(Reuters) – Fender Musical Instruments Corp, the iconic electric guitar maker whose instruments have propelled music from Eric Clapton to contemporary artists like Daniel Caesar, is replacing its best-selling line of guitars as sales rise.
The Hollywood-based guitar maker is replacing its entry-level “Standard” series of Stratocasters and Telecasters that it has sold for over 25 years with a new “Player” series, tweaking nearly every feature. Fender plans to continue manufacturing the instruments in Mexico, CEO Andy Mooney told Reuters. While the company still builds its most expensive guitars in the United States, instruments made in Mexico sell the most units.
Fender keeps the same basic shapes guitars have had since the 1950s and 1960s — a smart move, said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades, which compiles instrument industry data, because changes to classic designs can be heavy on the guitar. business. Fender’s main rival, Gibson Brands Inc, installed computerized tuners on its instruments in 2015, a move that was not well received by players.
A drop in sales, along with Gibson’s ill-fated purchase of a consumer electronics company, contributed to its filing for bankruptcy last month with $500 million in debt.
Fender, on the other hand, overhauled details of the instrument like the feel of the frets under a player’s fingers and the electronics that reproduce the sound of the guitar, but ignored the digital additions.
Fender “has these guitars that are deeply embedded in our musical culture,” Majeski said. “They’re not trying to overthrow them.”
Fender has taken several steps in recent years to reach new players without drastically changing its core product. Last year, it launched online course software to help retain players who drop out after buying their first instrument.
Mooney told Reuters the software now has 50,000 active users on the $9.99-a-month service. Mooney also led an effort to attract more women to Fender’s marketing and artist endorsement campaigns after company research found nearly half of first-time guitar buyers are women.
Privately held Fender does not disclose financial data, but Mooney told Reuters it made just over $500 million in revenue last year, had about $100 million in debt and that its cash flow was positive. He said revenue growth was in the “high numbers” and topped the industry-wide sales growth rate for fretted instruments, which rose 7.3% to 1. $9 billion, according to data from Music Trades.
“We listened very carefully to what our customers told us we needed to do,” Mooney said, “and their preferences change over time.”
Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker