from Wired News and William Hochberg:

The music business is big; the musical instrument business (both new and used) is really big. They feed off of one another like the snake eating it’s own tail. A kid sees a performer using a particular guitar and that axe becomes part of a dream. They start saving up (or ask Daddy for it) and find that the actual guitar is a pretty pricey deal. They often have to settle for a knock off, a student model or another manufacturer’s take on that shape or style.

Some shapes are nearly iconic; the Fender Strat, The Gibson Les Paul, The Marshall Amp… these items are protected by copyrights and the companies go to court to protect themselves from the copycats. It’s the same as any large business trying to protect their marketshare. The other aspect is the fact that the feel and sound of these instruments is unique; even the companies who make them have a hard time copying their own successes. The vintage gear market is a wild and woolly place where hundreds of thousands of dollars can be spent for a single used item.

Now in the digital age we have computers that sample and “model” these classic sounds, attempting to recreate the tone and timbre of guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, effects pedals and even microphones. With Pro Tools software there are “plug ins” that attempt to resemble these classic sounds. We are now looking at a generation of listeners who have always heard computer corrected music and frown at the buzzy, imperfect, out of tune records of the 60’s and 70’s. They figure they can just fix it in the mix or “take it into Pro Tools”. Even in live music the makers of Pro Tools are building sound consoles that use the plug ins that shape and change the sounds coming from the stage.

I wish the following article would go a little further as this is a subject that every backline guy is intimately aware of. Does toting around a collector’s item on the road and subjecting it to the elements, aging and the danger of damage or theft really make a difference to the fans or just the performer? Have we finally reached a point where a little digital box isn’t only more convenient than an old clunky heavy delicate amp but actually sounds as good? Can we measure the value of sales when we hand a particular “free” guitar to a musician that he really doesn’t care about and his fans see it and then buy it?

Maybe I should have wrote the article…

Copy Instruments, Not Music.