Gibson has launched its first-ever Artist Spotlight program, with R&B singer, songwriter and producer Austin Sexton the first artist it’s championing. The guitar brand says its program will put a revolving cast of musicians and acts in the limelight in a move it says reflects its “artist-first culture.”
A look at its 18-strong 2024 roster sees emerging artists from the US, Europe and and South America. Gibson says that artists from China and Japan will be coming onboard with the program “soon”.
Each of its artists will be introduced to Gibson’s global audience via its social media channels, while their music will be showcased “through various collaborative moments in locations across the globe”.
The program highlights an increasing trend in the industry for gear brands pushing artistic talent via their in-house platforms. Gibson already has its own record label (as does Marshall) and the Gibson Generation Group, and its new initiative echoes the sentiment of something we saw over at Fender, when it launched the Fender Next program in 2019.
It makes sense from an industry perspective. The more players in the charts, the better it is for the guitar industry as a whole, but these programs can also prove more directly beneficial.
Putting a guitar in an artist’s hands inspires brand loyalty and establishes good relationships – at a minimum, with the musicians themselves and their associated fanbases – but sometimes across entire musical movements.
Beth Heidt, CMO at Gibson Brands says its artist relations team has spent decades advocating for and supporting artists. She sees the Artist Spotlight as another opportunity to continue its work and reflect the diversity of genres worldwide.
“At our core,” she says, “we are music lovers, and we want to share that love of music with our fans. Our goal with the Artist Spotlight program is to build connections through music and share our love of music.”
Gibson’s first pick, the L.A.-based Sexton, is a platinum-selling producer and multi-instrumentalist known for his alternative take on '80s-fashioned pop. He’s previously worked with Charlie D’Amelio and American rapper, Kyle for his certified platinum single, To The Moon.
His latest solo track, Don’t Tell Your Friends features a guest spot from former Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper guitarist, Orianthi. She provides a supple, lightly driven solo that digs into her MJ swagger and the track’s vintage ‘80s pastiche.
Speaking to the firm, he explains how his trust J-45 acoustic, which has just been given the Custom Shop ‘tuxedo’ treatment, has usurped his Gibson Les Paul as his favorite piece of gear, saying: “As soon as you play a chord on a J-45 there’s a song to be written. It’s very inspiring."
Of course, a platinum-selling artist doesn’t scream “emerging” and a number of the Artist Spotlight program’s other acts, including Germany’s The Picturebooks and the UK’s The Mysterines have already clocked up several million Spotify streams.
It’s clear, then, that Gibson is not trying to focus on brand new talent here – a la Fender Next. Rather, the focus appears to championing deserving picks and taking them to a wider audience.
“[Being part of the program] shows me that no matter how big your social numbers or social perception, good music gets to the people it needs to get to,” adds Sexton.
“The fact I get to work with this team almost feels life-changing and gives me, as a very hard-working indie artist, inspiration that anything is possible.”
As mentioned, this isn't the first “artist-first” initiative of its kind from Gibson. Its Gibson Generation Group (G3) program lasts two years and offers artists “one-on-one career growth opportunities, mentoring and develop lasting connections”.
It differentiates itself by showcasing and nurturing newer individual guitarists, as opposed to bands. It thinks ahead, too – the class of 2025 selections are already live on the Gibson Generation Group site.
For more information about the Gibson Artist Spotlight program, and to discover its roster of artists, head to Gibson.