY, DETROIT, NEW ORLEANS, CHICAGO, AUSTIN or even SEATTLE were not included in this series. very curious indeed.
maybe they just never got around to it as the series seems to have flamed out two years ago. my guess is that being comprehensive was never the point, more that GIBSON BRANDS was making the actual effort to share their spotlight and platforms with the greater economic ecosystem that supports the musicians that support them. all these video series are meant as a means of conveying the message that they "get it" and are not the out-of-touch corporate ogre overlords that they positioned themselves as with the brand image-punishing PLAY AUTHENTIC campaign of a few years back.
i own a few GIBSON guitars. i use them and cherish them on a near daily basis but my hope for their marketing is not for them to keep reminding me of their historical and cultural relevance, my wish is that theyd showcase current practical innovations that demonstrate how they are still a vital brand that is worthy of the lineage of past innovators like TED MCCARTY, WALTER FULLER, ALVINO REY, LES PAUL and SETH LOVER and further justify their status as an industry standard (along with FENDER and PAUL REED SMITH). this marketing initiative to remind consumers about the legacy of the brand seems rather low-stakes and more-than-a-little PATRONIZING. my sense is that the GIBSON line is a bit STALE with innovations nobody recognizes or wants (automatic tuning and blue sunburst paint jobs) and thus this effort towards legacy is the cry of a company that ran out of ideas. maybe instead of suing their competition into oblivion, they should stop with these videos and maybe just work on making superior instruments that people want to purchase. again, i love my standard SG and custom shop tv yellow LES PAUL JR. i dont this low stakes window dressing of a marketing campaign to remind me of such.
my wish that the brand will expand and innovate and continue to make quality products. or else i will move on and get my fill elsewhere from quality substitute instruments from other manufacturers like GUILD, ESP, YAMAHA, PAUL REED SMITH, JACKSON or even HERITAGE. just sayin.
much like their ICONS (linked HERE), RIFF LORDS (linked HERE) and THE COLLECTION (linked HERE) series of videos on YOUTUBE, THE SONGBOOK is likewise another vehicle for GIBSON GUITARS to promote their product through linking such with the narratives of prominent recording artists. except this time around is a more laidback setting with acoustic performances by the likes of AFI, CAVE IN, PETER HAYES (BACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB) and YUNGBLUD among numerous others that are meant to showcase song-craft.
and i dont hate it.
GIBSON has many storied acoustic models that go back to their origins as a mandolin manufacturer back at the turn of the 20th century. the J200, DOVE, HUMMINGBIRD, L-00 and J45 are all eagerly sought after on the vintage market for their association with WOODY GUTHRIE (L-00), JOHN LENNON (J45), JIMMY PAGE (J200), TOM PETTY (DOVE), BOB DYLAN (DOVE, J45, J200), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (J45), THE EDGE (HUMMINGBIRD), EDDIE VEDDER (L-00), GEORGE HARRISON (J200), BILLY CORGAN (DOVE), BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (J45), KEITH RICHARDS (HUMMINGBIRD), DUANE ALLMAN (L-00), ALEX LIFESON (DOVE), and THE EVERLY BROTHERS (J200). so it makes sense that they would attempt to associate with a more contemporary batch of artists. seems only healthy and a much better vehicle for brand integration than their horribly ill-conceived "PLAYIN AUTHENTIC" campaign from a few years back. jesus, that was a misstep. thankfully GIBSON put themselves out of the way and let the artists add value to their product.
cant wait to see what series they cook up next.
much like the ICONS and THE COLLECTION series covered before, RIFF LORDS is another string of YOUTUBE videos promoted by GIBSON GUITARS under the GIBSON TV moniker that seeks to reestablish the brands bonafides with the guitar-playing public via celebrity musician endorsements after the disastrous "play authentic" campaign of 2019.
the hook regarding RIFF LORDS is that these famous guitarists are allotted an extended-period to not only go over their most notable riffs, but the PHILOSOPHY, THEORY and TECHNIQUE behind their composition. noteworthy participants include that of BUZZ OSBOURNE (MELVINS), NICK HEXUM (311), JADE PUGET (AFI), LER LALONDE (PRIMUS) and CLAUDIO SANCHEZ (COHEED & CAMBRIA). this sort of territory has been mined for years by the likes publications like GUITAR WORLD and PREMIER GUITAR (not to mention online vendors like REVERB and SWEETWATER) for years, but the extended time and lack of an annoying an unnecessary interloctur makes this series of videos more immediate and engaging.
i play guitar so this hits me right in the sweet spot of seeing some of my favorite artists talk at length about their playing. now if they could only get DAVE NAVARRO or JOHNNY MARR... here's hoping.
GIBSON GUITARS really did a faceplant up back in 2019 with their aborted "play authentic" campaign.
which was really a pity because i had been watching their DIRECTOR OF BRAND EXPERIENCE MARK AGNESI since he was GENERAL MANAGER at NORM'S RARE GUITARS and hosted their GUITAR OF THE DAY YOUTUBE videos in which he would deep dive into their backroom archive of vintage guitars and elaborate in exquisite detail about their production, history and playability. the dude knew his stuff and his appreciation and passion for guitars was palpable. i was practically rooting for the dude when moved on to GIBSON.
which is why i think its a great move that GIBSON has him doing these long-form videos where he similarly guides us through the collections of famous musicians from RICK NIELSEN (CHEAP TRICK), MIKE CAMPBELL (TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS) SLASH (GUNS N' ROSES, VELVET REVOLVER), and DWEEZIL ZAPPA (ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA) to KIETH NELSON (BUCKCHERRY) and DAVE AMATO (REO SPEEDEWAGON). its basically the same thing he did at NORM'S, even with the same batch of characters. in other words: its a match made in guitar nerd heaven. once i learned of this series i have basically been mainlining them, irrespective of the artist being interviewed. bar none the coolest guitar shown was producer JOHN SHANKS' GIBSON ES-355 previously owned by JOHNNY MARR. 'nough said there.
obviously the vast majority of the products involved are GIBSON-related, but its also fun to see when they veer off into other manufacturers. this gives me hope that GIBSON is getting off their high horse and acknowledging the fact that they are part of a greater community. hopefully they take on their role as elder statesmen and give back to the guitar-playing community, because it looked bleak there for a while. real bleak.
this series at least smells like they have their act together and were humbled by their atrocious marketing mistakes over the last decade.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
for the past couple months the legendary, and recently troubled, guitar manufacturer GIBSON has been publishing a series of long-form interviews on its YOUTUBE page. in keeping with recent efforts by other leading manufacturers of musical products like ERNIE BALL and FENDER, GIBSON has used legacy artists to reconnect with their core, and often overlooked, HARD ROCK / METAL audience.
it is probably a smart move of having JERRY CANTRELL (ALICE IN CHAINS), KIRK HAMMETT (METALLICA), and TONY IOMMI (BLACK SABBATH) out front speaking about their careers then having GIBSON themselves selling themselves, especially given the company's recent heavy-handed and notoriously misguided PLAY AUTHENTIC debacle. i also find it interesting that they chose these four players as three of them are well-known endorsees of other manufacturers, CANTRELL with G&L and HAMMETT with ESP, and DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH) with just about everyone (JACKSON, ESP, DEAN and now GIBSON). IOMMI of course is synonymous with the GIBSON SG model. apparently last year CANTRELL became a brand ambassador, whatever that is, but then again live and in the studio he has been known to use LES PAULS. HAMMETT likewise is famous for his use of LES PAULS as well as FLYING Vs, especially in METALLICA's early years.
whomever jumped on this trend at GIBSON of created thoughtful interviews and mini-documentaries on legendary players deserves kudos because these are great. they have only released a handful but they are well worth investigating.