Marty Harrison, Music Express, LLC. For Music Express, LLC.’s senior vice president, Marty Harrison, his entrance into the world of pro audio was a “typical story.” Harrison describes himself and his two partners, Herschel Blankenship and Andy Aldrich, as aspiring rock stars, who spent the 1960s and ’70s, learning to operate, maintain and transport their own PA systems while touring. “We three ‘guitar guys’ from different backgrounds and locales quickly discovered that a great sound system was a key ingredient to our success as performers,” Harrison said.
Over the years, Harrison and his band dispersed into other aspects of the industry, gravitating towards positions in music retail. Harrison ran a guitar repair shop and also performed sound system maintenance, while Blankenship merged his California guitar specialty shop with a wholesale electronics supplier. In the early 1990s, Music Express, LLC was formed as a music products original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier, with Harrison joining the company in 2001. Blankenship is currently one of the head designers for the company.
“Music Express is a small company and we all wear ‘lots of hats,’” Harrison explained. “I’m involved in all aspects of our business, including sales and marketing, product design and customer relations. My entrepreneurial spirit permeates our company; we challenge our associates to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ and idiosyncrasies of our business and the industries we serve, take on new responsibilities and grow their position within the company.”
Under Music Express, a variety of instrument bags and cases, stands, hardware, cables, and connectors are manufactured and distributed to the company’s clients, who put their own name on it. Specifically, the company has developed a series of hybrid cases, which incorporate protective layers and barriers in the soft cases.
“I’m most proud that Music Express is a valued, dependable partner,” Harrison said. “Our OEM customers have come to depend on us to consistently supply them with products that reflect and compliment their quality and design standards, and strengthen their brand.”
The company, along with its branded products division, ACCESS Products Group (APG), is headquartered outside of Seattle, WA, with additional offices and distribution centers in Greenville, SC and Guangzhou, China. The company staff is small, with only 20 employees dispersed through the three offices. Blankenship and Ryan Kallas serve as head of design, while Harrison continues to travel to meet with current and potential customers, while also managing product development and manufacturing.
Harrison felt one of the biggest factors that makes Music Express stand out from other OEM manufacturers is that they don’t depend on a third-party Asian trading company to supply products to their customers.
“From the beginning, Music Express was structured to be a full-service supplier, with the unique ability to offer our customers the quality, features and price point they desired while protecting their brand and IP in a very predatory environment,” Harrison explained. “At Music Express, our goal is to provide our customers with world-class products and services that are worthy of their brands.”
However, Harrison said OEM continues to be a challenging business, especially since the downturn in the economy.
“Profit margins and the market in general are shrinking and all aspects of the business, form manufacturing to finance, have become more challenging,” he said. “My biggest challenge is doing more with less. Like most companies, Music Express downsized to adapt to the new business climate. We all have more tasks and responsibilities in our workload.”
Adapting to a new economy has also caused Music Express to shift its focus towards other aspects of the company to keep up with the demands of the industry.
“We’ve intensified the focus of APG in light of the ever-increasing pressure on our OEM business. Our goal is to build a groundbreaking, game-changing product line and brand that is built on innovative design and professional quality, and that brand/product is Triad-Orbit Advanced Microphone Stand Systems,” he said. “In addition to my responsibilities to our OEM customers, I’m spearheading the sales and marketing of Triad-Orbit. We’ve launched a new brand and product line and I’m charged with telling that story.”
Harrison attributed the company’s focus on Triad-Orbit’s line of mic stands to the affordability of quality recording microphones. “While modern technology has made great microphones more affordable and accessible, it hasn’t made them smaller or lighter. So what’s the point of investing in better microphones without the right hardware to harness that extra performance? We decided to seize the opportunity and change that benchmark,” Harrison said.
Music Express is also focused on the advancement of the company in an effort to constantly improve on their products. “Integrity is another attribute that defines who we are,” added Harrison. “Music Express stands behind our products, stands beside our people, customers, distributors and dealers, and stands up for their customers—the end users.”
When dealing with their competition, Harrison said Music Express strives to be better vs. cheaper. “In general, quality can’t be dumbed down much more in our market segment. Most accessory products are already deemed disposable. We can’t outspend the marketing budgets of our competitors, so we have to differentiate our brand and products with intelligent, innovative design, superior quality and higher perceived value,” Harrison said.
Looking forward, Harrison said Music Express will continue to position Triad-Orbit as a global brand, with distribution efforts in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan so far. “We hosted the global launch of Triad- Orbit at the recent AES Show in New York, and I’m happy to report that it was extremely well-received. We’ve worked diligently for a long time to hear that one kind of affirmation for any of our products,” he said. “Remember, we’re those anonymous OEM guys that make accessories!”
ACCESS Products Group