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NAMM 2022: Martin CEO Thomas Ripsam discusses the company's growth strategy moving forward, and the importance of engaging with younger audiences

NAMM 2022: Martin had a stellar NAMM show this year, bolstering its Authentic, Road and StreetMaster ranges with four new acoustics, introducing five lavish special edition models, partnering with the Black Crowes' Rich Robinson for a luxuriously appointed D-28 signature model, and unveiling its 2.5 millionth guitar, a stunning strummer encrusted with 436 actual diamonds.

And at the helm of Martin's killer collection of product offerings has been CEO Thomas Ripsam, who was appointed in June last year. 

So when we found out he'd be at this year's NAMM show, we sent our own Tech Editor, Paul Riario, to get the lowdown on his time with the acoustic guitar giant so far, its new-for-NAMM offerings, and what the future holds for the company.

Ripsam – a career businessman who's spent his “whole career helping companies navigate through an uncertain future” – recalls taking a sabbatical prior to stepping into the role of CEO at Martin.

“My wife always calls me a nerd and I think that's for a reason,” he tells Riario. “From early on, I had a real interest in not just sounds but the people, instruments and companies that made these sounds. And so I got deeper and deeper and stuck with guitars as my favorite instrument, and for many years I really wanted to understand what's involved in the process of building a guitar.

He says that due to his busy career, he never found the time to delve any deeper into guitar building, but taking a sabbatical allowed him to spend time with a luthier one-on-one, and nurture a greater respect for the craft of guitar making. 

“[Understanding guitar building] gives you a much better appreciation of what's involved and all the things that can go wrong, but also the things that our people do to make sure that [everything goes smoothly]. I have a deep interest in it, and it's not just surface.”

There are a lot of things [we] can do,” he continues, “[but] we need to be clear on who we are as Martin, and what our role is in this space

Elsewhere in the interview, Ripsam speaks of Martin's opportunity for growth in a post-pandemic world.

“There are a lot of people who love to create and make music and get something out of it that frankly don't play yet,” he says. “And so to me there is the potential to tap into that much more than we have done [so far].”

“There are a lot of things [we] can do,” he continues, “[but] we need to be clear on who we are as Martin, and what our role is in this space. But I look forward to figuring out some of these opportunities and doing it with the team. I'm not concerned – I'm actually excited. Because I don't think we are opportunity-constrained.

Ripsam adds that a key component of Martin's growth strategy going forward is engaging with younger audiences. “It's a challenge because I think our industry hasn't necessarily been educated to change quickly enough and stay connected,” he says. 

“Younger audiences, their main sources [of information] are TikTok and YouTube, it's simply that. And we either participate in that, or we don't at our own peril.”

He also touches upon the company's new Rich Robinson D-28 signature model – which is based on the guitarist's own D-28 that belonged to his late father – stressing the importance of storytelling when it comes to marketing guitars.

“I think the Rich Robinson example is a good one – that to me is something that brings out what's so special about us. Rich Robinson and many others have a very deep connection to an instrument that we created. And once you have that deep connection, I think you're looking to engage much more with a company, [so the company can get into] stories, content, [and] a lot of [other] things.”

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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).