Ever since the sixties, Brighton has been the alternative music hub of England. With the counter culture movement, many more people felt fully able to express themselves artistically, and Brighton provided the freedom necessary for many creative types to spread their wings in a city free of prejudice and intolerance.
But with the emergence of the digital age, clubs and electronic music seem to be the new rock and roll. Does this mean the death of the guitar era? And, if so, what will become of the instrument outlets of central Brighton?
One employee of ‘Guitars and Keyboards’, the largest guitar store in the South of England, expressed that the music scene in Brighton was far from dead: ‘There’s a lot going on, in a much smaller space than, say, London. There are a lot more venues, and a whole lot more happening.’
It would seem that the buzzing live music scene has allowed room for more than just DJs and club nights. With so much variety on offer, it seems natural to assume that business for the guitar stores of Brighton would be booming.
‘It’s very good, but not amazing,’ said another GAK representative, ‘Especially for this store. I think with any company that still has shops, they become a glorified billboard. People will come in to try out guitars and then buy it online.’
Buying an instrument can be an expensive affair, and the decision-making process will always be easier when the products are there to be tested. This way people can discover what sounds good to them and go from there. But of course, if people are not actually buying the guitars in store, there will be a lower overall turnover.
The GAK team reassured me that internet sales were on the rise and showing no signs of letting up any time soon: ‘Our website is selling more stuff online than any other guitar shop in the country. Mail orders have got a massive turnover, but the shop itself… perhaps not quite such a high turnover.’
The enormous student population of the city is certainly one of the key factors in keeping the guitar industry afloat. With such a range of opportunities for live events and open mic nights, not to mention that the entirety of The Brighton Institute of Modern Music constantly provide an army of up and coming singer songwriters and lead guitarists reiterates that Brighton is still the core cultural hub of Southern England.
So while the consumers are certainly happy, and the music scene is showing no signs of deflating, one question remains; is it enjoyable working in a guitar store all day in a city as alive as Brighton?
‘Hell yeah, I get to sit here and sell guitars. The people are great, and much more relaxed than in London. There’s always good banter and a real sense of camaraderie. It’s just great to let people sit and try out as many guitars as they like. Pretty cool, a great thing for anyone to do.’
In a town so driven by music and the culture of artistic expression, I couldn’t agree more.