Why aren't Rickenbacker guitars more popular?
Pictured is George Harrison's 1962 Rickenbacker 425; it just sold for $657,000. George was in a band called The Beatles. You might have heard of them.
Can you buy a new 425? No. Rickenbacker currently does not make one as far as I know. And to be honest, I'm surprised they don't, because it's normally par for the course that any guitar company that has any famous model will produce some modern version of it whether it's a signature model or not. Rickenbacker has chosen not to do that with the 425 for whatever strange reason.
Rickenbacker is a weird guitar company, and they make weird guitars.
Why is the company weird?
Rickenbacker is in the position to make huge money based on the fact so many famous guitar players and bands have used their instruments over the decades. And yet, Ric does not capitalize on this nearly as much as they should. They could easily do so without losing an ounce of integrity, but don't.
Ric is also in a damned good position to release exclusive-run models for particular guitar store chains, as models are sold in Guitar Center and Sam Ash. But Ric doesn't do that either.
If you look at the rickenbacker.com web site, it's a joke. The site looks like something that was programmed back in the early 2000s and was never updated. In fact, on first view you would think the company is defunct, but it isn't.
Basically put, Rickenbacker does not act like the storied, very-influential guitar company that's been in business since 1931. Instead, they choose to act like some ragtag outfit that's 20 years behind the times and can barely make ends meet. And I wouldn't be surprised if that's not too far from the truth.
The fact I can buy this Schecter Stargazer right now:
...and not see a Rickenbacker model right next to it when I search it on Amazon is pathetic. When I search "Rickenbacker" on Amazon, the Schecter is the guitar that shows up. I should not see Schecter first when searching Rickenbacker on Amazon, but yet I do. That's bad. For Rickenbacker, that is.
And yeah, Rickenbacker, that means Schecter is getting sales you would otherwise be getting.
My message to Rickenbacker would be this: You are one of the most influential electric guitar brands that has ever existed. GET ON THE BALL AND ACT LIKE IT.
Why are Ric guitars weird?
On the rare occasion you do see a Ric in a guitar store, it will most likely be a 300 series. The above is a 360 model.
What makes the guitar weird you've got this semi-acoustic thing with 24 frets on a 24.75-inch scale set-neck that starts at 1.63-inch at the nut and ends at 1.93-inch at the heel, with 10-inch fingerboard radius. But if that weren't weird enough, it can output in mono or stereo.
For those interested, yes there is a 3-pickup model, the 370. Personally, I'd take a 360 because I wouldn't have much use for the middle pickup on a Ric.
Have I ever seen a Ric in person? Yes, I have seen a few at Sam Ash in Tampa. And if I remember correctly, they were either 360 or 370 models. I think the price was somewhere between $1,200 to $1,500, but don't remember the price exactly because I wasn't paying much attention to it really. Why priced so high? Rics are all US-built as far as I know.
What makes a Ric weird if specifically talking about the 360/370 is the following:
24 frets. On a 24.75-inch scale. In stereo. On a semi-acoustic. Let that sit in your mind for a moment think if that's actually useful to you or not.
Your answer is "probably not", but still, a Ric can be useful.
What is a Ric good for?
Rics do have a tone all their own that you can recognize just by hearing it; they are amazingly good strumming guitars. Big, bold-sounding chords in concert with the trebly goodness of the single-coil pickups.
The 12-string version of just about any Ric electric is "that sound" of hippie-era 1960s music. For example, if you were trying to get the sound of the guitar in The Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn!, get a Ric 12-string and you've got it. Instantly.
Look to the right, you'll see the Ric 12-string:
Nothing - and I mean nothing - sounds like a Ric 12-string electric. That's a good thing.
Similarly, you'll quickly realize there's a ton of 60s music you'll all of a sudden have "the sound" for with a Ric 6-string, specifically on the bridge position.
For me, I prefer vintage 60's Fender over Rickenbacker tone. However, I don't deny for a second that Ric tone was a huge part of popular 1960's music.
Could Ric tone be used for modern music?
Yes, but there's a problem. Ric guitars are hard to come by; that's Rickenbacker's fault 100%. Because of that, Rics aren't seen by younger players, so they never buy them since they were never exposed to the brand.
I'm not saying Ric needs to ramp up production, say to hell with build quality and start flying out guitars left and right.
What I am saying is that Ric really needs a good swift kick in the ass as far as their brand presence is concerned.
Here's a small example: Rickenbacker could work a deal with Guitar Center to have a factory special run, and have nice big posters put in selected GC stores so customers could really see that GC has Rics for sale. What would be on the posters? Total nostalgia. 1960s stuff. Huge hippie-style vibe.
Yes, it would work. I'm sure of it. I'd even use the tagline "Nothing sounds like a Ric!"
I could put together a campaign that would have Rics flying out of GC stores.
Would this get the attention of younger players? Damned right it would. There would be teen players begging their parents to buy them a Ric instead of a car, and many would get them.
Squier pretty much proved this was a totally possible, totally doable, totally profitable thing.
While I know Squier is the lower-cost brand for Fender, keep this in mind: With really not much promo, when Squier Jaguars and Jazzmasters came on the scene in 2012, they flew out of the stores and fast. In a sea of Strats, Teles and Les Pauls, whammo, there was something different and cool. Jazzes and Jags. The 60's came back with a vengeance. And it worked. Players bought those guitars in droves, as did I.
Rickenbacker has the cool 60's vibe thing going for them. Big time. Anything 60's is known to be a good seller, and Ric is not taking advantage of that. They should.
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