Gibson has come under scrutiny following the release of a video showing the guitar manufacturer destroying hundreds of Firebird X guitars by running them over with a construction vehicle. A former employee said the company decided to do so following poor sales.
The video, released by ex-Gibson employee BJ Wilkes, shows several rows of brand new (their unboxed packaging can be seen in the distance) Firebird X guitars laying on the ground. Onlookers watch as a construction vehicle slowly drives over them all, snapping necks, frets, and wooden bodies in the process. “[Gibson’s new investors] were trying to clean up the mess before the end of the fiscal year,” Wilkes said in an interview with The Guitologist. “Gibson literally could not sell these guitars and they were on the books.”
Unsurprisingly, the comment section is filled with frustrated people pointing out all of the things that could have been done with the guitars instead, namely donating them to schools, nonprofits, after-school programs, or charities that could have used the instruments to further music education. Watch the video of the whole ordeal below.
The video has garnered enough attention for Gibson to release a statement about the clip: “The Firebird X destruction video that surfaced months ago was an isolated batch of Firebird X models built in 2009-2011 which were unsalvageable and damaged with unsafe components. This isolated group of Firebird X models were unable to be donated for any purpose and were destroyed accordingly.”
Wilkes confirmed as such, describing the Firebird X as a guitar with “too much technology all based on Windows 98 or something.” The reason the company chose to destroy them, though, is because of the ownership at the time. Instruments couldn’t be given away or donated because “under [former CEO Henry Juszkiewicz], nobody was allowed to do that for the fear of losing their job — that’s firmly ingrained in the company now.”
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But wait; there’s more. Wilkes worked for Gibson for six years, specifically in maintenance and facilities at their Memphis location. According to him, destroying new guitars isn’t new for Gibson. “I’ve seen them take, daily, 10, 20 ES guitars that were painted and ready to go, and just cut them up because there was some teeny-tiny little blemish,” he said in the interview.
Founded back in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Gibson quickly became an iconic name in the music industry, particularly for unmistakable guitar models like the Les Paul, the Firebird, and the Flying V. The company is estimated to pull in $1 billion a year in revenues.
But things haven’t been looking too good for the company as of late. Last year, news broke that Gibson guitar company was facing bankruptcy. In an official statement, the company assured fans and consumers that it was in the process of finding a solution, stating they had “met all current obligations to the bondholders” and were working to monetize its assets.