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From the Editor: What Makes a Brand?

I’ve said many times that the smartest thing that Mix co-founders David Schwartz, Penny Riker Jacob and Bill Laski ever did was name it Mix.

I’ve said many times that the smartest thing that Mix co-founders David Schwartz, Penny Riker Jacob and Bill Laski ever did was name it Mix. Back in 1977, when it debuted as a directory of Northern California studios inside the much more popular BAM magazine, DB and Recording Engineer/Producer were flying high in pro audio. Mix was a simple 24-page supplement of studio names, equipment and services in a regional music journal.

The founders, I was told, named it Mix because out of all the possibilities being tossed around at the time, it fit most neatly as a logo on a T-shirt or baseball cap. Mix. It says exactly what it is: it’s about mixing. And of course all the varied services and developments and tools and people and ideas that feed the mix. It just sounds like a brand. And it is. At its height, it was a 248-page monthly, occasionally jumping into the 300s, with lots of ads and editorial across every audio market we thought fit the mission of providing access to the world of professional audio.

Now in Mix’s 41st year, my 30th as an editor, we are regularly at 52 pages a month, occasionally jumping into the 60s. The world changes, and media and music both got hit hard in the rapid changeover to a web-mobile-social world. People sometimes ask me if I miss the “good old days,” and of course I do! But these are good days, too! The mission remains the same, and we still reach out to audio professionals. The delivery, however, might be a biweekly newsletter, a Facebook or Twitter post, or a Sound for Film Event at Sony Pictures Studios. The world may change, but brands are brands.

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In that way, I feel a sort of kinship with the AES as I look forward to heading out to New York City for the annual fall convention. When I joined Mix, one of the first organizations/clients/companies I was introduced to was the Audio Engineering Society. It was a big show! Javits was packed! The tape manufacturers hosted sometimes debauched boat parties around the island! The TEC Awards on Saturday night remain one of the highlights of my career.

And then, over the past decade or two, the AES has had to face numerous challenges. The world changes. Recently, AES has responded in a great number of positive directions, from partnerships with NAMM and NAB, to adding Live and Project Expos, to hosting regional events on VR/AR. The brand maintains. But you have to keep it fresh. AES has been working at it, and it shows.

Here in our pages, we have a tribute to Studer’s 70th anniversary. Last year Criteria Studios (now Hit Factory Criteria) celebrated 60 years. This year Shure hit 93 years! That’s amazing. That’s a brand.

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Then I walk down the aisles each year at AES, and each and every booth is a brand filled with a cast of characters, all of whom contribute to the impression made on show-goers. The audio industry is loaded with solid names like API, SSL, Universal Audio, Avid, JBL, Meyer Sound, Neumann/Telefunken, Lectrosonics, Yamaha, Genelec, ATC, Eventide, Manley, Grace Design, Focusrite, Bose … I could go on and on. The point is, pro audio is relatively unique within the world of entertainment technology in that a high, high percentage of the industry is made up of identifiable and strong brands. Boutique manufacturer or multinational corporation, it doesn’t matter. The majority have an established identity.

Look around at the show, look at the names. There are newcomers that are building their brand and trusted friends who continue to evolve. There are precision, handmade electronics and subscriptions to software updates. The world changes every day. And we can thank the passionate people of pro audio—who really are the brands—for that.