I’d like to start by wishing everyone a healthy and happy year in 2021. So much has been out of our control, and everyone else’s control, during this pandemic. Here at Taylor, we were fortunate to have a healthy year in 2020, and lucky to be in a business that was well-aligned with people spending more time working from and being at home, and turning to music during that time. With the recent news of several vaccines proving effective and nearing approval, I’m hopeful we’ll all turn the corner, get back to more normal conditions, and have a positive year.
As I’ve written many times before, we don’t know what each year will bring or what challenges we’ll be presented with, and 2020 was certainly no exception!
If we’re lucky, life is long, yet it only lasts decades. But businesses can last centuries, depending on the industry. Bob, Andy and I were talking recently, and Bob said somewhat provocatively that Taylor Guitars could outlive Apple. That’s a fairly outrageous statement to make, but I think he made an interesting point. Musical instruments evolve fairly slowly. The best instruments produced by some manufacturers were made 60 or more years ago. Musical instrument technology doesn’t easily become outdated.
Some of the oldest companies in America make musical instruments.
Martin Guitars has been in business since 1833. Steinway since 1853. Gibson since 1902. Each for more than a hundred years, making pretty traditional musical instruments. Making and enjoying music fulfills a human need, as it’s creative and aesthetic. It’s an art form, and it makes life better. It’s remarkable to me that some of the oldest companies in America are companies that make musical instruments — instruments that haven’t changed much throughout the years.
By contrast, technology can evolve so rapidly that products become obsolete, and companies get relegated to the dustbin in just a few years. A company needs to be on the cutting edge to remain relevant. We’re all aware of technology companies that were once dominant but now no longer exist. The world of technology changes quickly.
I can’t imagine Apple going away because their products make life better. If they stopped improving the ways their products enhance people’s lives, would the company continue to thrive? Maybe that’s the appropriate question, because musical instruments do continue to improve and enhance people’s lives, even as the instruments become quite old. Their inherent technology doesn’t become outdated and useless.
For me, the question is, where do I want technology to help improve and simplify my life, and where do I not want more technology? Some people like the idea of a self-driving car. Not me, I really enjoy driving. I want technology to help me enjoy doing the things I really love doing, not do them for me. I don’t want technology to take the skill or enjoyment out of them for me.
Our job as instrument builders and designers is to make instruments that are more fun and more inspiring for you to play, and that brighten your day whenever you pick one up. That will remain our focus and purpose from now into the future. If we do a good job at this, and if we’re a little lucky, hopefully Taylor Guitars will continue to thrive and inspire people to create music for generations to come.