New York, NY (June 29, 2020)—After a quiet spring of lockdowns and dismal economic reports, states are starting to reopen—with mixed results—but the coronavirus pandemic remains far from over. Like all corners of the economy, the pro audio industry has felt the effects of the crisis—studios were deemed non-essential businesses and forced to lock their doors, and live sound pros will likely be stuck waiting until next year for events, concerts and tours to resume consistently. Pro audio manufacturers, too, have faced problems, ranging from supply chain and inventory concerns to workforce and safety issues, not to mention an instant recession that gatecrashed what was looking to become an economically jubilant year.
Nonetheless, for all the difficulties they’ve faced so far this year, pro audio manufacturers are remaining remarkably calm and relatively positive about what the industry will look like in a post-pandemic world. Virtually all are all intent on playing the long game, outlasting the worst of times and ensuring they’re ready to capitalize on the economic recovery to follow.
“It’s been an incredibly hard time for our industry, and I think the uncertainty about where we’re going to end up has been one of the biggest challenges,” said Marc Bertrand, CEO of Adamson Systems Engineering. “Despite that, I think there’s an underlying optimism that we will learn and adapt to new and changing realities. And despite everything, we’ve been using this time to look ahead. We’ve been working on new products and infrastructure, and very much planning for a future on the other side of this.”
One of the trends inadvertently fostered by the pandemic has been the explosive growth of home studios and workspaces, both professional and prosumer. Not only has it been a boon to dealers and retailers who serve those users, but also the manufacturers who provide necessary tools. “Everything right now points to the fact that customers will continue to buy via e-commerce; many of our dealer partners have been able to adapt to this and we expect it to grow even more in the future,” said Adam Sheppard, national sales manager, ADAM Audio USA. Professionals aren’t the only ones buying big for their home facilities, as Kelsie McDuffie, marketing manager at ADAM Audio USA noted: “Interestingly enough, during these challenging times, many people have had to slow down their lives and make time for the things that they love – for so many, music and recording is a big part of that. I think even when the world returns to a degree of normalcy, that people will not forget and will continue to make time for music as one of the things that is very important.”
It’s been an educational time as a result—manufacturers may be using webinars and other forms of online training to explain how their products are used, but at the same time, end users are now communicating right back, showing how those same products are being put to the test. “I believe people posting their work online in social media, showing us how they are using the products and sharing their workflow, is really great for us,” said Joe Stopka, VP sales and business development for TASCAM. “This will encourage and motivate others to want to jump in and participate, and I believe it will grow the community of those making music and creating media for all to enjoy and learn from.”
Gary Boss, marketing director, Professional Markets at Audio-Technica, noted that the pandemic “has allowed musicians to really get their head around the online streaming possibilities for revenue creation. I have seen some really stellar performances the past few months.” The need for equipment to facilitate that shift has been beneficial, too, he added: “From a business side, we have seen our home office solutions, music and content creation and audio listening categories skyrocket.”
Pro audio manufacturers whose products can be used as a work at home solution are seeing appreciation for their products grow in real time. “The importance of good, quality audio is almost more evident now to people,” said Chris Spahr, VP of Sales & Marketing for the U.S. arm of DPA Microphones. “Since we have all had to deal with webinars, video calls and livestreams during this pandemic with lousy sound quality, it’s extremely frustrating. I would ask people to invest in getting the sound right at the source and to pay attention to accuracy and intelligibility when they are looking at microphones.”
As their brands are discovered by more users, then, manufacturers are in turn discovering how to better reach those growing markets and provide workable solutions. Jarrod Renaud, marketing & communications manager for DPA, remarked, “We’ve been focused on finding the new needs within each market, how we can provide solutions and also connect with our customers…we’ve been able to hone-in on solutions for live streaming, broadcasting, podcasting and home studio recording. On a day-to-day basis, this has resulted in a lot of research into these sections of the market.”
For many in recording, engineering and working from home is nothing new, except that in the post-pandemic world, there may well be more practitioners. “I personally think it will look pretty similar to what it was before—it will be an evolution, not revolution,” said Martins Popelis, co-founder and VP Products for Sonarworks. “Quite a lot of pro audio was happening online and long distance already before the crisis, so I don’t expect a radical change—but the pro-audio world will get even smaller and more connected. Even more work will be done remotely and the trend of long-distance collaboration will accelerate as more people will be forced to try it and get used to it.
Anssi Hyvonen, founder/CEO of Amphion Loudspeakers, concurs: “Home studios are here to stay. It simply makes no financial sense to continue to have two separate spaces for work you can do mostly from the comfort of your own home.”
Will creating content outside of traditional production facilities become a permanent part of the pro audio landscape, post-pandemic? That’s just one of many potential outcomes from the pandemic, and whatever does come along, the industry has to be ready for it. “We will need dedicated training to prepare us for what will be the industry’s new normal, and this includes exploring new ways to record and create content, as well as examining what live music might look like in the future and how the roles of touring professionals like sound engineers will change,” said Greg Beebe, director of Professional Audio, Sennheiser, and chair of the board of directors of the Professional Audio Manufacturers Alliance (PAMA). “Beyond educating the professionals, now is such an important time to bring it back to basics and push forward with music lessons. We need creatives and musicians to help us get to the next phase and be a source of inspiration.”
As it happens, looking for, recognizing and welcoming that inspiration in the form of new creatives may well be one of the best ways to prepare for pro audio’s future. Hannah Bliss, director of Marketing, Focusrite Novation, Inc., explained, “If you support your audio community, by buying a ticket to their live stream performance or their comedy show or their webinar, you will in turn help keep up demand and need for our products. This means we can keep developing new gear and creating solutions that benefit that community. It is a circle. Without customers, we have no business—so let’s keep supporting each other; the sales will look after themselves.”