Game-Changers: Andy Mooney (2016 NAMM Show)

At the 2016 NAMM Show, Fender CEO Andy Mooney joined NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond for “Breakfast of Champions.” During the interview with Lamond, Mooney discussed his plans for the guitar and amp company after seven months at the helm, along with his background as a musician.

Highlights from the interview:

On his love of the guitar:
“Before I joined Fender, I actually had 40 guitars in my collection. Now, my wife is terrified. (Laughs) We’re going to have to buy a bigger house, I think.

“I really wanted to be a professional musician but realized that the likelihood of that working was pretty slim. So I bagged going to college deliberately because I wanted to be a pro musician, but I had to have a day job to pay the bills.

“We were really a heavy-metal band disguised as a pop band. So we would take pop songs and then heavy them up. We never really attracted a very large audience with that strategy, but we loved it.”

On growing the guitar market:
“Ninety percent of people who buy their first instrument abandon it in the first 12 months. The 10 percent who don’t end up really being the industry—buying multiple instruments, all of the amplifiers, effects pedals, audio equipment, whatever it might be. Usually consumer products companies have a hard time getting new consumers to come in. We don’t have that problem; we have a problem getting them to commit to the instrument to life.

“So everything that we’re doing on the digital side is geared towards reducing abandonment rate. Because if we reduce abandonment rate by 10 percent, for example, we have the potential to double the size of the industry. I think if that occurs, we all benefit. Other brands in the industry will benefit. We, as a share leader in the electric segment, will benefit. But fundamentally, a recurring theme from everybody who’s been on the stage here today, is that playing a musical instrument is life-changing. And the more people that we can invite into that club—every genre, every gender, every geography—the better it’s going to be for the industry.”

On the importance of the music retailer:
“The guitar and everything that goes with it—amplifiers, effects pedals, whatever it might be—it’s a very personal thing. We’re introducing a new amp line here at the show: Bassbreaker. We had about a dozen really high-caliber guitarists come up and experiment with the amp. So they all had a Stratocaster. They all had the same amp. And it was like 12 completely different sounds. So it’s a very personal choice about how it feels physically to you, how it sounds sonically to you. You can only do that in a physical environment. That’s just one of many reasons why I think the specialty network’s here for the long run and vitally important for the industry.”

On product development:
“On one hand, we have to move the product along wherever we can improve it. And we should. So that’s exactly what we tried to do with the evolution of the Strat and Tele this year with a product called American Elite. But at the same time, there are aficionados with deep love, deep affection for the brand that will never want you to change it. We can do both. That’s the beauty, I think, of this industry.”