Fender CEO Andy Mooney: “There are still heaps of virtuoso players, but there are fewer guitar gods now”

Andy Mooney
(Image credit: Fender)

“When that article came out with the headline ‘Guitar is dead’, that was the definition of fake news,” Fender CEO Andy Mooney told Guitar World in 2020, referencing a Washington Post (opens in new tab) article lamenting the death of the six-string.

The Washington Post piece theorized the reason the guitar industry was in decline was that there are no “guitar heroes” anymore – no players who would inspire people en masse to pick up the instrument.

Responding to the theory, Mooney agreed that the profile of guitarists in today’s world has indeed changed, but that it hasn’t affected guitar sales in the way the Post’s article implied.

Now, in a new interview with Fortune (opens in new tab), the Big F’s head honcho once again touches upon how the idea of a “guitar hero” has diminished over time.

“At the dawn of the electric guitar, a lot of the growth was from people who wanted to be guitar heroes or virtuoso players like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix,” he says. “There are still heaps of virtuoso players, but there are fewer guitar gods now. More people use guitars onstage, in the studio, and in other genres as compositional, creating textures.”

Andy Mooney

(Image credit: Henry Diltz)

Elsewhere, Mooney discusses how the role of the guitar has changed in the modern age, explaining that more people are playing than ever, but fewer are seeking the stardom guitarists did a generation or two ago.

“The guitar is being used in more genres by more people in more geographies than ever, and it’s used for more reasons than just wanting to be a rock star,” he says.

Mooney also comments on the buying habits of guitar players in 2022, explaining that in 2015, 70 percent of Fender’s business was done in brick-and-mortar stores, while 30 percent was done online. “Today, it’s the inverse,” he says.

“During the pandemic, a big shift was that consumers were predominantly buying online. They were not going into guitar stores, and that environment for new players can be pretty intimidating.

“Still, there’s always going to be a desire in consumers to touch, feel and hear an instrument. But we don’t intend to enter the retail business, because our dealer base covers the landscape well.”

Andy Mooney

(Image credit: Henry Diltz)

Last week, Mooney reflected on research conducted by Fender that suggested women buy guitars online because they “aren’t treated well” in shops.

The data also showed that 50 percent of new players were women – which Mooney said was a “complete shocker to the company”.

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).