Guitar Center

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Guitar Center, Inc.
Type Private
Industry Musical Instruments
Founded 1959
Headquarters Westlake Village, California
Key people Mike Pratt, CEO
Products Musical instruments, Recording equipment and accessories
Revenue Increase $2.14 billion
Owner(s) Ares Management
Employees 10,000

Guitar Center is the largest chain of musical instrument retailers in the world[1] with 315 locations[2] throughout the United States. Its headquarters is in Westlake Village, California.

Guitar Center's sister companies/subsidiaries incorporate Music & Arts, Musician's Friend,, LMI, Giardinelli,, Private Reserve Guitars, Woodwind and Brasswind, Music 123, and Harmony Central.


Founded in Hollywood by Wayne Mitchell in 1959 as The Organ Center, a retailer of electronic organs for home and church use, it became a major seller of Vox electric guitars and guitar amplifiers, changing its name to The Vox Center in 1964. Toward the end of the 1960s, Vox—whose sales derived largely from its association with The Beatles, who made extensive use of its amplifiers—fell in popularity as Marshall amplifier users Eric Clapton and others captured musicians' imaginations. Accordingly, Mitchell once again changed the name, this time to Guitar Center.[1][3]

Guitar Center West LA, Pico & Westwood, Los Angeles

The popularity of rock and roll in the 1970s allowed Mitchell to open stores in San Francisco and San Diego, as well as several suburbs of Los Angeles. Ray Scherr, previously the general manager of the San Francisco store, purchased the company from Mitchell in the late 1970s. Scherr owned and operated it until 1996 from its Westlake Village headquarters.

Although synthesizer-driven disco and new wave pop sapped rock's audience in the late 1970s, the 1980s "guitar rock" revival led by Van Halen and a concurrent influx of Japanese-produced instruments brought guitar sales to unprecedented levels.[4] Guitar Center took full advantage of this sales bonanza, and by the end of the decade began an ambitious program of expansion across the entire United States.[5] Using its size as leverage over the musical instrument business, it developed into the largest musical instrument retailer in the country, and made an initial public offering of stock in 1997.[6]

In 2005, Guitar Center, Inc., started The Fender Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports music education.[7]

Activision partnered with Guitar Center in 2006; all purchases made during game play of Guitar Hero, beginning with the second installment, are made in a virtual Guitar Center store.

On June 27, 2007, Guitar Center agreed to a $1.9 billion buyout from Bain Capital, totaling $2.1 billion including debt. The deal was led by Goldman Sachs and amounted to a per-share price of $63, or a 26% premium on the June 26 closing price. The deal was approved by shareholders on September 18, 2007, and closed October 9, 2007.[8]

In mid-2009 Guitar Center opened a rehearsal studio facility in Woodland Hills, California. The eight studios with full backline range in size from 350-550 square feet.

Guitar Center also hosts annual events such as the Drum Off, King of the Blues, contests, and artist appearances throughout the nation.[9]

In 2011, Guitar Center added equipment rentals to the store in San Diego, California. Since, Guitar Center has opened Rental Departments in 10 other existing locations and plans to offer Rental services in various other stores across the country.

In May 2013, Standard & Poor's cut its debt rating on Bain Capital-owned Guitar Center Holdings Inc to "junk bond" status, citing struggles with "weak operating trends." The corporate credit rating on the company dropped from 'B-' to 'CCC+'.[10]

In April 2014, Ares Management took a controlling stake in Guitar Center. Bain Capital, Guitar Center's former owner, retained partial ownership of the company, along with representation on the board. According to Mike Pratt, the retailer's chief executive, the deal will reduce Guitar Center's total debt and provide it with the resources to expand its footprint and invest in its business.[11]

Guitar Center Sessions[edit]

First debuting in 2010, each episode of Guitar Center Sessions showcases exclusive live performances by noteworthy artists captured in hi-definition at Guitar Center's iconic Hollywood, CA location. Some past guests have included Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morissette, 311, Megadeth, Snoop Dogg, Soundgarden, The Cult, CAKE, Jakob Dylan, Blondie, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Bush, Ben Folds Five, Korn, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, Skylar Grey, Peter Frampton, Frank Turner, and Jane’s Addiction. Guitar Center Sessions is hosted by Nic Harcourt, and was created, developed and produced by Guitar Center exclusively on DirecTV.[12] Guitar Center Sessions has won several awards, including a Lumiere Award from the International 3D Society for the episodes featuring Jane's Addiction and Peter Gabriel.

At: Guitar Center Podcasts[edit]

The "At: Guitar Center" podcasts feature interviews and intimate performances with some of the biggest names in music. Some past guests have included Travis Barker, Sevendust, T-Pain, Joe Bonamassa, The Crystal Method, Buddy Guy, Daughtry, Jimmy Cliff, Meiko, Rza, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Brandi Carlile, and Minus the Bear, The podcasts are available on the iTunes, Zune and BlackBerry networks and on the Guitar Center website.[13] The show is hosted by Nic Harcourt.

Connections Made by Guitar Center[edit]

Connections made by Guitar Center, a collaboration between 88.5 KCSN Los Angeles and Guitar Center, is a weekly one-hour radio program featuring fresh, new music from across the globe and musical spectrum. Signed or unsigned, the show offers an electric mix of progressive and innovative artists. The show is hosted by radio host and taste maker, Nic Harcourt.[14]

Hollywood's RockWalk[edit]

RockWalk detail

The Sunset Boulevard location in Los Angeles hosts Hollywood's RockWalk, a hall of fame honoring musical artists.[15] Artists are invited to place their handprints into cement blocks that are put on display at the Guitar Center.[15]


A Guitar Center retail store in Houston

In 2000, Guitar Center purchased mail order and Internet retail house Musician's Friend [1] for $50 million, asserting that the merged company was the world's largest seller of musical instruments.[16] Musician's Friend became a wholly owned subsidiary that was headquartered in Medford, Oregon until 2011, when Musician's Friend's headquarters operations were gradually consolidated into Guitar Center's facilities in Westlake Village, California.[17]

In 2005, Guitar Center Inc. acquired Music & Arts, the largest school music dealer in the United States, and merged their subsidiary band and orchestral chain American Music Group into Music & Arts (as the company was renamed).[18] Music & Arts was founded in 1952 in Bethesda, Maryland and sells band and orchestra instruments, guitars, keyboards, drum sets, printed sheet music, and related supplies.

In the summer of 2006, Guitar Center purchased four stores in Texas from the popular South Texas and Central/South American company, Hermes.[19]

In February 2007, the direct response division of Guitar Center, Musician's Friend, purchased assets of the Indiana-based company Dennis Bamber, Inc., which included leading band and orchestra retailer, Woodwind and Brasswind, plus Music 123 and Lyons Music.

Harmony Central[edit]

Harmony Central is an online source of reviews (both by users and website staff), news and discussion forums for the musical and pro audio fields. The forums have over 300,000 registered users as of the 1st January 2012, with subforums covering all aspects of musical equipment, playing, production and performance for a wide variety of instruments.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nathans, Aaron (14 May 2011), "Delaware music stores bracing for national giant's arrival", The News Journal, archived from the original on June 2011, retrieved May 15, 2011, "Guitar Center, which focuses on the rock-band end of the music business, opened its first store in Hollywood in 1964, just as guitar bands were taking off." [dead link]
  2. ^ Guitar Center Store Locator
  3. ^ Guitar Center 1960s History
  4. ^ Guitar Center 1970s History
  5. ^ Guitar Center 1980s History
  6. ^ Guitar Center 1990s History
  7. ^ Guitar Center Music Foundation
  8. ^ "Guitar Center Accepts Bain Bid", The Wall Street Journal (fragment), June 28, 2007 
  9. ^ Guitar Center Events | Guitar Center
  10. ^ "Bain Capital's Guitar Center hits rough patch", Reuters, June 12, 2013 
  11. ^ "Ares Management Gains Control of Guitar Center", WSJ, April 3, 2014 
  12. ^ Guitar Center Sessions
  13. ^ At: Guitar Center podcast
  14. ^ Connections Made by Guitar Center
  15. ^ a b "List of all the rockwalk/inductees". Guitar Center's Hollywood Rockwalk. 
  16. ^ "Guitar firm, e-commerce to merge". Deseret News. May 14, 1999. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Losing a Friend". Mail Tribune. April 28, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  18. ^ Guitar Center buys Music & Arts for $90m
  19. ^ Guitar Center buys Hermes Trading Co.

External links[edit]