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The Master plan: Studiomaster on its plans for 2018

British pro audio manufacturer Studiomaster had somewhat of a stonking year in 2017, finishing the year 55% up on 2016. Laura Barnes caught up with general manager Patrick Almond about how the company aims to continue its success throughout 2018…

With the launch of its digiLIVE16 hybrid digital mixer, a strong presence at numerous trades shows, and sponsorship with exciting events such as Bloodstock festival and Jagermeister’s Ice Cold Gigs, it’s safe to say 2017 was a busy year for British pro audio manufacturer Studiomaster.

“In 2017, internationally, Studiomaster finished up 55% up on 2016,” general manager of Studiomaster and Carlsbro Patrick Almond tells PSNEurope. “Purely in the UK, we finished almost 90% up on 2016.”

With a strong presence at trade shows throughout 2017, Studiomaster’s new mixers quickly found their feet in the market, something that Almond says has been “instrumental” in gaining new business throughout the year.

The flagship digiLivE16 mixer features 16 inputs, motorised faders, large touch screen, USB ports – basically everything you need for live mixing. The result of many years of R&D, the range is designed to appeal to those who need an easy-to-use system on the go.

“Because it’s an entry-level digital mixer, if you’re a gigging musician using an analogue mixing console and you want to take a step to digital, using a digiLIVE is a very easy way to take that first step. It’s probably one of the easiest digital platforms you can use. If you can use analogue, you can use digiLive,” says Almond.

“It is also good for people taking their first step into mixing. We want to give the people what they want to use and what they can use, and not over complicate it.”

As well as the new digital mixing offering being instrumental in gaining new business for Studiomaster, Almond says that the bulk of the firm’s business is still its core products, like analogue mixers and active and passive speaker cabinets. And those products have dramatically increased Studiomaster’s business over the past year.

“We’re not a high-end audio company. We’re a low to mid-end audio company, with a firm positioning in the MI sector, as well as the entry points of the pro audio market. And there is still a strong market for traditional analogue audio products,” explains Almond.

“There are people that don’t want all the bells and whistles, they want products that give them what they need and are simple to use, that carry on working and have reliability, quality, the right features, and most importantly, the right price points.”

So, how does the Christmas period affect an audio company that has a foot placed firmly in the MI market, which is more likely to see an increase in sales around the holiday season?

Interestingly, it turns out that Studiomaster not only noticed a Christmas uplift in 2017, but the beginning of a new year can prove a pivotal sales period as well.

“Although there might not be as big of a jump over the Christmas period as there would be with a purely consumer range, there is still an uplift in the last three months of the year. And also, the first three months of the year tend to have little peaks as well,” says Almond.

“When you’re doing products that are suitable for the gigging musician, for the people that go out there and go to pubs to play gigs – and there is an increase of that happening in the Christmas period – there’s a lot of parties and events going on in that time. So people do get prepared for it and they want to buy new equipment for those performances. So we do see an increase in business over that time, probably for those reasons.

“Then, after Christmas, people sometimes have a bit of extra money to spend and they want to go and replace all the bits that broke down over their busy gigging season.”

Almond tells PSNEurope that the interest in its products from ‘non-pro’ users has been a “very organic” one: “What we produce is very much equipment that is used by musicians and, really, by the guys that are going out on the road and picking up their guitars and doing gigs. And that’s something that Studiomaster has been strong at, and good at, for 30-plus years.”

Show business

Despite a large consumer audience, Studiomaster still finds that trade shows are an essential part of the company’s plans.

“We’re doing a number of shows this year, global and regional. In fact, we are expanding on exhibitions,” Almond tells us. “In particular, Prolight + Sound and NAMM are very relevant to us because our key objective at the exhibitions is to obviously show our products and launch new lines, but also to meet and greet all of our dealer and distributor network.

“At both of those shows, we see all of our customers as all of our dealers go there.”

Attending these shows, which are bursting at the seams with companies showing off the latest tech and innovations, also means the industry gets to have a peek at what their competitors are up to.

“It’s nice to see what everybody else is doing and find out what new products are being launched,” admits Almond. “But we’re only a small company so our main goal is to focus on seeing all of our customers.”

Along with attending trade shows, Studiomaster has taken part in some interesting sponsorship projects over 2017, including Jagermeister’s notorious Ice Cold Gig, which last year saw the band Modestep perform on a space net suspended from two mountain peaks overlooking an icy cavern. Although Almond couldn’t reveal much in regards to what’s planned for this year’s extreme gig, he did say that Studiomaster would get involved again to do something “special and unique”.

However, he did reveal that the firm will once again be sponsoring the UK’s biggest independent metal festival, Bloodsock, which takes place in Catton Park near Burton upon Trent every August.

“We are supporting Bloodstock again, which we have done for the past few years. They’ve got Judas Priest headlining this year, so that’ll be a good one to be involved in. We’re looking forward to that.”

In with the new

With a raft of trade shows and the ever-increasing rate of technological improvements in the sector, Almond outlines what he’s hoping to see in the pro audio industry throughout 2018. “The things I’m hoping to see are more on the digital side. I’d like to see some lower-cost digital networking systems coming out, as the main players are all premium price,” he says. “If we can see digital audio and digital networking come out at more affordable pricing, I think that would be something to really looking forward to in 2018.”

From Studiomaster’s own corner of the market, Almond says that we can expect to see some additions to its digiLIVE series. “There will be some announcements on our digital mixing side. The digiLIVE series will be expanding,” he reveals.

“At the moment, we’ve got a 16-input version available, but we are going to be doing both higher channel count versions as well as some compact digital mixing solutions.” We can expect to see an official launch of Studiomaster’s new digiLIVE solutions at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt from April 10-14.

Looking ahead to what else Studiomaster has planned for 2018, Almond says that the firm is focussed on continuing the roaring success of 2017.

“We’ve really made some in-roads in 2017 with the sales generated and the products we’ve launched. We’ve got some more interesting products coming through as we’re expanding the ranges. We’re also going to be tightening up our ranges so they all make a bit more sense,” he explains, adding that Studiomaster’s distribution base has dramatically changed over the past 18 months – something else the firm will continue expanding upon.

“We’ve got some very big, very good international distribution partners now, and that’s something that’s going to be carrying on throughout 2018. We are further expanding that, which is going to see more exposure for Studiomaster across the whole world.”