Musician’s Friend Cover Makes a Buddy

Musician’s Friend, a direct marketer of musical instruments and unit of retailer Guitar Center, gets into the spirit of the season with its recent catalog cover depicting a guitar-wielding Santa and an elf on the drums.

Though it looks like actor Will Ferrell reprising his role as Buddy from the movie Elf, it’s not: Drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is the elf, while Santa is guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. Smith and Satriani joined forces with Van Halen alums Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony earlier this year to form Chickenfoot, and have been jamming on the concert circuit ever since.

Now they’re rocking the December catalog cover of Musician’s Friend, Smith with his Pearl Chad Smith Signature Snare Drum, and Satriani brandishing the Ibanez JS1200 Joe Satriani Signature Guitar. There’s even a behind-the-scenes video of the cover shoot on the cataloger’s Website.

MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT senior writer Jim Tierney caught up with Musician’s Friend’s art director Taylor Buck to talk about the collaboration.

Q: So how did the idea for the catalog cover and video come about?

A: For the past four years we’ve done a rock ’n’ roll Santa for our December catalogs. It’s always a fun time, and the artists get a kick out of participating in this sort of production. Each artist brings a different spin on their interpretation of Santa, and it’s fun to capture that.

Q: How and why did you choose Joe Satriani and Chad Smith?

A: This year we had an opportunity to work with Chad Smith. When I heard Chad was on board, I kind of jokingly asked if he would wear an elf costume instead, and play off of his resemblance to the actor Will Ferrell. Surprisingly, he was totally cool with it.

He was touring with Chickenfoot at the time, and Joe Satriani happened to be with him, so we presented the role of Santa to Joe. Everything just worked out perfectly, and they were a blast to work with.

Q: How do people access the behind-the-scenes video of the cover shoot?

A: You can go online to musiciansfriend/cover to see the video and cover story. Or you can check it out in our Media Center at

Q: Was this a way to use the print catalog to drive people online?

A: Absolutely. We try to give people a sneak peek in the catalog of the content they can get online. We have such an assortment to cover–we can really only give the customer a taste of what we have and encourage them to go online to get the full experience.

Print catalogs are still a very viable asset to sales. I think the role of print has changed a bit over the years and it’s now more of a Web-driving tool.

Nevertheless, catalogs are an effective reminder to customers to see what they are interested in, and motivate them to go online for additional information. I think people still appreciate a tangible source to reference, and the print catalog provides that for them.

Q: What is the benefit of using the catalog to drive people to your Website?

A: Since many of us are musicians ourselves, we want to give our customers access to the same things we’re interested in. We really enjoy working with artists in the music industry to get catalog covers and video interviews. When we get an opportunity to share that with others, we jump on it.

Offering informative and entertaining content on our site makes the overall shopping experience more exciting, too. We want MF to be not just a place to buy music gear, but a place to discover and develop skills and abilities as a musician, and have fun doing it!

Musician’s Friend Cutting 75 Jobs

Musician’s Friend announced Nov. 11 it will cut 75 jobs from its distribution center in Kansas City. The musical instruments and accessories merchant is closing its clearance store and a call center there.

The Medford, OR-based company will eliminate 15 jobs from the clearance store in early January, and 60 positions from the call center by the end of February, says Galen Erickson, vice president of fulfillment.

All those employees will be able to apply for open positions in the Kansas City distribution center or in the two local Guitar Center Stores, he says. “Of course, layoffs are tough but we tried to mitigate that by significant lead time, a fair severance package, and a genuine attempt to keep on all those folks that wish to stay.”

The closings were not the result of any downturn in Musician’s Friend’s business or the state of the economy, Erickson says. “The clearance store is no longer necessary to complement our business. Previously, it was the vehicle we used to get some value from our returned goods.”

So how is Musician’s Friend getting rid of returned items now? The company, which is owned by Westlake Village, CA-based Guitar Center, began a repair and used initiative this past summer, in which it repairs and refurbishes returned items for resale on its Website.

“This improves the value Musician’s Friend receives for these goods and exposes the sales to millions more customers,” Erickson says. “The used initiative is a proven positive complement to our online business.”

The call center was closed due to Musician’s Friend’s 2007 acquisition of Woodwind & Brasswind, which came with its own distribution center and a call center. “We closed that distribution center in South Bend (IN) and absorbed it into our much bigger Kansas City DC,” Erickson says.

Musician’s Friend, which operated left call centers in Salt Lake, UT, Kansas City, and South Bend, “made the decision to close the Kansas City call center as the two others had plenty of capacity for our growing business,” Erickson says.

Musician’s Friend Increases Net Sales

Westlake Village, CA-based Guitar Center, (Nasdaq:GTRC) which mails the Musician’s Friend catalog, posted a whopping 98% net income increase to $12.1 million for the quarter ended June 30, compared to net income of $6.2 million for last year. Consolidated net sales for the quarter increased 17% to $339.6 million, up from $291.6 million last year. Musician’s Friend’s net sales increased 13% to $68.2 million, compared with $60.4 million last year. Selling, general and administrative expenses for the direct response division were flat 21.4% compared with last year.

Gross margin increased slightly for the direct response division to 33.7%, compared with 32.1% in the second quarter of 2003. The increase in gross margin was from higher margins on selling and a reduction in sales returns, offset by higher freight costs.

Musician’s Friend Increases Net Sales