Late Saturday night while America was watching Saturday Night Live, Keith Urban appeared on the Home Shopping Network for two hours – selling guitars! He performed a few songs, including songs from his new album Fuse and talked to some fans on the phone. But mostly he spent the night telling the host, Colleen Lopez, how much he loves his new line of entry-level guitars.
The Urban Phoenix Guitar Collection is made up of an acoustic, complete with EQ and built-in tuner, and a Les-Paul like electric. On Saturday night each guitar was selling for an introductory price of $289.95 (they have since raised to $389.95) which included a case, an amp and an instructional DVD of Keith showing you what a pick is and how to play a chord.
Although the guitars are obviously geared to the learner market, they also include some high-end details. The guitars have a phoenix motif running throughout. From the inlaid headstock to inlaid fretboards to a phoenix inlay on the back – all matching Keith’s iconic phoenix forearm tattoo. Each guitar is available in four colors: Brazilian Burst, Rich Black, Emerald Brazilian Burst and Vintage Natural Ivory.
Or, I should say they were available in four colors. Because on Sunday morning Keith sold out! The Emerald Green color was extremely popular and was reported to sell out overnight. As of Monday, the black is no longer shown on the HSN website. In two hours (from midnight to 1AM on the East Coast) they sold over $2,000,000 worth of inexpensive guitars. I bet it takes Guitar Center a whole lot longer to sell that kind of volume.
But the real question here is…
Did Keith sell out his musical integrity and pop-star status by becoming the next Esteban?
I say no. Actually I say the exact opposite. Whether it was Keith or his management, whoever came up with the idea to sell guitars using his name was a genius! Obviously the guitars are a commercial success, but I think they also position Keith as Guitar-God – something he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for.
An affordable guitar just before Christmas means lots of kids will be getting a Keith Urban guitar under their tree this year. And if you got a guitar from Keith Urban, whose songs would you be learning to play on it? This guitar is sure to make a new generation of Keith Urban fans who identify him with guitar, not Nicole Kidman. And unlike Esteban, Keith’s music is safe and relatively cool for a young kid to learn to play.
Parents with children interested in music are clueless when it comes to purchasing a first guitar for their kid. My parents had no idea what to get me. They were reliant on the clerk at the local music store. Keith’s endorsement will make it easier for parents to feel good about buying their kid a guitar. And that’s a great thing for the future of music! As twisted as it may sound, I believe Keith is actually doing a public service by selling guitars.
But on Saturday night, most of the people calling in to buy guitars were Keith Urban fans. If you never thought your fans would buy anything more expensive than a $25 t-shirt, you’re wrong. Now not every fan will shell out $300 to buy your signature whatever, but obviously Keith’s fans were hungry for something more tangible than a Light the Fuse tour photo book. I’m guessing many of these guitars will never see much playing time. They were bought as eye candy. But I’m sure the Urban camp had that figured out since they made the guitars very flashy and colorful.
As great a success as the launch of Keith’s guitar line has been, there are risks with this plan. If people get the guitars and they are crap, they have Keith’s name all over them. Let’s hope they did extensive testing on these to make sure they’re well made. Otherwise, Keith could become the guy pitching garbage guitars. Social media is a powerful advocate for the scorned consumer.
It’s also important that Keith continues to position his reason for selling guitars as a positive one. So far he has talked about how much he loves to play guitar and how his life would be different if he hadn’t learned to play. So he’s really pitching his guitar as a great way for kids to break out and learn music. And that’s a good angle. He can’t ever talk about making guitars so his fans will have something more expensive to purchase, even though I’m sure that was a factor. He can’t risk looking like he’s taking advantage of his fans.
Overall I think Keith Urban’s guitar launch was a huge success. It once again proves that music is no longer the product, but the marketing. Keith’s music is what made people pay attention to him so he could sell guitars.