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View from the Top: Erik Tarkianen, Harman Professional

With 10 pro audio brands under its name, Harman Professional holds a unique position within the industry, as providing a high-quality line of products is just the first tier of the company’s business model.

With 10 pro audio brands under its name, Harman Professional holds a unique position within the industry, as providing a high-quality line of products is just the first tier of the company’s business model. As Erik Tarkiainen, vice president of global marketing, explains, Harman has the luxury of dedicating its R&D efforts to designing new products and finding ways to integrate products from each brand together to create a full Harman system.

Tarkiainen joined Harman Professional in June 2014, bringing with him years of experience within the marketing segments of the pro audio industry. “I’ve held positions with multiple companies in the professional audio field, including co-founding iZotope, an audio processing and music effects specialist,” he said. “I have also served as VP of marketing communications for Line 6.”

At an early age, Tarkiainen developed an interest in music, learning to play guitar and keyboards in bands as a teenager—a move that led him to the pro audio side of the industry. “I knew I’d never make it as a musician, so I went to school for engineering and acoustics,” he said. “That led to a product management position with Bose early in my career, which introduced me to the marketing side of the business. I feel incredibly fortunate that since then, I’ve been able to work with a number of great companies and people in a business that I truly love.”

Since joining Harman, Tarkiainen has dedicated his attention toward customer service and maintaining relationships within the industry. “The diversity and prestige of Harman’s brands, and the opportunity to work with some of the most creative and intelligent professionals in the industry, made the company very attractive for me,” he explained. “We obviously have a great portfolio of audio brands, but Harman is so much more than a pro audio company. Between Martin Lighting, AMX control and our IDX communication platform, we are taking a systems approach to the market and I’m excited about the directions into which we’re expanding.”

To continue growing the company, Tarkiainen again emphasized the importance of working across its brands to solve both the individual and system needs of its customers within the various verticals of the pro audio market. “Our goal in terms of the pro audio industry is to continue developing products that are optimized to work in unison with products from other Harman brands, so that our customers can build complete Harman systems, translating into significant time and cost savings,” Tarkiainen explained. “We spread ourselves wide—but not thin. We share a lot of technologies between product lines, but we also hold a strong focus on the specific needs within each market. I think my role within that structure includes maintaining that collaborative philosophy while also making sure that each brand has a very defined and clearly laid-out goal.”

Customer input is also a key factor when it comes to Harman’s R&D efforts. As vice president of global marketing, Tarkiainen said he can’t rely on the company’s reputation alone, but must also listen to the markets and customers to develop quality and innovative products. “This industry is ultimately about the people. Listening to our customers about their needs and their own challenges is a priority for us,” he said.

Asked for a specific example of Harman’s efforts to develop products that cater to the pro audio world, he cited the JBL 7 Series studio monitors, which were developed with technology found in the M2 Master Reference Monitor and 3 Series studio monitors to meet the audio requirements of post-production and broadcast applications.

Tarkiainen also highlighted the Studer Vista V digital console, which features Harman’s new Infinity 200 processing engine. “The Infinity 200 offers the same benefits of the original Infinity DSP Core, which is found in the Vista X digital console; we’re talking about an unbelievable amount of processing power in this engine,” said Tarkiainen.

With more recent acquisitions including Martin and AMX, Harman Professional is arming itself for growth. Tarkiainen said the company is paying more attention to its end users and dealers, specifically within house of worship, retail and hospitality, to try and pinpoint exactly what those markets need, while also forging strong relationships with its clients.

In terms of competition, Tarkiainen again said his emphasis is on the end users. “If we aren’t listening to the people using our products, you can bet someone else will be more than happy to do that for us. So keeping those relationships and building new ones through dedicated service and support is key to remaining competitive,” he explained.

Moving into 2015, Tarkiainen said his vertical market approach will a top priority. “I don’t consider Harman a products company; I consider us to be a systems company. More products are on the way, no doubt, but just as important is how those components will complement and work together as systems.”

And while he didn’t specifically say what will be there, Tarkiainen added that Harman has a range of new product announcements from AKG, Crown, dbx, DiGiTech, JBL, Soundcraft and others slated for Winter NAMM 2015.

Harman International •