How a Publisher Unlocked the Door to a Secret Guitar Club

Greg Di Benedetto, also the publisher of Guitar World, said he launched Guitar Aficionado in May 2009 geared toward a very particular consumer.

The magazine launched as a quarterly and according to Di Benedetto did so well that this year it will be published bi-monthly. He said the secret to launching a print publication in a recession is to focus on a niche market and a high-quality product.

“We launched in the eye of the storm…We tapped the target very precisely and we knew exactly what we were going after. This type of magazine for this demographic has not existed before,” said Di Benedetto.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Why did you create this magazine?

DI BENEDETTO: The [guitar] market has gotten more sophisticated over the last 20 years, and ... with the rise in the value of guitars, the guitar market has become a tangible investment for a lot of people. With our expertise and the market going the way it was going, that demographic was primed to create a magazine for. It is upscale rock and roll. The baby boomer has this in his DNA, and they relate to the subject matter because they relate to the music of classic rock. That was the genius. Knowing that market was there, we knew that with creating an upscale high quality lifestyle magazine, we could tap into the love and passion point for the instrument in music ...

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What was it like starting a business in a recession?

DI BENEDETTO: You can’t time the market and you have to stick true to what you do. It would be like asking Porsche to hold off their big launch. That is what they do.

A good idea is a good idea. The idea came well before the recession hit. We were already in our development and all of our information gathering stages. ... We had a solid base to get out the door and introduce this new combination and this is a highly curated publication. We were able to present out content and get it out the door. Your original vision has to take suit. Is it hard? Yes, but the answer is it's always hard. If times were really good, we would still be saying it was hard.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Who is your average reader?

DI BENEDETTO: The reader of the magazine is male and they tend to be upwards of $220,000 in income. They are successful business leaders and they range between CEOs, entrepreneurs and musicians. We are talking about an upper echelon male with diverse interests who clearly connects with this because of the guitar, but also the beauty and playable nature of the guitar. The reader has an aesthetic interest and an investment interest. These readers are ... among a secret club we’ve unlocked the door to.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is it like launching a print publication now with the state of the industry also under stress?

DI BENEDETTO: Two days after the magazine hit the newsstand, we got calls and e-mails from actors, musicians and investment people, and if they were of a celebrity status, they wanted to be in it and be on the cover. It is amazing when a brand can permeate the market when there is such a strong core reader.

The subjects that we cover are also the reader. This magazine is more currated for a sophisticated and affluent reader. Those guys haven’t had a magazine that wasn’t designed and printed in such a high quality way before.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What was the most personal story that touched you?

DI BENEDETTO: The first issue Tom Colicchio [judge for hit TV series Top Chef and famous restaurateur] was our first cover. He was the perfect guy who was emblematic of who we were trying to talk to. We didn’t just want to be a musicians magazine. We wanted to be a lifestyle magazine … The fact we could do Tom Colicchio first and Jimmy Page as the second cover, [our audience] understood what we were doing. It was really outstanding that we could make that kind of diversity.

We had Jeff Bridges on the cover and he was up for the Academy Award [for Crazy Heart] and the new issue landed on my desk on Monday and you could not have scripted that. The timing was uncanny. It was a great moment for us. Jeff Bridges was excited and we had him on the cover of the magazine.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: How has guitar market faired in this economy?

DI BENEDETTO: Everything is down like in other markets but [the guitar] is still a very tangible and finite investment. We’d be lying if we said the market was hitting an all-time high now. A lot of people [interviewed for] the magazine [as well as] collectors say they wish they had more money invested in guitars than in the market because they held out better and it gives you enjoyment to play them.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: How do you pick your profiles?

DI BENEDETTO: Not everyone gets covered in the magazine. There is a commercial nature to it. To sell magazines, you need a celebrity on the cover. Inside the magazine, we profile people who you might not know but you would read about and find fascinating. The interview we just did was with Fender Guitars, Larry Thomas, here is a really successful guy who has an amazing amount of passion for the instrument.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What advice do you have for people in the publishing world now?

DI BENEDETTO: I think you have to go with your heart with things, and I think if you do something with complete conviction you will succeed. The more niche and the more specific you are, the better chance you are of connecting and having an affinity with an audience. This would yield more success and require a smaller investment as opposed to going after a really large reach audience.