Some of the best people on the supply or manufacturer side of professional audio have come from the “other side of the counter.” For example, at Radial Engineering there are several; before joining the company, Jay and Steve toured as front of house engineers, Ryan and Mike were studio engineers, Shuu and Jim served as stage techs with Nickelback and Rush, respectively, and Roc and Phil were musicians.
They all bring real-world experience to their current roles that makes it easier for them to understand and represent the products, as well as connections throughout the industry that lend them added credibility and serve them to this day.
To appreciate the impact of having such experience, put yourself in the shoes of the typical person working in a music store. Most of them play in local bands and work in the store as a means to get discounts on gear. Very few ever “make it” as a musician beyond their locality, let alone gain regional, national or global prominence. And when someone that has spent years on the road with a renowned artist shows up at the store, these folks are hungry to hear stories from the road, particularly if it involved one of their musical heroes.
Sharing The Experience
I recall giving a lecture years ago at Shure UK, which at that time was the Radial distributor for the region. After my talk, a fellow named John who I knew from past encounters came over for a chat that led into a long and really interesting conversation. This road dog had worked with many of my music heroes, including Led Zeppelin, and he was now the equipment and studio manager for a well-known heavy metal band.
Anyway, we started talking about a certain renowned guitar player. Way back when I first started playing guitar, this guy, as well as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, were huge influences. John told me of how this guitar icon would walk around the tour bus completely naked with his girlfriend, high on drugs, and some other related things.
Hearing this story while remembering the hours I spent learning how to play this musician’s riffs was both enthralling and confusing at the same time. Such a great talent, left to waste away. But these are the stories that excite the young ears and keep “your brand” in their mind. They cement a powerful connection and invariably, the store employees live vicariously through them.
When I was 18, I got my first job at a music store and over the years, as I graduated from distribution to manufacturing, I was always given an ear at this store. More often than not, they supported the brands I was carrying. Today when I walk in the door, the old guys proudly tell the young folks that (former) “Mr. Radial” used to work there. I’m part of the family. People buy from people they like.
If and when you (mix engineers and system techs) decide to get off the road, the opportunities are vast. Manufacturers and distributors are constantly looking for technically proficient sales people to help promote their products, and from there, one can graduate to become a product manager, regional sales manager, and points beyond.
The aforementioned “Shuu” (David Guidish) approached me on several occasions to let me know that he was getting tired of being on the road, that he had kids on the way, and one day would like to work for my company. We hired him when a territory opened up and he’s done exceedingly well. Jim Rhodes had temporarily worked with Radial in the early years, but we didn’t have the money to pay him what he was worth. He eventually came back and took the reins in artist relations.
This wonderful industry also has other avenues for those looking at other opportunities. Doing sound at a local venue or house of worship can be fulfilling. For instance, a friend of mine has graduated to the point where he’s now in charge of audio at the Commodore, the premier venue for Live Nation in Vancouver. Although he works many late nights, he also gets to enjoy plenty of time each day with his son.
I should also mention the growing AV side of our business. It’s booming, primarily because it’s at the heart of the convergence of new media and technology – audio, video and data over Ethernet, Bluetooth, wi-fi and the Internet of Things. This is a perfect outlet for those who are technically minded and are able to sit down and read a manual.
Yes, I know it sounds simplistic, but as one guy recently told me: “Most people are simply too lazy to open a book. This is how I’ve succeeded, and today I make a 6-figure salary because I took the time to read the manuals!”