For the past two decades, HarmonyCentral.com has been one of the most popular Internet resources for practicing guitarists. Thanks to its wide-ranging collection of crowd-sourced gear reviews, industry news, classified ads, and forums, the site has built a diverse and devoted online community, with hundreds of thousands of registered users to its credit.
About ten years ago, Harmony Central was purchased by online retailer Musician’s Friend, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Guitar Center Inc., and now Harmony Central will be changing hands once more. In April, Gibson Brands announced that it has acquired Harmony Central, adding to a rapidly growing portfolio of companies that includes instrument makers Epiphone, Dobro, Kramer, Steinberger, Baldwin, and Wurlitzer, as well as pro audio manufacturer TASCAM, and consumer electronics brands such as Onkyo, TEAC, and, most recently, Philips Home Entertainment.
“Gibson Brands is all about music and sound, and Harmony Central is all about music and sound,” Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz told me by email. “We want people to be passionate about making music, learning instruments, and enjoying great sound. Of course, that benefits Gibson, but that benefits the industry and, ultimately, benefits the world. Fortunately, Gibson’s success puts us in a position to give Harmony Central the attention it deserves to reach its full potential.”
Asked about Gibson’s long-term goals for the site, Juszkiewicz replied, “All we want is for Harmony Central to be truly informative and entertaining. We’re not afraid of controversy, opinions, or humor. The music industry has always had a great deal of camaraderie, even among competitors. We want to embody that spirit and have everyone reach for the higher goal of making great music and listening to great sound.”
The company noted in its announcement that it will remain committed to Harmony Central’s “site neutrality” and “community involvement.” Though some users might be skeptical of these goals, Juszkiewicz believes that they will come around in due time.
“We expect people will be skeptical,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the only way we can reassure them 100 percent is to build a time machine, fast-forward a year, have them look at the site, and go, ‘Wow, I guess you really meant it.’ Meanwhile, we invite everyone to be part of Harmony Central. There’s no better path to neutrality than if Harmony Central represents everyone. And in the process, that means a lot of community involvement.
“Sure, we make guitars and pro audio and consumer electronics, but if all we wanted to do was make money, we could be making shoes or cars or whatever. But Gibson is part of the industry of human happiness, and we’re happy to be a part of it. People are welcome to be skeptical. Meanwhile, the people who aren’t will be helping us change the world.”