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Seattle guitar store feeling effects of Russia economic sanctions

Emerald City Guitars is working to adapt as economic sanctions affect the supply of some instrumental products.

SEATTLE — Sanctions on Russia amid the war in Ukraine are continuing to impact several businesses throughout Washington state. That includes instrument and gear providers in Seattle dealing with a shortage that is affecting their sales.

Emerald City Guitars is a gem tucked away in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. The store has been supplying musicians and soon-to-be guitar players with anything guitar-related for more than 25 years. Until now, that is.

"It was kind of like the beginning of the pandemic when we had toilet paper shortages. Everybody was panic buying. We're seeing a little bit of that going on in the market," said Matt Hutchinson, an employee at Emerald City Guitars.

But we're not talking about toilet paper. Hutchinson is referencing a shortage in vacuum tubes for guitar amps.

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"Currently, the majority of tubes produced in the world are produced in Russia,” explained Hutchinson. “With the sanctions going into effect, it's going to be more and more difficult to get them over here.”

The shortage is not good news for guitar stores and players, considering "a tube can contribute to the sound of a musician's recording much like the paint an artist would use to paint a picture," Hutchinson said.

Despite being small, the tubes are instrumental to how we're able to appreciate the type of music to our ears.

“By turning your amp up, you're kind of allowing more electricity and signal to flow through that tube, and as the tube opens up and warms up, you get that nice overdriven sound that you hear on old blues records, a lot of rock and roll," explained Hutchinson.

Due to the shortage, Hutchinson said the price for some tubes has nearly doubled from about $18 to more than $33, if not more, depending on the type of tube you're getting. As the shortage continues, Hutchinson said he and the staff at Emerald City Guitars will do everything they can to find new suppliers.

"Working with our partners in the industry to see if we can source anything out, but we're in for a wild ride," said Hutchinson.

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