speaker-metalMuch as we did last month with our April issue cover story titled “Rattle & Strum,” in which we sought the expert analysis of four prominent members of the guitar manufacturer community, we present this month a roundtable of esteemed industry members who represent the pro audio market and have agreed to share their thoughts about its current trajectory and burgeoning trends. Boasting decades of industry experience between them, our participants are Ray van Straten, Senior Director, Marketing Communications and Training & Education, QSC; Andrew Beard, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Gibson Pro Audio; Mark Gander, Director of JBL Technology, Harman Professional; and Cobi Stein, Marketing/Artist Relations, Eminence Speaker. As you will see, not all of them observe the same market trends, although there is considerable unanimity about the segment’s overall robustness.
If you have thoughts about any of the topics touched on here—whether in agreement or disagreement with our participants—feel free to drop me a line at dferrisi@testa.com.

The Music & Sound Retailer: One narrative that has emerged since the last recession has been that many product groups have refocused on lower and middle-range price points, given that some consumers are spending less readily. To what extent, if any, has this trend manifested in pro audio?
Ray van Straten: I cannot remember a time when we were without competition from low-price players. There is always room at the bottom. The challenge here, of course, is that, although pro audio continues to be a growing market segment, the channel is going to have a difficult time growing revenue with low-priced goods. I just don’t believe there are enough customers to whom the “pie” can be distributed. It’s my assessment that customers are, to a large degree, spending less because the channel is vigorously promoting low-priced goods to grab customers’ attention and make a sale—any sale. Although this might create earlier entry points for new customers, it does little to cultivate a relationship with the aspiring professional users who need performance tools with which they can make a living. It’s really not that different from putting a cheap guitar in the hands of someone who wants to learn how to play. Overcoming the shortcomings of the instrument…

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