90% of New Guitarists Quit in First Year, and That's Why Fender Is Going Digital

"We have a problem getting the consumers who buy their first guitar to commit for life."

logo
Ultimate Guitar
30

According to a new report, Fender is looking to further expand their work into digital realm in order to decrease the rate at which new guitarists are quitting the instrument.

As Tech Crunch notes, a very large figure of 90% of fresh guitar wielders drop out during their first year, and the company sees new digital tools as a proper way of getting the newbies engaged and ultimately increasing the number of clients.

CEO Andy Mooney stated: "We have a problem getting the consumers who buy their first guitar to commit for life. We just need to reduce abandonment of first-time players by 10% to double the industry."

To reach its goals, the company hired Ethan Kaplan as the new Chief Digital Products Officer. The man shared plans of using digital technology such as apps to ease "the journey from being a beginner to intermediate to being an advanced player."

At the moment, Kaplan is building a new tuning app, with more tools yet to come. The company's focal point is to make their product different than the competition by utilizing an array of personalization tools.

The report reads: "For example, if the tuner knows what kind of music you like, it could recommend different tuning configurations to try. Or if it knows what you're tuned to or what chords you know how to play, it could suggest tabs for songs you'll be able to quickly learn.

"If Fender's apps can hear your play or at least know how frequently you do, it could recommend you buy new guitar strings or one of its effects pedals. Shortcuts from app to app to products could keep players in the Fender ecosystem."

Ethan pointed out: "It's not just about making a tuning app, then another app, and another. It's about how do we build a product that does something more and enables the overall journey, not just the utility. It looks like the ties that bind a bunch of products together."

96 comments sorted by best / new / date

    iommi600
    I believe 80% of the 90% mentioned in the article also find out that girls don't really give a toss about the fact they can play "Wonderwall" and thus, quit.
    SuperGodzilla
    Is it sad that I'm not familiar with "Wonderwall"????
    slapsymcdougal
    It's possible that unfamiliarity stems from not going to shit parties where an asshole plays Wonderwall because he thinks it'll get some girl's knickers wringin'.
    Scarface88
    "If Fender's apps can hear your play or at least know how frequently you do, it could recommend you buy new guitar strings or one of its effects pedals."Imagine a not-too-distant-future dystopia where everything - even leisurely jamming on your guitar in your bedroom - is a sales pitch. Things like this are great ideas business-wise, but almost depressing to me.
    erikvduyn
    90%? That's both hilarious and sad.
    EthanWMedia
    I just accidentally downvoted your comment. Another option UG needs to add is the ability to change your vote. Seriously, they added the poop award but they still haven't added some of the basic functions of comment sections.
    pressureproject
    I down voted you and up voted him...problem solved.
    Arionbass13
    And I upvoted you... problem solver
    ggk
    well...
    stondagain
    *** WARNING: OLD GUY & GOOD OLD DAYS RANT *** I'm 46, and got my 1st guitar for my 13th birthday in 1982. I basically taught myself...my "lessons" were once a week paying a stoner $20 to watch him show off for 30 minutes, and then having him scribble some tab down. I learned to play by listening to songs...over and over and over (we're talking picking up the needle on the LP and dropping it down to repeat licks, kids.) When guitar mags came out, the tabs were fantastic & I sat for hours at a time in my room trying to learn "Bark at the Moon." We didn't have Youtube vids, and Guitar Pro, or any of these tools around today - that make it 1000 times easier to learn. Yet tons of kids I know get fed up & quit within a few months, because "practicing is boring." My point is, I had friends that all picked up the guitar at about the same time - and we are all still playing to this day! It was actually a skill to learn, not a race to see who could play the best the quickest. Kids today are such an instant-gratification lot - they want to play like Yngwie 6 months after picking up a guitar. Besides, why waste years learning to play an instrument when a dildo with a laptop can pack a club by copy & pasting MP3s together? *** OLD GUY RANT OVER ***
    jimmyjimbo72
    Agreed. I'm 25 and I don't wish to stereotype my generation, but an increasing proportion of the young demographic lacks patience and passion. I've been playing for 9 years because I love music, and I know other people my age who still play. What doesn't help is the propensity to follow trends; back in my teens the emo clique in my school all picked up the guitar; as soon as they outgrew that phase, they sold their instruments. It's a real shame.
    Zan595
    If you pick up a guitar and quit in the first year, I'm questioning your motives of picking it up in the first place. The real players and musicians commit to their instrument because they love it, and because it's fun.
    BlackRose93
    Well most people don't know what it takes to become a musician before they buy an instrument. And they don't pick one to become pros anyway, they just want to play some of their favorite tunes. Then, they realize that they don't have the patience/talent required for it and quit. There's no shame in it and it's not exlusive to music either. You can't blame people for trying.
    gabadi
    Exactly. At first playing guitar is extremely hard, but day after day you see progress, but after a few months it becomes less and less rewarding and you will feel that the hours you put into it just go to waste as you still can't play any better than before. Without a band or a teacher I can imagine people losing the motivation to play.
    CostasNoir
    This. Someone who falls in love with the guitar doesn't quit no matter what. Like Hendrix said "Sometimes you'll wanna give up the guitar, you're gonna hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you're gonna be rewarded."
    Wiencon
    Just implement "Demo" mode in guitars like it is in keyboards and the number will be down to 70% at least
    karstaag666
    They quit because there aren't any guitar heroes to inspire them that aren't seen as old man's music. Don't you start banging on about technical guitarists either, because lets face it, it was bands like Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Metallica, Green Day, Blink 182, and the sort that got people playing. When you take away the magic of 'rock gods' with your free music, and 'take for granted' consumer attitudes, don't be shocked when kids aren't inspired to become the next hero.
    pressureproject
    According to my 15 year old son, who has played on and off for about a year...he says it's too hard to concentrate with all the damn games and phone crap going on. Back 20-30 years ago, there wasn't a whole lot going on at the house, so it was easier to practice. Hell, I even find it hard with all the time I spend on this fucking website.
    Sixxstarr
    He just racks the disciprine. In all seriousness, it's very easy to shut your phone off and ignore people. I'm a 19 year old and I do it all the time. If he really had the drive to become a guitarist then he'd have no problem tossing his phone to the side and practicing for an hour.
    dennis.1960
    Ya, he just has to love playing/learning guitar more than his phone. Simple case of priorities.
    karstaag666
    Its more that he isn't inspired to be a great guitarist. Ask him who his favourite band is. Ask him if there is a song that screams out to him that he wants to play. When I was a kid, I started playing guitar because I thought the bands were awesome. I wanted to be a guitarist in a band. It wasn't "I just wanna know how to play a song", it was "I want to rock my ass off on stage".
    pressureproject
    He has a ton of influences...mostly the bands of the 90's. He constantly listens to music. There's no shortage of inspiration. It's just the focus. Even adults now days lack the focus.
    Stuck_Mojo_87
    I'm interested to know how they got their figures. 90% quit? How can they know that? What constitutes as "quitting?
    derpdragon
    I don't think it's really a bad idea if it's done right. They sound like they've got some pretty neat ideas, like string suggestions and tuning suggestions. It's just a matter of not filling the entire app with a bunch of ads and a bunch of "premium" options. Make it 100% free and ad free (or at least mostly free) and they've got a good product to help both themselves and their customers.
    beggar__
    By making it easier, kids will quit even sooner. IMHO it has to be hard. That's the point. YOU have to put something into it. If you don't want to do that, you will not play guitar well. Easy as that. Fuck technology, make kids want it more. Change THEM, not the world around them. It comes from the soul, not from these computery thingys.
    travislausch
    "If Fender's apps can hear your play or at least know how frequently you do, it could recommend you buy new guitar strings or one of its effects pedals. Shortcuts from app to app to products could keep players in the Fender ecosystem."
    Fucking corporate shills. But really, that kind of advertising just depresses me. I mean, I'm all for finding new ways to keep kids interested in making music, and maybe I'm an old hag for thinking this way, but if you want something good in life, YOU FUCKING WORK FOR IT!!! You grind through endless hours of absolutely fucking SUCKING at something until you've practiced it enough that you get good at it. This is just giving people instant gratification or telling them to buy things when none of that has any fucking impact on your playing.
    pluginxbabyy
    My first guitar was a Fender Squier Strat. I hated the fucking thing and quit for two years before forcing myself to try again with a different guitar. I'm now 13 years into it and every time I pick up a Squier, it frustrates the hell out of me. Maybe don't market shitty instruments to beginners? Have them start with a quality instrument to make them WANT to be good enough for it.
    Diego Carnero
    Going through that pain in the ass is probably what separates pasioned people from the rest. I have a squier too and for 2 years was the only thing I had, but I learned from scrath in that shit, and I like it because of that, even though some times (always) it was hard to play
    pressureproject
    You are right on. I didn't really start getting good until I got a real guitar. I, too, had a Squire and I hated the hell out of it. I even broke the neck to get my mom to get me another one. Well, it didn't work and I had to buy a Warmoth neck...ugh. What that p.o.s. Squire did do was make me get my first job so I could get a Jackson...then Ibanez. It was history after that. I improved tenfold in half the time.
    PRSTremontiSE
    This. Play a guitar that makes you want to play, not some plywood that buzzed and cuts your hands with the edge of the frets.
    Pastafarian96
    I got by on borrowed acoustic guitars for ages but then for my 16th christmas (yes, that's the terminology I'm using) I went halves with my parents in buying a Gibson SG. I love that guitar still and learning on something I loved made me want to play and practice more and more.
    jpnyc
    I bet at least 25% of the quitters gave up because of the horrible interfaces on their Fender Mustang amps.
    Candlewolf
    Doesn't Rocksmith do this in a slightly more fun way? I bought it simply to learn some songs I would never sit down and learn otherwise because I don't listen to those styles of music. The mini-games they have also are reasonably entertaining ways to work on some tedious skill building exercises. You would be good enough at guitar after 3 months on Rocksmith to never want to quit. And I think you'll find 90% of people who try anything quit within the first year. I've quit lots of stuff I tried within weeks, let alone 12 months. Except masturbation.
    ArthurDeGraef
    I quit for about a year and then half a year again. When you start playing, there's all this people that can play faster and/or better than you or can play more chords etc. Those people refused to share their knowledge and I was left frustrated. I stopped playing, picked it up again by coincidence and now I'm in a band, not planning to stop playing, either.
    jimmyjimbo72
    These are also the guys who make direct eye contact with you as they play, right? You know, to ensure that you react appropriately. Really hated these guys.
    freedomfan01
    I can"t be the only one here whose had a friend who begged to be taught to play guitar then just went back to playing video games the next day...
    Morenciel
    90%? Logic, you must be stubborn and keep playing. I know two guys who have ceased to play guitar in a year and the reason they gave me is that they did not learn fast enough. They probably wanted to play like Stevie Ray Vaughan after two months.
    Artturi
    How is this news? Playing guitar is just another hobby. I'm guessing at least 90% of people who try any hobby don't even do it a second time. Also, who the fuck buys a Fender for a first guitar anyway?
    ripper992
    Fender hired a new Chief Digital Products Officer and is now looking to invest more into digital products - news, actual guitar news even. Fender isn't just Fender. Fender (the company) owns Squier, Jackson, Gretsch, Charvel, Guild, Takoma etc, so yeah, there's a pretty good chance that someone's first guitar will come from the Fender family (Squier most likely).
    AkisIsHere
    (0)_(0)
    Barricade_28
    New guitarists quit because they quickly find out that playing the guitar is pretty hard. There isn't a 90% quit rate on Guitar Hero. Digital apps aren't going to make the guitar easier to play.
    NubPlayer
    We quit because we can't find no one to play with, not because it's "hard" get off your high horse.
    Andy949494
    Learning guitar is hard and takes a lot of practice. The problem is finding something that keeps you practicing and learning and enjoying it. I love the guitar and play lots but I am sure if I had a guitar teacher like my clarinet teacher when I was a kid I would have given up real soon! In my case I found a teacher whose music taste was like mine and I enjoyed my once a week lessons. Every lesson was different. He also showed me that I loved playing jams with others and the school did several mini concerts in the pub every year as mini goals. I believe mini goals are essential for learning students (grades or concerts or jams it doesn't matter just something to look forward too). I believe a lot can be done with apps to improve learning and practice for the beginner & intermediate. The intensity of learning can be maintained much easier than from a book etc. I have found Rocksmith really good but it certainly wasn't love at first sight. It took a lot of time to get into it (>30 days at a over an hour/day I would guess). I suspect people who subscribe to Jamplay etc could also benefit in a similar way... Like many my first electric guitar was a squire affinity strat and I was very impressed (with the squier) that when I bough a £700 Gibson that it wasn't much easier to play - a little but not much. Certainly not enough to make any difference even now. However the Acoustic I had was horrible. Ok for open chords but miles of space between the strings and the fretboard at the 5th fret and beyond and it was loud and boomy so all your mistakes were amplified...
    HOISTT
    What about your standard music store salesperson that doesn't realize that a 25.5 inch scale or even a 24.75 is not the guitar for a 12 year old with small hands learn on. Sell them a 24 inch jazz or jag ect! Ohh wait most guitar center type store employees don't even know why I made this comment and the store doesn't care if you play it or not ! todays sales numbers is all that matters !!! board room mentality
    Borees
    .....because they're lazy and have no ability to defer gratification
    Borees
    Well, I quit clarinet when I was a kid, does that count?!!!!!
    kelvinjk
    I was inspired by Jimmy Page and Angus Young. Then Eddie Van Halen, then Santana and Satriani and the list goes on - truly AWESOME guitar oriented edgy rock songs ... There were no apps, no dvds, only crappy books, and I fired my only guitar instructor cause he refused to teach me Whole Lotta Love ...
    fte85
    Just keep on making the mustangs and il be a happy man. The mustangs are spectacular if you want to keep things simple and affordable.
    derp-mertal
    Or because the girls they were trying to impress commits herself to another guy..
    deathroman13
    I am a girl playing lead guitar in a band. There are also women playing guitar you know.
    jimmyjimbo72
    I think derp-metal was pointing out the stereotype of guys learning guitar to pick up girls. It was just a joke. Either that or it has recently happened to him.
    Diego Carnero
    Aside of guitarrist who seek girls, I can't undertand all the people who play guitar but aren't into guitar-oriented music, and the same goes for every instrument. I just can't see what would motivate these people to keep playing
    Tengal
    Well, seeing how accessible the guitar (acoustic or electric) is that number is hardly surprising. Let them drop out or grab another instrument, this whole patting on the back mentality is a bit funny lol.
    emptheband
    90% of people quit? Where has that stat been plucked from? I can't seem to find the source of this 'report'.
    ironingman41
    90% quit cos theyre all pussies that have no determination or self discipline. Either put the hours in or fuck off.
    KroniX
    If you quit in the first year, then you don't really love music. Every body else starts a rubbish band and tries because they love what they do. There is the initial period where you sound crap (everybody does) but you got to plow through and learn. But that is just a life skill. You suck at your job on your first day, week, month... Thats why you learn. You get training (i.e. guitar lessons, or teach yourself with a book). If people don't understand that skill requires learning, and repeatative practise, then how can a new product fix that? Its a life skill..... Unless you want to try dubstep that is... Don't need a guitar for that!
    chris schroeder
    Fortunatly my 14 year old has the same passion for playing and practicing to get better as i do no apps needed
    yamiryu.satamar
    How about figuring out why people have such a hard time figuring out how scales connect and go vertical and horizontal on the board? How about finding a way to make complex chords easier to learn and memorize? I've struggled with guitar for seven years now and I can't seem to get anything to stick in my head or my fingers. I feel like a fuck up, and not for lack of trying.
    tonello
    I got my first guitar at age 10. I played for about three weeks, then I gave it up until middle school/ high school when I started playing again. And the band that got me into playing again was Metallica. We need more bands that inspire the new guys. There's no good guitar based rock bands. All they are is just vocals that happen to have guitar in the background.
    dualjcm5150
    That's not entirely true . There's enough metal/hard rock bands today that kids listen to. And even if they're not into the new stuff, 'Tallica is still around.
    Tengal
    What the fuck lol. Guitar wankery is at its peak. Tons of bands with shitty vocals and nothing interesting to sing about though.
    Cheesepuff
    ahh the aftermath of guitar hero either yo this is fun ill try real guitar whoops i suck nevermind or yo this is fun but its hard ill just play guitar hero
    Pit_
    I bet Fender's solution is to make everything more expensive and add digital gizmos on the guitars. Now where did I see that one fail before? Hmmm... (hint: Gibson)
    korinaflyingv
    People quit instruments, it's no big deal. If you can't be arsed/don't have the talent to learn, no amount of digital shit is going to help.