History was made over the weekend when the founder of Rode Microphones bought the most expensive guitar in history.
The 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar was famously played by Kurt Cobain during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Going to auction on the 20th of June at a Beverly Hills Music Icons auction, Peter Freedman quickly surpassed the estimated price of $1.5 million when he made the extravagant purchase for a whopping $9 Million Australian Dollars. As a result, the world record was set for the most valuable guitar ever sold.
Why was this the most expensive guitar?
What makes the 1959 Martin D-18E purchase such a valuable piece? As mentioned above, this guitar was used by Cobain during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance recorded in 1993. If you’re not familiar with the band, this session was recorded just 5 months before Cobain’s notorious death and the release of Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York” album that was released in 1994.
That very release went on to become some of Nirvana’s most celebrated and defining albums of all time. Not only did the album debut at number 1 on the US Billboard charts, but it has also sold over 8 million copies since. On top of that, the album is widely regarded as one of the top 10 live albums of all time. Including coming in at number 10 on the Rolling Stones list of the 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.
For all those reasons, Cobain’s guitar has been cemented in pop culture and is an iconic piece of music history.
On top of all that, Nirvanas Unplugged was one of Freedman’s favourite records of all time. Which made it a super easy decision to push way past the reserve of $1 million. Speaking of it, he said it was “easily one of the best live performances ever captured on film. They were a huge influence on me; the early-90s were RØDE’s formative years, and Nirvana’s music was very much the soundtrack to that time in my life and that era of the company.”
Along with the famous acoustic guitar, Freedman also got his hands on the original hard-shell case that was personalised by Cobain; three 60mm Dunlop guitar picks; a set of Martin & Co. guitar strings; and a small black velvet pouch with a silvertone knife, fork, and spoon.
What are Freedman’s plans for the most expensive guitar?
When Freedman heard the iconic Nirvana guitar was up for auction, he knew immediately that he was going to buy it. But why? “to use it as a vehicle to spotlight the struggles that those in the performing arts are facing and have always faced.”
Particularly due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the music industry, Freedmans main goal with this guitar is to further push the Australian government to support the arts. At this stage, the Morrison government is yet to introduce a financial scheme to support the vast ammount of suffering musos struggling thanks to the pandemic that is COVID-19. So with this massive purchase, Freedman is hoping to bring even more attention to the lack of support for the arts community.
Most Expensive Guitar – Australian Tour
He’s set to tour the guitar around Australia. Raising funds in hope that the government comes up with an effective financial scheme for the music industry. “Writing a letter, it’s not going to work. But I can make it work,” he said. “If you do this sort of move — I’ve got the attention of the entire world now, probably a few hundred million people.”
“People I know are sleeping on the floor, unable to eat. It’s insane. No services, no support, no mental health issue support, nothing.”
Peter recognized his wealth due to the flourishing success of Rode Microphones. Acknowledging his luxury lifestyle and pledging to give back as much as he can.
“I’d be pretty low if I didn’t recognize that and give some back. I’ve got a great life, I don’t need any more [money]. The person who dies really rich dies in disgrace and I sure as shit don’t want to die with a lot of money.”
Most Expensive Guitar – Worldwide Tour
On top of his Australian plans, he’s also eager to tour the guitar worldwide in distinguished galleries and art exhibitions. Again, all proceeds including the guitar will be going directly to the performing arts.
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Music Industry
Continuing on, Freedman said: “The global arts industry has been shattered by the impact of COVID-19. With musicians and artists being amongst the most affected. The last few months were the straw that broke the camel’s back, and for many in the arts have brought forth the harsh reality that they work in an industry for which there is little support in times of need.”
“For most, access to financial and health services – particularly mental health services – is very limited. While many industries are gradually returning to normal, it’s going to take a long time before this industry can begin functioning as it was. The toll this has taken and will continue to take is enormous and requires more than just lip service. It requires action now, and I am a man of action.”
“The arts, and organizations that support the arts, are remarkably undervalued and underfunded by many governments around the world, considering their cultural and economic importance. I saw buying this guitar as an opportunity to not only share it with music fans, but to do so in a way that raises awareness for the struggles that musicians and artists face every day, and lobby governments for change.”