Acoustic guitar sales and electric upgrades are soaring during the coronavirus quarantine

Young man playing acoustic guitar while sitting on a sofa in his living room.
(Image credit: aywan88/Getty)

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on our ability go out and see live music, but it certainly hasn’t hindered our ability to create it.

In fact, sales figures for guitars and other gear has seen a significant spike since the quarantine has taken hold.

According to a new report in Rolling Stone, online music retailers like Reverb and Sweetwater have experienced a massive influx of visitors, with sales exceeding expectations.

Additionally, Guitar Center’s online sales have more than doubled since shelter-in-place orders were put into effect, and the retailer states that the acoustic guitar category in particular is “on fire,” suggesting that many buyers are beginners just learning the instrument.

Furthermore, players are upgrading what they already own.

“Someone who’s bought a bunch of guitar stuff is buying new tuners, new strings, polish for the neck, and a whole bunch of other things,” said Sweetwater CEO Chuck Surack. “You can just tell that they’re taking the time to take their guitar apart, upgrade it, hot rod it, and make it new again."

To that end, there has also been a significant bump on the instructional side.

According to Rolling Stone, Reverb’s YouTube channel, comprised largely of “gear demos and how-to’s, saw a notable rise in hours watched in March and April compared to January and February, which are normally the highest-trafficking months.”

Guitar Center, meanwhile, reported an increase in students in the 11-to-15 age range and the above-40 group.

“Since the pivot to one-to-one online lessons with a live instructor post-pandemic, Guitar Center and its sister brand, Music & Arts, combined have taught nearly 50,000 lessons to students nationwide,” a representative told Rolling Stone.

And apparently they’re not just learning to play – they’re actually making music. Garageband has seen a 55% increase in Google searches, and Apple confirmed to Rolling Stone nearly 13 million downloads from its Sound Library since early February and hundreds of thousands of free trial downloads of DAWs like Logic Pro X.

“The biggest trend that is happening is people’s interest in making music is expanding and growing,” the Guitar Center rep said.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.