‘Under the Spotlight’ with Sound Technology



MIA members represent the huge span of our industry. After featuring a cherished local retailer last week we’ve spoken to Greg Niven, an MIA Board member, and Commercial and Sales Director at distributor Sound Technology. Greg gave us a fascinating insight covering topics including brand and retailer selection, challenges and opportunities, and engagement with live music and education.

Tell us about Sound Technology?

Founded in 1978 by Robert Wilson, Sound Technology Ltd is one of the largest independent distributors operating in the professional audio, lighting, recording and musical instrument sectors. Brands we have represented over the years include Alesis, Apple Emagic Logic, Taylor Guitars, Nord, SSL, Austrian Audio and the Harman Pro portfolio of brands (AKG, JBL, Digitech, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting). We’ve always strived to provide brand-focussed representation across the UK and Republic of Ireland through sales activity, technical & warranty support and extensive marketing across print, trade events, web & social media platforms. In December 2017 we became a wholly owned subsidiary of Midwich Ltd, part of the Midwich Group plc. Becoming part of a larger group has allowed us to extend our reach whilst expanding our aspirations beyond the vertical markets we traditionally work within by providing stability and a long-term focus on growing the business for our people, customers, and suppliers.

 

How would you describe the overall mission of Sound Technology?

We live and breathe the entertainments industry. We believe everybody should have access to music creation, creativity, and experiences through sound & light in studios, home-recording, schools, theatre, stadiums, festivals, cinemas & gigs, anywhere you need sound & light to enhance an experience it should be as good as it possibly can be. We work closely with our customers to deliver this experience and hand in hand with our suppliers to make sure their products are front and centre of that process. Within MI that focus is very much on music creation by working with retailers, Music Hubs, the MIA & the education sector to make sure people have access to musical instruments and recording products.

 

How has your portfolio of brands come together, and what is the balance between them choosing you and you choosing them?

We work very closely with our suppliers, our philosophy is ‘represent them as they would represent themselves’.  To do that we have to be selective about who we work with ensuring we have capacity to properly service them and their customers. With regards to acquiring new brands we are regularly approached, which is flattering, but we ensure a degree of exclusivity to those we already work with so anything new must bring something unique to what we already offer. Alternatively, we will look at holes in our portfolio and at markets we’re not active in to see if there are brands worth approaching with a view to extending the reach for both parties. This has been very successful and the more productive of the two processes historically by helping us move from the studio recording world, into the guitar market, then professional audio install, live sound & touring plus entertainment lighting over the past 20 years.

 

What do you look for in a retailer representing your brands?

Our relationship with our retailers is as important to us as our relationships with our manufacturers. Each of our brands is different and we market them in line with the manufacturer’s expectations. We then prefer to work with each retailer closely determining what works for them and mutually agree what needs to be done to meet each other’s expectations. We never use one brand to sell another and we prefer retailers to treat them separately as well, that does mean not all retailers carry all our brands, the benefit of that being the product is placed with the retailer best suited to working with it. Retailers know their business far better than we do, we rely on them to guide us in the best way that they can represent our very varied portfolio within their stores and websites in line with our wider brand goals.

 

Tell us about an exciting recent or upcoming product release

With component shortages being what they are, new products in 2022 have been few and far between. That said Austrian Audio have been on a mission all year to expand their range and the new OC16, OD505 & OC7 microphones are ground-breaking, and all within a market that is traditionally very busy and crying out for innovation. Having recently visited their factory in Vienna to see their product roadmap for the future I am very reassured about the future success of this brand. Also, Teenage Engineering continue to surprise us all with their innovation, the recently released TX6 portable mixer is by far the most innovative and surprising product I have seen for many years. Its mind blowing what they can achieve by taking conventional ideas and putting their own spin on it.

 

What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for Sound Technology in the current climate?

Where to start, I struggle to remember a period with so many challenges occurring simultaneously. Covid, a global downturn, Brexit, component/product shortages, Ukraine, price increases, political turmoil & the falling Pound. Coming out of lockdown I think we all hoped it would be easier which hasn’t turned out to be the case. This all impacts negatively making us very aware of our people’s mental health alongside the health of our business. Our people and activity need to be carefully managed but that said we’re lucky to have a great team, and working with our partners we’re determined to trade through it sensibly together. The overarching opportunity is that we will come out of it intact, with a stronger team, well placed to thrive within what will be a very different marketplace.

 

What music are you listening to?

I recently created a playlist of post punk bands White Lies, ACTORS, Ela Minus, Editors & The National which is on constant repeat in the car and just this weekend downloaded the latest Taylor Swift album which is a great listen.


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