Thursday, May 13, 2010

ARP Avatar, Synapse 1978

ARP Avatar guitar synthesizer advertisement from page 11 of Synapse Magazine January/February 1978.

This advertisement answers at least one question I posed back in March when I posted and blogged about an Avatar brochure that used the same design style. If you don't recall that post, go back and read it. I'll wait. I learned some great Avatar history while writing it.

I had questionably pegged that brochure at around 1977, and this advertisement, from early 1978, was obviously the companion piece - letting readers known that for only a buck, they could be sent a demonstration record attached within that brochure. It also possibly explains why the brochure didn't include a large ARP logo on the front. If you were sending in for the brochure because of the action statement in this advertisement, you would have already been exposed to the logo that appears so prominently in this scan.

And - about that scan - I really like the detail in that 'A'. Seriously. The barely visible graph-like lines are fantastic.

So, obviously, if ARP was willing to spend advertising dollars to market to guitar players in an international music magazine such as Synapse, then I would have to say that Synapse was obviously successful in positioning itself to this audience.

And as you know, I've been a bit baffled by this positioning. Why target guitar players in an electronic magazine? But it makes sense that if the biggest problem facing guitar-synthesizer manufacturers was where to place ads to sell their product to their target audience (guitar magazines or keyboard magazines?), Synapse was well placed to lure this audience. And they did it well.

A letter to the editor in the May/June (Summer) 1978 issue of Synapse pretty much sums up Synapse's audience compared to one of its main competitors - Contemporary Keyboard (CK).
"I have subscribed to CK since its beginning, but was never entirely pleased. Don't get me wrong - CK is a fine magazine, covering the entire keyboard spectrum. That, however, is the problem. The material is so diverse that I find little of interest to me in each issue (due to my own restricted interest in the keyboard field, no doubt). Your magazine, as advertised in July '77 CK, looks more like what I want - contemporary, state-of-the-art electronic instruments and modern performers."
I bet a lot of people felt that CK was a bit too broad in scope, and that includes guitar-synth enthusiasts. Many were probably looking for a 'home' - and found it with Synapse's aggressive publishing of guitar-synth articles and advertisements during the explosion of electronic guitar devices that appeared around this time period.

Synapse started a new series of articles on guitar synthesis in the November/December 1977 issue of Synapse that was to include 'nutshell descriptions of most of the currently available guitar synthesizers', with 'future issues to follow in the form of hands-on, road test-type equipment reviews'.

In the January/February 1978 issue, the series featured Leon Gaer and his bass-guitar-synth system that revolved around a 360 System's Bass Slavedriver (yes, they came in a bass version too!). The first paragraph of that article sums up what most guitarists and bassists were probably facing at a time when synthesizer sounds were making it onto more and more records:
"It's not surprising to find that many of the bassists and guitar players using synthesizers are regularly employed studio musicians. When it is necessary to produce the appropriate sound under time pressure one become inventive. How steady one's studio income is can depend on how useful you are to a producer. It helps to be able to do more than simply play an instrument."

The series continued in later issues of Synapse, including a two-page article in the Summer '78 that covered the two basic methods of interfacing used in guitar synthesizers at the time, and an equipment review of the ARP Avatar in the January/February 1979 issue.

And Synapse wasn't the only magazine competing for guitar-synth eyeballs.

A 1/2 page advertisement in the Jan/Feb '78 issue of Synapse for 'International Musician and Recording World' magazine (IMRW) begins in big letters: How much do you know about guitar synthesizers?

And the ad-copy pushed the point home:

"Unless you're an expert you need International Musician and Recording World to explain. In a current issue [IMRW] has gathered together the Roland, the ARP and the Hagstrom and compared them. A panel of famous guitarists was invited to visit and test all three. Afterwords they were privately interviewed about their preferences..."
Also, at the end of my last blog post I talked a bit about 'Device' magazine - a 12-issue newsletter published in 1979 by Craig Anderton and Roger Clay that was directed squarely at "electronic guitarists". Even better, as you know from that last blog post - all the issues are scanned and online.

What? You still haven't gone over to read 'em?

Go to now.


1 comment:

Tony Williams said...

You should hook-up with Tim Clark on LinkedIn, as he was the artist that designed all these ads.

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