We be jamming, Fools! At least more of us seem to be buying musical gear, if Guitar Center's (NASDAQ:GTRC) rosy holiday quarter is any indication. Hitting all of the high notes after double-digit same-store sales gains, the super-retailer is now looking for earnings to come in between $0.74 and $0.75 a share for the quarter. That's well above the initial forecast for profits as low as $0.69 a share.

In other words, load up on earplugs. There's probably a green garage band starting up near you.

That may come as a surprise to Vivendi (NYSE:V), who decided that promoting indie music just isn't worth it. The company recently sold its MP3.com domain to CNET (NASDAQ:CNET) and unceremoniously wiped its servers clean of 250,000 recording artists. Musicians are getting the last laugh now, backed by the coy strum of a power chord.

We were skeptical early on. Two years ago our own Matt Richey voiced his displeasure over the company's inventory and debt woes. Guitar Center tackled its leverage problem last year with some rate-whacking refinancing. An improving economy should also bring back buyers who will shift from buying second-hand gear at auction sites, pawnshops, and discounters.

The Wall Street crowd isn't shouting for an encore just yet. Even with a healthy close, its net margins will fall just shy of 3% for all of 2003. Still, positive momentum going into 2004 will go a long way towards arming the company with the tools to improve its operating performance.

For years, the company's rough financials has made the stock a popular short on Wall Street. Maybe it's time for the naysayers to make like a tribute band and opt for a cover. Guitar Center's learning how to carry a tune.

Do you think Guitar Center is finally ready to jam with the big boys or will it be unplugged? What will drive the market for musical instruments and related gear this year? Know how to play the six-string axe? All this and more -- in the Guitar Center discussion board. Only on Fool.com.