One of many strange things about the MI industry is the reluctance of bass players and guitarists to share brands.
While it’s true that Fender invented the bass guitar and still commands good share of the market, for the most part it’s pretty much specialist territory, with its own bass guitar and, in particular, bass amp brands.
Which may have been what lay behind Marshall’s surprise announcement, back in January this year, that it had purchased the Eden brand from US Music. Marshall wanted a brand it could make exclusive to bassists.
The man in charge of re-establishing Eden in the UK is Luke Green (pictured), who has been with Marshall for over seven years working on the parent brand as product manager/product co-ordinator. He is now charged with making Eden a major force in bass once again.
I say once again, because Eden has had its ups and downs. Founded in 1976, it was one of that handful of pioneering companies that transformed what were, in effect, slightly breathed-on guitar amps into specialist devices designed to do the low frequency job properly.
It achieved considerable success with pro players early on and later spawned several product lines aimed at spreading the quality image down the price range.
Distribution outside the USA wasn’t always the most successful, however – Eden never really made much of an impact in the UK, for example – and Luke Green is the first to admit he and Marshall have some work to do to get the name back in the forefront of players’ and retailers’ minds. That said, there has been much activity since the start of this year to get Eden into fighting shape, working with a Chicago-based team of marketing and product management staff, backed by specialists working on Eden at Marshall, in the UK.
“Eden has always been well respected, if not always easily available outside America, which has made it a kind of home brand for the USA”, Luke Green says.
“So what has been the big plus has been the amount of energy and resources that Marshall has allowed Eden to have. That’s always been something that has been lacking to drive the brand forward in the past – the product has always been respected, but it didn’t have the resources behind it. Professional musicians understand what Eden is, but those who don’t need some introduction to it, particularly outside the USA. It’s something we need to work on but the story is there, the products and the quality are there, so it’s really just down to letting people know about it.”
For those still wondering why the world’s greatest name in guitar amplification felt it needed to buy a bass brand when it was, clearly, more than capable of making anything the market wanted, Green agrees that there was, at least to an extent, a perceptual problem with Marshall for bassists.
“Marshall’s offerings haven’t really been tailored to bass players specifically and while I don’t think the Marshall brand has held Marshall bass amps back, it is seen as a guitar brand by bass players.”
Perhaps the most significant thing to have happened in the bass amplifier market in the past decade has been the rapid ascent of lightweight, ultra-high power amplifiers. It is a development that has seen brands like Gallien-Krueger, Markbass, EBS and, recently, TC Electronic establish themselves as market leaders, sometimes leap-frogging over longer established marques. How does Eden fit in with that particular market trend?
“When we acquired Eden we looked very carefully at the catalogue and focused on what we thought the modern bass player would be looking for. It’s very easy to have a huge catalogue but from my experience with Marshall, it’s always been very apparent that having a focused range that offers what people actually want is very important. Eden has had a lightweight X-Class, as they call it, amp module for a very long time, but it just hasn’t been very well publicised in the past. So we’ve had products for that area but they’ve never been pushed.
“What we have now is an entry-level head and cabinet, a mid-level product range, those lightweight products,which are the WTX range, and then the World Tour range, which is the high-end pro touring rock gear, plus the D Series cabinets, which are still made in the USA.
So what we’ve done is cut the range down to a smaller, much more focused number of products and what we are doing from here is working on new products that will take Eden in to that next generation.”
So what is the pitch going to be to the hard-pressed retailer who probably already feels he already has enough bass amps to cope? Not the specialists, of course, but the average music/guitar store?
“The first argument is going to be the history of the brand and the tone of the product, which is well respected by people who are in the know about bass products. But that falls flat without support and the biggest thing that you can offer in the UK is the support that the Marshall network gives you – product support, service and tech, parts, supply of products – everything they get from Marshall they will get from Eden and that reliability that they get with the Marshall brand.
“As a company, we’ve now got three brands. There’s Marshall, which is obviously the king of the catalogue, we’ve got Natal for percussion and drums and now we’ve got Eden – so that’s the entire backline catered for and a dealer can have all of them and know he’s got quality products, mostly spanning from entry-
level to the high end and all from one source that guarantees the reliability and service that they get from the Marshall family. It’s a big thing for us to be able to offer, in effect, an entire band line-up from one source.”
It remains to be seen whether Green and his team can make this Eden project a success in a market that had started to look as if it was leaving Eden behind. Marshall certainly has the technology and the muscle to do it and if a patriotic note isn’t too out of place, isn’t it nice, for once, to have a British company taking ownership of an internationally recognised brand, rather than vice versa?