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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Is Gibson going to make banjos in China? At all?


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Bill Rogers - Posted - 07/22/2009:  17:08:37


Discussion on the thread "After 20 years of shaping Gibson necks" and the outlet sale it mentions seems to indicate to me that Gibson is going to either cease production of banjos (and other OAI instruments) or move it overseas. The recession must have seriously affected its sales in every area. (No surprise there.) Has anyone heard anything about further developments with Gibson banjos beyond conjectures such as mine?

Bill

desert rose - Posted - 07/22/2009:  17:30:53


Bill

Just to be clear Gibson does make banjos in China, the Epiphone stuff. They have a factory in Qingdao owned fifty fifty with Gibson and Sam Ick. Their vision of this factory is no more than that and those Walmart instrument shaped objects they sell. In direct conflict with models like Saga and RK making things competing with and taking sales away from Gibson brand instruments

However it is and has been a foundation stone of Gibson management since the early eightys that ANYTHING with Gibson on the head MUST be made only in the US, NO bargaining on that point.

That being said things change. This policy has been in direct conflict with the way Fender has done business, having factories in Mexico Japan Korea and China making Fender guitars and instruments and being MUCH MUCH MUCH more successful at their business model than Gibson could ever hope to be. We always wonder when their management will wake up and smell the coffee Many people in the inustry I know have the opinion that their long standing model never was the best

Obviously their current model is not getting results in this economy, so change could be in order

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com

grich - Posted - 07/22/2009:  17:56:36


Recording King just closed a deal to buy the Gibsn banjo line ... starting tomorrow we will produce the Recording King line in the US and move the Gibson line to China until we can get the quality back up.


DHutchens - Posted - 07/22/2009:  18:02:13


Greg
Does this mean that I need a Chinese/American translation dictionary?

Doug

Out of my Gourd - Posted - 07/22/2009:  18:14:56


Actually, my 2003 RB 250 is a good banjo. Everyone who has played it has liked it.

kevin0461 - Posted - 07/22/2009:  18:32:53


They can start stamping "Gibson China" on their tone rings

Randy Escobedo - Posted - 07/22/2009:  18:47:23


Gibson does make guitars in Canada. Myself, I would not want one. I want my Gibson made in the USA. It is sad to hear that Ed Weber was layed off. I have known him for many, many years and he handmade my Gibson banjos I play.


Edited by - Randy Escobedo on 07/26/2009 20:04:29

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 07/22/2009:  19:28:57


Do the Chinese banjos use lead tone rings? That could get really heavy!
Paul

"A master banjo player isn''t the one who can play the most notes. It''s the one who can touch the most hearts." Patrick Costello
http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/t...IC_ID=128303 IBARD topic
http://ibard-rendesvous1840.blogspot.com/

Studebaker Hawk - Posted - 07/22/2009:  19:49:02


Gibson make banjos in China? I think the way things are going with the globalization of the world's economies it's probably only a matter of time. I just purchased a low-end Martin guitar (000X-1) that was made in Mexico and, taking everything into account, it's a wonderful instrument -- great bass/mid-range/treble, a perfectly shaped neck, and supremely playable like all Martins regardless of price. So, yeah, I don't think it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see some Gibson-on-the-peghead instruments drifting in from China at some point in our lifetime.

--Dean

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 07/22/2009:  20:05:47


Gibson is probably going to steal a march on everyone and have them made in North Korea - where labour is 3.5 cents an hour.

If you are interested in what I say on the hangout you should download a free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players. Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer Tunes" at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

To print the tabs separately from the book you need TEFView a free download from:
http://www.tabledit.com

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site chock full of interesting banjo material



rexhunt - Posted - 07/23/2009:  04:30:24


Speaking of business models, I beleive the current mess we are in is due in large part to the current crap crop of MBAs running these companies. All they have been taught are the esoteric trading schemes and book keeping methods that have brought the economy to it's knees. "Product" is not part of their vocabulary - it's just take the money and run.

Rex

banjoronny - Posted - 07/23/2009:  04:40:26


Thats all Gibson would need to do is make a few cosmetic and quality changes to the current Epiphone line in China. Change the name on the peghead to Gibson then off to the races. This would be a fun race to watch RK vs Asian Gibson. I'd have to put my money on name recognition.

Ron Wells

Gold Star GF-85 - Posted - 07/23/2009:  04:49:16


It would surely be a sad day if they did move there but nothing surprises me anymore. Heck they are probably looking at the fact of how many thousands of Asian Banjo's are sold here in the US now and figure they can jump on the band wagon to.



Big John,
1987 Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard
1986 Stelling Sunflower
1980''s Iida Arch Top

Gold Star GF-85 - Posted - 07/23/2009:  04:49:16


It would surely be a sad day if they did move there but nothing surprises me anymore. Heck they are probably looking at the fact of how many thousands of Asian Banjo's are sold here in the US now and figure they can jump on the band wagon to.



Big John,
1987 Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard
1986 Stelling Sunflower
1980''s Iida Arch Top

Tomcat - Posted - 07/23/2009:  05:46:06


quote:
Originally posted by grich

Recording King just closed a deal to buy the Gibsn banjo line ... starting tomorrow we will produce the Recording King line in the US and move the Gibson line to China until we can get the quality back up.




Trouble maker!

www.banjomafia.com

Frebazak - Posted - 07/23/2009:  06:10:22


[quote]Originally posted by grich

Recording King just closed a deal to buy the Gibsn banjo line ... starting tomorrow we will produce the Recording King line in the US and move the Gibson line to China until we can get the quality back up.





Perfect example of why it's good to to have Gregg back.....

Robes

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
Ronald Reagan

Life is a Joke.....drop dead is the punch line.
A great Linguist

Some days you''re the bug; some days you''re the windshield.
Life...


Edited by - Frebazak on 07/23/2009 06:11:08

Charley wild - Posted - 07/23/2009:  06:40:03


quote:
Originally posted by Gold Star GF-85

It would surely be a sad day if they did move there but nothing surprises me anymore. Heck they are probably looking at the fact of how many thousands of Asian Banjo's are sold here in the US now and figure they can jump on the band wagon to.



Big John,
1987 Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard
1986 Stelling Sunflower
1980''s Iida Arch Top



They are also most likely looking at the fact of why a growing number of players consider Gibson's Epi import Les Paul a better guitar quality control wise, than their "American" Les Paul. I realize this is a "Banjo" forum. Just making a point.

"Marriage is sometimes a temporary thing but a good divorce can last forever"
Oscar Wilde

Charley wild - Posted - 07/23/2009:  06:41:31


quote:
Originally posted by Gold Star GF-85

It would surely be a sad day if they did move there but nothing surprises me anymore. Heck they are probably looking at the fact of how many thousands of Asian Banjo's are sold here in the US now and figure they can jump on the band wagon to.



Big John,
1987 Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard
1986 Stelling Sunflower
1980''s Iida Arch Top



They are also most likely looking at the fact of why a growing number of players consider Gibson's Epi import Les Paul a better guitar quality control wise, than their "American" Les Paul. I realize this is a "Banjo" forum. Just making a point.

"Marriage is sometimes a temporary thing but a good divorce can last forever"
Oscar Wilde

miiloo - Posted - 07/23/2009:  11:08:47


Rex,
You summed up all up nicely. Ugly as it is.
M.

banjer5 - Posted - 07/23/2009:  12:01:31


GRich summed it up. The No.1 banjo in the USA isn't even close any more.

Fast Freddy the engineer says: Throttle in RUN 8 and highball, then don''t look back, something might be gainin'' on ya. 73,s de K5BGZ

mastertone - Posted - 07/23/2009:  16:10:31


What will happen to gibsons warranty on there banjos? I have an ESS i bought in feb of this year. Will they still honor the warranty? Hate to hear about gibson selling there banjo line. I dont know what these idiots running these companys and the goverment expect people to live on when everything is being moved overseas. mastertone

deuceswilde - Posted - 07/23/2009:  16:26:22


Two words...


Schwinn bicycles.



-Joel Hooks

Success always comes to those who have the money to buy it.

-The Adventures of a Banjo Player, 1884 p.26

bowfinger - Posted - 07/23/2009:  16:51:55


Greg Rich you sure know how to start something!!

The place hasn't been the same without you.

Sultans of Claw - Posted - 07/23/2009:  17:21:26


quote:
[i] I just purchased a low-end Martin guitar (000X-1) that was made in Mexico and, taking everything into account, it's a wonderful instrument -- great bass/mid-range/treble, a perfectly shaped neck



How weird is it to get used to looking at that Stratabond neck?

Lee Callicutt

The Engineer - Posted - 07/23/2009:  17:29:27


Imagine that, as if we don't have enough chinese junk floating around in our country as it is. Corporate gibson is going to insult
a instrument with such a rich american history and deface it for a higher profit margin by having it made very cheaply probably
in a cave somewhere in the asian mountains. I don't think any of my hard earned money is going to support their cause.
NO SIR!

desert rose - Posted - 07/23/2009:  17:58:32


Rex

You definately hit the nail on the head dead center in my opinion

Engineer, I think you need to get out of the cave more often. Chinese products are advancing in quality FASTER than the same situation thirty years ago when it was Japan that was the evil empire

There is a reason why RK banjoas have solidified their place in the market, attention to detail and quality, sound, playability and craftsmanship. Gibson USA doesnt have a heads up here they are loosing ground

I have no real belief that Gibson moving to China will help their situation, I think their problems as noted are not the work force but the head office, and those problems will be transfered to where ever the factory is. Ive seen it time and again. Its the one major flaw in all the Koreans moving production to China, if the factory is Chinese owned and controlled all will be good, if its just a Korean owned building full of cheap labor but managed by Korean staff. the problems dont go away they just get cheaper to produce Gibson is already doing this in China with a huge new factory and workforce no different than RK but they make bottom feeder instruments where with the right input and attitude they could make instruments similar to Nashville product in a short time

This is and was RK BIG plus. Instruments fully designed in America, engineered completely by an American to OUR standards and staff taught by an American until they produced an instrument to our liking. Only then were they given the green lite

This is a model that is proving successful in China, as it was in Japan years ago

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com

stanger - Posted - 07/23/2009:  18:38:15


You guys are barking up the WRONG tree!

The reason Gibson is holding the garage sale is because they are moving out of the Gibson Showcase mall. That is the only reason why the OMI division was moved out. It was part of a larger plan that never panned out.

Back around 1995, Gibson's top management rented the mall in hopes of making it a metro alternate to the Opryland site. The original intention was to use it as recording studios, TV studios, an alternate stage to the old Ryman for live performance, and to use as a convention/reception/events center.

The reason why the OMI production was moved there was to provide a steady tourist draw; tourists could watch the workers through the glass walls that separated them from the working spaces. This idea was first floated some years earlier for the Montana Guitar Custom shop- the management was going to buy the old Northern Pacific train depot, and put the custom shop in it. This was intended to be a tourist draw and a showroom.

The reason why Nashville became the place was due to other plans that were instituted at the same time.

Gibson, for a brief time, tried out a bar/restaurant operation that was similar to the Hard Rock Café outfits. One of these Gibson cafés was going to be in the mall. The Hard Rock thing failed in their trial location downtown, and eventually, the management decided to stick to making instruments and not get into the bar business. The original plan was to buy the mall, with a rent-to-own agreement, but after buying Baldwin, the purchase was never made. So now, the lease is up, and Gibson is moving out.

Cut what Scott said in stone. The last word I heard firsthand, as of the end of May, was the plans for the OMI division were still undecided. The banjo, mando and dobro production may stop, may move to the big factory in Nashville, or to Memphis, or to Montana, or it may get it's own facility. All of these alternatives are speculation only by me. The only thing that is certain is OMI has moved out of the Showcase mall.

But Gibsons will NEVER be made offshore, period. While the banjo division is very small, remember that the Gibson electric guitars are huge, world-wide, and the cache of the Made in the USA is vitally important to their continued success. There will never be a Gibson Mastertone banjo made overseas, and there will never be a Gibson mandolin made overseas. Epiphone China will never make a Mastertone under the present management.

Like Martin did in the late 80's, with their Shenandoah guitars, Gibson experimented briefly with using imported Epi parts and American finish and assembly, but neither company stuck with that for long. I was working for them during this time, and the Epiphone/Gibson experiment only lasted 3 months or so.

Feel free to speculate on Epi product improvement, or whether Gibson will be sold, or what you will. But Gibson branded banjos will never be made anywhere but the USA. I think there is a possibility of an American shop taking over the banjo production, but I also think this is a rather slim possibility, as there has never been a time when a Gibson employee, working for Gibson didn't lay hands on a Gibson product.

This is not to say that Gibson employees would be in charge of setting up only Gibson brand banjos, though....
chew on that one for a while- you still might bark up the wrong tree, but at least you'll be in the right forest.

regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.


Edited by - stanger on 07/23/2009 18:45:16

stanger - Posted - 07/23/2009:  18:41:40


... sorry about calling the division OMI. That's the old name, but I still tend to think of it, rather than OAI. Bill Rogers tagged it correctly in his first post on the thread.

OMI (Original Musical Instruments) was the old name of the Dobro company. Gibson used it for quite a while before changing it to OAI (Original Acoustic Instruments). I don't know the reason for the change.

regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.

Studebaker Hawk - Posted - 07/23/2009:  20:31:54


quote:
Originally posted by Sultans of Claw

quote:
[i] I just purchased a low-end Martin guitar (000X-1) that was made in Mexico and, taking everything into account, it's a wonderful instrument -- great bass/mid-range/treble, a perfectly shaped neck



How weird is it to get used to looking at that Stratabond neck?

Lee Callicutt



Weird? I've been eyeing a LOT of the lower-end Martins with Stratabond necks for a couple of years now so I don't even really think about it anymore, Lee. In fact, I kind of like the look when combined with the simulated mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides. The spruce top in my 000X-1 has a nice, tight grain and the morado fingerboard and bridge is an ascetically pleasing mix of very dark brown and tan streaks. The matte finish on the neck reminds of a speed-neck, and it's VERY comfortable. All in all, Martin has got a real winner here, and from the hands of Mexican craftsmen, no less.

Getting back to the Stratabond neck, I'm waiting for someone to use this stuff for a banjo neck. IMHO it would be PERFECT for use with a travel banjo or a festival beater... maybe even a higher-end instrument. The multiple laminations of the Stratabond make for an extremely stable neck that will probably never warp. They use this stuff for gunstocks where rugged use is the norm. I think it's even used in many (most?) compound hunting bows and such were extra strength is required. And as far as Stratabond adversely affecting tone in a stringed instrument, well, my 000X-1 Martin sounds pretty damn good to my ear, so why not try it in a banjo?

Uhh... I think I unintentionally highjacked this thread. Sorry!

--Dean


Edited by - Studebaker Hawk on 07/23/2009 20:43:44

Sultans of Claw - Posted - 07/23/2009:  20:49:02


quote:
Originally posted by Studebaker Hawk
Uhh... I think I unintentionally highjacked this thread. Sorry!



No, that was me, and I should apologize.! Thanks for the review, that's good to hear. I've not had a chance to see one in person, so "weird" is in reference to the way they look in the pics I've seen. I'm actually drawn to the way a couple of them look, and I commend Martin for offering reasonable cost alternatives.

Lee Callicutt

stanger - Posted - 07/25/2009:  13:55:54


Hi, Stude...
There is nothing new under the sun. I've seen very old banjos with the equivalent of those strata-bond necks. The only thing that has changed is the type of glue used.
I've always preferred a neck with a center lam over a 1-piece neck- even though a 1 pc. neck can stay straight forever, a lamination really stiffens a neck a lot, and does reduce the chances of warpage. But any neck can warp- if a laminated neck warps, it's way harder to get right again.
regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.

desert rose - Posted - 07/25/2009:  17:37:22


Mike

Not to sidetrack this good topic but

Any chance you will be comming to ibma. Id love to sit and chew over the history our parrallel jobs, bet it would be interesting

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com

justryin2play - Posted - 07/25/2009:  18:23:16


quote:
Originally posted by stanger

You guys are barking up the WRONG tree!

The reason Gibson is holding the garage sale is because they are moving out of the Gibson Showcase mall. That is the only reason why the OMI division was moved out. It was part of a larger plan that never panned out.

Back around 1995, Gibson's top management rented the mall in hopes of making it a metro alternate to the Opryland site. The original intention was to use it as recording studios, TV studios, an alternate stage to the old Ryman for live performance, and to use as a convention/reception/events center.

The reason why the OMI production was moved there was to provide a steady tourist draw; tourists could watch the workers through the glass walls that separated them from the working spaces. This idea was first floated some years earlier for the Montana Guitar Custom shop- the management was going to buy the old Northern Pacific train depot, and put the custom shop in it. This was intended to be a tourist draw and a showroom.

The reason why Nashville became the place was due to other plans that were instituted at the same time.

Gibson, for a brief time, tried out a bar/restaurant operation that was similar to the Hard Rock Café outfits. One of these Gibson cafés was going to be in the mall. The Hard Rock thing failed in their trial location downtown, and eventually, the management decided to stick to making instruments and not get into the bar business. The original plan was to buy the mall, with a rent-to-own agreement, but after buying Baldwin, the purchase was never made. So now, the lease is up, and Gibson is moving out.

Cut what Scott said in stone. The last word I heard firsthand, as of the end of May, was the plans for the OMI division were still undecided. The banjo, mando and dobro production may stop, may move to the big factory in Nashville, or to Memphis, or to Montana, or it may get it's own facility. All of these alternatives are speculation only by me. The only thing that is certain is OMI has moved out of the Showcase mall.

But Gibsons will NEVER be made offshore, period. While the banjo division is very small, remember that the Gibson electric guitars are huge, world-wide, and the cache of the Made in the USA is vitally important to their continued success. There will never be a Gibson Mastertone banjo made overseas, and there will never be a Gibson mandolin made overseas. Epiphone China will never make a Mastertone under the present management.

Like Martin did in the late 80's, with their Shenandoah guitars, Gibson experimented briefly with using imported Epi parts and American finish and assembly, but neither company stuck with that for long. I was working for them during this time, and the Epiphone/Gibson experiment only lasted 3 months or so.

Feel free to speculate on Epi product improvement, or whether Gibson will be sold, or what you will. But Gibson branded banjos will never be made anywhere but the USA. I think there is a possibility of an American shop taking over the banjo production, but I also think this is a rather slim possibility, as there has never been a time when a Gibson employee, working for Gibson didn't lay hands on a Gibson product.

This is not to say that Gibson employees would be in charge of setting up only Gibson brand banjos, though....
chew on that one for a while- you still might bark up the wrong tree, but at least you'll be in the right forest.

regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.



Hmmmmm, could they be wanting to bring back an infamous HO member who helped to turn around the brand some 15-20 years ago ?

Interesting post stanger.....

Sultans of Claw - Posted - 07/25/2009:  18:38:43


quote:
Originally posted by stanger

There is nothing new under the sun. I've seen very old banjos with the equivalent of those strata-bond necks. The only thing that has changed is the type of glue used.
I've always preferred a neck with a center lam over a 1-piece neck- even though a 1 pc. neck can stay straight forever, a lamination really stiffens a neck a lot, and does reduce the chances of warpage. But any neck can warp- if a laminated neck warps, it's way harder to get right again.



How about a Stratabond neck with a carbon fiber reinforcement?

Lee Callicutt

goldtopia - Posted - 07/25/2009:  23:10:41


The way the American economy is going a lot more things are going over to China. Its just a matter of time before Gibson goes too. That does not mean that Gibson banjos will not be as good, it just means they will be made in China.

Bill.O

www.bluegrassminstrels.co.uk

Retropicker - Posted - 07/26/2009:  06:09:36


quote:
Originally posted by justryin2play
[



Hmmmmm, could they be wanting to bring back an infamous HO member who helped to turn around the brand some 15-20 years ago ?

Interesting post stanger.....


[/quote]

I'd pay to watch that one. All 20 minutes of it while it lasted.

____Keep the hay in Bluegrass__________________________

El Dobro - Posted - 07/26/2009:  08:45:02


quote:
Originally posted by oldwoodchuckb

Gibson is probably going to steal a march on everyone and have them made in North Korea - where labour is 3.5 cents an hour.


That would make me Il.

Don
http://www.myspace.com/eldobro
http://www.myspace.com/pasttimesband
http://www.pasttimesbluegrassband.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/pasttimesbluegrass

myfavefive - Posted - 07/26/2009:  09:11:02


quote:
There will never be a Gibson Mastertone banjo made overseas,


That's good to hear Mike; thanks for a former insider's view.

Given that the market for $3000+ quality banjos is squeezed tight these days, I'm sure everything's on the table for consideration. Bu what % market share does Gibson still have in that price range?

In addition to Gibson, add up Deering, Stelling, Ome, Crafters, Huber, Sullivan, Nechville, RK, Prucha, Hatfield, Yates, Williams, Desert Rose, Chief, LouZee, Cox, Neat, Fawley and others. Would love an estimate on these 2 questions?

A) Roughly how many high end banjos (maybe $3000+) are being sold per year?

B) What % of that is still Gibson?

Tom

o2playlikeEarl - Posted - 07/26/2009:  16:08:21


I always wondered what a bamboo banjo would sound like? wonder where they'll get the Curly maple and mohogany? I don't think those trees are found in china? Plus - The Chinese are moving away from our T-Bills and beginning to buy real assets. WHo'd want to hold our debt with the current stupidity in Washington!

desert rose - Posted - 07/26/2009:  17:35:20


Actually Chinese curly maple is WONDERFUL, its being used in many instruments for example Eastman guitars and mandolins and rivals the BEST European violin maple. And the Chinese top violins are in amazing demand by the top concert violinists in Europe

ALL instrument makers worldwide are on a level playing field as far as materials, there are no guitar or banjo makers in South America or Africa to take advantage of where the trees grow. Indian rosewood grown only there so everybody has to get in line to buy the best material

And the Chinese are doing just that as can be seen in Blueridge Guitars, RK guitars and banjos and Goldstar banjos

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com

The Old Timer - Posted - 07/26/2009:  18:06:32


Anybody on the HO into fine knives? Fine knife manufacturing is FLOODING to China. Very fine, patented US designs, fully licensed, etc., made completely TO SPEC in China. Selling in US at a SMALL FRACTION of the cost of US made. And they're finding ways around stamping "Made in China" on the product (usually by stamping this on the shipping box instead).

You don't have to like it or dislike it. Try to buy a pair of shoes made in America now (or work boots). When your competition goes to China, you must go or die.

Like it or not, give a well chosen Chinese factory the specs and set up the quality control, you will get a QUALITY product that will vastly undersell the same thing made in US. And you might have to check the BOX to find out if it was made in China.

Just a matter of time, really.

The Old Timer, still learning!


Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/26/2009 18:06:58

The Old Timer - Posted - 07/26/2009:  18:09:10


For the record, I DON'T like it. I've watched "my industry", the paper industry, move to China since the Chinese decided to go capitalist, and especially since they found out they could buy any technology/expertise they wanted. Maybe I should say since they found out there is no manufacturer who WON'T sell their technology!

The Old Timer, still learning!

desert rose - Posted - 07/26/2009:  19:23:43


Never forget one important point

Just like the Japanese before them the Chinese are VERY good students, they learned capitalism from US, whatever they do however they do it the model was invented by us

You are exactly right about quality, the Chinese have awoke and again just like the Japanese before them realized that there is a huge market building quality.

The stereotype Chinese piece of junk products are and will be moving to places like India in the forseeable future while the percent of quality product increases

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com

stanger - Posted - 07/27/2009:  05:28:10


Hi, Tom...
I honestly don't know how many banjos costing over $3000 are sold.
It is a really hard question to answer completely, too- to really find the answer, the purchase of used instruments at that price point might need to be factored into the answer. 'Used' as a term includes everything right now- shopworn, new old stock, closure sale prices, you name it. 'Vintage' is just as vague now, too.

How many banjos sold in a year isn't necessarily reflective as to how many are made in the same year. Orders slow in a downturn, and banjos aren't like pizzas- they don't go bad sitting in a showroom or warehouse, and a 3 year old banjo that has never been sold at retail is still a new instrument.

On the other side, a new banjo, made within the past 6 months of the current year, can still be sold as soon as it arrives. Either one can easily be in exactly the same 'new' condition.

All I really know about Gibson banjo sales is they decreased over the past 3-4 years. I don't know by how much, but I have some of my own guesses- I would rather not post my guesstimates, because I could be way off the mark, and empty speculation does no good for either Gibson players, potential customers, or the Gibson company.

I think one thing is sure. If Gibson decides to halt banjo production for a while, they can do it and can come back strong if they want to re-enter the market. Unlike the smaller and less well-known makers, the Gibson brand name has a lot of lasting power. Individual banjo makers have to keep their products moving to stay in business, but Gibson has quit making banjos before.

Their wide and varied product line allows them to do it and come back later with a better product. The Montana shop is an example of this philosophy- it was built specifically for improving well-loved Gibson flat-top acoustic guitars, and it succeeded very well. Once the Montana shop went into full production, it took 3 years to clear the backorders.

Gibson may have decided to concentrate on only their best selling products for a while, during these hard times. If they stop banjo production, that could be wise, even if their share of the market decreases from what it once was.

There is nothing at all certain that other makers will dominate the market, either. In my 47 years of involvement with the banjo, I have never seen so many small factories and individual makers reach the level of prominence I see now. In the past, there were far fewer banjo makers around, and there was no parts industry developed that allowed individuals of any skill level to build a good quality banjo from the ground up, buying all semi-finished to fully finished parts only.

For sure, some of the small makers are going to leave the business. Making banjos isn't a real high-profit proposition, if they can't be made in sufficient numbers to provide living wages to all who are involved, no matter what country the banjos come from. The skills and technology needed to make a banjo can easily be applied to other instruments that sell better, quicker, and easier.
regards,
Stanger


quote:
Originally posted by myfavefive

quote:
There will never be a Gibson Mastertone banjo made overseas,


That's good to hear Mike; thanks for a former insider's view.

Given that the market for $3000+ quality banjos is squeezed tight these days, I'm sure everything's on the table for consideration. Bu what % market share does Gibson still have in that price range?

In addition to Gibson, add up Deering, Stelling, Ome, Crafters, Huber, Sullivan, Nechville, RK, Prucha, Hatfield, Yates, Williams, Desert Rose, Chief, LouZee, Cox, Neat, Fawley and others. Would love an estimate on these 2 questions?

A) Roughly how many high end banjos (maybe $3000+) are being sold per year?

B) What % of that is still Gibson?

Tom



The pen is mightier than the pigs.

stanger - Posted - 07/27/2009:  05:35:17


Hi, Scott...
Yup- it would be interesting for both of us, for sure. We tend to agree on really a lot of things.
IBMA is a long hike for me, though, and although I still love bluegrass, my playing interests have diverged pretty far away from just bluegrass... I play more fiddle tunes, show tunes, Classic tunes and other stuff much more these days, so I really don't have a big fire in my belly to go to IBMA- I can get my bluegrass fix much closer to home.

I hope you have a good time there, though, and I hope I'll have a chance to play some of the new RK products shortly! I have definitely noticed a steady improvement in RK production for the past 18 months or so, and I agree with everything you wrote about the need for a steady American presence in supervising the Asian factories.
regards,
Stanger

quote:
Originally posted by desert rose

Mike

Not to sidetrack this good topic but

Any chance you will be comming to ibma. Id love to sit and chew over the history our parrallel jobs, bet it would be interesting

Scott

Desert Rose Musical Instruments
www.desertrosebanjo.com




The pen is mightier than the pigs.

stanger - Posted - 07/27/2009:  05:52:54


Hi, Bill...
Nope. Won't happen. While the offshore manufacturing thing has happened widely in most American industry, Gibson is swimming against that stream and always has. Gibson has been importing Asian products for 35 years now, but none have borne the Gibson name, and none ever will.

Epiphone has carved out a big niche of it's own, and the Epi association with Gibson is the single thing that keeps the Epi brand tight in the competitive race, just as the Fender name does for Fender products.

Gibson may end up being a much smaller company in terms of the volume of products built, but just as with Fender and Martin, there is no gain for them to brand imported banjos with their premium brand name, and they have everything to lose by doing so. People are still willing to buy an American-made Fender at twice the price of a comparable imported Fender, and Martin still sells their top-line guitars that have a lot of hand work. Gibson still sells ES-335's, even if Epiphone makes a guitar that's almost as good.

It's more than just numbers. For the manufacturer, as long as the money is the same, the prestige factor tends to rule. Gibson makes the same money selling several (don't know how many- a half-dozen, maybe?) Epiphones as it does on the sale of one Gibson, and as long as there are buyers for the Epiphones, Gibson needs to have a product line the Epi buyers can aspire to- an American handmade instrument with a well-known reputation of durability, reliability, with good tone and action- and that's a Gibson.
regards,
Stanger

quote:
Originally posted by goldtopia

The way the American economy is going a lot more things are going over to China. Its just a matter of time before Gibson goes too. That does not mean that Gibson banjos will not be as good, it just means they will be made in China.

Bill.O

www.bluegrassminstrels.co.uk



The pen is mightier than the pigs.

stanger - Posted - 07/27/2009:  06:36:34


A last thought...
The business practices and models of the past 20 years are not working as they once did, and business philosophies are changing as Americans are becoming thrifty again.

I don't know how the banjo world is going to change, but it will, with no doubt.

A few personal observations:
When I started playing, back in the stone age, very few players owned more than 2 banjos at most. One was usually a cheap one, and the other a good one. The good one was most often the last banjo ever purchased, and most of the good banjos were not the top models of a company's line... they tended to have simple cosmetics but good tone and playability.

When I began teaching in 1971, it was extraordinarily rare to see a beginner learning on a pro-level instrument. This was just before the Japanese began making the first banjos that broke the price/quality barrier, but later, all that really changed was beginners packing in better banjos to learn on.

Most of these early students of mine are still playing the banjos they bought 30 years ago, if they are still playing. In the past decade, some of them have talked to me about higher-priced banjos that they'd like to buy, but they are still keeping their good Japanese banjos that they learned on.

I'm seeing many more middle-aged beginners who come in with several really expensive banjos that they don't know how to play. For these folks, it's apparent that they are as much interested in the banjo as an art object, a personal prize or award of some kind, or a prestige item, as they are in making music.

There is also an expectation among recent beginners that the banjo alone will make the music, if it's just expensive enough. There is often a much lower level of time they are willing to commit to becoming a good player.

And there is a lot more disappointment I hear these days from beginners who feel they aren't progressing as fast as they think they should. There seems to be a more common belief today that the banjo can easily be mastered, or an opposite belief that it is so impossibly difficult to master that it's an impossible goal to attempt. There is much less joy in learning a simple tune that becomes well played- more folks want to be Earl Scruggs or nothing before the year is out.

...and I see the Hangout chock full of this stuff.

In comparison, I just talked yesterday to an old friend, a guitar player who highly renowned around these parts. He is still playing the guitar he bought at age 15- an Martin that cost him everything he saved for years, and was 5 years old when he bought it. His guitar isn't a pre-war, and is no better or worse than others made the same year. He has had a love/hate relationship with the guitar for 50 years because it was always hard to play, and still is.

It's the only guitar he's ever owned. He had the neck re-set a few years ago, and had the frets replaced about 20 years ago. sThe guitar is legendary now, and he's turned down ridiculously high offers to sell it.

So what's different about this guy? It's simple. He bought a good musical tool at a young age, and learned how to use it exceedingly well. Like any conscientious craftsman, he took good care of his tool, but used the hell out of it. The guitar is not the true legend, it's him. In his view, he could have purchased another guitar back then, and if it had suited as well, he would have used that one, instead. He thinks those people who have offered him huge money for his old guitar are crazy, because they seem to think there is magic in there, someplace. To him, it's only a good-enough tool, no more, no less. He doesn't love it- he uses it.

So- what do you folks think? This is a good topic for another thread.
regards,
Stanger


The pen is mightier than the pigs.

Big Joe - Posted - 07/27/2009:  19:21:13


There has always been many decrying the demise of the Gibson brand or prophesying it being made in China. That has not happened and the loss of Ed and other great workers at OAI does not indicate any such move. While I hate to see my friends no longer employed, it is a part of life and with Gibson it is usually not a matter of "if" as much as a matter of "when", especially for management. I am certain sales have been slow for the OAI division as with all divisions of the big G. The same can be said for all the major manufacturers. Deering is trying all they can to increase sales, yet we can't give them away. The only banjos we have moved this year have been the Recording King (and I have several in stock now). Great product at a reasonable price. I think they rival the big G in tone and quality and certainly at a third of the price make them an incredible buy.

Still with all this, the OAI divison of Gibson does not produce enough sales to matter to the companies bottom line as a whole. It is one of the smaller divisions and is critical only to those of us who love the Bluegrass instruments. The Dobro line is no longer USA made, but then it dloes not say "Gibson" on the headstock. All divisions of Gibson have had some cutbacks to reduce expenses and make what cash that is available last a bit longer. All business owners know this difficult situation. When sales are slow and cash is hard to come by, the business must do what it must to survive. While I hear rumors often of the end of the big G, it has not happened yet. If it should at some time in the future I would certainly not rejoice by any means. Whatever one thinks of the ownership, there are many many many great men and women whose jobs and futures would be seriously impacted by such a terrible event. I personally hope they survive and are able to restore the product to the glory of previous days.

One this is certain at Gibson. Change is going to happen. Just when you think things are going well and the product is getting where it needs to be they management changes and things seem to move backwards. That has been the case for most of the last 50 years. While the Acoustic division in Montana has been building the best guitars in the history of Gibson acoustic for the last several years, some divisions have not fared so well. I hope these difficult times pass soon and we can all fuss about something really unimportant like what bridge is superior or what nut material is best, or what strings are better than the others than what makers are going by the wayside. Maybe I'm a bit optimistic, but I really hope it all works out and our friends at the Big G are still here another hundred years from now. This is just my opinion. Of course, I gave a lot of my life for the BIg G and hate to see something I worked so hard at fail for any reason!

"Big Joe" Vest

stanger - Posted - 07/28/2009:  03:43:58


Well said, Joe!

I suggest taking any rumors of Gibson's demise with a grain of salt. If you pay attention to the forum topics, the Gibson brand is always there somewhere, talking about old, new, or used. Often, Gibson topics are the only ones in some of the forum topics.

They're simply the big dog. With a brand name that has such a high level of recognition, I believe it is inevitable that the company will make banjos, even if they stop for a time. I'm also sure that the years the banjo production in the Mall provided many insights, good and bad, and I expect the new production facilities will adjust accordingly.

Taking a necessary break from banjo production may also allow Gibson to re-evaluate their banjo line. They've done it before, with good success.
regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.

Mopick - Posted - 07/28/2009:  07:55:02


I'm proud I have an AMERICAN made Gibson RB-3. I also have an old Epiphone guitar I've had since I was a kid. It says Kalamazoo Mich. on the label on the inside.

I bought a Johnson Carolina guitar a couple of years ago. I bought it because it was designed by G.R. patterned after a pre-war Martin with scalloped forward X-bracing, etc. It just feels Chinese. I can't explain it, but there's no quality to it, compared to my Gibson banjo, or even my Epiphone guitar. The first thing that happened was the tortoise pick guard started coming off. The edges of the frets feel like a saw on your fingers. I just don't really like it. I'm very interested in Martin's scaled back American guitar they are going to build to suit this economy. I'd rather have "no frills" American made, the Chinese with all the bells and whistles.

I live in the mountains.....
The mountainous region of Central Florida.
Sugarloaf Mountain; 312 feet above sea level.

Randy


Edited by - Mopick on 07/28/2009 08:02:04

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