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Disruptive innovation within the rock ‘n roll guitar industry

Over on the On Disruption blog, software executive and guitar enthusiast Zack Urlocker has posted a great case study of disruptive change within the billion-dollar professional guitar industry. What happens when an upstart competitor from southern California (Line 6) launches a new line of disruptive guitars for Rock ‘n Roll musicians? Much as you would expect – the entrenched market leaders (Fender, Gibson) wait and watch, hoping the disruption will go away. However, it looks like the new Variax guitar from Line 6 is starting to gain a toehold within the guitar market, forcing the hand of Fender and Gibson, which control nearly 90% of the market on a combined basis.


The level of detail and research by Urlocker is worthy of a Harvard B-School case study, and there is also a cool guitar-playing video clip as well. (Be sure to check out the YouTube clip and see how many of the songs you can recognize!) At the end of the post, there’s a list of four lessons about disruptive innovation:

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  1. To compete effectively as a new entrant, you have to change the basis of competition;
  • Even mature, conservative markets can be disrupted;
  • Disruptive innovations usually make no sense to the mainstream suppliers or their customers initially;
  • Incumbents’ response to disruption are usually late and insufficient because they must serve and defend their current market position.
  • [image: Jimi Hendrix]


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