Some may think of VocoPro as a karaoke company, but it is much more than that, which we will learn shortly. The La Verne, Calif.-based company has been successful for nearly 30 years, a tremendous sign of strength. To find out more about VocoPro, we went straight to the source: Jason Hou, its CEO. Enjoy.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Please tell us about your background and family, including your time at VocoPro.
Jason Hou: As a teenager, I found myself intrigued by high-end sound systems. I even began to build my own speaker systems using various parts from different manufacturers. I enjoyed putting together different systems for my friends and for myself. However, my first job wasn’t audio related, as I was a customer service representative for a garment company. In that job, I was responsible for communicating with our sales and buyer teams for big department store groups. I believe this taught me a lot about how to be really customer-service-focused. I still use a lot of those early lessons I learned back then with our customers today. But working for someone else was never really for me.
When I was 20 years old, I used that ambition to open my own small video rental shop near downtown Los Angeles. The video rental business was good for a few years, but I wasn’t sure it would be right for me long term. Around that time, I started bringing in VHS tapes with Asian karaoke content and selling them to other video shops. These were big sellers for many years, but then laserdisc karaoke became very popular due to Pioneer’s heavy promotion of the format. I found myself doing well with the laserdisc format and thought, OK…now I need to step into hardware! We were the first to promote a 150-laserdisc changer that really shocked the whole industry at the Consumer Electronics Show. From there, we knew we could be great at hardware, software, and music and sound products. And the rest is history.
I founded VocoPro in my garage. I remember every day looking forward to shipping out the orders from my garage via UPS and then helping customers connect and use our system. The most exciting feeling back then was when I could fix a customer’s technical issue over the phone.
The Retailer: Take us through an average day at your job and what you do.
Hou: My CEO title at VocoPro is more like CPS (Chief of Problem Solving). Anytime we run into an obstacle, I’m usually the person that decides how we’re going to address it. Other than that, I’m in charge of developing new products that our customers want/need. I also draft marketing materials for our graphic department so they know the clear selling points and the background of our products.
The Retailer: VocoPro has been going strong close to 30 years now. What have been some keys to your success?
Hou: First, we always work hard to answer the needs of our customers, and we develop our new products to meet their needs, not just because technically we can do something. Second, we take care of our retailers to make sure they are competitive in the marketplace, and we back up our products 100 percent, so our retailers won’t have to worry about getting stuck with something. At VocoPro, we believe in strong retailer relationships and doing our part to make sure they are successful.
The Retailer: Although VocoPro is well known for its karaoke products, you offer much more. Please tell us about your complete product offerings and how those help maintain your success.
Hou: Again, it comes back to our customers. We take our customers’ input very seriously. That’s the reason we developed many of the non-karaoke products you see out there, like the multiple-channel wireless systems for bands and conferences, as well as wireless assist listening systems like the Silent PA and the Silent Symphony series. If the customers need it and we can technically produce it for them, we will.
The Retailer: What is the state of the overall MI industry today? Are you optimistic and why?
Hou: I’m optimistic about the MI industry. Humans have been singing since the very beginning of time and will be singing long after all of us are gone. Music remains a constant in our world, and no matter how the various tools and technologies may change, music will be always be with us. That makes me optimistic about the future.
The Retailer: Please tell us about your philosophy regarding MI retailers. What approach have you taken to make sure both the retailer and yourself have a harmonious relationship?
Hou: We are constantly trying to get feedback from our end users and retailers. We also pay attention to how and where our customers will use our systems. We share this information with our retailer partners to make sure they will be more successful.
The Retailer: How can retailers best sell your products? Are there any tips you can provide?
Hou: Our musician customers have things they need to solve in order to deliver the best performance, so we start there. Find out what the customer needs solved and recommend the best VocoPro product to solve it. Our retailers trust the VocoPro name and our values. They know we always reply to email or phone inquiries in a timely matter. We feel that businesses who offer not only great products, but great service, will always do well in the marketplace.
The Retailer: Please tell us about VocoPro’s recent product launches and what makes those products cool.
Hou: Technology is evolving. And we always take advantage of those new technologies to make our products more innovative and more financially reachable for musician consumers — both amateur and professional. For example, we have a wireless microphone system that switches frequencies with just a touch of a button on the transmitter that does not use IR to sync to different frequencies, so the musician does not have to stop the show in order to change the frequency in case of any interference from other devices in the room. We also have a very cool wireless audio transmitter and receiver for powered speakers that effectively makes your entire PA system wireless. This gives musicians a lot more flexibility regarding speaker placement and how that system will ultimately deliver their sound in any room. It’s very exciting.
The Retailer: What was The NAMM Show like for VocoPro in terms of product launches?
Hou: On average, we launch 10 to 15 new products per year, and 2019 was no exception. We definitely had some new surprises coming for The NAMM Show. We showed new innovative technology for karaoke, wireless systems and audio.
The Retailer: In an interview with us four years ago, you said you “believe karaoke continues to be a great way to bring family and friends together. We also believe the passion for singing will be even greater because the equipment is simple to use, and it provides professional results even as costs are lower due to the evolution of technology.” Do you still believe in these comments as you look forward to VocoPro’s success in the future?
Hou: Yes. Wireless systems used to cost $400 to $500 minimum. Now, we are seeing systems with great features like those systems, but at half of the price. This makes good-quality equipment affordable for the masses who want to use it — and this has been our philosophy since we started VocoPro.
The Retailer: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Hou: Power to the singers! They sometimes are forgotten in all of the instruments on stage, but singers give music its words, its soul and its voice. We strive to help the singers of the world with the best tools on the market.