No, no, no. This is not a good sign. I wish we were being punked but it appears that pinch squeals and powers chords are on the decline. According to a recent data release from Music Trades, electric guitar sales have fallen by 22.7% over the past decade. Did I miss the memo that rock and roll is no longer cool? That can’t be it.
Sales have dropped from around 1.5 million units annually to just over 1 million. There are a couple possible explanations for this. In the 10 years that the sales dropped by such a significant amount, the average price of an electric guitar rose from $390 to $525. The problem here, is the price point is too high for younger buyers. While the increase would bring in money if relative sales stay the same, the price tag just isn’t affordable to some. The next Jimi Hendrix or Dave Mustaine may be out there but are forever lost due to the lack of entry level guitars.
However, I think the real issue is more dire than this. You don’t really need to get your hands dirty to make music anymore. I spent years and years practicing how to play the guitar. Now, some 10 year old can download an app on their mom’s iPad, throw together some loops, and BAM! They’ve made a song, with little knowledge, and no skill. Not to disparage digital recording – I think it’s a great way to experiment – but the adage, you have to learn to walk before you can run, holds true even here.
Waning attention spans have us looking for the quick fix. But when it comes to music, you have to practice. Practice till your fingers feel like they’ll fall off, until your drum sticks split in half and until your spit valve creates a swamp at your feet.
However, despite the lower electric guitar sales, acoustics are on the rise! So maybe it’s not that people aren’t willing to put in work or can’t afford them. It could just be a shift in tastes. Rock and roll isn’t the god of genres like it used to be. We don’t have as many influential guitar legends nowadays as there were in the 70’s through the 90’s. It very well could be the push for analog, that we see in the rise of vinyl sales, is also reflected in instrument sales. People are returning to the roots of music before electricity. Furthermore, bands like Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men and George Ezra have proved that people are very much into that acoustic feel.
So, while it may be a little disheartening for a metal-head like myself to see electric guitar sales dip, I know that rock and roll will stay alive. They’re just not as popular as they once were and that’s okay. But next time you flick on your amp, give it a little extra volume for the electric guitars that never found an owner.