Fender Play helps guitar players learn songs rather than master guitar

About nine out of 10 first-time guitar buyers will give up on the instrument, according to Fender.

To convert new players into lifelong customers, the 71-year-old company is heading online and taking advantage of the 1.5 billion smartphones that were sold last year.

“It’s inescapable,” said Ethan Kaplan, general manager of Fender Digital in Los Angeles. “What is commanding attention is a tap and a click away. People don’t sit through long stuff anymore.”

On Thursday, the company launched Fender Play, an online lesson platform that costs $19.99 a month and is designed to get guitar newbies playing songs right away rather than having them labor through chord progressions. Lessons on the web and through the iPhone app average about eight minutes.

Fender is already in the online lessons business with a product called Riff Station that lets guitar players access chords to millions of songs. It’s a crowded market, featuring companies like Yousician and Chordify, and there’s a treasure trove of free tutorial videos on YouTube.

The company is focused on making learning as easy as possible with the goal of building a digital business and at the same time driving sales of physical instruments.

Despite a Washington Post report stating that electric guitar sales have dwindled over the past decade from 1.5 million a year to a little over 1 million, Fender CEO Andy Mooney said his company’s electric guitar sales are flat to slightly up.

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