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Tim Chapman: Cultivating vintage pro audio

Tim Chapman talks to PSNEurope about his pro audio career, the new TC Group image, his aspirations for Lake and perhaps even getting into the Turkish wine business.

Tim Chapman’s first job in pro audio was at Turbosound in 1985, not long after it was in rustic huts round the back of Ridge Farm Studios. This was because as a promoter in Brighton he’d kitted out a few clubs with PA bought from Tony Andrews and John Newsham – via Mark Metcalf, now of Blue Box fame – and struck up a relationship.

Ever one for the old wanderlust, he went over to the US in 1993 with Crest Audio, having been UK distributor, and moved on to California and Meyer Sound from 1999 to 2005.

Resettling in his wife’s native Turkey, he undertook a brief contract for EAW/Loud in both Woodinville and Whitinsville, and then based his working week in the UK to start work with Lab.gruppen. The only corporate gearshift since then has been the acquisition of Lake, as the TC Group began to settle into a period of cosmic calm. He currently divides his time between the various outposts of the TC Group and Turkey – and is never far from a reputable vintner. As one of the architects of the current TC Group image, what are your aims?
I like the idea of ‘TC Group’ being more overt, and of it bringing the brands together to be a stronger entity. Anders [Fauerskov, MD] had the view that the umbrella of the whole group was an unsung quality, a value that not enough people appreciated. It’s become more noticeable over the years that its light was hidden under a bushel, especially as each individual brand established its own very good reputation. We weren’t realising all of the marketing benefits of the synergies and strengths across the entire organisation.
It’s a good move to bring TC Group to the fore and tell the story, in order to allow the brands to benefit from the combined talent pool and pulling power that we have, especially as the industry evolves further towards complete systems solutions from single sources. Because of the sales groups we’ve created, our excellent distribution and some of the direct operations we have, there’s a logic to bringing it all together under one very clear title. What was your role? I’ve been involved in making it possible for Tannoy, Lab.gruppen and Lake to sit together more easily. When I first got to Lab – pre-Lake – it was important at that time to bring Lab the brand into the limelight because much of our work was OEM. At that stage I wanted to re-establish Lab as a standalone brand and get it to be pre-eminent – or at least recognised for its quality.

Part of that was to exhibit separately from Tannoy: not miles apart, but on different stands because we were different things. Tannoy was much more install-commercial-centric, while Lab was more strongly touring-marketed. This was pre-PLM, and we didn’t need anything to encumber its path towards becoming the touring amplifier.
As the portfolio broadened after that, there was a logical link to Tannoy and we began to exhibit together again, with Lake as part of the package too. We have one marketing department, we use a common language and it became important for us to be able to sit together on a page in a magazine. In a way, just between those three brands, it pre-empted what we’re doing with TC Group now: there was a bonding between them, but this way it’s going to be much more obvious. What’s pulling these brands together outside of TC, in the markets? The steady rise in audio quality, everywhere. The installation potential is huge, and touring is very healthy too. We’re not blending them together so that they’re indivisible, that’s not necessary. But there’s a Lab product to be launched at InfoComm with an awful lot of TC in it, there are Tannoy products with Lab.gruppen in them… it’s logical, and it’s the quality issue that’s driving it, not a desperate need for cost-effectiveness – although there are cost benefits to these synergies, of course. Over time we’ll see more of this, without losing the identity of the component parts. What are your aspirations for Lake? It will continue to define system and loudspeaker processing of one kind or another for high-end live sound, but I would like to see it trickle down by effect if not in terms of pure software. We have engineers with ‘Lake’ written right through them like a stick of rock, and that heritage will affect everything we do – even if it doesn’t actually come out as Lake. Anyone who remembers Bruce [Jackson] will always know why Lake is great. What are ‘vertical’ markets, as you see them? Clearly defined customer profiles. We want to be towards the top of every sector, not the bottom. We want to be slightly aspirational, but affordable. We want to give people good value and extremely good quality. That doesn’t differ from PLM to the new IPD Series. One sentence for each of these, please:Meyer Sound? “A wonderful place to work and fascinating.” EAW? “Spending time with David Gunness, Kenton Forsyth, Kenny Berger and all of those guys was stunning, a real joy.” Crest? “I refused to live in New Jersey. I lived in New York.” Meyer Sound isn’t a million miles from Napa Valley… My wife was in the wine business. I became one of her best customers! I started a pro-audio wine club, because I was subjected to a lot of it and able to taste everything. I could also buy really well, wholesale, and put it out to friends in the business. We ended up shifting 70 to 100 cases per month, which isn’t a lot compared to the big league but it was a lot of fun. We may one day get involved in the Turkish wine business, but that’s down the road a little. For now, we have our little boutique B&B: Myndos Beach Villas.