Gibson Guitars is defending itself from criticism after a video began circulating of an apparent company-sanctioned culling of hundreds Firebird X guitars.
The video, which was uploaded to YouTube in January, depicts a worker casually stomping across a line of hundreds of guitars before a backhoe slowly drives over the line of shining axes.
While the shocking footage could reasonably be dismissed as the work of some eccentric millionaire, who just likes breaking stuff in creative ways, Gibson admitted that it instructed employees to destroy the instruments as a way to write-off the "unsalvageable" batch of 2009 - 2011 Firebird Xs.
"This isolated group of Firebird X models [was] unable to be donated for any purpose and were destroyed accordingly," Gibson said in a statement.
Gibson has been caught destroying products before due to factory blemishes or other flaws. The former Gibson employee who shared the video, BJ Wilkes, explained to The Guitologist that he's seen Gibson destroy guitars on a regular basis just "because there was some teeny-tiny little blemish."
He said the batch of Firebird X guitars being put out to pasture in the video he shared could no be repurposed on account of the body cavity, where the electronics were mounted.
"It was a horrible guitar, with too much technology all based on Windows 98 or something," he added.
Indeed, the Firebird X has been called one of the most hated guitars Gibson ever produced. It was loaded with complicated electronics, plus the company's reviled "robot tuners." All those options required extensive routing through the body, meaning repurposing them (filling the holes) would likely be more trouble than it was worth to a large company, like Gibson.
A subsequent video Wilkes uploaded shows a number of ES models being destroyed. Unlike the Firebirds, none of the ES models being stomped on and cut up have electronics or strings on them.
Gibson surely isn't the only company in the world that ends up destroying high-end products that can't be sold or sold as new. But its policy of destroying guitars due to cosmetic flaws or "unsalvageable parts" is more than a little ironic.
Many customers in the Juszkiewicz-era have documented significant manufacturing flaws and quality control issues on instruments they were able to purchase, either from Gibson directly or from authorized Gibson dealers. After leaving Gibson for ESP, Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher flamed the company for its inability to properly set up his signature guitar.
In response to outrage over the video, Gibson has announced a renewed commitment to give "a guitar a day away over the next 1,000 days" in an effort to redeem its images years of bad press.