SPOTLIGHT | GIBSON TV: THE SCENE
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.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
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.