Gibson Guitars hits a low note

Brie Coder, Courier Staff

For several years now, Gibson Guitars and its brand have been in the spotlight, for not so great reasons. Recently, Gibson Brand Inc. made headlines about the company facing bankruptcy after 116 years in busness. Although the main focus has been on the financial issues within the company, workers as well as musicians have also come out and discussed the issues they have with the company itself.

Gibson Brand Inc. has $500 million in corporate debt, which will need to be paid by July 23 in order for the company to remain in business. Because of this huge hit of debt, the Standard & Poor, a financial service company, has given the company a CCC-minus rating. The CCC is Cash Conversion Cycle, which measures effectiveness within a company.

Gibson came back with a statement saying that they would be able to refinance, especially since the company is improving its profitability and recently paid back $20 million of its debt. Though the company is playing off this controversy, there are other elements causing the company to be in hot water, including rosewood and ebony regulations.

If you have taken a music business course, then you’d know importing ebony and rosewood to make musical instruments is a big no-no! Back in 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Service raided two of Gibson’s factories in Tennessee and found huge quantities of both of these products being used. They were issued to pay a $300,000 to avoid criminal charges for importing these goods from Madagascar and India. Because of this, it’s been hard for Gibson to continue making their signature instruments.

With financial burden comes stinginess, and that has caused another issue with employees and musicians. Let’s start off with the employees who work for the Gibson Brand. If you go on websites like Glassdoor, reviews about working for this company are cringing. Many employees have given the company a one star rating. There are more cons than pros when it comes to working for them.

A guitar adjuster stated in their comment that “The attitude from Mngt. is intimidation- to rule by fear. They actually get a thrill from firing people, they actually want you to fail, I have never seen anything like it. Everything is about hitting your daily numbers at any cost. Pay raises have been non-existent for years without explanation of why.”

Another former employee who did not state their position said that “employee turnover is off the charts and they are horrible at recruiting talent to get replacements hired.” They also went on to say that managers only stay with the company no more than six months.

As musicians, we tend to forget at times how much work goes into the instruments we play. This leads to the next set of people who are quite sick and tired of Gibson and their instruments, their customers.

Every business follows the policy that the customer is always right. Gibson however isn’t following that policy too closely. Many customers complain about the quality of their instruments and the high prices they have to pay. Instead of fixing the instruments and letting customers exchange their product for a better one; they are refusing to take ownership of their faults. Instead of marketing themselves as a guitar company, they’ve been more so focused on their electronic products and don’t put in a lot of time making their guitars.

Even notable musicians have decided to stop promoting the company. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar, rhythm guitarist for Mastodon Bill Kelliher, stated that Gibson Guitars treat their artists like garbage. Kelliher noticed while working with them that there were a lot of issues from the very beginning. “All the guys I worked with over there – the A&R guys were getting fired left and right and the company just seemed to be falling apart to me.”

During his time with them, Kelliher also had a model guitar made after him. Many people who ordered his guitar were upset since they couldn’t tune it the way Kelliher had his guitar tuned. In essence the Gibson Brand did not listen to him or his requests, therefore Kelliher cut his losses. A similar situation happened to lead vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield from Metallica. Hetfield was the one to recommend Kelliher to leave Gibson and pursue ESP, another guitar based company.

This summer will be either a making or breaking point for the company, and so far it is not going in their favor.