d&b audiotechnik CEO Amnon Harman has spoken exclusively to Headliner about the company’s new Direct and Solutions operations, what they mean for the business, and the industry 'mega trends' that are shaping the pro audio landscape.
The German pro audio giant has experienced an incredibly busy first half of 2021, with the launch of d&b Direct and d&b Solutions marking significant milestones in the history of the firm and the direction in which it is moving.
In this exclusive interview, Harman describes in detail the reason behind these new launches, the measures the company is taking to ensure that these new initiatives don’t bypass their partners in the channel and their plans for a post-Covid world…
How are things currently looking for you and the company with regard to the return of live events?
It’s a very diverse picture, globally. In Europe we are opening up more and more, vaccination rates are going up and people are getting confident with things like local touring – not international – being possible again. This is reflected in our business.
We had nothing in that area for 15 months, so everything we did in that time was fixed install business. In markets like South America, Africa and India it’s still very difficult with live events. But our core markets in Europe, the US and Asia are starting to come back.
With global tours, I think we’ll be lucky if things are back by summer 2022 - more likely it’ll be 2023.
How vital has your installation business been over the past 18 months?
You cannot always react quickly to the market. So, our installation story goes back seven years, when we knew we would need a healthy balance between our mobile and installation business, because we couldn’t rely on mobile and live events continuing to grow as they did in the past. So, we planned what segments we wanted to address in the install market.
Sometimes these are live entertainment venues that will install rider-compliant systems and then they channel the tour through them – this is a trend I have seen with the likes of Live Nation.
Then you have these smaller house of worship venues that don’t install performance systems but still want to have quality sound for intelligibility and getting a message across. They require smaller systems, so over five years ago we decided to adjust our product range.
If you look at our product range today, we accommodate amplifiers and smaller systems for clubs and bars, restaurants and conference centres. This is where we benefit today as we can address market segments that have continued to exist through the pandemic.
Tell us about d&b Solutions. What is its purpose and why was now the time to launch it?
There are mega trends taking place in the market which were there before the pandemic and have since been accelerated by it. These are trends of globalisation, green initiatives, the importance of education and more connectivity. When we look at these trends there is a clear indication that customers and markets are becoming more consolidated.
The result is that we are seeing bigger customers and they have a requirement for a full range of not only product suites but services as well. It’s this end-to-end thinking that we are observing.
We realised that we have much bigger chances to win a large installation project if we are sitting with our partners at the table and can influence the buying decision. The engineers who have invented the innovations are at the table and they can explain the specialities of the system.
So, it makes sense that we offer a service that is not only delivering the system but also offering a service, from consulting the end customer to planning the right solution with them, doing the installation and providing post-installation services. This is a very important part of our expansion.
What does this mean for your sales partners?
We don’t want to go direct only and bypass our channel. This would not be possible if we look at our global business; we are active in 70 countries, we just couldn't do it without our network of expert partners.
It’s more about the ability to be closer to the customer and see how we can incorporate the end-channel requirements of the market into our innovation process.
What has the response been like to the launch?
Externally we are having discussion with our partners. Some can see where we want to go and know they aren’t in competition with us, but there are others who say SFL is in competition with them. So they want to evaluate if we are developing business with them and investing in the partner network, or if we are taking business away from them.
So they are going with us but keeping an eye on developments. And then there are partners who probably have a bigger piece of the market where the discussion was not that easy, but even with these partners we are seeing our way through this.
That shows the trust we have built up over the years. There is constant relationship management with our partners to show them they can trust us on that.
Also, through this closer relationship with end-customers, it creates a situation where we can get some insights on end-customer strategies, which as a manufacturer we couldn’t get before. That is very interesting for us.
Will the relationship management become easier as things start to open up again?
Absolutely. Even when there was some confusion about it or negative expectations, it’s about the working relationship you have on a day-to-day basis. When we are walking the talk then everything is fine. As the markets come back the demand will take all these doubts away.