High-End Guitar Sales Continue to Thrive Post-Pandemic. Inside Gretsch Guitars' Strategy to Connect With Customers' Musical Identity. Jason Barnes, VP of Gretsch Guitars, explains how the company is sustaining sales growth through emotional connections and its Fender Play app.

By Dan Bova


In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Who are you and what is your business?

I am Jason Barnes, Vice President of Gretsch Guitars at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

Can you give a picture of the guitar business over the past few years?

Before the pandemic, the industry experienced steady growth with an influx of new players entering the market. Sales witnessed a remarkable surge during the pandemic due to lockdowns and stimulus measures, driving an unprecedented demand spike. Since late 2021, the market has been gradually cooling, experiencing a correction phase that is guiding us back toward market normalcy.

What kinds of instruments are people interested in now?

In the post-pandemic landscape, electric guitars and basses in the $400-$1,000 range have seen a decrease in demand, whereas products priced at $2,000 and above have maintained their strength. We attribute much of this shift to macroeconomic factors, with consumers reallocating their discretionary spending from goods to services like travel and entertainment.

How has the customer for guitars changed?

Overall, we've observed a rising diversity among players, coupled with a notable uptick in beginners over the past five years or so.

What is the Gretsch strategy? Who is it going after and why?

At Gretsch, we harness our strengths to generate value through distinctive sound and style. The player base represents a dynamic mix of genres, cultures, aesthetics, and more. In this ever-evolving landscape, having a unique voice and presence is vital for musicians. Our primary focus is on musicians who are actively seeking empowerment in their musical identity. We provide them with unparalleled value characterized by our unmistakable sound and style.

Related: He Left a Steady Corporate Job and Turned His Music Passion Into Thriving Audio Tech Company

How does creating a learning app play into your sales and marketing strategy?

FMIC is committed to fostering long-term engagement among new players, a mission exemplified by the Fender Play app. Studies indicate that once beginners overcome the initial 90 days of learning, they are more likely to persist in their musical pursuits. Fender Play serves as an invaluable resource for both novice and experienced players, aiding them in their ongoing musical development. Although the app doesn't directly feature in our sales and marketing strategies, its purpose is to cultivate and sustain players' enthusiasm as they continue their musical journeys on any brand within the FMIC portfolio or industry-wide. Regardless of how players are learning or entering the ecosystem we want to ensure Gretsch has an offering for them at any stage in their musical journey.

Credit: Jason Barnes, Vice President of Gretsch Guitars at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com. He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim and Spy magazine. Check out his latest humor books for kids, including Wendell the Werewolf, Road & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, and The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff.

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