George Hajioannou of Studio Logic Sound
Stellar Product ranges including D.W. Fearn, Owner-Studios. Hard Work and Second-Hand Gear â€“ all help to weather the storm. George Hajioannou discussesâ€¦
Riegelsville, PA â€“ The current economic downturn has not been kind to small businesses, but by focusing on a number of key pro audio products and relying on old school customer relations, has so far weathered the storm.
Hajioannou started the company, located in Riegelsville, PA, 80 miles west of NYC, in 1992 and, following sojourns with several other companies, including Digidesign, has been a fulltime pro audio dealer for the last five years. His territory extends east to Pittsburgh and south as far as Virginia Beach, VA.
Business appears to be starting to turn around, he says. â€œLast August, customers
were afraid of ever darkening economic circumstances and tightened up on all purchases, especially new or high end equipment. But in the last two or three months business has really picked up a lot.â€?
The question now; he says, is what will customers buy? â€œMost dealers, 80 to 90 percent of their business was based around Digidesign sales. But the market is saturated with DAWs. I went from doing half a million dollars with Digidesign every year to doing $200,000 and wondered what was wrong. Then the economy hit.â€?
Hajioannou is better placed than many to observe the Pro Tools market. â€œI used to work for Digidesign for a couple of years. And Iâ€™ve been selling Digidesign products since the â€˜80s, when it was Sound Tools. â€œ
â€œI sold the very first Sound Tools system to Jazzy Jeff in Philadelphia,â€? he recalls. But now demand is dropping off: â€œPro Tools has been around for about seven years as the same product, and everybody who wants it has it.â€?
To make matters worse, the days of new commercial studio construction are largely over, observes Hajioannou, who enjoys a close affiliation with studio architects, studio bau:ton. That relationship netted Hajioannou some business at the recently opened Red Amp Audio facility inside 9WG Studios in Richmond, VA. â€œI sold them the [Avid] ICON console and the Quested surround system with a custom-made motorized speaker stand for the center channel. People are still building bigger studios, but not as much as they used to.â€?
If there is a trend in the studio business, it is for private facilities, continues Hajioannou, who includes Bon Jovi, Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band), the Neptunes and multi-Grammy Award-winning mixer Serban Ghenea among his clients. â€œThe trend for the big celebrity clients is to not book a studio anymore, they buy all the gear, build a studio and theyâ€™re ready to go.â€?
Old fashioned, hands-on customer relations have helped Hajioannou through the economic crisis. â€œIâ€™m kind of the last of a dying breed. If someone calls me Iâ€™ll go out and see them. Iâ€™ll lend them gear or demo the gear for them,â€? he explains. I also help them compare choices and let their ears decide, says Hajioannou who developed a CD-ROM that he gives away free comparing 18 different microphones.
A handful of major pro audio chains and dealers have saturated the low-end market, he continues. â€œThe big dealers are just mail order houses now. There are no showrooms. Itâ€™s all done on the internet. But if you look at my web site, thereâ€™s no selling going on.â€?
Manufacturers are beginning to realize that itâ€™s not enough to simply put products on a website and wait for the orders to roll in. â€œSome of the vendors Iâ€™ve been talking to are looking for dealers that are more like me, that are proactive, going out and seeing people,â€? he says.
For some products that hands-on approach makes for an easy sale, according to Hajioannou, who is the U.S. distributor for Quested monitors and Quantec DSP products, and is a partner with legendary engineer, producer and studio owner Joe Tarsia, manufacturing and selling the Sigma Sound Studios DI box. D.W. Fearn microphone preamps are a case in point: â€œIf I put it in your hands, if you have the money, youâ€™ll buy it. If you donâ€™t have the money, youâ€™re going to be really mad at me because I showed you something that sounds incredible!â€?
For example; he offers, Martin Guitars, a 40-minute drive from Studio Logic Sound, needed a high-end mic pre for the companyâ€™s in-house studio, so he delivered a number of units for them to try. â€œHands down, they loved the D.W. Fearn.â€? The company didnâ€™t have the budget for a D.W. Fearn mic pre, but wouldnâ€™t compromise with a cheaper alternative. â€œThey said, â€˜Weâ€™re going to wait.â€™ A year later the money was in their budget and they bought a VT-2.â€? They have since also purchased a VT-7 compressor and a pair of S7R Quested monitors.
Another example: Richmond, VA-based post house In Your Ear was doing voiceover work for TV series â€œThe Clevelands,â€? a spin-off from â€œThe Family Guy.â€? Hajioannou reports, â€œThey just wanted a great sounding mic pre, something with a lot of presence. I sent the D.W. Fearn VT-2 for them to try and they immediately paid for it.â€?
They said, â€˜This thing is fantastic.â€™ Now theyâ€™re saving up to get another one.â€?
But one twist that is new since the recession is the used gear market. Says Hajioannou, â€œif you look at last years sales, my biggest numbers were in used gear. Clients say, â€˜I donâ€™t want to deal with it, George; take it and get rid of it and send me a check.â€™â€? Hajioannou initially became a studio liquidator about five years ago, when Steely Danâ€™s Walter Becker requested his assistance in selling the gear from his studio location in Hawaii. â€œThen the Neptunes called me. They bought two studios in Virginia Beach and had too much gear, so they asked me to help them get rid of some stuff, and it just snowballed.â€? The Neptunes also purchased an Avid ICON and Quested 1812 monitors from Studio Logic Sound.
Selling off used equipment can free up some cash for new purchases, although itâ€™s currently a buyerâ€™s market, he cautions. â€œItâ€™s an interesting time because you can buy used gear at a good price. The downside is, if you have something worth $1,000 at the fair market value, no one wants to give you $1,000 for it. You may have to sell below cost unless you can afford to simply sit and wait.â€?
For some studios and musicians, they donâ€™t want the general hassle of selling their used gear. They start a conversation with Hajionnou about new gear and find out he can help them get rid of what they have had lying around gathering dust. â€œThey may have dabbled in Ebay or Craigslist and been burnt by shipping costs, difficult or dishonest buyers or similar nuisances that eat into their creative time.â€?
â€œIn one case, a client balked at the percentage charged by Studio Logic to liquidate gear only to call back about a month later, with a handful of great stories and a request to â€œtake the gear and send them a check when itâ€™s soldâ€?. Says Hajioannou:â€? I completely understand, my client wanted to do what they do best – get back to the business of making music.
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Media contact: Kevin Fetterplace at Mojo Working