Gibson's Recent Decisions Concerning Their Marketing and Sales Policies

An Editorial Opinion by Bill Palmer

Everything on this web site is my personal opinion. Those of you who are regular visitors to this site know that I try to be as fair as possible with my judgments. In the end, everything I say here is based on what I see, hear and feel. Some of it is based on many years experience in various aspects of the music business.

Recently, Gibson USA has made a series of decisions that I feel need some comments. And I'm just the guy to make them. For most of my life, I have been an ardent supporter of Gibson. My feelings were based upon a belief that Gibson made good instruments that provided an excellent dollar value and that Gibson provided excellent technical expertise and excellent support. Now, I'm not so sure about that any more

Gibson is no longer permitting their dealers to quote prices over the internet. Apparently, there is a movement on now to require dealers to charge full price and for customers to come into the store to purchase their instruments. Not only that, Gibson has raised their prices to heretofore unheard of levels. These pieces of information, combined with rumors of corner-cutting in their finishing department have led me to believe that Gibson is no longer the great value it used to be.

For some time now, a steady decline in awareness of things to do with the banjo has pervaded the Gibson sales staff at major events such as SPBGMA and IBMA. Franky, I don't believe that most of the folks manning the booths would know a Kirchner tailpiece from a Presto tailpiece.

What does this mean to you as a customer?

Well, actually, it's not gloom and doom. There are a plethora of excellent independent banjo manufacturers who can barely keep up with the demand to make instruments. Sullivan, OME, Prucha, LouZee, Deering, Huber, Price, D.P. Hopkins, Crafters of Tennessee are the first names that come to mind. All of them are making top notch instruments, and they are ready to sell you an instrument. If you don't want the traditional Gibson style banjo, Stelling and Nechville are also making very fine instruments. And there are a number of independent luthiers who make custom instruments, as well.

Now, more than ever, these pages will become important to you when thinking about building your own instrument.

And don't forget the people who make the lower priced instruments, as well -- Gold Tone, Gold Star, etc.-- they are all still out there.

If history repeats itself, and it usually does, Gibson will quickly learn that no matter how we speak and how we dress, we are not stupid or ignorant.

And when they figure that out, they will go back to doing business in a sensible way.

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©2006 Bill Palmer. All rights reserved. For permission to republish contact Bill Palmer. The opinions expressed on this page are strictly Bill Palmer's. Mastertone, Stelling and the other brand and model names are the property of the manufacturers and other people who own them.