San Gabriel, Calif.-based Odyssey Innovative Designs will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, so it’s a good time to check in with CEO John Hsiao, to talk about his career, the DJ industry and much more. Hsiao answered the questions on behalf of both himself and president Mario Montano. Enjoy.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Please describe your career, background and the story behind the founding of Odyssey.
John Hsiao: Both Mario (Montano) and I come from entrepreneurial backgrounds, so we have a strong affinity toward the small business owner. Our roots are deep in the DJ community, dating back to the 1980s, when I ran a DJ shop/record store and Mario had a DJ/event production company. Back then, there were just a few custom case manufacturers that would build one-off cases, all catering to live sound. Because of the labor and technology involved with custom cases, there was no real cost-effective solution for the mobile DJ. So, after creatively piecing together a few cases to protect his own DJ equipment, Mario and I had the idea of why not make cases for the main DJ gear at that time? We could build a dozen pieces at a time, and I could sell them at my DJ shop at a much lower price than the custom built cases on the market.
After an initial trial period, we quickly learned that DJs loved our ready-built cases, and they loved the fact that we had cases in stock that supported their gear. This meant no more expensive, long lead time, custom cases were needed because we offered the perfect solution. Mario and I collaborated on the concept further, building out a plan for mass production, and Odyssey was born.
The Retailer: Please tell us about the products you offer and what need your products fulfill.
Hsiao: Odyssey has always been a champion of the DJ community, “For DJs, By DJs.” And so our entire team, from research and development to sales, is built around veteran DJs with powerful knowledge of the market. At our core, we design and manufacture professional cases to protect DJ, live sound and event production equipment. I don’t think there’s a piece of DJ gear on the market we don’t have a case for, and if we don’t, we can build it.
Over the years, we’ve expanded into a variety of accessories for DJs and event producers from road cases and professional trunks, to stands, tables and bags, while our sister companies offer trussing, mobile stage solutions, as well as custom, made-to-order cases. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been protecting DJs for more than two decades, and the community puts their trust in our products.
The Retailer: How was your NAMM Show? Were you happy with the traffic flow at the booth? Were you pleased with the number of MI retailers who swung by your booth?
Hsiao: We have always had a good turnout at NAMM, and I think it’s really a testament to the great relationships we’ve built over the years. From our professional equipment partners who we work closely with to design and craft protective cases supporting their products, to the strong dealer and distributor network we’ve come to call friends. We’ve all grown together in this tight-knit industry.
The Retailer: Tell us about some of the new products you announced at or around the time of the show.
Hsiao: Odyssey is heavily embedded in the DJ and event community, so we feel we have a good understanding of all their evolving needs. At The NAMM Show, in addition to some new cases to support new DJ and lighting equipment, we further enhanced our patented Glide Style platform to provide even more versatility and functionality for the performing DJ. We took this new Glide Style design and incorporated it into our Flight Zone and patented Black Label series cases. We also introduced extensions to our Streemline EVA bag series and our popular BACKSPIN DJ backpack series.
The Retailer: What is the state of the case market today? Are you optimistic?
Hsiao: The professional case market is essentially as strong as the professional DJ, lighting and pro audio equipment industry we support. Overall, the MI, PA and DJ industries seem to have continued to grow and prosper, and I think it’s because the foundation of the industry is built on the resiliency of the small business owner. From the shop owners to the sales reps, the manufactures to the customers, it’s really a community of entrepreneurs rooting for each other.
We’re very optimistic about the market. Odyssey has always invested in our industry, from our staff and technology, to our dealers and the DJ community, and the success we’ve had is a direct result. Our extensive backgrounds and real-world experiences, from managing a DJ shop to operating a production company, has positioned us at the forefront of our industry by delivering solutions that truly enhance the world of the DJ, event producer, musician, etc.
The Retailer: Are your sales specifi cally tied to the products you are protecting? Is that of any concern?
Hsiao: Our product sales are really tied to the community we serve, from the bedroom DJ to the club DJ, the mobile entertainer to the event producer. There’s no shortage of DJ or MI equipment in the market, and so we’re not as concerned about equipment sales. We’re more focused on constantly advancing our innovations to stay ahead of the industry. Whether it’s a one-person show or a mega corporation, we exist to support and protect their business and investment.
The Retailer: What are your hottest-selling products right now?
Hsiao: We’ve been fortunate with our assortment of products because we’ve done well across the board. I think having a good handle on the needs of the market has allowed us to design and produce a good mix of industry leading products. If we had to pinpoint one product, all of our cases that incorporate our patented Slide Style and Glide Style platform have been extremely popular, from our Flight Zone to our patented Black Label DJ cases. When we brought these built-in platform technologies to the market, it really revolutionized the way DJs set up their gear because it addressed their exact need; a system to effectively support their evolving digital gear, such as laptops, controllers, interfaces, drum machines, etc.
The Retailer: You have a strong MI dealer network. Tell us about what your philosophy is toward these retailers.
Hsiao: With the MI and pro audio markets, the dealer network is really the backbone of the industry, and so we’ve always been strong proponents of supporting the network as best we can. Our philosophy has been to do business in an honest and trustworthy manner, always putting our dealer network fi rst. It’s just good practice to all work together in order to move our industry forward. If we can ensure their success, it naturally translates to ours.
The Retailer: What does the future look like for Odyssey? What might we see from the company in the future?
Hsiao: For almost 25 years now, Odyssey has continued to grow with the mindset of always exploring and learning, so we’ll naturally evolve alongside the community that we’ve championed from the beginning. Our roots are in the DJ and event production community, and we invest in technology and innovation, so we’ll continue to design and build innovative tools needed by DJs, musicians and entertainers to enhance their world. We were there from the early days of vinyl and analog and stayed ahead of the curve into the digital movement. Whatever the future presents, we’ll evolve alongside it.
The Retailer: Anything you would like to add?
Hsiao: Odyssey was essentially created to fill a need in the market, which was ready-made cases for DJs and event production equipment. We have tremendous pride in the fact that we created this industry category of cases, and 25 years later, we’re still the industry standard as more brands attempt to enter the market. It’s speaks to the amazing team we have, and the fact that we listen to what DJs and event producers need, and creatively develop innovative solutions for them. And it’s really a testament to the community we’ve built around us, from our dealers and distributors, to our equipment partners and all the DJs supporting us. We’re very fortunate to be where we are today, and we look forward to continuing to lead through innovation.