July 20, 2020
Ryan Kershaw has played guitar since he was a teenager. He makes his living designing the six-string instruments for D'Angelico Guitars.
But even he found himself playing more during the pandemic.
"My guitar playing took off," said Ryan Kershaw, executive vice president for product development at D'Angelico Guitars. "I had some more time to experiment."
With people sheltered in place and businesses not operating at 100 percent capacity, everyone has a little more time. For many, that means picking up a musical instrument.
"Even though there is some financial instability going on there are people who are prioritizing their music-making," Kershaw said.
No one can go to concerts, so it seems they've decided to make their own music. Searches for and purchases of musical instruments and music editing software have been increasing during the coronavirus crisis. Guitar Center's online sales have more than doubled, according to Guitar World. Online retailer Sweetwater has double the normal amount of traffic, while online marketplace Reverb has seen searches for music gear up 50 percent year-over-year, Rolling Stone reported.
Meanwhile, there's been a 55 percent increase in searches for Apple music editing software Garageband, in addition to 13 million downloads for its add-on Sound Library, the Rolling Stone report added.
D'Angelico has seen an uptick in sales as well. Guitar purchases at one of its top online retailers doubled compared to the first three months of the year. It's also seeing more purchases at some of its smaller online retailers.
"There are people who are like, 'I meant to buy this guitar six months ago. I'm doing it now. If the world's ending I'm getting a guitar,'" Kershaw said.
The guitar manufacturer got its start on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1932 making handmade, high-quality guitars. It relaunched in 2011 with a wider range of instruments to satisfy beginner and expert guitarists. During the past few months, it's seen interest from all types of players. The company also completed its acquisition of Supro Amps and Pigtronix Pedals in mid-June, which should help round out its portfolio especially as people decide to create their own in-home studios and setups, Kershaw added.
"One small silver lining to an otherwise extremely bleak time that we have gone and are still going through is that folks realized that they had a little bit more time," he explained.
Robert Watkins is also taking advantage of this downtime. The D'Angelico guitar tech usually runs a blues jam in Hoboken, New Jersey, but it's shut down for the time being. He's been biking to D'Angelico's showroom every day to set up instruments and also working on his own guitar fundamentals.
"I'm working on other techniques and other things," Watkins explained. "People spend time working on one facet as opposed to 'I have to learn this song for Saturday.' So I sit there and play the same three notes for an hour."
D'Angelico's Kershaw, on the other hand, dedicated himself to his project, Neon Chef Book Club. The "bite-sized songwriting" experiment encourages musicians to write songs based on three distinct guidelines. They're then given two weeks to create a new piece of music.
Live events remain on pause, but musicians will continue to find their own path, he explained.
"People are going to reach for that paintbrush, whether it's a guitar, or a guitar and amp, or their new pedals they get to make all new sounds with," Kershaw said. "Whatever it is people are going to want to remain creative for sure,"