John Maier, CEO, Blue Microphones
Like so many pro audio execs, Blue Microphones CEO John Maier began his career as a musician, but says that he always had a “passion for the gear.” He recalls that he knew from a very early age that he wanted to be involved in building and marketing products, specifically products that use technology to make the creative process “easier and more fun.”
That desire pushed Maier to get further and further into the business side of music and recording. In the 1980s, he started working in local music and pro audio retailers in the Chicago area and then, in the ’90s moved to the manufacturing side of things, first in sales and then in marketing. After a stint as the pro audio buyer for Guitar Center Management, he moved on to working directly for manufacturers like Alesis and TC Electronic. He became CEO of Blue Microphones in 2009.
Maier reveals that the key word he uses often is “empathy.” He says, “Like the busboy who ends up running the restaurant, my experiences both as the target customer (musician, tech geek, everyday computer user) and as an audio industry professional (retailer, rep, manufacturer) have given me a full view of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a manufacturer’s efforts. We’re constantly putting ourselves in the shoes of our users to make sure we’re thinking the right way about everything we do.”
Blue Microphones currently has roughly 40 employees worldwide. That’s a more than fourfold increase from the less than 10 employees the company had a few short years ago. Maier relates that Blue Mics currently breaks things into five key categories: Product Development, Operations, Finance/Administration, Marketing and Sales. The sales group is split into Professional and CE (Consumer Electronics) with Michael (Hucky) Huckler and Brian Arensberg as VPs of those divisions, respectively. There are also a number of regional sales managers throughout the U.S.
Maier comments, “One of the things that drew me to Blue was the company’s identity and culture, and maybe more importantly, that the new ownership seemed to be doing a great job at promoting that culture instead of stamping it out, which seems to be the case so often. Blue has always worked hard to mix great sound quality and design with fun and playfulness. We’ve been able to successfully carry that same vibe and energy over into the CE area, which is something we’re very proud of. We feel that it differentiates us from our competition.”
When Maier first came to Blue, he wore many hats and at times was the acting head of marketing, sales, finance, operations and a few others. Over the past few years, the company has grown exponentially, which allowed him to build up the team. Currently, he spends more of his time on international business and the product and strategy road map for the next couple of years.
According to Maier, CE is Blue’s fastest-growing market. “However, I’m happy to say that our pro business has been growing in double digits through this challenging economy as well,” he points out. “We will continue to strengthen our current focus areas of recording, live and consumer and have a few exciting new products that push the boundaries of those categories. Another key area of expansion for us is our international business. As with most young and fast-growing companies, we’ve focused in the early days on the North American market and have a huge potential growth in just setting our sights outside those borders in the coming years.”
When asked how the company deals with the competition, Maier explains that Blue Mics tries to keep a good balance between being very aware of what’s happening in the marketplace without obsessing over what others are doing. There tends to be a real admiration across companies when someone comes out with an exceptional product. At the same time, we are a very aggressive company that wants to win, so we don’t wait around to see what others are doing.”
Maier continues, “Our top priority is always the product. We have bolstered our product development team and have no less than six new groundbreaking products already planned for next year, three of which will be introduced during the January trade-show season. Second to that, we will be expanding our reach internationally. We’ve outgrown some of our current setup and in some places have never really entered the market. We expect to have some exciting announcements to make at NAMM and going forward on that front.”
Maier concludes, “Lastly, I made it an early goal to get the entire team under one roof, since we’ve been split across multiple locations for some time. We’ve now grown to over 40 employees and have just finalized a new setup. By the beginning of next year, we’ll have our product development, operations, finance, sales, marketing and warehousing all at one headquarters. Besides the obvious efficiencies we’ll gain, I’m just as excited about the effect it will have on the strengthening of our culture and the team.”
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