BLOG #66.6. I'll Be Bach!


BLOG #66.6. I'll Be Bach!

A few days ago, we had to “terminate” four our International distributors (out of six, and with our mutual consent).

It’s been, actually, a sad day, as some of the organizations were led by the people with whom we had a lot of respect for each other, and with whom we developed some deep personal relationships.

There were two common threads in the final letter exchanges: on the one hand, a recognition of a unique qualities of our products, and, on the other, a lack of sales for an extended period of time.

I have no doubts that most of our partners did their best to present our products in their territories, and, whatever happened, I am still very grateful to them for their every effort.

Originally, they were all swept away by the exceptional sound quality of our products, so their common “knee-jerk” reaction was “I want to sale this stuff immediately”.

Unfortunately, it happened to be just their wishful thinking…

Having spent more than a quarter of century in home High End Audio sales, I am not surprised at the outcome of their StereoPravda endeavors.

I mentioned on a lot of occasions, that, through many years (but not always!), the vast majority of audio products I dealt with, the ones that possessed the most of the sonic content and the most of the sonic value, were never in demand (and, as a rule, the latter were never too expensive in an appropriate context) . At the same time, on the opposite, the shallowest products “I would never touch with a long stick” were the ones that allowed me to physically survive for all these years.

That’s why I’ve got absolutely no chips on my shoulders against any of these former partners.

Even more so, from my former experience, this last incident can point with all the certainty in the direction of a high probability that we do have an exceptional and a unique product.

That was a “defiant” part of this BLOG.

Now, it’s a “vulnerable” one.

Of course, we are aware of our vulnerabilities, the main one is that the fundamental appeal of our products is based upon “no pain – no gain” dictum (incidentally, the true home High End Audio products are based on the same dictum).

At the same time, we should be all aware that the vast majority of the technologies currently used in portable High End Audio Industry have already reached their saturation points. And all the powers that be in the industry already started to openly admit it (to draw this conclusion it’s just enough to read the reports from any recent specialized show).

Therefore, the only way for the industry to move any further – sales-wise included – is to resort to the technologies’ “dormant” potential that lies on the other side of “the sales barricades” – that is, within the domain of (up until now) “dormant” energy potential of the audiophile customers’ community:

That’s what I mean by the word “pain” (and, God forbid!, I would never literally mean the physical one!).

However, to seriously invest the “pain” factor customers should be motivated by the a concrete “gain” from it:

Thus, the only way for all the parties involved in portable High End Audio to further benefit from it is to instigate the fire of the above awareness along the whole chain from the manufacturers – via the distributors, the dealers and the specialized media - to the end users. Because, at the level of every link in the chain, the inner qualities and overall utilities of any product do fully correspond with both its creators’ and pushers’ personal “inner qualities”, and with their motivations as well.

As I see it, the only way for the industry to prosper in the foreseeable future is to constantly come up with some radically new technologies applied to some new categories of products, which would constantly realize – bit by bit – that “dormant” potential of the consumers’ energy.

I strongly believe that, within the current high performance portable audio context, our StereoPravda products do represent such radically new technologies and such a radically new category of audio products.

Briefly speaking, our “cutting edge” comes not only from our design features and from the appropriate production methods applied to reach our products’ sound quality “optimality”. Before anything else, our “cutting edge” comes from a new utility our products are fundamentally designed to serve: “to pass the torch of old hardcore home High End Audio to the new generation of the most sonically demanding portable audiophiles”. With a purpose to help them to capitalize on their own “dormant” audio potential for their personal growth via more and more sophisticated music appreciation:

To give you – although indirect but still relevant - example, I have participated in a similar tectonic shift in audio industry in mid-nineties as our former company had started to be involved in Home Theater installations. At the time, there existed no such a category of products as a high performance home video front projector.
There were only industrial-type video projectors used for some commercial applications but definitely not for a high quality movie watching experience at home. One of the very first people to figure out a way to modify such projectors for the best video image quality at home was Sam Runco.

But that was only a half of his job to come up with a viable consumer proposition, the second half of it was a fairly complicated task to create a network of dealers who were not only willing to sale the equipment, but were also capable of proper service and installation of the Runco projectors in customers’ homes. Before that, “serious” audio installations were never heard of. Without such a network of willing and properly trained partners Runco would had never become one of the most successful companies in Home Theater industry (I personally went through three such trainings at their factory just south of San Francisco). And Runco saw this network support as their top priority, spending huge amount of money to train and to “charm” their dealers.

The same way, as StereoPravda represents a new category of product having all sorts of peculiarities, we seem to need a more substantial support – both on the technical side, and on the marketing side – from our representatives than the most typical examples of portable audio dealers can provide.

The vast majority of portable audio dealers are accustomed to nothing more than to “just shoving the boxes” (and, possibly, to just going through the motions of some routine auditioning of the stuff in their facilities and to some predictable dumb colorful prose posts for their wares on the beaten up horse of social networks and forums).

The crucial reason for the Runco success was that they arrived at the right time at the right place: they started to provide a new category of products at the very onset of the demand for it. And they left the scene (Planar bought them for, allegedly, tens of millions of dollars) at the very moment when the Big Players of Consumer Electronics industry started to provide a decent consolidated home front projection proposition in the same – by the time, fully established and not new anymore - category as started by Runco.

I can draw many lessons for StereoPravda from the Runco’s case, for instance, from Sam’s insistence on the best image quality, that it should be “the best it can be”. Despite the fact, that the achievement of the best video image quality at the time – which is similar to our case – was accompanied by a lot of cumbersome equipment and adjustment procedures, Runco still managed to become hugely successful selling their products.

At the time, If you ask people in the know about who provides the best image quality in Home Theater, the answer would has always been - “Runco is #1”.

Although, in the context of this BLOG, the most relevant lessons from the Runco case for StereoPravda’s mission are, obviously, not only the lessons of the 100% loyalty and devotion of the company’s dealers’ support and their strong motivation to sale Runco products, but, even more so, the lessons of importance of the representatives’ appropriate skills and qualifications.

Accordingly, Runco dealers' complete dedication to the joint project with the manufacturer meant that they were eager to do whatever it takes - all kinds of investments included - to eventually succeed (as the Runco Russian distributor, we've been once awarded (sales-wise) as the #1 International Distributor in the world, so I do know what I am talking about here).

And, now, again, back to the BLOG’s defiant mode.

I am not suggesting here a lack of resolution, willingness, competence or even resources on our former StereoPravda’s International distributors’ part. I’ve been in their shoes, and I know how frustrating you can feel when something that you personally strongly believe in is completely irrelevant to your customers.

At the same time, I don’t really see any signs of their eagerness to modify their deeply ingrained algorithms for their business models. Like, similar to what my former company had to do when we tried to adapt our well-proven pure home audio business models to the arrival of some new categories of related products at the onset of the Home Theater craze.

To prove my last point, here’s a quote from a parting letter written to me by one of the former distributors:

“…I maintain that your IEMs are the best sound I’ve ever heard. However, there are too many variables contributing to a purchase and it seems [our territory] is not ready to work nor invest in just sound.

It is with regret that we did not manage [substantial] sales, however with pride that we’ve put you in the spotlight, and the best light…”.

And that’s it… no suggestions or any further questions.

There is no doubt that I still feel privileged that I had a chance to work with all these wonderful people I have been working with for some time in all the various corners of the whole wide world, and I do sincerely appreciate their initial support, however, the time has come for all of us to move on.

StereoPravda has got a lot in our pipeline, both on the technological and the production side, and also, on the marketing and sales side too.

We’ll start to unveil these all shortly.

To conclude, I’d like to mention one more anecdote from my past.
In 1998 I produced an album by an outstanding Russian torch singer Alla Bayanova called “Leti, Moya Pesnya”:

Alla had a very tough life. She was born in 1914 in Kishinev, in Moldova. In 1918, her parents run with her from the turmoil of the Russian Socialist Revolution to Romania. A few years later they settled down in Paris, where in 1930-ies Alla enjoyed a lot of success on the Russian emigres’ cabaret circuit. In 1941-1942 she was put by Nazis in a concentration camp in Romania for performing Russian songs. Then due to some political quarrels within the Socialist countries (Romania was opposed to some political issues in the USSR), as a Russian singer, she was again oppressed in Romania and was practically banned from singing her Russian repertoire. At the same time, it was completely impossible for her to return to her Motherland.

… And then, in 1980-ies, The Perestroika happened in the USSR.

Suddenly, she was not only allowed to return back to Russia, she was granted a Russian citizenship, she also got a free apartment in Moscow from the state, she got all sorts of honorary titles, and on top of it all, out of blue, she became one of the biggest music stars in Russia.

Once, when we met to discuss our recording process, I told her:

- “Alla Nikolayevna, you are like a broken clock …”.

She’s been visually disturbed by me saying that, probably, because she involuntarily thought that I could be so rude as to refer to her venerable age (she was 84 by that time). I immediately apologized for my wording and continued:

- “You had two periods in your life when you enjoyed huge popularity: in 1930-ies in Europe and in 1990-ies in your native Russia.

As you have been stoically carrying the torch of Russian “chanson” tradition in Europe in its purest form, unspoiled by any compromises with powers that be, whenever and wherever that be, you have brought now the tradition back to Russia exactly the same as it was 70 (or, even more) years ago.

In that, you’re like a broken clock, in a sense, that twice a day it shows the exact time. While the working clock never shows the exact time.

So, it’s the second time in your life when you “showed the exact time”.

After that, we both burst in laughter.

As they say, ”birds of a feather stay together”, and this is why, I am also sure that our StereoPravda will show “the exact time” again and again in the future.

Compared to Runco, we seem to arrive a little early, but we are not in any rush… so, we’ll be back!

Hasta la vista, baby!

15.06.2019 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  1275

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