Classic guitar brand Fender is looking to digital technology to solve a longstanding problem — most new guitar owners give up in the first six months.

According to Fender’s chief digital officer Ethan Kaplan, a large scale customer analysis revealed “some really wild things”.

“45 per cent of [guitar] players every year are new to the instrument and these people will spend four times as much on lessons as they did on the guitar itself,” Kaplan said during an Amazon Web Services Re:Invent keynote.

The bigger problem, however, is that 90 per cent of new players quit in the first six months — most in the first 90 days, Kaplan said. But the one in ten players that make it through the early struggles go on to buy eight to 10 guitars, most of which are Fender, According to Kaplan.

Ethan Kaplan, Fender Digital chief digital officer.

The data uncovered a problem and an opportunity, Kaplan says, and digital technology is providing a way to bridge them. Fender made a significant investment in new consumer apps for guitar tuning and amplifier controls.

But the big opportunity was converting the guitar players who were quitting early. Again Fender used an app, Fender Play, to deliver guitar lessons with high production value for more than 500 songs, something the typical video lessons on youtube are lacking, according to Kaplan.

“It’s a digital learning app that’s going to keep more beginners engaged and learning to play,” Kaplan said.

“If you’ve ever looked on Youtube —this isn’t a guy on a couch with a GoPro and his cat walking in the background.”

Fender Digital chose AWS for the digital infrastructure and services underlying the new apps. Letting the public cloud provider manage the infrastructure allowed developers to focus on customers and the apps, Kaplan said. It also creates an opportunity to scale and move into more advanced digital technologies.

Fender Play offers high quality video lessons through its Play app.

Kaplan said Fender Digital is testing Amazon’s machine learning tools for video captioning and manufacturing processes. AWS Transcribe could be used to the translate captions for foreign markets while AWS SageMaker is helping to selective  the wood used to build Fender guitars.

A camera is placed in Fender factories to analyse potential pieces of wood for the guitar body. The images are fed into SageMaker and compared to thousands of others to determine the optimal wood grain.

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