Musician's Friend Announces New Position for Craig Johnson and Pays Tribute to Founder, Rob Eastman

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Company enjoys a historic look back while preparing for future projects.

For several years, we have been building a world-class management team

As the company celebrates its 25th anniversary, Musician's Friend, Inc. (MF), the largest direct response retailer of musical instruments and gear in the U.S., and a division of Guitar Center since 1999, announces that company founder Robert Eastman is stepping down from his day-to-day functions and assuming the role of Chairman Emeritus, effective January 1, 2009. Craig Johnson will fill the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), continuing to fulfill the vision Eastman set for MF, while moving the company into new territory. Eastman will continue to have a presence within MF, serving as advisor to Johnson.

Musician's Friend was founded in 1983 by Eastman and his wife DeAnna. The company rapidly grew from a modest mail order house garage startup - which was soon moved to an honest-to-goodness Oregon dairy barn - into the country's largest direct marketer of music gear. Musician's Friend's success over the last 25 years can be attributed to Eastman's vision, determination and ingenuity, as well as his selection of a premier team of associates.

"For several years, we have been building a world-class management team," states Eastman. "With a solid management team in place, I decided that at the end of the year I will move into a Chairman Emeritus role and that Craig Johnson will become CEO. I look forward to getting to spend more time with my family and having time to travel and, of course, go fishing!"

Johnson assumes his new role as CEO after serving as Musician's Friend's President and Chief Operating Officer for the last two and a half years. Before that, he served as MF's Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing and Senior VP of Merchandising. His background with MF and other companies - including Oriental Trading Company, Golfsmith International, Coldwater Creek, Time Warner and others - has given him experience in distribution, supply management and direct marketing, providing him with a unique perspective to help him lead in today's e-commerce world.

Eastman is confident in Johnson's skills to lead Musician's Friend. He states, "I've known for a few years now that Craig was going to be the one to replace me as CEO -- he not only has all the skill sets, but he also has been instrumental in continuing to build on our vision for the future."

Robert Eastman and Musician's Friend: A Brief History, 1983-Present
From an early age, Robert Eastman was destined for success in the music industry. His father, L.V. "Bud" Eastman, founded Guitar Player in 1967 and taught the young Rob his visionary leadership style and encouraged him to take charge of another Eastman creation, Musician's Supply, the first music industry consumer catalog. By the age of 13, Rob was working full-time at Musician's Supply, and by the age of 17 he was running the company. From 1975 to 1982, he was in charge of all facets of the mail order business and a related retail store and was responsible for $24 million in sales and 80+ employees. Shifting economic realities convinced Rob and Bud to close the company in 1982.

In 1983, Rob and his wife DeAnna launched Musician's Friend, selling guitar strings and accessories from their garage and, eventually, a converted dairy barn. The company's beginnings were humble, but the multitude of music industry contacts and long-term relationships that Rob had already developed gave them an advantage.

Over the next several years, Rob, DeAnna and Musician's Friend experienced many key milestones. In 1989, the company moved from the dairy barn to a 6,500-square-foot fulfillment center, also adding a Medford, Oregon showroom. Al Dinardi, Rob's brother-in-law, partnered with him and ran merchandising and catalog production, as he truly influenced the people side of the MF culture. In 1990, rapid growth fostered sales that topped $5 million. In 1992, a 36,000-square-foot headquarters was constructed, also in Medford. Sales continued to grow rapidly, surpassing $25 million in 1993 and supporting over 100 employees. In 1994, MF launched its first proprietary product brands. In 1996, a second showroom was opened and the pioneering MF website was launched. In 1997, the company opened two large-format showrooms and a 44,000-square-foot Knoxville fulfillment center. 1998 saw the opening of five more showrooms and a 400-seat-capacity call center in Salt Lake City.

By 1999, the company had grown to include nine retail stores, and the company operated the largest e-commerce site in the music industry and, needless to say, the world's largest music mail order catalog. Total sales surpassed $150 million. Through a pooling of shares, in that year Musician's Friend merged into Guitar Center, creating the world's largest combined music retail, catalog and e-commerce company, with over half a billion dollars in combined revenues. In the years since the merger, Guitar Center and its subsidiaries have experienced unprecedented growth, maintaining their status as the United States' number one retailer of musical instruments, pro audio, recording equipment and related products in several hundred retail stores, in catalog form and online. In 2007, Woodwind & Brasswind and Music123 became a division of Musician's Friend, and MF opened a 703,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Kansas City.

Rob gives a reflective signoff to his Musician's Friend colleagues and industry associates and friends as he moves into the next stage of his life: "I have taken great pride in working side-by-side with you. Between now and the end of the year, Craig and I will complete the transition. It's been a tremendous 25 years for me and DeAnna, and one heck of a ride. Even though Musician's Friend is all grown up, she will always be our baby. Thanks for your friendship, your hard work, your dedication, and for all the memories."

About Musician's Friend:
Musician's Friend, Inc. is the world's largest direct marketer of musical instruments. With more than 58,000 unique products for sale, the company covers a wide range of musical needs, including guitars, basses, amplifiers, keyboards, live sound, recording equipment, drums, percussion, woodwind, brasswind and orchestral stringed instruments as well as related accessories which are marketed through its print catalogs and websites, including

The Musician's Friend website also offers informative musician's resources including in-depth buying guides, tech tips, hands-on gear reviews, articles from highly respected music industry professionals, interviews with well-known artists and over 250,000 product reviews and ratings.

The company is headquartered in Medford, Oregon with warehousing in Kansas City, Missouri, and a call center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Musician's Friend can be contacted at 1-800-776-5173, or by visiting Musician's Friend

Musician's Friend is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guitar Center, the world's leading retailer of musical equipment.

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Sandee Pritchard
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