Ham Brosious is add-ing to his resume, although some would say that extending its formidable length is a tad superfluous. Brosious broke into the audio biz way-back-when as both a radio station manager and on-air talent. In 1961 he was recruited by the Scully Corporation and ended up as a vice president before leaving to start his own company, Audio Techniques, in the early 1970s. He sold Audio Techniques to Manny's Music in 1988, but by then he had already established Hamilton Brosius Associates, an equipment and facility brokerage company. In 1992 Brosius opened an office in Monroe, Conn.
For the last several years, Ham has been working with his son Matt on DigiBid, an online equipment auctioning Web site (www.digibid.com). I spoke with Ham and Matt about their site recently and was struck by their enthusiasm for the project and their obvious commitment to ethical business practices. (The latter can be scarce in the often depersonalized world of online commerce.) "Customer service is very, very important to us," says Ham. "We call each and every buyer after a sale to see how things are going. It's important to put the personal touch into Internet commerce. We also work closely with sellers. We know what the market for used equipment is, and we tell them what we anticipate their selling price will be. We don't have reserves-that's a situation where there's a secret price that an auctioneer won't disclose. If a reserve is set high, a bidder can end up wasting a lot of time researching an item and putting forth a good faith effort, all for nothing."
It's very easy to navigate around DigiBid and purchase or sell gear. You sign on as a member at no cost, scroll through the offerings and log your bid. DigiBid notifies you whether or not your bid has been accepted. It's just as easy to sell gear. Sign on, offer your equipment, and see how it fares. All sales go through DigiBid, and the company retains 15% of the sale as its commission. The Brosiouses are making a concerted effort to see that all equipment is accurately represented by sellers. Matt Brosious says that at this time they're requesting that all equipment-especially the high-ticket items-be sent to them for evaluation before it's passed on to a buyer. "We have a shop in-house," Matt says, "and we put gear up on the bench and test it wherever possible. We counsel our sellers to be as accurate as possible with respect to wear and tear and so on, especially on those sales where items do not pass through us."
Both Ham and Matt insist that the buyer be happy. According to Ham, "We're a young business, a new type of business. We need to have satisfied customers, and it's very easy to lose customers on the Internet. If a buyer has a problem-if he or she believes that a seller has misrepresented the condition of an item-we'll make an adjustment for them cheerfully. Our position is that we need not be right! The customer is right!"
Matt comes to DigiBid with extensive Internet experience. "I had a career in the computer business for 20 years," he says, "and had an Internet consulting business outside the audio industry. I started one of the first professional audio Web sites, Soundwave.com, in 1994. It's since been renamed Proaudio.net, and I still operate it. Proaudio.net is probably the largest single membership Web site in the audio business, with over 30,000 members."
The DigiBid concept is simple. "Probably 100 to 150 people attend a live auction, on average," Ham says. "These are usually held in major markets, and the people there are pretty well up on the going prices for equipment. But outside these markets, thanks to DigiBid, people are suddenly having opportunities they've never had before to buy quality used equipment at fair prices. We've got over 2,500 DigiBid members at the present time, and we've only been online since June '98. We're now adding members at a rate of 500 per month. So far, we've sold over 1,650 items through DigiBid and have had only a handful of returns on our money-back guarantee plan. We interrogate the sellers to make sure there are no surprises with their equipment. We want to know serial numbers, how old it is, condition, and so on."
"DigiBid heads into this new year with a rapidly expanding vision," Matt adds. "Our growth plans include increasing our warehousing, distribution and testing facility in Maryland, which will triple in size in 1999. We're going to increase DigiBid's pro audio presence and will be adding post-production video and television equipment. We also will be entering the high-end musical instrument business, with items such as keyboards, synthesizers, etc. In fact, we're negotiating relationships right now with several major manufacturers to handle their B-stock-reconditioned gear, overstocked and discontinued models. Twenty-bit processors might soon be yesterday's standard in the U.S., but there will continue to be a huge market for this equipment in other parts of the world for a long time to come."
"Right now about 20 percent of our membership lives overseas," Matt continues. "We expect that percentage to increase and expect that by the end of 1999 we will have 10,000 members worldwide. To handle that explosive growth we will be adding technical, administrative and customer service personnel."