Case Study: GuitarPick

Case Study: GuitarPick
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GuitarPick Logo

“Music has been around as long as people have formed communities. It's not going to go away, but its uses and meaning evolve.” – David Byrne


The online guitar community is here to stay since its early days of dial-up modems, listservs and newsgroups. The On-Line Guitar Archive (OLGA) is the first Internet library of guitar and tablature (or “tabs”), that was born out of a collection of community-driven, Internet-forum archives.  While the Internet-savvy guitarists were teaching each other how to play their favorite songs, new innovations – such as guitar tablature – erupted and eventually disrupted the music publishing industry for good.

Guitarists are one of the best examples of digital-first communities that find value in sharing information. Listservs were neither easy to find or use yet guitarists, who are part artist and part technologist, have always kept their pulse near the super technical. Whether it's stringing a guitar, soldering a new volume knob, or type out the chords to “Smells like Teen Spirit”, guitarists know and like technology.

With the rise of wireless broadband, mobile technology and social media, new opportunities are beginning to erupt for aspiring musicians to learn, collaborate, share, and promote their work online. What is missing today is a media arm aimed at helping artists promote their work directly to the next generation.

Inspired while reading a print interview of Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine) and his process for crafting music, CEO/Founder Chris Mendez recognized a huge disconnect between the artist describing his guitar set-up and the inability for the reader to instantly listen, process and learn more about the products that helped shape a specific song. Furthermore, when Chris began researching the idea of building a sound-sourcing encyclopedia for guitar, he realized that the guitar community had pretty much remained stagnant since his earliest days learning guitar online. It was plagued by stagnancy: rehashed guitar tablature websites, digitized print books and forums that were rampant with online trolls.

As a guitarist of 15 years and an award winning music tech producer, Chris saw an opportunity to build a better platform that bridges story, popular music, rich media and interactive experiences. Moreover, the platform aimed to revitalize a creative class of innovators and DIY craftsmen who are comfortable using digital desktop tools to design new soundscapes, ideas and expressions. After extensive research into the creative economy, and thinking about new opportunities for musicians to earn income for their knowledge, Chris believes there is a way to shorten the gap between sound-maker and sound producer.

Market Analysis

Music as a “social” experience

There’s a lot of research describing the “Buyer Decision Process” and its steps: Problem Identification, Search, Trust Building, Evaluation of Alternatives, Choice, Post-Purchase Behavior. That said, because the online shopping experience is not simply a shopper, but also an information technology user, one can argue that the digital shopping experience is slightly more complicated than the physical version. Fortunately, the online team has a record of creating excellent web experience founded on

  • Usability
  • Interactivity
  • Trust
  • Aesthetic
  • Marketing mix

In response to that, marketers are always interested in using their arsenal of tools to change consumer impulses. The most popular one is often referred to as the 4P’s of marketing mix.

4Ps – product, price, place and promotion – also known as the marketing mix

Below is a diagram outlining the consumer process and how media can be used to infiltrate all the decision making moments.

Marc Jack Peter
Age: 20-34
Income: $0-$30,000
Gender: Male
Age: 35-49
Income: $30,001-$74,999
Gender: Male
Age: 50-64
Income: $75,000 and over
Gender: Male
Marc is in a band with his friends and they play in small concerts a few times each month Jack has played guitar since he was a kid and has been in many bands. He practices almost every day for at least an hour Peter has played both guitar and bass as a hobby since he was a child. He has no interest in being in a band but still plays most days
Estimated market size: 657,475 Estimated market size: 800,280 Estimated market size: 534,560

Psychographics

Marc, 22, is a fresh graduate from a college that’s not too far from where he lives. He is the lead guitarist of a band he started with some friends in high school. They have been together for about two years and practice almost thrice a week. It is now summer and they perform small concerts almost every week, and Marc is looking for a new guitar. His family never had a lot of income, but they earn enough to live comfortably.

Steve owns six guitars and just sold two of them to help pay for his new one. He has been wanting this one for a while, and his parents agreed to help pay for it. Someone suggested getting a custom guitar and this is what he wants. He wants it soon before he goes to college, and does not have too much money to spend.

Jack is 36 years old and is in the sixth year at his current job. He is married and has two kids in elementary school. He has played guitar since he was a kid, and has been in many bands. He still makes time to practice everyday even though he is not in a band now. Jack has owned about 15 guitars throughout his life, and is always looking for another, because none of them have been perfect for him. But he’s wanted a custom guitar ever since he saw the one owned by a former bandmate. However, he could not find one that gave him every option he wanted for a fair price. Even though Jack can afford to spend more money, he does not want to spend a lot on principle because he believes they are overpriced.

Peter is 58 years old, married, and all of his kids are out of college with their own careers. He has played guitar as a hobby since he was a kid, but has never been in a band because he has no interest in it. He does not buy too many guitars, because all of the ones sold in retail stores do not reach his standards anymore. He has a lot of extra money now that his kids are in college and does not want to settle for a mass produced guitar. He wants his dream guitar especially if he has the means to afford it.

Competitive Analysis (Encyclopedias and Print Magazines)

The customer reviews show that the features they care most about are: beautiful photography, interesting stories, good prose and memorabilia-style layout. Only a couple of reviews discuss the fact that neither encyclopedias nor print magazines include any music. It’s as if the audience doesn’t yet understand the power of seeing what a guitar looks like and also being able to quickly hear how it sounds.

Video may be the best way to connect images with sound but it may be tricky (legally) to offer a reliable source. The next best thing is to aggregate content in a way that packages original illustration, original storyline, curated music and annotations while people listen. Finally, we can also include Tweets from social media, and an inclusion of images from Wikipedia and Flickr. Each of these sources – in combination – should be able to package the experience nicely.

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Ripe for Innovation
There were 60M musicians in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2009, there were $1.3B in musical instrument sales with the highest percentage of sales coming from Massachusetts (33%), California (16%) and NY (14%).

Traditionally, Americans are the biggest consumers of musical instruments with 42.7% of the worldwide market. Comparatively, Japan stands at 15.6%. In 2005, Americans purchased 3.4M guitars.

Apps

1M Guitarists have an iPad.  That’s 6.97% of guitarists total.

402K basists (6.27%)

455l drummers (7.84%)

2.4M vocalists (7.56%)

558k Pianists (8.73%)

Key Points

  • Print book sales and magazines are declining.
  • E-book sales are increasing thanks to digital marketplaces such as Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.
  • Big-box music retailers are struggling to stay afloat post 2007 economy. In a response to declining guitar sales, retailers are focusing on media marketing in an attempt to boost them. Think about RedBull for guitars.
  • Smaller music store incumbents are working with indie makers to chip away at the Guitar Centers and the Sam Ashes of the world.
  • Mobile applications are continuing to grow and being evaluated by educators, administrators and institutions as the new arsenal for online learning.

The Internet has completely changed how users buy, consume media, and share information with their friends. The most successful brands today not only find new ways to improve their bottom line but also work towards fostering a community through social media, online campaigns and new platforms for engagement. With regard to music, new media offers new opportunities for traditionally segmented industries (such as print publishing and music distribution) to finally converge to create new digital experiences.


Music Retail Stores and Supplies

The “big box retail business”

In parallel to these new advancements in technology, large music retailers such as Guitar Center have begun investing in media to further promote their brand. The music retailer is supporting artists through programming such as “Guitar Center Sessions” to expose their music to larger audiences in an ever-changing music industry. Guitar Center understands that retail in the 21st century will be centered around specialized knowledge, unique offerings, personal relationships both locally and digitally. Therefore, as John Seely Brown states, knowledge is fundamentally changing from being contained within a single owner to being contained within ecosystems of partners.

Streaming Media

In December 2013, Spotify reported 20 million active users (meaning they listen at least monthly). From within there, 5M are paying subscribers.

Brand Development

Product Concept

GuitarPick celebrates guitar and the musicians who help make them legendary. We tell stories and build products for the online guitar community.

Mission Statement

Learn. Perform. Share.

GuitarPick celebrates guitar, rock n’ roll and popular cultures by re-imagining the digital music experience through story. Using interactive media as our stage, we work with music storytellers, tastemakers, instructors, and musicians worldwide to promote a premium, story-driven listening experience.

Vision Statement

Guitar is one of man’s greatest technical achievements and the driving instrument behind many of society's most powerful musical movements. Each generation of sound makers continues to push the boundaries of what is sonically possible which leaves an exponential net effect on future waves of creativity. GuitarPick is committed to carrying forward the story of the world’s most iconic instrument by re-imagining a new kind of community. One that celebrates musical curiosity through creative exchange and harmony through individual self expression.

Value Proposition

GuitarPick is the next iteration beyond print books and magazines that leverages the new power of broadband media with the increased understanding of social media. The guitar community is an ecosystem of musicians who both learn, teach, and inspire each other. As an interactive platform for the guitarist community our pillars include:

  • Provide: A new platform for musical interaction. Our guitar guides, tools, exclusives and community platforms provided members with a community to build and share their knowledge online.
  • Produce: Original stories about the world’s most iconic instrument and the changemakers who helped push the boundaries of music and self expression.
  • Beautiful aesthetic design: Aimed at attracting and building trust amongst aspiring musicians aimed at attracting audiences worldwide by being recognized as legends.
  • Promote: Artists and noteworthy stories to audiences worldwide.   Pioneer: New interactive experiences for music fans online.

Naming a Product

This is the timeline of our Naming Exercise.

Content Programming

Editorial Values

  • Usability: A quality user experience includes a convenient way for users to search, browse, and learn with as little design and technical friction as possible.
  • Interactivity: Interaction is the key to learning and we believe that users need to see and do.
  • Aesthetic: Although guitarists tend to use their ears more than their eyes, we still appreciate aesthetic beauty in all of its forms. A premium sheen is essential to creating a high-quality user experience.
  • Trust: Customers are important to us and we strive to build a great experience that they can be proud to be a part of.
  • Intrigue: Stories come in different shapes and sizes but as a platform for interactive media, the team is committed to telling high quality stories for audiences of all ages.
  • Accountability: Founded on the groundwork of specialized journalism, our storytellers may not always be perfect but we are committed to getting it right.

Design

Wireframes

An example of hand drawn wireframes.

GuitarPick wireframes
GuitarPick Style Guide
GuitarPick Type Treatment and Watermark

Marketing

Landing Page

GuitarPick.fm Landing Page

Measurement

Qualitative

Twitter

Facebook

Revenue Streams

The GuitarPick business is built on three models. Those models are:

  • iTunes Affiliate income
  • T-Shirt sales
  • Advertising through Mashape and custom ad server