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Gibson CEO speaks


Billster

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OK first off this statement is complete bull crap "A lot of the time, the way they would design cars was they would have a cocktail party for the executives and their wives and they would bring these large clay models, full size, authentic mock-ups, and the executives and their wives would go 'well, that cigarette lighter should be moved eight inches here' and, you know, 'I think the seats are a little too big'," his eyes widening, "I couldn't believe it - other companies go to extremes to find out what their customers want and these guys were drinking cocktails." He went to Harvard to learn how to run his own business"

 

GM, has always concentrated on "Clinics" taking prototype vehicles and clay models to show the exterior ideas, and mockups called "Interior Bucks" all over this country and in Europe to show their concepts JUST LIKE all automotive companies do! and they always have! I don't know why the heck he would say that? Sure there might have been a cocktail party and sure there where exects and their wives reviewing these things but there was always a HUGE clinic program at GM. There is no doubt of this, this is my business. So that said, what else in this article is BS?

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I don't know about he car racket, but he says essentially the same thing about the previous management of Gibson, calling them country clubbers who didn't understand their product.

 

That's not really the best point in the article. The very end, where he talks about the democratization of creation and distribution is a lot more interesting.

 

Then again, praise for Apple's Garage Band from the guy who killed Opcode is kind of curious.

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So that said, what else in this article is BS?

 

Bah... who knows :rolleyes:

 

I did notice that the journalist mis-spelled "Norlin" (it's given as "Norlan"), and that the journo didn't seem to do a lot of background research on who the heck the Norlin Corp. is.

 

"Even by the eclectic standards of today's conglomerates, the Norlin Corporation is an unlikely mix. It is a Panamanian holding company with head- quarters in New York, and last year it grossed $238 million on a product line that includes Ecuador's best-selling beer, a clutch of high-technology switching devices that turn up, among other places, in commercial and military jet planes- and an assortment of electronic organs, pianos, Moog synthesizers, drums and guitars that made Norlin the biggest manufacturer of musical instruments in the United States."

 

from http://bobmoog.com/1978/04-23.html

 

If I recall correctly, they even used to own Winchester Firearms for a while (and wouldn't The Guardian have had a field day with THAT one!)

 

Anyway, moral of the story... if the article couldn't even get Norlin's name right, God only knows how much attention the journalist was paying, or what was actually said.

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Anyway, moral of the story... if the article couldn't even get Norlin's name right, God only knows how much attention the journalist was paying, or what was actually said.

 

I won't say he's mis-quoted, but it's probably taken out of context to dramatize his points.

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A lot has been said against the management at Gibson. Let me say something positive. From a company that could have dissappeared just like Gretsch and a handful of smaller instrument companies, Gibson has expanded, re-enforced the flagship brand, introduced a support brand that leads consumers to the flagship brand, and offered a mid-line product with the flagship brand name without seriosuly compromising the value of the flagship brand. Not bad. Yes, the company has gone down some strange roads that d not always make sense to most of us. But over-all, the track record from 1990 or so until now is pretty darned impressive.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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I agree Bill. I think the top line Gibsons are over-priced, but when you see it as a "lifestyle" branding strategy like Harley-Davidson, they are extracting all the value they can. Epiphone still has a bad quality control reputation in my view, and they should fix that.
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OK first off this statement is complete bull crap "A lot of the time, the way they would design cars was they would have a cocktail party... ...other companies go to extremes to find out what their customers want and these guys were drinking cocktails." He went to Harvard to learn how to run his own business"

 

GM, has always concentrated on "Clinics" taking prototype vehicles and clay models to show the exterior ideas, and mockups called "Interior Bucks" all over this country and in Europe to show their concepts... ...There is no doubt of this, this is my business. So that said, what else in this article is BS?

 

I certainly don't have your vantage point, Lee, but I wouldn't doubt this type of arrogance could have been the SOP at GM 35 years ago. Look at the cheap crap they foisted on consumers in the 1970's and early 1980's and you quickly realize they were not doing their jobs. There were a few exceptions, but would you really consider that a good era of American cars? I certainly wouldn't. His experience may simply be different than yours.

 

OTOH...

 

I don't know about he car racket, but he says essentially the same thing about the previous management of Gibson, calling them country clubbers who didn't understand their product.

 

That's not really the best point in the article. The very end, where he talks about the democratization of creation and distribution is a lot more interesting.

 

Then again, praise for Apple's Garage Band from the guy who killed Opcode is kind of curious.

 

And there is the crux of the matter, Bill! Henry is a staunch advocate for innovation AND sticking to products with past performance, but he can be a very narrow focused man who sees his own vision for a company and isn't afraid of pissing off customers when he purchases a product line by sitting on it or wholly changing it regardless of the quality of the original products from that company. He bought Steinberger, Slingerland and other companies, then shuttered them for several years while deciding how to rebuild those companies in the image he envisioned for them, which turned out to be direct sales through Music Yo!. Not smart, IMO. Being the owner of a lucrative fiefdom requires more thought to the short term than Henry sometimes displays. The Gibson Showcase is a perfect example.

 

They were building from the ground up with the development of Opry Mills mall, with factory, retail sales and a performance venue under one roof. Somehow, they managed to build the performance side with no thought to acoustics. (Or if they did have a thought, it was an absolutely horrible one.) It took years before line array technology solved some of the sound problems and during those same years the company refused to provide an advertising budget to bring in customers for live performances. Also during this era, Henry chose to show almost nothing at one Nashville, Summer NAMM shows, instead opting to put a banner inviting attendees to see Gibson's wares at the now defunct Gibson Cafe. NAMM officials were livid. I don't know what they threatened him with, but all of a sudden there was a last minute move of a large number of guitars to the convention center with the rest of the NAMM vendors.

 

These are just a few examples of Henry's less than well thought out plans. But when you own the company outright, with one minor partner, you can make such decisions for better or worse.

 

So that said, what else in this article is BS?

 

Bah... who knows :rolleyes:

 

I did notice that the journalist mis-spelled "Norlin" (it's given as "Norlan"), and that the journo didn't seem to do a lot of background research on who the heck the Norlin Corp. is.

 

"Even by the eclectic standards of today's conglomerates, the Norlin Corporation is an unlikely mix...

 

...Anyway, moral of the story... if the article couldn't even get Norlin's name right, God only knows how much attention the journalist was paying, or what was actually said.

 

Careful... that's not who Norlin is but, rather, who they were in 1978. ;)

 

But in the same mold I do have some difficulty with certain aspects of the story.

 

The suggestion that "a restaurant worker" started Gibson raises my eyebrows. Everything I've read said it was several investors. And failing to mention that the brand was built on purchasing the name and product designs from Orville Gibson (who was never an owner of the company, just an individual luthier prior to incorporation) is a huge omission. The original company was begun by people who recognized they could mass produce Orville's already successful designs.

 

Later, the author states, "Gibson now owns enough music brands to start an orchestra, including Epiphone guitars, where Berryman is president, and Slingerland drums, as well as one of China's largest piano makers and Wurlitzer jukeboxes." Another poorly researched or worded statement as the previous section deals with Norlin, yet fails to mention Epi was owned by Gibson almost 10 years before Norlin entered the picture. The interesting point about Gibson's diversification and how it relates to Henry is that he purchased Steinberger, Slingerland, Kramer, Oberheim, Opcode, Baldwin Pianos and other companies all about the same time in the mid 1990's. Some were slowly failing, others had already failed and I can't say how Opcode was doing, business-wise prior to the purchase. With the exception of Opcode and Oberheim he's returned these brands to the market, first on the low - mid level and later introducing American made, high end product. Opcode was essentially disolved (though they refused to say so for years) and Oberheim somehow became a maker of obscure digital effect devices. (?!? :confused: ) He's had his share of success and failure with these purchases. Why even mention the diversification if not to discuss the good/bad of Music Yo! as a wholesale direct, internet only business owned by Gibson?

 

Interesting read, though. Thanks for posting it, Bill.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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"I certainly don't have your vantage point, Lee, but I wouldn't doubt this type of arrogance could have been the SOP at GM 35 years ago. Look at the cheap crap they foisted on consumers in the 1970's and early 1980's and you quickly realize they were not doing their jobs. There were a few exceptions, but would you really consider that a good era of American cars? I certainly wouldn't. His experience may simply be different than yours."

 

NOPE!!! It is impossiable to be a engineer at ANY car company AT ANY TIME! and NOT KNOW that those products ARE in clinics for selected cross sections of the general public all over the country and world in VARIOUS MARKETS!!! So if he says these programs did not happen he is not being truthful! either that or he spent his engineering days living under a ROCK with blindfold and earplugs in!!! There is NO way to argue THIS point NEIL!!! it is want it is!!! FLAT WRONG!!!!

 

 

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So if he says these programs did not happen he is not being truthful! !!!

 

I don't think he denies that there were other consumer focus groups, it just wasn't reported. Again, I'll wager that his quotes are taken somewhat out of context to dramatize the story.

 

There is NO way to argue THIS point NEIL!!!

 

Are you sure you know Neil? :D

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So if he says these programs did not happen he is not being truthful! !!!

 

I don't think he denies that there were other consumer focus groups, it just wasn't reported. Again, I'll wager that his quotes are taken somewhat out of context to dramatize the story.

 

There is NO way to argue THIS point NEIL!!!

 

Are you sure you know Neil? :D

 

OK, so, what we are saying is this? Although there where probably 1,000 engineering personell doing 24 months of field research, analysis,hundreds of clinics in every major market in the world, hundreds of hours spent in meetings with senior managers and VP level exects, THAT all of that was ignored and a cocktail party decided what the product would look like and egrometric requirements would be? that is competely insane! AND it's simply NOT TRUE! I know I lived it, and I know the results of those clinics where used in the final products content! Anybody that would really believe that, I have a nice only slightly used strait jacket for sale, they could use! Hay if people WANT to believe this stuff and it makes them feel superior it's not my concern, but what he said is flat wrong...IF that's what he really said.

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Hay if people WANT to believe this stuff and it makes them feel superior it's not my concern, but what he said is flat wrong...IF that's what he really said.

 

This is a sidetrack, but the part I bolded up there is the point of this issue. I'm sure that he was aware of product seminars. But again, I believe his comments were edited to dramatize the story. He says the same basic thing about the previous owners of Gibson. The gist of his comments is that HE is a connected, visionary executive - all those OTHER guys are out of touch elitists who make decisions on the golf course or at cocktail parties. Of course he's trying to make himself look good.

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So if he says these programs did not happen he is not being truthful! !!!

 

I don't think he denies that there were other consumer focus groups, it just wasn't reported. Again, I'll wager that his quotes are taken somewhat out of context to dramatize the story.

 

I also think his point was that after all the work that went into producing those models (which would've relied both on the creative and engineering talents of their design staff and, possibly, the clinics you describe) they forced design changes on the engineers based on their own impressions while entertaining themselves at those cocktail parties.

 

And, as Bill said, Henry has an agenda in putting it that naively simple as does the author of the article.

 

There is NO way to argue THIS point NEIL!!!

 

Are you sure you know Neil? :D

 

Hey! I most certainly resemble that remark! :freak:

 

 

But to the point, it certainly IS arguable, Lee. Number 1: Stranger things than this example have happened at many different companies. And number 2: You weren't there, I wasn't there.. Only Henry and the people at those parties were there and only they really know if Henry's statement is true and accurate. ;)

 

(You see... Bill's joke wasn't just humor! :eek: )

 

Not trying to get your goat, either, Lee. Those are serious comments, not intended to raise your ire, buddy.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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OK NEIL, no it's NOT arguable and THIS IS WHY... when after you complete those clinics and you show MANY different variants on say completely different configurations on instrument panel or center stack of the instruments panel and there is a consensus of many clinics those results are NEVER changed by senior management! Those clinics results are the BIBLE of what will be seen in production. I don't know this BUT I will find out exactly what level he was at in GM to see whether or not he was even high enough at GM to be at those parties? I have no doubt those are serious comments guys, but here is the difference, when we are talking about audio mixing, studio technology, studio or live PA equipment or anything to do with your expertise ...have you EVER seen me argue with you? the answer is NEVER! but when you want to talk with authority about the automotive business that is a different story completely. I was THERE, at GM at Chrysler, at American Motors, at AM General and at most of the large suppliers in this business. But ok if we think we can argue one point in one agenda driven article and if someone thinks or wants to think this is the way car companies operate they sure can.... but they are wrong, sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

 

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Hay if people WANT to believe this stuff and it makes them feel superior it's not my concern, but what he said is flat wrong...IF that's what he really said.

 

This is a sidetrack, but the part I bolded up there is the point of this issue. I'm sure that he was aware of product seminars. But again, I believe his comments were edited to dramatize the story. He says the same basic thing about the previous owners of Gibson. The gist of his comments is that HE is a connected, visionary executive - all those OTHER guys are out of touch elitists who make decisions on the golf course or at cocktail parties. Of course he's trying to make himself look good.

 

Yep he sure is and you would think he would have a little more awareness of how his comments really come off, at least to people who know how these things REALLY work! Pretty transparent!

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This statement" A lot of the time, the way they would design cars was they would have a cocktail party for the executives and their wives and they would bring these large clay models, full size, authentic mock-ups, and the executives and their wives would go 'well, that cigarette lighter should be moved eight inches here' and, you know, 'I think the seats are a little too big'"

 

Could be no more than hearsay gossip from a low level engineer at GM, shop talk from disgruntled people, that statement does not say HE was there at all!

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Ok I dug this up, ":he worked at Delco Products for two years as product manager while studying for an MBA in night school at the University of Rochester. He completed his MBA at Harvard University on a General Motors Fellowship. Juszkiewicz then joined the New York firm of Neiderhoffer, Cross"

 

LOL!! He was at GM for TWO friggin' years LOL!!! Think he was at those parties >>NOT!!! I have product managers working for me and they would NEVER be at those kinds of parties!!!! this guy is totally full of crap!!! :)

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Could be he's full of crap...

 

But don't discount his knowledge outright even if he was a low level worker. I couldn't have been any lower on the totem pole at Gibson but I sure learned a lot about how they run the business by seeing the fallout of bad decisions, dealing (or rather not dealing) with that fallout and their successes, too. You don't have to be in upper management to be savvy about what's really going on at a company. ;) (Not that I think I have anything more than a tiny sliver of knowledge about Gibson in the short time I was there, either. ;) )

 

He was, after all, a product manager. He would've been involved in all aspects of the project he was managing. ;)

 

Most importantly, I welcome any information you've heard about mixing, gear, etc. that contradicts anything I say. I'd rather know if I've been led astray or explain what I believe to be correct. I may be a sound guy, but I'm far from the most knowledgeable mixer around... I have plenty more to learn and I've been unfortunate on occasion to have been misled by people I thought knew their stuff and, it turned out, didn't. Or by someone who was ignorant on that one item, if nothing else.

 

I'm not questioning your experience or knowledge of an industry I know nothing about. I'm simply keeping an open mind to information I can't possibly verify as true or false.

 

With all due respect to you and those you work with, can you really blame us, as consumers, for being cynical about the American auto industry when the only way they seem to be able to post a profit is to sell off assets and lay off workers? They've held themselves up as the invincible, Big 3 for decades. Now Toyota has surpassed all of them as the world's largest car manufacturer and they haven't a clue how to stem the tide. My wife works for Ford Credit and believe me, while I know nothing of the inner workings of their business, the news reports and fluctuations in benefits (for the worse the past 7 years or so) spell out in my mind a company built on arrogance that nothing could stop them. And it was worse in the 1970's. You say these clinics are held the world over to determine the product and have been for decades yet I again point to the crap coming out of Michigan in the 1970's & 80's, the era he's talking about. Somehow, they must've shown the new models to a bunch of complete morons round the world if those cars supposedly were ok'd by groups of people representing the whole world.

 

Again, I'm NOT telling you your business. I'm only commenting on my perspective of an industry that was almost completely out of step with consumers for over a decade and continued to believe that if they built it, the American public would continue to buy it just because. I'm so glad they pulled their heads out of their collective asses long enough to build quality products in the past decade or two without inflating prices excessively.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Here is all I have to say about Gibson. I played Gibson guitars since the beginning in 1964, I had three Les Paul's, Two SG's, an ES 345, a Firebird, and the day they brought out the 25th anniversary Les Paul I bought my first Japanese guitar, an Ibanez Artist which was sort of like a Les Paul but a double cutaway which I kept for many years. But that guitar was inspired by Gibson's designs.

 

Right now I have a SG special Faded with an ebony fingerboard with the half moon inlays. It is absolutely the best out of box guitar I have ever purchased. The neck/fretboard are true as it came from the factory, and there is not a single high or low fret or buzz anywhere on the neck, and the action is the lowest of any guitar I own. Cost me $499 on sale one time at Musicians Friend, I put on a TP6 fine tuning tail piece and viola a fully pro guitar for cheap. I also had to purchase a hard shell case for it. the thing rocks, it ain't my favorite guitar but it is up there.

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Well, shoot... I think this is a pretty good example of why the media has to be taken with a grain of salt.

 

Here we have some guy trying to make himself look good, being quoted by a journo that didn't do his research and, after THAT, the article went through the editors, who may or may not have changed bits of the article.

 

2 cases in point: the "Norlan" error and the weird concept that Orville Gibson was a restaurant worker. I wonder if the original word was "restorer" or something similar to that. I'm thinking that the "Norlan" error may have been due to accent differences (The Guardian being, after all, a Brit newspaper), so maybe the journalist got the word "restorer" or "restorator" wrong. I'm just guessing though.

 

Anyway... if the article makes two errors of this type, who knows what was actually said!

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Actually, I think you misunderstood my criticism of the restaurant worker comment, but it illustrates the confusion of not clarifying the point in the article, Vince.

 

He said "the man who started Gibson was a restaurant worker..." I said that was misleading because I always heard the Gibson Guitar company was started by a group of investors. I then commented that they started the company by securing the rights to Orville's name, patents and designs. Orville never had a direct, financial stake in the Gibson Guitar Co. (Although he was hired by the company as a design consultant.) Prior to the formation of the company Orville simply built guitars by hand, himself. He was a craftsman and his name did appear on the instruments, IIRC, but it wasn't an incorporated company prior to the formation of the company by the aforementioned investors.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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