Unplugged

Rockin’ out with the Art & Lutherie Roadhouse,
bought from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

Though guitar sales are rocking out, Guitar Center is not.

The nation’s largest retailer of musical instruments has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to The New York Times.

It’s a sad tune. Bain Capital got its Mitthooks into the company back in 2007, and surprise surprise! The company wound up larded with debt. Throw in a late entry into e-commerce, some tough online competition, and a bout of The Bug®, and what you wind up with is “The Last Waltz” scored for private equity and hedge fund.

My Seagull Entourage Mini Jumbo, bought used from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by year’s end, according to The Times. But for anyone who has enjoyed working there, or shopping there, a press release contains a caveat:

While Guitar Center is pleased with its overall store footprint, the Company has engaged A&G Realty Partners to explore opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio and other agreements to focus on investments that best position the Company to return to its growth trajectory prior to COVID-19.

Speaking of caveats, the lyrics to “Forward Looking Statements,” one of the press release’s greatest hits, will sound familiar to any lawyers in the audience:

This press release includes “forward looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward looking statements express our current expectations, opinion, belief or forecasts of future events and performance. A statement identified by the use of forward-looking words including “may,” “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimate,” “will,” “should,” and certain of the other foregoing statements may be deemed forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual future activities and results to be materially different from those suggested or described in this press release. By issuing forward looking statements based on current expectations, opinions, views or beliefs, the Company has no obligation and, except as required by law, is not undertaking any obligation, to update or revise these statements or provide any other information relating to such statements.

Wall Street should give that an 85. It’s got a good beat, and a Suit can dance to it.

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14 Responses to “Unplugged”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Ahh. Vulture Capitalism strikes again.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ayup. I did a little bit of business with Guitar Center over the years, in Bibleburg and ’Burque, and their employees were always pleasant and helpful. They weren’t exactly your mom-and-pop shop, and I don’t know what they were like to work for, but I felt like my money was well spent.

    • Dale Says:

      Bain Capital (what an apt name) – the bane of any business they target. Me remembers a certain Mitt Romney was part of that organization a few years ago.

      Now the best part – “the Company has engaged A&G Realty Partners to explore opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio and other agreements to focus on investments that best position the Company to return to its growth trajectory prior to COVID-19”.

      Really? With retail stores hemmoraging cash, shopping malls emptying of shoppers and stores closing – where the hell is the opportunity to optimize its real estate portfolio? Can you smell bullshit here? Not to mention that online sellers have grabbed all of the lightweight sales. My little town has demolished one mall years ago, and will probably do another soon. The last stores that signed leases opted for outside entrance only in order to reduce costs.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        You should see the strip centers around the Duke City. Got more gaps in ’em than a hillbilly’s grin. The Guitar Center here sits right next door to a Staples that looks equally doomed.

        I don’t suppose we could convert all these big-box vacancies into, y’know, housing for the homeless, emergency dormitories for Plague sufferers who can’t find a bed in the hospital, that sort of thing.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Got to love those guitfiddles made in Canadia! But that beautiful Seagull balanced on that stool made me nervous! Guitar Center was already in the financial shit in 2007, and owed Fender a shitload of money, when the Bain vultures smelled the stink. I’m surprised it took 13 years for them to pick the Guitar Center bones and shit out the remains.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It was probably a low-priority meal for Bain. Now watch ’em sell all the real estate and move the whole shebang online like Sweetwater.

      I’ve never done business with Sweetwater, being a total guitar noob and uncomfortable with buying an instrument all random-like.

      It was nice to lay hands on product at Guitar Center, get some advice from dudes who could play. Kind of like buying a bike used to be when I was still new at it. Take ’er out for a spin!

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        It’s my opinion that buying a guitar online is a risky business. I did it once, from Sweetwater, and regretted it. It was a Godin 5th Avenue, and there are no Godin dealers in Tucson that stock anything but a few acoustics, usually Seagulls. You have to play a guitar, check the action, and make sure it fits you both in tone and size. Sweetwater is a great place to buy anything else you need like picks, strings, stands, and on and on. They have first class customer service and a selection of stuff that boggles the mind. That is where I bought my SM-58 and 57 mikes. Rainbow Guitars is 80 miles away and I am not driving that far for strings. No where in this town to get them. But if I am in Tucson for anything else, we always stop there. As long as Rainbow is open, I would not buy a guitar anywhere else in AZ.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I’ve bought some gear from B&H in Noo Yawk. Mostly podcasting and video stuff — mics, headphones, audio interfaces, digital recorders, cables, adapters, and the like. They’ve been very reliable. And you don’t really need to lay hands on that stuff.

        But a guitar you want to touch, especially if it’s one you can’t afford. Or play worth a damn.

        (Plink PLANK plunk buzz FWANG)

        “Arrrrooooooo wowr rowr yowr. …”

        “Jesus, lookit what that ol’ baldheaded sumbitch is doing to that Martin D-35. That’s just criminal.”

  3. DownhillBill Says:

    Ordered my Seagull S6 from the local GC store as I wanted one with the pickup, which they didn’t have in stock there. The first one came in with a bashed edge, which clearly did NOT happen in shipping. No problem with the second.

    Ordered my Squire bass from Sweetwater. You get to see multiple pictures of each actual instrument they have in stock, pick the one you like. Not the same as getting your hands on it, to be sure (especially for an acoustic instrument), but I have a lot more faith in their multi-step inspection process. The other advantage they have is that you always deal with the same sales person, who is also an actual musician. I’m completely pleased with my guy.

    Two advantages to having the built-in electronics on an acoustic: (1) the tuner is always right there, and (B) when the strings sound crappy, but you don’t feel like changing them right then, just plug in and turn up the treble a tad. Problem solved, no waiting.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Onboard tuners are neat, and my Ovation and Rainsong have them. But the Taylor doesn’t. Snark to the rescue. Sweetwater is very good, and Devin is my sales engineer there. Last time he called me, we talked for 20 minutes about bikes. A cyclist who also is a drummer. Gives cadence a whole new meaning.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I have Fishman electronics in my Roadhouse but have never used ’em. I sound bad enough without amplification.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Me too Patrick. Loud doesn’t make bad any better unless you are a heavy metal power chord player. But, Fishman pickups and preamps are good stuff according to many players. And their acoustic amps are super popular. My buddy Alan has one. My Rainsong has L.R. Baggs electronics, and the 2005 Ovation has their own pickups and preamps as always.

  4. Opus the Poet Says:

    I want to know why Mitt hasn’t been charged with murder since “Corporations are people”?

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