PA company Studiomasters Patrick Almond interview.
It’s been quite a year for Studiomaster and Carlsbro. November saw the former play a pivotal role in a world-first gig performed a-top a moving iceberg off the coast of Greenland as part of Jägermeister’s Ice Cold Gig Series. Aside from providing unique international exposure, the event represented the firm’s ongoing ambitions to forge innovative new partnerships with like-minded brands. The latter, likewise, has also hit the headlines of late with the launch of several new products, many of which have been the subject of unprecedented demand in the run-up to Christmas. Daniel Gumble caught up with Studiomaster and Carlsbro assistant general manager and marketing manager, Patrick Almond, for a look back over the past 12 months and to find out what’s in store for 2015…
Studiomaster was recently involved with a world-first – a live gig performed by UK metal band The Defiled atop a moving iceberg as part of Jägermeister’s Ice Cold Gig Series. How did you come to be involved with the project?
Our involvement with Jägermeister started at the Bloodstock Festival, at which our Carlsbro brand was one of the main sponsors. On the last day of the festival, a bass amp – not one of ours – went down on the Jägermeister stage, and Jägers music manager, Tom Carson, came to us asking for help. Sure enough, we were able to help out with replacement product for them and 15 minutes later their stage was back up and running. This put us in good favour! A few days later, Tom phoned me and asked if we’d like to provide the PA for this world-first iceberg gig. Of course, we said yes. Along with a 2,000W PA, we also provided microphones, cables, mic and speakers stands, pretty much everything apart from the backline, which was already tied in with other brands. After hearing the brief, and the limitations involved, we were able to specify and supply a suitable PA that would give the band maximum volume, minimal weight, and work perfectly with the generator they had.
How directly were you involved with the event on the day? Were there any logistical challenges you needed to overcome?
We weren’t actually physically there, and we concluded that it wasn’t necessary for us to put a man on the ground; I mean ice, there. The equipment we supplied was simple to set up, and the project manager in Greenland was a former sound guy in his past. I was confidently informed that they had the whole PA working within about five minutes. The biggest challenge faced by the whole event, was of course finding the right iceberg! For the sound side, they did rehearsals on dry land beforehand with the full set-up to make sure they knew exactly what they were doing, and then once they were given the go ahead, and the right iceberg had been located they went out on the water and performed.
What was the overall response to the gig?
Everybody, from the band to those on the production side, and Jägermeister themselves were all very happy with the outcome; from the sound quality, to the media exposure that was achieved afterwards, which was one of the key benefits for Jägermeister; the media exposure achieved was amazing. Check the youtube video, and you’ll see why!
Could this be the beginning of an on-going relationship with Jägermeister? Are you looking to work on any future projects together?
Yes. That’s certainly something we are actively talking about at the moment; not just being involved in world firsts like the iceberg gig, but future cooperation at festivals and live events. Jägermeister has an active role in the music industry; they are very much a forward thinking and lifestyle brand so have a festival and event schedule throughout 2015. These are areas of involvement where our company and our brands Studiomaster and Carlsbro are looking forward to working with them.
Any specific events or projects you can tell us about?
Not yet. They are actively working on their schedule and we are actively discussing where and how we can get involved, so there’s nothing concrete yet.
Do you think partnerships between MI brands and drinks brands like Jägermeister are likely to become more prevalent in our industry over the next year? We’ve already seen Red Dog Music teamed up with Relentless Energy Drink to open a store on Denmark Street.
Yes, in fact this is definitely something that is part of our 2015 strategy. We see an opportunity that can benefit everyone and want to work with more and more of these partners. In it’s most common form, the music industry and the drinks industry go hand in hand; every gig has a bar; every bar has music, so there is this natural, strong connection between them. Having a partnership between MI and the drinks industry benefits everyone, in my opinion. For us, an MI/pro audio brand, it opens up the ability for cross brand marketing. For the drinks company, they are able to reach further into an important market, with greater presence and credibility. So yes, these partnerships will crop up more and more – certainly for us. We are also in talks with another major UK brewery, which during 2015 will see both Studiomaster and Carlsbro having another partnership.
How has the MI side of your business performed in comparison to your pro audio arm? Have you noticed any particular similarities or contrasts between the two?
The pro audio market for us is definitely more consistent across the year, whereas the MI market tends to fluctuate a lot more. For us, like everyone, we go through periods of less activity in MI, but now for example, in the run up to Christmas, is incredibly busy. But that’s the way of the market. We accept that, and are able to respond to it. For sure, the early part of next year it’ll drop off again. The pro audio side has slight variations in trade too, but for us, is far more consistent throughout the year. For us, as we are only moving up and moving forward year on year, we can’t really say one is performing better than the other – they both have differences and experience different market trends.
12 months ago, 2014 was being billed as a year of recovery for the MI market. Is this something that has been true for you?
The first part of the year was slower than initially anticipated for us, and there are quite a few reasons for that; not just because of the general state of the sector, but also in the way our company was operating and able to react to the market. Since July, when we were in the position to overcome many of the operational challenges, we launched a series of initiatives both internally and externally, with the goal of offering our customers an enhanced product line up, superior quality, and in September launched a new price list in the UK, which had some fantastic savings. This has been just in time for the busy Christmas period and, as such, an immediate difference was seen, and for us, has had some fantastic results, particularly with our Carlsbro electronic drum kits and entry-level Kickstart guitar amps. Simon (our UK sales manager) has been selling out on both these ranges, and we have been in the position to keep supply rolling in. We have found that these successes for us have a knock-on effect to all our other lines and brands, including Studiomaster; it’s getting our customers a bit more interested in what we have to offer.
You’ve launched a number of new products this year. What has the market response been like?
On the Carlsbro side, a cost effective combo valve amp with Celestion Greenbacks (the VAC 15 Classic), and the main new product launch has been the expansion of our electronic drum kit series. We launched the first model last year into the UK and at the back-end of this year we launched a second model, a compact, portable and affordable e-drum kit, which has had a superb reception so far. Our drum kits position themselves nicely below your Roland, Alesis and Yamaha drum kits for price. The features and quality are right, and in many areas, exceed the competition. We have future electronic drum kit models we will introduce to the UK market during 2015, but we aren’t just going to come out with a raft of new kits, we are going to phase them in as we gain momentum, market share and support. Our priority is to satisfy our customers, and react to their requests and give what they are asking for. On the Studiomaster front, the biggest product we launched into the UK this year is the Starlight system – the model with the integrated lighting and monitor speaker. It’s taken a little while for it to find its feet, with some retailers and end-users yet to fully realise its implications and how it will benefit them. Once you really see that, you can understand that it’s not just suited to pro audio and MI, but also DJ and installation applications. Because it’s so unique and so radical and has never been done before, it’s taken a little while to establish itself, but more and more people are starting to say ‘yes, it does fit the bill’. We also launched our VENTURE series of active and passive cabinets, offering high power, lightweight and an impressive price point. These are setting Studiomaster up to properly mix with the higher end competition such as Electrovoice and JBL.
What do you have planned for 2015? Anything you can share with us?
We do have some new products coming out. We have the Studiomaster Drive Series, which is a direct replacement for our ever-popular VSX and VPX moulded cabinet series. Where the VPX, for example, is a 250W active moulded cabinet, but it has been able to sell, at a certain price point. But, it cannot be denied, it is starting to look a little dated now and isn’t quite up there with the competition, be that a Mackie Thump or an Alto TS or a Wharfedale Titan. So, in early 2015 we have a new cabinet design coming out with (compared to the VPX series) significant power increases, a weight reduction and a much sleeker look, but we’ll be aiming to maintain the current price. Bottom line, consumers will be getting a much better product for the same money. Lookout for this in the early part of 2015.
And what of Carlsbro?
Work is still ongoing with the APEX project – our new ground-up designed 100W head amplifier. This is actively being developed for pre-production at the moment but to be accurate is still a few months away, so we won’t see anything on that until around Q2 or Q3 2015. That said, the range will see a lot of development throughout the year, the 100W valve head is the flagship, but we’ll be introducing 50W and 25W heads and combos, based on the features and specification and sound of the 100 head.
A slight makeover to our Kickstart amps is in process; nothing major, just a little refresh. And as I previously mentioned, we’ll also be introducing some new electronic drum kits.