Belfast Telegraph

Fender executive hails ukulele sales as online music tuition service also grows

The boss of Fender has hailed "explosive growth" in ukulele sales and said the firm was tuning up its digital content business to attract more musicians.

Chief executive Andy Mooney said the company had launched Fender Play - an online music tuition platform - after discovering a large slice of its sales were coming from beginners buying a guitar for the first time.

While video sharing website YouTube is saturated with guitar tuition videos, Mr Mooney said its subscription -based model would prove successful because there remained a customer appetite for premium content.

The iconic guitar maker is also hoping the digital product will fuel demand for its musical instruments and hardware.

His comments came as the iconic guitar manufacturer saw ukulele sales surge, while electric guitar sales remained healthy in the face of an industry-wide slowdown.

Mr Mooney, who was born in Whitburn, Scotland, told the Press Association: "For the last two years our core business has been growing at a single-digit rate.

"We believe we have a long runway of growth ahead of us, but in addition to that we are excited about our first revenue generating digital product, Fender Play.

"We are excited about that for two reasons. Firstly, it's an entirely new revenue stream for the company. Secondly, if we are successful in reducing the abandonment rate of first time guitar buyers by 10% then we have the chance to double the size of the entire industry".

The Arizona-based company is renowned for its Stratocaster and Telecaster electric guitars made famous by rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen.

However, the former Nike and Disney executive said there was "huge amounts of potential" in categories the company had not paid as much attention to, such as acoustic guitars and effects pedals.

He added: "We have seen 1.5 million units of ukulele sold in the US. The category is absolutely exploding right now, which I feel really good about.

"One of the reasons a lot of young players abandon (the guitar) is because they picked up the wrong instrument to learn on to begin with.

"I have daughter who is 10 and she should not be playing a six-string electric guitar right now because its likely to turn her off for life."

On Brexit, he said the company had not suffered any sales distortion linked to Britain's divorce from the European Union because guitar buying was a "very considered purchase".

Mr Mooney, who took the top job two years ago, ruled out any immediate plans to float the company, but said there would be "a lot of different options in the future" if it continues to be successful.

Fender pulled the plug on an initial public offering (IPO) in 2012, citing poor market conditions.

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