How Fender added subscription on top of their transactional business

07 September 2023- 7 min read

“I want my ….. “🎸

“I want my MTV….”



Imagine Jakob in 8th grade back in 1985, wearing a yellow Lacoste sweater and ugly hair. In my own opinion I did a pretty solid air-guitar-version of Mark Knopflers classic riff to this beauty of an evergreen, Money for Nothing.

(I have pictures - it wasn't pretty!) 

However, what on earth has this to do with subscription business?

Well hopefully I’ve turned on your internal brain-Spotify and the sound of Mark Knopfler’s smooth guitar sound is filling your internal brainwaves.

OK – let me get back on track here.

Mark Knopfler is only one of a looong string of classic guitar heroes who chose Fender as their preferred choice of guitar. Just to mention a few others: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, John Mayor etc.

All these legends have chosen Fender. The legendary guitar brand created back in the late 1940s by Leo Fender in Southern California.

Young hopeful guitarists would save money, work extra hours, live on a string (pun intended) budget so that they may finally buy the Fender Stratocaster of their dreams and become the next guitar legend.

Then they would go to the local music store – put the money on the counter, get their guitar and leave the store.

Fender would never know who just bought a guitar.

Just another transaction.

This was actually a pretty good business up until year 2015 – 2016 where manufacturers of electric guitars were in “dire straits” (another intended pun).

This made Fender wonder.

“How could we supplement our existing traditional transaction-based business?”

Soon after Fender introduced Fender Play.

Fender Play is an online music teacher (guitars, basses, ukuleles). You chose your preferred genre (Rock, Blues, Jazz, Folk….) and your preferred instrument. And for $99 per year you have access to a wide range of great online guitar lessons.

Guess what?

It was a great idea!

In the beginning of 2020, there were more than 150.000 people signed up for the subscription. Not too bad? Imagine starting each fiscal year knowing that approximately 150.000 x $99 ~ $15M is in the books already?

And sometimes you get a little help from external circumstances like for example a global pandemic where people are forced to stay at home.

According to an article in “Guitar Player” 2020 was a great year for guitar manufacturers in general but for Fender Play the amount of subscribers rose from 150.000 to 930.000 subscribers.

Not bad at all – huh?


One thing does not exclude the other. You can easily have a great transactional business and then on top of it add an element of subscription – just like Fender did with Fender Play. Not only will it provide you with an extra layer of revenue you will also gain insight into what your customers think of your product and services and be able to create a future strategy for your business build on data and customer feedback rather than gut-feeling and studying tea-leaves.

If you are curious to learn how you can add elements of subscription to your existing business, consider downloading our e-book: Why you should consider er membership club.


click here to download our free ebook on membership clubs




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Jakob Soderberg

Jakob Soderberg

Jakob is former Head of Marketing at Upodi. Jacob knows a lot about a lot of things. Including (not excluding) fundraising, subscription based business models, IPA's and IPO's plantbased foods and barefoot running.