In January of 2013 Fender did something to alter the landscape of the guitar manufacturing world, they introduced the Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI. The instrument didn't blow the roof off of anything, Gibson didn't go out of business off the back of it, Ibanez CEO's didn't throw themselves from buildings, but it did change things, more a rippling undercurrent than anything else, but probably the most influential release Fender had made in 20 years.
The Pawn Shop Bass VI was a hot-rodded take on the original 1961-75 Fender Bass VI that defined Tic-Tac, and was used so effectively by George Harrison on the Let It Be recordings. The Pawn Shop series wasn't especially mainstream for Fender, more Fender designers dipping their toes into a weirder line of models than they would attempt normally. So it must have come as something of a surprise to Fender when the range sold so prolifically. Certainly in the first few months of the instrument's release it was virtually impossible for Guitar Shops to stock the model so quickly were they being sold. Even the demo video that I did on the instrument had sold and was due to be shipped out as soon as I'd finished recording.
The success of the Pawn Shop Bass VI led to Fender quickly introducing a Fender Japan Model, Custom Shop model, and most importantly, a Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI. The latter was by far the most important, it ticked all the boxes that this bass needed to tick; it was a true reissue of the original, complete with the rubbish bridge, individual pick up selectors and 3 single coil pick-up arrangement, but most crucially, it was incredibly affordable, and maybe that was the point.
The Bass VI is such a unique instrument; too twangy for traditional bass players and with a tuning too low for guitarists to play open chords; taking a punt on an instrument that won't be suitable for all situations meant that, even though everyone wanted one, no-one wanted to shell out over £500 for one. The Vintage Modified version gave people an affordable entry point into what is essentially a completely new instrument.
It was the Squier model that truly changed everything. Sure enough shortly after it's introduction everyone was on it. Ibanez released an SR model, Eastwood, Warmoth. These days it has become simply part of the landscape, with no risk of being discontinued, the Bass VI has finally found its place in the instrument world...
...but what is that place, what do people actually use them for, and how can they integrate into a traditional band format without stepping on the toes of either a standard bass or guitar?