Guitar Center Strikes The Right Chord
By George Anderson
Guitar Center is a $1.51 billion business with 152 stores. Dan Courtenay, owner of Dan’s Chelsea Guitars a single-store independent in Manhattan calls it, “the Wal-Mart of the music world.”
As Guitar Center has grown, it has faced some of the same challenges of Wal-Mart and others, namely, “how to win the goodwill of the community that small businesses enjoy while at the same time taking advantage of the national organization’s deep pockets and economies of scale.”
According to a piece in The Wall Street Journal, the nation’s largest retailer of musical instruments has maintained a connection with its customer base of artists by developing a “series of contests that start out with musicians competing in their hometown stores for the privilege of eventually performing nationally before a panel of well-known judges — among them, Marilyn Manson’s guitarist and the drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
The contests run by the company, Guitarmageddon, Drum Off and Spin Off, work says Kyle Rogers, head of strategic partnerships and promotions development for Guitar Center, because: “Everyone has the dream of making a record.”
Winners have the opportunity to play before large audiences and they also are featured in press releases, mailings and on the company’s Web site.
Guitar Center also focuses on events such as battle-of-the-bands contests to maintain its role in local music scenes. According to the Journal, Guitar Center teamed up with Levi’s and Fader music magazine to sponsor a house in Austin, Tex. where local musicians could go and jam. The retailer handed out Guitar Center buyer’s guides and VIP cards to participants and the audience to drive store traffic.
Moderator’s Comment: What is it that makes Guitar Center successful? Are there lessons for other growing retailers than can be learned from Guitar Center?
We like it because it’s the closest thing we can get to a toy store. Where else can we go to play so many great guitars, as badly as we do, and nobody tells
us to stop. –
George Anderson – Moderator