New York (November 16, 2009)–“Friend” and “mentor” were two words used repeatedly to describe Wayne Freeman as the news of his sudden passing rippled through the professional audio community on November 12. Outgoing President of Solid State Logic, Phil Wagner shared with PSN, “Wayne Freeman was my closest friend and mentor. Betty Bennett and Wayne hired me in 1984 to run Soundcraft NY and Wayne backed my decisions from day one. This set the course of my career.
“Wayne was loved by all and he touched the lives of so many audio professionals over the many decades in pro audio. Wayne sought to make his mark through marketing and not necessarily through his own PR. He was a marketing genius and he had an innate sense of what customers’ ‘hot’ buttons were. Many around him learned so much in the style and execution of his craft. It was my absolute pleasure to be in his company for as many years as we were together. He was an inspiration to all of those who knew him. He will be missed.”
Wayne has been a fixture in the industry for decades, and someone I’ve known for most of my career. Wayne was a straight shooter with a quick, dry wit and a deep intellect. While I’d had a number of occasions to interact with and learn from Wayne over the years, I will cherish most the time we spent together in 2006, while attending the AES convention in Paris. Wayne and I were in the same hotel, and shared several meals and long conversations during that particular trip. My respect for him only deepened from that experience, professionally, as a human being and as a friend. Godspeed Wayne, and cliché as it is to say, we’ll always have Paris. –Frank Wells
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Audio industry icon and innovator Wayne Freeman, a major figure in the pro audio industry for decades, passed away on November 11, 2009, near his home in Southern California from a sudden, massive heart attack at age 62.
Originally hailing from Yonkers, N.Y., Wayne graduated from Saunders Trades and Tech High School in 1965 and attended New York University (NYU) in Manhattan. Wayne was a decorated Air Force veteran who served two tours of Viet Nam in the late sixties. After moving to California and working at BGW, Wayne became the national sales manager at UniSync and represented amps for A-B Systems, before setting out on his own to found New West Marketing, along with Tom Carlile. The company flourished and—in that wild and crazy, party-all-night era of the late ’70s—earned the nickname OCM, for “out of control marketing.” And with his outgoing manner, broad smile and likeable personality, Wayne fit right in.
Wayne was a one of a rare breed of marketing pros that really understood the industry. Around 1982, Wayne’s success caught the attention of British console manufacturer Soundcraft, which recruited Wayne as a marketing and sales manager. As a member of the Soundcraft crew in the early ’80s, Wayne (then VP of sales and marketing) was part of an amazing brain trust—a creative/technical group which branched out to forever change professional audio. Affectionately known as audio’s “A-Team,” that group included Apogee Electronics founder Betty Bennett, Focusrite founder Phil Dudderidge, Phil Wagner, Soundcraft co-founder Graham Blythe, SC Canada’s Jean Daoust (later founder of Studer Canada), Shane Morris (now at PRS Guitars), Gary Lynn (later president of Soundcraft-Spirit USA), Mix’s Erika Lopez, Linda Frank and Greg McVeigh.
Wayne eventually left Soundcraft and held key positions with Trident USA, Fairlight, Amek and Otari, but seemed to find his niche with Marshall Electronics, the company that distributes and manufacturers audio and video products, including LCD broadcast/security monitor panels, Mogami cabling and MXL microphones. As the company’s sales director from 2001 through 2008, Wayne brought the MXL brand into prominence.
Wayne was always an idea guy. While at MXL, he came up with the notion for the first USB adapter for connecting pro mics directly to computers; he brought the Mogami cable brand as a supplier for high-end guitar cables sold through MI stores; he differentiated the MXL mic brand by having its mics use quality Mogami internal wiring; and he made deals to supply custom-branded mics to companies—such as Tascam—that were built by MXL. While never neglecting the pro customers, under Wayne’s guidance, MXL also held a leadership role in consumer markets, for instance, topping Amazon’s microphone sales for the product class.
More recently, Wayne was the president of Bond Music Research, working with company CEO Ken Berger (founder of EAW), to expand the markets for high-end, high-definition audio and music cabling and other high-tech products. One of the company’s recent projects was developing custom cables for Paul Reed Smith, to be sold under the PRS brand.
During his dedicated career in pro audio, Wayne Freeman touched many lives and had hundreds of friends. A maverick, a one of a kind from the old school of innovators and great minds in marketing, Wayne will not soon be forgotten, and many happy memories of his life will live on.
Wayne is survived by his wife Carol and their two daughters, Julia and Jennifer. A memorial service is planned for 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, at the White and Day Mortuary, 3215 Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the American Heart Association.