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Andres Mayo puts a Latin spin on the AES [interview]

Mel Lambert catches up with the AES president to discuss his focus on Europe as the society prepares for its Warsaw Convention in early May

By Mel Lambert

Andres Mayo is a true renaissance man. In addition to being a Grammy-winning engineer/producer, with almost 25 years’ experience and over 2,000 mastering credits, he has also served as AES vice-president for Latin America and co-helmed its Technical Committee for Recording Technology and Practices. Although he co-chaired the 2007 AES Conference in his home city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he’s a European by blood and still carries a Belgian passport, but says he’s deeply honoured to be the first Latin American to serve as the society’s chief executive and president.

PSNEurope: What has been your primary focus during the past six months since you assumed the office of AES president last October?
AM: Among other “hot topics” that need permanent attention, my primary focus will be to reinforce the society’s confidence in its current financial procedures. Since I became part of the board of governors in 2005, as a regional VP, I have been hearing requests to our treasurer or the executive director for more detailed financial information. Some requests were fulfilled, some weren’t, but I take it as management failure that this feeling has lasted so long. So, in the first place, I want to try and change [that accountability] as soon as possible. We are having very productive conversations among voting members of the board to determine if our current procedure needs to be changed – and how. I am pleased to note that our current treasurer is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of having this discussion.

What do you hope to achieve as president in the coming six months?
I am watching more closely the development of new AES standards, which has always been one of our priorities. For example, there is an ongoing discussion about a new standard for loudness of streaming media. I am also very interested in creating long-lasting relationships with larger organisations, such as the South by Southwest music conference, NAMM, etc., because I think we will both benefit from that synergy. But my main concern is always on education. I have attended over 100 AES events worldwide as a speaker or panelist and know what people are expecting to get from a technical programme; attendees want to secure real information that truly helps them to understand key aspects of their jobs. As the leading organisation in audio education, we need to provide the best of the best in each event. That is the key to our ‘golden brand’.

What specific vision do you bring to the role of AES president?
I’ve always considered myself as an outsider, and over the years I’ve been able to understand the benefits of such a position. I tend to prefer new ideas; those that haven’t yet been implemented. I’m not afraid to try out new things, and that’s probably [in my genes] as a Latin American. The crisis we experienced at AES a few years ago was a direct consequence of the technology revolution: companies no longer needed large floor space in our exhibitions, which was a large part of our yearly revenue. Starting in 2005, within Latin America I began to promote the AES as the main resource for education and peer networking, and membership grew 400 per cent in a very short time. I’m convinced that we are taking all the necessary steps to move our society into the 21st century.

The European AES community has witnessed a number of changes during recent years, including a scaling back of its conventions. What can be done to help the European AES membership?
I will be in a better position to answer this after the Warsaw Convention. We are determined to find the means to revitalise European conventions, a subject that the board of governors’ meeting in Poland will address in depth.

What new events are planned for the Warsaw AES Convention?
For Warsaw, I haven’t been as personally involved as I was for the recent Los Angeles convention last October. That’s partly because I’ve been extremely busy with other AES activities, and also because our two co-chairs for Warsaw – Umberto Zanghieri and Bozena Kostek – have been putting together an amazing technical programme. The keynote will be given by Florian Camerer and, as usual, we will have a great number of experts, so the convention will be a great place to network. [Genelec founder Ilpo Martikainen will deliver the annual Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture; see AES 138: Ilpo Martikainen to give Heyser Memorial Lecture.]

Can the reduction in exhibitors for European conventions be reversed, or are we now looking at a new paradigm?
There are two ways of looking at it: quantity and quality. Everything can be reversed but that’s not necessarily where we need to put our efforts. We cater to a somewhat different community than, for example, Musikmesse, so I don’t think we need to change our target to increase attendance. Instead, we need to know more about our targeted audience and move efficiently to grab their attention. One clear example is the formulation of standards.

The number and scope of AES conferences has increased during recent years. Is that a development you favour?
Absolutely, especially in new places, like the one on spatial audio we plan to hold in Brazil sometime in 2017. It’s a big challenge to open new markets; this will be the first AES International Conference to be held in Latin America.

You have identified the AES’s two primary strengths as education and networking. How can we take advantage of these within Europe?
One of the things I’d like to have at AES is a powerful tool to network with our peers, customers or providers prior, during and after each event; we have to be able to provide everything for attendees to interconnect. When it comes to education, one of our most valued assets is the AES Journal, which just keeps getting better and better. We also need to be really picky with the papers, posters, workshops and tutorials we offer because that’s where we need to stand out; we can’t offer any less than excellence.

Having been raised in Argentina – far away from the “centre of the technology world” – you acknowledge to being proactive enough to create your own networks. How did being an AES member help your professional career?
The first audio publication I saw was an AES Journal, when I had no idea what the AES was. When I became part of the board some 20 years later, I realised how much the AES helped me to pursue my goals. I would have never known so many talented people, nor been able to develop my business globally – or teach at some of the finest universities in the world – without the help of the AES.

Finally, what three achievements would you like to be remembered for at the conclusion of your term as AES president?
One, increasing transparency in our internal matters, especially those related to finances. Two, openness of dialogue in just about any subject; no taboo topics. And three, inclusion of new regions of the world in the AES map, Latin America being a clear example.

The 138th International Audio Engineering Society Convention will be held at the Sofitel Victoria Hotel in Warsaw from 7–10 May 2015.

© Mel Lambert. All rights reserved.