October 22, 2020 I Pandemic Stories
‘Crazy Week After Week’: Bob Taylor on the Guitar Boom
Taylor Guitars’ story of navigating the initial coronavirus quarantine is a familiar one. In mid-March, the company shut down its headquarters and manufacturing in El Cajon, California. Three weeks later, it reemerged with a skeleton crew, making adjustments to ensure social distancing. “We got some people back in, and we started making 25, 30 guitars a day,” said Bob Taylor, president and CEO of Taylor. “You’re making 700 guitars a day, and then you’re making none, and then you’re making 35.”
But as a shell-shocked populace started to look for things to do in isolation and spending money to do it, Taylor took action. As early as March 25, the company announced its “Taylor Days” sale, during which, for $99, customers could add an acoustic GS Mini, Academy Series, or Baby Taylor guitar to the purchase of other select Taylor models. The sale reset the year for Taylor.
“We had 35,000 guitars in stock,” Taylor told Music Inc. “We sold those things down to the walls, and then we slowly started bringing on production. But what happened [was in] April, May, June and July, orders came in at immoral rates. — four or five times what we would normally sell in a week. So crazy week after week after week after week.”
Taylor had its best June, in terms of orders received, ever. June and July alone accounted for half the orders that the company had projected, pre-pandemic, for all of 2020. It isn’t just in the U.S. either, the company is seeing such sales worldwide. “Normally in the winter, post NAMM, we might have 10,000 or 15,000 guitars on order,” Taylor said. “Right now, we’ve got 100,000 guitars on order.”
The sales spike means Taylor is serving new customers, likely either beginners or people picking the instrument back up. But Taylor doesn’t feel its role is to take steps to ensure these end-customers keep playing after the initial purchase.
“We’re not taking any steps to do that because it’s a little bit beyond our wheelhouse,” Taylor said. “I’d rather spend my money on planting trees [than] spend my money being the 150th person trying to teach someone to play guitar on the internet. Marty Schwartz already has a million subscribers. I mean, gosh, Andy Mooney and Fender, they went from 150,000 users on Fender Play to just shy of a million.”
On October 19, Taylor appeared on Yahoo! Finance with singer, songwriter Lisa Loeb, who weighed in on why Taylor Guitars may be resonating with people right now. “They sound so beautiful, but they’re really easy to play, they’re fun to play, and I feel like when somebody is returning to playing guitar, and I see a lot of friends who used to play guitar back in high school or college and they want to get back to into it and be creative during this time, or new guitar players like my niece wanted to play guitar, and so I suggest guitars that are really fun to pick up,” Loeb said.
Taylor agrees. “Easy-to-play guitars are our hallmark,” he said. “I started making easy-to-play guitars with the very first guitar I made because I didn’t actually know that guitars are hard to play. I learned way back then to make a guitar that’s easy to play by accident. It’s super-easy for newbies because they’re successful right off the bat, and that’s just been part of our formula.”