Several former rock musicians talked about their current, and more successful, careers in the changing music industry during a panel discussion in Santa Barbara on Wednesday night.
But prior to that discussion, one of them, South Coast-based Seymour Duncan, showed he still has his chops by playing a sizzling lead guitar while sitting in with the local rock band Flat Foot Joe at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center during the monthly Central Coast MIT Enterprise Forum.
“We make between 25,000 and 30,000 guitar pickups a month,” Duncan told an audience of about 80 men and women. The company that bears his name employs about 125 workers at a factory that also handles a variety of guitar and bass effects pedals and boxes. Most of the gear is made in China with quality control handled at the Hollister Avenue factory.
Other panelists were John Maier, chief executive officer of Blue Microphones and a former professional keyboard player, and Marcus Ryle, co-founder of Business Development of Line 6 and former pro drummer.
Based in Los Angeles, Maier said company soon will sell tiny, high-quality microphones that can be hooked up to devices such as iPhones and iPads. Ryle’s Agoura Hills-based company also produces special microphones, effects devices as well as custom guitar amplifiers.
Before the panel started, attorney Mike Wald of Santa Barbara-based Oniracom discussed his company’s management of some successful entertainment properties including singer and guitarist Jack Johnson. Wald said many entertainers these days are using the Internet and social media to boost their brand, but Johnson would rather surf or play with his children.
Wald said the Internet is bringing live streaming of such music events the recent Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. “Instead of telling your friend about it the next day at the water cooler, you can put it on Facebook as it happens,” he said. The music industry is becoming increasingly more mobile, he said
But it was New Jersey native Duncan who stole the show, first with his hot licks on such classics as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Satisfaction” and “Under Pressure.” He told of how he was given an accordion instead of a guitar for Christmas when he was 13: a huge disappointment, he said
Duncan said he used to take apart various electrical devices and try to put them back together. When he was still a teenager playing guitar in a rock band, he broke one of the pickups and fixed it. That was the start of his experience with rewinding copper wire around a magnet to give guitars, such as those used by starts like Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, their distinctive sound.
After getting to know other guitar players including Les Paul, Mary Ford and Roy Buchanan at an early age, Duncan was well known in the music industry and decided to start his own company with his wife, Cathy, in the mid-1970s.
Cathy Duncan handles the company’s finances while Seymour maintains relationships with such current stars such as Steve Miller and members of the band Los Lobos.