Audio industry icon, friend and innovator Wayne Freeman, a major figure in the pro audio industry for decades, passed away on November 11, 2009, near his home in Southern California from a sudden, massive heart attack at age 62.
Originally hailing from Yonkers, N.Y., Wayne graduated from Saunders Trades and Tech High School in 1965. Wayne joined the Air Force and was decorated for his combat actions during two tours of duty in Vietnam. After completing his service, he attended New York University, at NYU's campus in Manhattan.
After moving to California and working at BGW, Wayne became the national sales manager at UniSync and represented amps for A-B Systems, before setting out on his own to found New West Marketing, along with Tom Carlile. The company flourished and—in that wild and crazy, party-all-night era of the late ’70s—earned the nickname OCM, for “out of control marketing.” And with his outgoing manner, broad smile and likeable personality, Wayne fit right in.
During a Soundcraft meeting in 1985, sales manager Wayne Freeman used one simple word to express his frustrations in dealing with the huge backlog in delivering products, especially the popular Series 500 and 600 consoles.
Around 1982, Wayne’s success caught the attention of British console manufacturer Soundcraft, which recruited Wayne as a marketing and sales manager.
Wayne was a one of a rare breed of marketing pros that really understood the industry. Twenty-five years ago, in an interview in Sound & Video Contractor magazine, he commented on the requirements and features for monitor mix consoles. Regarding the state of the industry in 1984, Wayne said: “Much has happened to the art of onstage monitoring in the last 20 years. Digital control has taken much of the hands-on tasking from the process and has changed the necessary skill set of the monitor engineer, not only as an engineer but as a programmer.” And with the proliferation of digital and DSP plug-ins into world of live sound consoles, his words ring just as true today.
As a member of the Soundcraft crew in the early ’80s, Wayne (then VP of sales and marketing) was part of an amazing brain trust—a creative/technical group affectionately known as audio’s “A-Team,” which branched out to forever change professional audio. Shown here at a 20-year reunion dinner in 2003 are:
Wayne (in white) was the center of attention in this group portrait from the 20-year reunion of the Soundcraft brain trust in 2003.
Front row: Apogee Electronics founder Betty Bennett; first row: Japanese distributor Minoru Kobayshi, Wayne Freeman, Mix's Erika Lopez, Focusrite founder Phil Dudderidge; second row: Phil Wagner (later president of SSL), Soundcraft co-founder Graham Blythe; and back row: SC Canada's Jean Daoust (later founder of Studer Canada) and Shane Morris (now at PRS guitars). Other Soundcraft staff (not pictured) included Gary Lynn (later president of Soundcraft-Spirit USA), Linda Frank and Greg McVeigh.
Wayne eventually left Soundcraft and held key positions with Trident USA, Fairlight, Amek and Otari, but seemed to find his niche with Marshall Electronics, the company that distributes and manufacturers audio and video products, including LCD broadcast/security monitor panels, Mogami cabling and MXL microphones. As the company’s sales director from 2001 through 2008, Wayne brought the MXL brand into prominence.
A Man of Many Ideas
Wayne was always an idea guy. Every time I talked to him I felt like I had learned the equivalent of an MBA in marketing. While at MXL, he came up with the notion for the first USB adapter for connecting pro mics directly to computers; he brought the Mogami cable brand as a supplier for high-end guitar cables sold through MI stores; he differentiated the MXL mic brand by having its mics use quality Mogami internal wiring; and he made deals to supply custom-branded mics to companies—such as Tascam—that were built by MXL.
One of Wayne’s amazing concepts was MXL’s 1006BP, a large-diaphragm condenser mic that could be powered by 48VDC phantom power or via an internal 9-volt battery. He originally developed that idea as a way to pitch large condenser mics to Radio Shack stores, which had 5,000 stores in its chain—a huge market compared to pro audio outlets. Since most consumers had no idea how to deal with phantom power, he knew a mic that could be battery/phantom-powered was a must for that crowd. Wayne also saw that traditional boxed mic packaging wouldn’t work for the RS crowd, so pitched them with samples that were blister packed for hanging on store hooks. Although RS eventually nixed the deal—evidently their buyers felt the mics were too upscale for their clientele—this one example reveals an amazing view into the Wayne’s innate ability to connect manufacturing with marketing needs.
Wayne Freeman with Paul Reed Smith during the launch of the new line of PRS Signature Series cables at NAMM 2009.
More recently, Wayne was the president of Bond Music Research, working with company CEO Ken Berger (founder of EAW), to expand the markets for high-end, high-definition audio and music cabling and other high-tech products. One of the company’s recent projects was developing custom cables for Paul Reed Smith, to be sold under the PRS brand.
During his dedicated career in pro audio, Wayne Freeman touched many lives and had hundreds of friends. A maverick, a one of a kind from the old school of innovators and great minds in marketing, Wayne will not soon be forgotten and many happy memories of his life will live on.
Wayne is survived by his wife Carol and their two daughters, Julia and Jennifer.
A memorial service is planned for 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 (viewing is available from 10:30 a.m.), at the White and Day Mortuary, 3215 Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, Calif., 90266. Wayne’s brother Ken Freeman suggested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the American Heart Association. Flowers are also okay.