April 2008

The worm hole that is magazine publishing always freaks me out. It’s barely 2008 in calendar terms, but the GP staff is already working on the May 2008 issue. Think about it—we’ve already run almost half the year’s issues off printing presses, and yet 2008 is still fresh and new and full of promise or dread or both. And, at this point, it’s hard to know how 2008 will treat guitarists and the guitar industry.

Will a recession affect guitar, amp, and accessory sales, or will players decide to purchase new gear no matter what the economic climate throws at them? Will a transcendent guitar talent capture the imagination of the masses, or will the guitar zoom under the pop-culture radar, banished to low-altitude flying by Wiis and Playstations, reality TV, American Idol, guitar-lite radio fare, and Britney Spears’ latest tabloid travails? Will any emerging products revolutionize how we craft tones? Digital tools have forever changed the recording industry, but modeling software hasn’t significantly eroded many guitarists’ love and reliance on tubes and analog circuitry. Will 2008 mark a turning point where hordes of players cease to care whether guitar sounds are generated by tubes, wires, or ones and zeros?

And what about manufacturing? Just how inexpensive can guitars get? How good can an inexpensive guitar get? Is a venerated name enough to win the day anymore, because I’m not sure what trademarks really mean to the next generation of players? Can Guitar Player assume these platoons of youngsters—many of whom may have been exposed to “guitar” via the Guitar Hero video game—will understand the magazine’s value to them? Can Ford or Sony or Martha Stewart rest on their reputations? Hmmm.

I could babble on forever about this stuff, but no one I know is psychic, so everything you’ve read so far is just a shaggy-dog story with no resolution. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share information and play a small part in forging our destinies amidst change. We can choose to evolve, rather than jealously hold our comfy preconceptions in death grips. We can choose to find our own voices, rather than chain ourselves to mimicry. We can stop obsessing about styles and techniques and chart positions, and start celebrating music in all its glorious forms. Some of us may even be able to stop talking smack about other players, and focus instead on educating, enlightening, and entertaining other musicians—who are, after all, just as much a part of our audiences as our non-playing fans. It couldn’t hurt if we endeavored to inspire and challenge each other.

Ultimately, change will happen. We can only control how we cope with it, how we adapt to it, and how we benefit from it. So let’s help each other morph into more evolved guitarists in the coming months. Log on to guitarplayer.com and share your fears, your predictions, and your ideas for musical and cultural growth. I’m confident this little dialog will fire up the community. It’s no secret that I view change as a good thing, but I also know that it goes down
better when you’re among friends.