Edited by Paul L. Robertson and David Jacobson
Chapter 8: Engineering versus Craftsmanship: Innovation in the Electric Guitar Industry, 1945–1984
Thierry Rayna and Ludmila Striukova 1. INTRODUCTION Due to its extensive usage of high-tech equipment, the music industry is often discussed in the innovation literature. Music, however, is not only about recording; it is also about the means to create music: the instruments. When it comes to high technology, the instrument industry is the antipode of the recording industry and most musical instruments are still very much the same as they were centuries ago. Yet, the electric guitar industry provides a good example of a technological evolution which is both conservative and modern, and the outcomes of innovation in this industry greatly differ from those of other industries. In fact, the electric guitar represents an intense fusion between an already mature market, the guitar market, and disruptive technologies. Since its invention in the early 1920s, the electric guitar has been the object of a constant struggle between conservatism and innovation. Its evolution also reflects the opposition between traditional labourintensive craftsmanship, seen as a proof of quality, and the mechanized processes required by mass production. The history of the development and adoption of the electric guitar is testimony to these contrasts. Primitive and mocked at first (the first mass-produced electric guitar was commonly referred to as a ‘canoe paddle’), the electric guitar experienced disruptive changes both in conception and production. It was then widely adopted and became an icon of the consumer society in the 1960s. In fact, the two most iconic models of electric guitars, the Gibson Les Paul and...
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