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High end Bass Equipment companies sold

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Joe BassPlayer, Oct 4, 2002.

  1. Joe BassPlayer

    Joe BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Why is it that most high end bass equipment companies that are sold to existing large corporations are usually so unsuccessful?

    Michael Tobias sells Tobias Basses to Gibson; suddenly pre-Gibson basses are better! Players say "New Tobias bass sure aren't what they use to be!" Sales drop.

    Steve Rabine sells SWR;
    Suddenly vintage SWR amps are better! Players say "New SWR amps sure aren't what they use to be!" Sales drop.

    Kubucki sells to Fender; Players say "New Kubicki basses sure aren't what they use to be!" Sales drop.

    And of course the classic:
    Fender sells to CBS; Players say "New Fender products sure aren't what they use to be!" Got to have a Pre-CBS!

    The list goes on and on but rarely do the buy-outs better or even sustain the product.

    Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? We say it will happen, it becomes so? Or is it usually true! The new owners just don't run the product properly. They make changes that they are not really qualified to make without true knowledge of the product they just purchased.

    What do you think?
  2. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    Some believe when a corporation takes control, quality tends to become secondary after profit. Minor details that were once very important are now only minor details. Mass production also can take away from a personal touch to working with wood.

  3. I would tend to agree with the theory that the profit margin is increased, caused by management removing the cost out of things that they shouldn't.

    A smaller company is usually run for passion and some profit, while a larger corp is usually run solely for profit.
  4. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I'm skeptical that SWR sales have dropped. Is that verifiable? Seems like they are selling more than ever! Same with Fender. While people say pre-CBS is better they are selling more than pre-CBS I believe.

    Anyway...I think the reasoning goes that once a smaller guy sells off to the big people they start producing in greater numbers and quality ultimately suffers. That's a given almost every time.

    brad cook
  5. chucko58


    Jan 17, 2002
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    I paid for all my gear myself. Well, me and MasterCard.
    Seems like everything Gibson touches turns to %^&#. They've made a tradition of buying niche market leaders and driving them into the ground. Ask your keyboard player / Mac MIDI geek buddies about Opcode... and be prepared to get an earful!

    Fender's history is rather convoluted. Leo F. sold to CBS in the mid '60s because his health was a little shaky. When I was a young teenage player in the early '70s, everyone said "avoid the post-CBS Fenders". Now the '70s Fenders are "vintage". Wassupwidat?

    Leo's health improved, and he went on to found Music Man (which got sold to Ernie Ball, now pre-EB MMs are highly coveted) and G&L. At least he didn't sell G&L!

    Eventually Fender (the company) bought itself back from CBS and went independent again. Their marketing people sure seem to know what they're doing... unlike Gibson's. I couldn't tell you if the product has improved, I'm not a Fenderphile.

    I think in general that any time a boutique maker sells out, the instruments lose the personal touch. The buyer still has the brand name, but as the product line gets absorbed into the buyer's business, it loses its uniqueness. And business managers being what they are, the product eventually gets cheapened to the point where the name is about the only thing going for it.
  6. I would argue that the SWR inclusion to this comparison is invaild for two reasons:
    • Steve Rabe did not sell SWR to a larger corporation, but to minority partner Daryl Jamison. It has remained at about the same level, whereas the other examples were intended to grow into larger companies.
    • From all acounts, SWR sales have either remained at the same level or increased. I believe the first run of the Mo'Bass head sold out at the NAMM it was premired at (a good sign for a $2000 head of new design)
  7. Joe BassPlayer

    Joe BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I was unaware that the SWR sale was to an individual. In that case let's examine the sale of a bass equipment company to an individual. In SWR's case I've still heard the same negative comments. How many times have I seen in HC or BG ad's the verbiage "Vintage SWR not the junk they're making now"? I'm a huge SWR user. I've owned 7 amps and several cabinets in the last 15 years (all vintage SWR not that junk they're making now! :p ). Just kidding! I have a new Goliath Jr. III and a Workingmans 12 amp and I've noticed no major negative change in the quality. I've had to repair a couple of piece of the old and I've had some minor problems with the new gear also. The fact is that I believe in ANY SALE the initial perception of the public is "they sure don't make 'em like they use to!". All individuals and companies have to consider the reality of this before making the purchase.
    As a side note, the "Mo Bass amps must be going some where else beside the GA area because I know of no one using one! It looks like it belongs in a home stereo cabinet not an equipment rack! Fire that styling individual!:D
  8. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    As far as I know, Leo bough back Fender from CBS, and now Fender is looking up again. It's not the same small company it was years ago, but it's much better than it was in the late 80's. I mean, the FMTs are showing us where Fender is going, and it's pretty nice that they're stepping it up.
  9. I couldn't have said better. Some brand names have survived better than others. Music Man is still a highly respected name in guitars and basses. Maybe it is because EB was a small company and not some huge corporation at the time it bought Music Man. Fender products are made in so many places by so many different shops that it is really hard to tell just what you are getting. What Fender has going right for its self is "OUTSTANDING MARKETING" The only other company that does it better is HARLEY DAVIDSON. But let's not digress anymore and starting talking motorcycles.
  10. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Well, if you're going to look at sheer numbers, there are a few reasons why Fender is selling more today. First, they have a more extensive line, which includes bargain basses like the MIM models. Back in the Pre-CBS days, you had a Fender Jazz, and a Fender P, and they were both a hefty chunk of chage, at the time. Not to mention the fact that they're massed produced by the thousands, meaning there are more basses on the market.
  11. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Music Man has been pointed out as an exception to the rule.

    I'd like to add G & L, which is currently owned by BBE Inc.
  12. jpwinters

    jpwinters Guest

    Aug 22, 2002
    Norfolk, Va
    That would be quite a good trick for Leo to do seeing that he is dead. He died in 1991. After he left Fender in 1970 (he sold it in 65 and stayed on for 5 years) he never had anything else to do with them.

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