L-Acoustics started in France back in 1984, and it’s no exaggeration to say that its impact has been felt around the world since then. Founder Christian Heil, Ph.D., took the largely abandoned concept of the line array and reinvented it for a new era with the landmark V-Dosc series, transforming how live sound has been presented ever since. Since then, L-Acoustics has been a major presence in the U.S. live sound industry, and the company has changed with the times, as seen by its product offerings and also the recent launch of its Americas division, led by its newly appointed CEO, industry veteran Alan Macpherson.
For Macpherson, joining L-Acoustics is the latest step in a career that has always had music and technology at its core. “I started out as a guitar player and singer, playing in bands back in Toronto, Canada, some decades ago,” he said. “Early on in my musical journey, I became entranced with the live sound aspect of the performance and quickly became the P.A. owner/operator in addition to being the front man. This love of the gear, and music in general, led me to Yamaha when it became clear that playing music was not going to be a full-time career. Pretty soon after starting with that company in a sales role, I moved into product management, and a few years later into sales and marketing leadership, where I had my first taste of the B2B business that is commercial audio. I moved to the U.S. in 2008 to take on the challenge of growing [Yamaha subsidiary] Steinberg’s presence and thereafter accepted other leadership roles at Yamaha that were mostly pro audio-focused.”
Spending those years working in the pro audio and MI marketplaces, Macpherson took on a variety of roles ranging from corporate communications leader to divisional general manager to vice president of integrated marketing—all experiences that now inform his work at L-Acoustics: “I am truly fortunate to have been able to acquire extensive experience in leadership and team building, combined with a strong understanding of the market. Also, I think that being responsible for P&L, sales, support and marketing in most of these prior roles gives me a unique viewpoint of the market from a very high level.”
Several recent shows and tours took advantage of L-Acoustics L-ISA technology, including Bon Iver, Lady Gaga, Star Wars at the Colorado Symphony, Childish Gambino and deadmau5. L-ISA was also put to use at NYC’s ArTecHouse and at an Atlanta church in recent months.
Of course, that market has changed pretty radically in the last few months—a fact not lost on Macpherson, who joined L-Acoustics in February 2020, just as the coronavirus was starting to have an impact on the United States. COVID-19 is testing the mettle of every pro audio manufacturer, but Macpherson is confident in the ability of his company—and the industry—to ride out the worst of the pandemic: “A strong European heritage combined with a focus on premium product has allowed L-Acoustics to buck the tide and prosper in spite of economic upheavals over the decades. I believe that a quality brand with the very best people on board can weather virtually any storm—economic or pandemic. L-Acoustics’ leadership remains committed to the team, our market partners and the U.S. market, where we have managed to grow our installation side of the business dramatically this year. We remain hopeful that the mobile side of the market—touring, event production, et cetera—will rebound relatively quickly.”
That confidence in L-Acoustics is well-founded. Today, the company has more than 500 employees worldwide, with 20 percent of the team working in R&D and another 40 percent in manufacturing. That production work is based around three facilities in France—metal components, wood components and assembly—as well as another facility in Germany that develops and manufactures the company’s electronics.
While production is centrally located in Europe, sales and operations are broadly spread out around the globe. The company’s main offices are in Paris, London and Los Angeles, and there are additional offices in Stuttgart, New York City and Singapore. “The CEO of L-Acoustics, Laurent Vaissié, is based in Los Angeles and drives the business teams globally, while the CEO of L-Acoustics Group, Hervé Guillaume, is based in Paris, overseeing global operations,” explained Macpherson. “Our sales and applications teams have off-site team members spread throughout the world, organized into mobile- and installation-facing teams that we feel better suit the unique needs of our customers in each master segment.” Meanwhile, Heil is hardly out of the picture—no, he heads the upstart L-Acoustics Creations division based in London, bringing the company’s insights and technologies to private residential, architectural, artistic and cultural settings.
L-Acoustics’ global reach speaks to the breadth of products it offers, from its A-Series constant curvature loudspeaker lineup launched in 2019 to its much-discussed L-ISA technology. Macpherson said, “L-ISA sets a new benchmark for truly inspiring, immersive audio experiences in live music, theatrical performance, worship and even in our Creations product designed for more personal immersive listening. We are just getting started with L-ISA and think it will finally disrupt the ‘stereo’ paradigm in much the same way we revolutionized array technology!”
Not that array technology is going away, even with a pandemic on. “From a vertical perspective, we see large growth opportunities in house of worship, Broadway/theatrical, stadium/arena and others on the installation side of our business,” he noted. “We remain bullish over the medium term with regard to our mobile business segment, especially once there is some sort of viable therapy or vaccine for the current pandemic so that audiences are able to return to ‘raising the roof.’ Our new Creations line—distinct from L-Acoustics’ series of product aimed at the professional audio market—offers an exciting new direction for the residential, marine and architectural segments.”
That diversification will undoubtedly stead L-Acoustics well in the immediate future while live sound is largely sidelined, but it also is indicative of the company’s broadminded view of what its objectives can be and how to accomplish them. Indeed, Macpherson sees the pandemic slowdown not as an obstacle but rather an opportunity to set the stage for future successes.
“As our world is challenged by a viral enemy that has forced economies to lock down into self-induced comas, I think companies that keep their focus on future strategic goals by way of continuous improvement will ultimately stay on top,” he said. “Thanks to the forward-thinking, relentlessly improvement-oriented and very human-focused culture at L-Acoustics, I think that we are very well positioned to come out of this global crisis in an even stronger leadership position.”