The Iconic Guitars reorganization stems from several different issues, but it is not the guitars that’s the problem. BC Rich has quite a hand in this, and it is quite unfair. Today we dig into the facts.
TL;DR What Happened with The Iconic Guitars Reorganization?
- Iconic Guitars is a brand that makes high-quality USA guitars, both modern and vintage in style. These are USA-made boutique guitars made in California.
- Over the last few years, Iconic started taking OEM orders for other brands. causing Iconic to need a bigger facility and new/more employees. BC Rich was one of these OEM brands.
- The Iconic Guitars reorganization was announced in January 2024, which included layoffs and downsizing, despite a record year in sales.
- The biggest fault seems to lie with BC Rich defaulting on its original purchase agreement, since BC Rich stopped all payments to Iconic Guitars.
- Iconic Guitars will continue to make guitars, but the bad dealings of BC Rich have majorly crippled the company, and cost people their jobs. The owner of Iconic has even used his personal funds to keep the company afloat.
Iconic Guitars Reorganization: What’s The Deal?
Iconic Guitars is a brand that started making waves about 2 years ago in the mainstream. The brand makes several models that harken back to legendary designs, but with modern twists. These look like classic instruments, but they are made with quality and care, with modern options and boutique quality.
Kevin Proctor started the company in 2012, after years of learning from some of the world’s best luthiers, honing his skills. Proctor has been lucky enough to work side-by-side with some of the best guitar builders, and he put all of that knowledge into Iconic’s designs.
On top of making it’s own modern designs, Iconic also does a bit of OEM work as well. If you wonder what OEM work is, this is when a company makes guitars for another brand. Much like Schecter uses World Music Instruments to make the Diamond Series, or PRS uses PT Cort in Indonesia to make the SE guitars.
This happens a lot in the guitar industry, and many brands use other companies to make certain lineups of guitars. This happens most often with affordable guitars, like the ones that we mentioned above. But sometimes, it happens with high-end guitars as well. In no way is OEM production something weird, or unusual, and you would be surprised by who Iconic Guitars supplies!
Iconic has made guitars for several brands already, mostly boutique. Brands like Abasi USA Customs, and Friedman have been made in the Iconic shop. These are high end models that exceed the usual import models, and Iconic has a great reputation with these brands.
This OEM production is the issue at the heart of the Iconic Guitars reorganization and recent layoffs. Iconic Guitars is (hopefully) not going anywhere, and the brand will continue to make instruments. However, the company has taken a huge hit. Let’s look at why this happened, and how it can be avoided in the future.
The Expansion Project
Iconic Guitars recently took on enough OEM offers to seriously expand the entire operation. This is something that Kevin Proctor has always wanted, as he stated in his recent video. He always envisioned a larger shop, with many more employees.
This is not just for OEM projects, but to make Iconic models production a faster operation as well. Right now, you have quite a wait if you want a custom guitar from Iconic. This new expansion would allow for more employees, more space, and more guitars being produced.
Proctor and team at Iconic got what they wanted, and recently added employees and a brand-new building to accommodate these new OEM offers, as well as Iconic models. The whole Iconic brand had one of its best years in 2023, sales-wise, so faster production is paramount.
This is on top of woods, tools, and other consumables going up in price, almost double in some instances. Even with the current state of the economy, Iconic Guitars have been doing very well. In spite of the supply chain issues, Iconic still made the best of the situation, especially since we know more about the brand these days.
Just a few short years ago, Iconic was not a very big brand. Recent YouTube reviews and Instagram posts have brought a good amount of attention to these awesome guitars. Boutique guitars is a niche market that can be hard to break into, but Proctor and his team have made quite a name for themselves.
BC Rich approached Iconic, and wanted the team to make the famous Gunslinger models and the “Stranger Things” Warlock models. The 400 Stranger Things models were one of the reasons for this expansion of Iconic, as the company needed more room to make guitars.
These are highly-detailed instruments, not to be confused with the import brand of BC Rich. If you look at Sweetwater, you can see some of the immaculate BC Rich guitars produced by Iconic and they hold a steep price tag for the casual buyer.
Everything was looking great for Iconic, and the brand managed to expand to a new facility that was much bigger, just as Proctor had always planned. However, with that new facility, comes a higher monthly lease. The overhead for the business grew as well, and this is where the problem arrives.
Iconic was relying mostly on BC Rich for this expansion, since the work orders were so numerous. Other OEM companies/brands were still being built by Iconic, but BC Rich was the main reason to expand and take on new employees. Unfortunately, this is not the Iconic Guitars reorganization we are talking about today.
BC Rich Guitars Does It Again…
Let’s take our focus off Iconic Guitars reorganization for just a second, and talk about the legacy of BC Rich Guitars. If you grew up in the 80’s you probably have fond memories of BC Rich guitars. They were everywhere, and some famous people played them.
The company was started by Bernie Rico Jr. in the early 1970’s and was popular among guitarists that wanted something different. Heavy metal artists in particular gravitated towards the pointy shapes, and BC Rich was the “guitar to play” in music videos during the 80’s.
But this is where the good news ends, after the brand changed hands over the years, it has often disappeared for periods of time. When the company was actually in business, the instruments were no longer made in the USA, and the quality dipped dramatically.
BC Rich had gained a reputation for being low-priced, low quality guitars. It was a literal shadow of its former self, and the brand slipped off the radar of most players over the years. Shady dealings, drama, restructures, and even some Ed Roman controversy became the death knell for BC Rich.
In 2019, BC Rich had a restructure, and the company tried to bring back the quality. We even covered some of these guitars that were made in Korea, and the cheap budget models were thrown to the wayside. This was a step in the right direction for BC Rich, and we were impressed with the new models.
It seemed like the company was back in business, under new ownership, and hoping to become a viable company again. But it seems like BC Rich shoots itself in the foot every time it has the opportunity to become relevant again, and this case is no different.
Iconic Guitars Reorganization: The Problem
I urge everyone to watch this video by Kevin Proctor, owner of Iconic Guitars. In the video, he lists the reasons for the Iconic Guitars reorganization and layoffs. It is not his company’s fault that he is in arrears, and he has even depleted his personal accounts at this point.
As I mentioned earlier, Iconic had a record year in sales. In both the brand itself as well as the OEM products, so why is Iconic laying off so many workers and downsizing?
The issue is that BC Rich defaulted on its payments to Iconic. If you want to skip the video, we can get down to the bras tacks with you here, as the answer is pretty simple. Again, this is not the fault of Kevin as an owner, and hopefully he sues for what he is owed.
BC Rich originally wanted 400 of the Stranger Things Warlock guitars, but then changed the purchase order. This was okay with Iconic, and a new agreement was made about how many of those particular models would be produced.
Iconic produced over 350 BC Rich guitars, which have been shipped to vendors to be sold. But it seems that BC Rich has pulled out from any future models, despite the agreement BC Rich had with Iconic.
BC Rich essentially “ghosted” Iconic Guitars, pulling funding for any future orders. Iconic Guitars was blindsided by this move, since the new facility and extra employees were manifested explicitly so the team could continue to keep up with BC Rich guitar models.
This is not the first time BC Rich has caused some financial issues, and if you want to look through the history of the company, then you will find that many bridges have been burned over the years. BC Rich went to probably the only American manufacturer (Iconic) that would take on USA-made models.
This is inexcusable, and having to tell your employees that they no longer have a job because a professional company decided to back out of a deal is highly unethical. In the video, Proctor describes the agreement without placing too much blame on BC Rich. He even goes to say that he is proud of the models that Iconic has produced for BC Rich.
Iconic was excited to “bring back” BC Rich USA, and make guitars that have not been seen since the 80’s. However, now the facility has to close down, and many people lost their jobs due to this bad deal. While Proctor is keeping things classy in public, avoiding any slander, I cannot imagine how he feels about BC Rich right now.
Wrapping Up: Is BC Rich Fully To Blame?
It certainly seems that way, and pulling a fast one with a small business is incredibly low. The level of quality that Iconic Guitars offers is next-level, and the few that I have played rival any custom shop on the planet. The Iconic Guitars reorganization could have been avoided, and this situation is very unfair.
It is not easy to be a business these days, period. In any industry on the planet, times are hard and it has always been difficult to get a business off the ground. When it comes to building a guitar business, it has never been more difficult. Yet, Iconic managed to make a name for themselves.
Every year at NAMM there are so many “potential” companies, some with very good ideas and workmanship. But these companies never find financial backing, so we never get to see any production guitars. Iconic managed to beat that NAMM curse, and become a respectful brand.
There are tons of luthiers out there that make small batches of custom guitars, but this is not very lucrative long-term. So a business like Iconic needs to take on OEM projects sometimes. This allows brands like Iconic to continue making amazing guitars, and compete price-wise with other boutique brands.
This Iconic Guitars reorganization is a cautionary tale about doing business, and hopefully the brand will continue to make boutique instruments. Iconic sits up there with other legendary brands from California like SUHR, and I hope it continues to thrive despite this setback.
Bill Xavier and BC Rich have been quiet about this, so far. We really only have one side of the situation, but I don’t see any reason for iconic Guitars to lie about the situation, nor did Proctor badmouth BC Rich in his video. But the Iconic Guitars reorganization could have been prevented.
Good luck (I guess) to BC Rich, as I am sure the brand will have a tough time ever producing USA models again. If you want a USA BC Rich, then get it now. Because no other OEM company in this country will touch BC Rich after this debacle.
Even if another company did take on BC Rich, it certainly would never match the quality of Iconic Guitars. I imagine the Korean models will be all that is left of BC Rich going forward, unless it opens its own custom shop.
If we find out more about this story, we will update this article, but as it stands, it looks like BC Rich is the bad guy in all of this. The company has a reputation of bad dealings in the past, however with different owners. If either party wants to reach out to me, please feel free.
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