A look at how the internet has changed distribution for guitarists and other artists
In the beginning, art was shaped by creativity
alone. Our knuckle-dragging ancestors told
stories, shouted out primitive melodies and
drew in the dirt. Later, technology shaped
art, as cave painters began to use charcoal
and pigments in their drawings, and augment
their melodies with primitive drums.
Art advanced as capitalism and technology crept forward, taking giant steps during the Renaissance, when the Church and the ruling class began to finance visual artists, musicians and composers on a whole new scale.
Art became a job. The personal tastes of those who financed artists dictated what art survived. Skip forward roughly five hundred years to the 1990s, and we still had basically the same system: art financiers became record labels, publishers and film studio executives who acted as gatekeepers, determining what art the public would see and hear. Then the digital age took the financiers and middlemen out of the artist/ audience relationship. We are witnessing evolution in the arts.
In the digital world, there’s no shipping or printing cost, no retail space to rent, and usually no production cost. A homeless person can go to the library and write fiction that can be read by millions. A kid in Vietnam or Des Moines with a borrowed camera and a guitar can recruit legions of fans eager to download everything he or she posts. We are getting back to a world of art for art’s sake. Because there are no production costs, revenue is optional.
As a professional musician and writer, I feel a little like the high-class hooker whose earning is threatened when a sorority house of eager hotties moves next door to my brothel. Free art is omnipresent: 80 percent of Japan’s most popular books in 2007 were thumbed out on cell phones for free downloads. MySpace and YouTube offer more free music, video and art content than Virgin, Tower Records and Walmart combined could ever hope to put on their shelves. What’s truly amazing about our new world is that the free art is often as good as the stuff we buy. Regrettably, without gatekeepers, one needs to sift through a lot of garbage to find the gems. Without the record labels telling us what is good, we clearly miss some jewels in the rough.
Recently in Washington DC, Joshua Bell, arguably one of the best violinists in the world, busked a 45-minute, rush-hour subway set on his 3.5 million dollar violin. Six people stopped to listen, and he collected $32. Two days prior, Bell sold out a Boston theater where the seats averaged $100. The Washington Post organized this incognito concert as part of a social experiment about perception. Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? Yes and no.
The other night I spent an hour on YouTube watching what looked like a twelve-year-old boy painstakingly explain how to play part of “Cliffs of Dover.” As I fumbled slowly along, trying to memorize the seemingly random series of notes, this kid monotonously instructed, “fifteen fret on the B string, twelve fret on the B string…” Though his performance wasn’t flawless, I respected him. According to the brutal slew of messages posted below his video, I was alone. It made me wonder: who are these assholes who post these condemning comments? And why would anybody go to this much trouble to record and post a video knowing there’s no monetary gain—knowing they’re exposing themselves to vicious attacks by semi-anonymous critics?
Tyne Daly said, “A critic is someone who never actually goes to the battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded.” As I scan YouTube, I have to admire those brave souls who, in spite of these venomous attacks, soldier on to literally share their art with the world. Motivated by the guilt of taking and not giving back, I videoed a few clips of some of my favorite guitars doing what they do. (Search “John Bohlinger” on YouTube, and feel free to degrade me in the comment section.) I’m not much of a technical guy, nor am I patient, so my homespun videos are replete with errors, both in my playing and recording—which seems right in keeping with the art’s evolution. It’s fast, messy and free. Ideas are shared, unfettered by big business polishing it up to make a buck.
Which is not to say there isn’t money made in free art. Back in December, The New York Times reported that several YouTube favorites, such as Michael Buckley and Cory Williams, are now earning mega-bucks from product placement and the YouTube Partner Program, which sounds like a profit-sharing program for video posters with gigantic audiences and a lot of content. Which is not to say there isn’t money for the small-time posters. I recently contributed a track to a B-Bender guitar album called The Bendegos. One of the other guest artists is a great player named Sol Philcox, who launched his career on YouTube posting some blazing tele-pickin’ videos he made as a kid. There are thousands of examples of commerce serendipitously working its way in to free art.
YouTube and sites like it are the venues for art’s evolution. The best work will be rewarded, if not monetarily, at least through notoriety. Players play, writers write, painters paint—it’s in our blood, and we can’t stop. Regardless of financial gain, it’s gratifying to have an audience. We are lucky to live during a time when every artist has a means of sharing his or her work. It’s like we are all in kindergarten and the entire world gets to admire our finger paintings thumbtacked to digital bulletin board.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who has recorded and toured with over 30 major label artists. His songs and playing can be heard in several major motion pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of television drops. For more info visit johnbohlinger.com.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.