Gibson Guitar has announced in a press release they’re acquiring the Stanton Group, which includes, aside from the well-known Stanton DJ brand, KRK monitoring products and Cerwin-Vega loudspeakers.
It’d be easy to see this as a guitar company buying a DJ company, but it’s more than that. KRK and Cerwin-Vega are speaker/monitoring brands. Stanton and Cerwin-Vega each have footholds in the larger consumer arena, not just the pro world, a detail Gibson is quick to emphasize. And Gibson themselves have quietly, steadily grown beyond just guitars. The new “Gibson Pro Audio” banner is added to a list of brands that Gibson reels off: “Epiphone, Dobro, Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias, Echoplex, Electar, Flatiron, Slingerland, Valley Arts, Maestro, Oberheim, Baldwin, Sunshine Piano, Take Anywhere Technology, J&C Fischer, Chickering, Hamilton, Wurlitzer.” But it would seem dropping the “Guitar” from the name would be realistic.
There are two interesting details to the way the press release is worded. First, the lead is that Gibson’s move is “part of its continued expansion as a lifestyle brand.” That’s perhaps going to send a chill down the spine of anyone who prefers to focus explicitly on “musicians.” Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz even says the move “allows us access to 20 in 20 consumers instead of the one in 20 we currently hit.” That contrasts with the emphasis of, say, organizations like NAMM who talk about the general market of “musicians,” not only “lifestyle,” whatever you take that to mean. On the other hand, this is really nomenclature we’re talking here; the question I have is how “lifestyle” actually translates into a strategy, and how well it works for Gibson.
The other detail is more interesting. Gibson and Stanton Group reps each stress the potential for overlapping R&D. Juszkiewicz has touted R&D projects in the past, though largely centered around new guitar tech. We’ll see if the two companies can deliver on that R&D promise and do something really innovative. I have no idea what that’d mean in this case, so if anyone cares to speculate, I’m all ears.
Online chatter has in past not been very kind to Gibson on its past acquisition record, so I expect some people will raise the spectre of at least one acquisition again. Let’s see… comments…
I don’t personally view this as flame-bait; Gibson’s a perfectly-respectable guitar maker and I imagine there could be some smart business opportunity here, especially with Stanton together with Gibson in Nashville. However, let’s consider: the names Gibson and Stanton, guitars and DJing. I imagine some flame-broiled comment thread on the Internet somewhere.
And yes, reasons to be skeptical:
Promises of this sort of R&D synergy could easily fail to materialize. And whether Gibson can manage these essentially unrelated businesses is an enormous question mark. There aren’t a whole lot of acquisition success stories in this business.