Author: Ian Bush
From my early teens I desperately wanted to be a rockstar. I was so certain that this was the life for me that I spent every weekend rehearsing with my band and had absolutely no problem using every available dollar to buy the latest and greatest gear. We were going to make it big! Or so I thought.
But this was the early 90's and sadly rock music was on a pretty steep downward spiral. The era of nightclubbing as a serious alternative to Friday nights down the pub was upon us.This, in turn, meant that pubs and clubs, always such an important breeding ground for emerging young bands, were not willing to champion live music with the same enthusiasm as they had previously. So, while I may have wanted to live the same dreams as the Oils, Cold Chisel, INXS, and The Bad Seeds, things were not looking particularly promising. I didn't like the idea of having to live on the dole just so I could be a “working” musician. At the time even the great Jimmy Barnes had had issues with bankruptcy. What chance did I have? Clearly, I needed a backup plan.
I had always enjoyed tinkering with all things electronic and from a young age loved trying to invent stuff. Musical gadgetry had always interested me and I would sit in my room for hours designing endless versions of tools and fiddling with electronic circuitry. I even had an early design for what would become computer recording but with no knowledge of where to go next the idea remained in my room. But a plan was forming. My idea was that I would work for a while, save some money and then join a Japanese company as a product development expert.
I got my first job as an Apprentice Electronics technician and was working for one of Australia's largest companies involved in musical instrument and equipment manufacture. My job was to fix amps and guitars and do the hard yards unloading containers. I knew I wasn’t setting the world on fire but I saw all these tasks as important steps towards realising the dream of developing my own products. At the time I couldn’t have been happier, it was a fantastic opportunity. The only downside was that the company was over two hours away from the family home which meant I needed to move out on my own which I did, all in the space of one week. Yes, it was a little daunting but I was young and full of confidence so I was very excited to be beginning my journey into the wider world. I was on my way.
So I worked hard, put the hours in and in due course I got a series of promotions. I was soon looking after a number of great brands, while always keeping in the back of my mind my desire to create my own brand. While it frustrated me that I couldn't make the changes and improvements to products that people wanted, I felt my time would come even though at this stage I wasn’t quite sure how.
Then fate intervened. My employer started buying their own range of products and I could see that this was my chance. In 1998 I took my first trip overseas and then in 2000 I spent some time at a factory in China that was making products for my company and I had the chance to make improvements and subtle changes to the designs.
I got an opportunity to learn from some old masters of the industry and I spent as much time as I could not only watching and listening but trying to understand how things worked in a country that was so culturally different to my own. To say that the learning curve was steep is an understatement!
During this time I got to know one of Australia's great custom builders, Craig Upfold and he became my mentor and was an invaluable source of information on how to build better guitars and amplifiers.
Over the following years, I spent more time in factories in China than I did at home (I went through 2 passports in 3 years!). Then in 2005, I got the chance to move overseas to help oversee the set-up of a new factory. This was a great opportunity and a bit of an adventure. The 12-month trip turned into 3 years, during which I learned all the ins and outs of what really makes the factories tick and if not the answers, at least an idea on how to work on the processes to get a better quality of guitars.
But there was one thing making my life difficult! It got to a point where the pressures from retailers demanding higher margins for instruments and the price increases of materials meant it was getting harder and harder to make the improvements I knew were necessary.
I wondered whether it would be a better idea if I sold guitars direct to the public exclusively online. By cutting out the middleman I figured I could offer a better value and quality of instrument. The question was whether people would be prepared to buy them sight unseen.
I’m happy to say that the answer to that question is a resounding yes and now some eight years on I am proud and somewhat relieved to say that the Artist Guitars brand is going from strength to strength. There is no great secret to this success which is defined now exactly as it always has been by hard work. The difference is that I now have a fabulously supportive and enthusiastic staff - musicians all, who also “get” what Artist Guitars is all about. Perhaps that's where the secret lies not only for ours but for any successful business. Nothing is achieved alone and the group of people that have bought into my original idea and their desire to be innovative at every level of the operation has meant that Artist Guitars can continue to grow and innovate.
The next period shapes up to be even more exciting and there is so much in the works. The point is and always will be that we will not be resting our laurels. There is much more to be done.
One final thing that needs to be said and that is none of this can be achieved without you, the great people who buy our gear. You are at the forefront of everything we do and I personally thank you one and all for your continued support.
Thanks for reading my story and if you have any ideas about how we can improve our products please let us know. We do not take considerations lightly.
Ian Bush CEO