Industry stalwart and Digico co-founder David ‘Webby’ Webster was recently appointed by Coda Audio as its new director of global marketing. PSNEurope landed an exclusive interview with the man himself to gain an insight into his vision for the burgeoning loudspeaker company…
Freshly installed as the new director of global marketing at one of the most rapidly expanding loudspeaker manufacturers in the business, PSNEurope finds David ‘Webby’ Webster ensconced in the south of France with his new colleague and friend of some 30-plus years, Coda Audio director of global business development, Paul Ward, when our call is connected.
It’s his first interview since news of his arrival at Coda was made public – a mere 20 minutes after the announcement was made, in fact – and, unsurprisingly, we catch our subject in high spirits. And not just because of the sunnier climes – it’s a blustery, drizzly day around PSNEurope’s London HQ. He’s in chipper mood and keen to talk business, and it’s easy to see why. Over the past year, Coda has set about assembling a crack team to elevate itself to the industry’s uppermost echelons. As Webster points out later, there are parallels to be drawn between Coda and Digico – the console giant he co-founded and helped establish as one of the world’s biggest audio brands. And, having effectively retired back in April, it’s fair to say it must have taken a pretty attractive proposition to reel him back in so soon.
The company boldly claims to have made numerous technological advancements, singling it out as a cut above its sound reinforcement competitors, while other key appointments, such as Rich Rowley as MD of Coda Audio UK and Steve Norman as its UK head of application, have bolstered its heft in the market. In essence, Webster’s task is pretty straightforward: spread the word.
Here, Webster and Ward share their vision for the business and discuss why its new recruit is the “missing piece of the jigsaw…” Dave, what was it about Coda Audio that drew you back into the industry?
Dave Webster: Around April this year I decided to retire, and Paul came down to have a break here in the south of France. And what we have in common is that we always carry on talking about work, even when we’re on holiday! He said he thought that I would be a great part of the organisation and asked if I would be interested in getting involved, because there’s a big piece missing in the jigsaw and it would just fit really well. So we had a chat and it just went from there.
Paul Ward: I’ve known Webby for 32 years now, and although he’s been working in processing and consoles and I’ve always been engaged with loudspeaker systems, we are in the same industry and, apart from the obvious credentials Dave has, as individuals we are very like-minded in how we see the market and how we approach it. So working together is just so easy. Where this really works is that Coda is still a relatively young company, but it’s getting a lot of traction and we’re getting to the next growth stage. When Dave started Digico it was from the ground up, and together they made it one of the finest brand names in the industry. We are on that same trajectory of where we’re trying to go, and I knew that working with Dave would be perfect in all respects. My perception is that Dave is not going to get involved in just another gig, because he doesn’t need to. He wants to get involved in a project that excites him.
Was there a particular thing that drew you to Coda?
DW: When I retired in April I decided to go to InfoComm to see if there was anything that would excite me and make me want to do something. I looked around and the only thing that excited me was Coda. To me the analogy, relative to Digico terms, was that we had a quantum leap when we launched the Digico SD7 and the technology that was involved in that. It made a huge difference to the growth of Digico and it put us on the map. That was 2007, and we started Digico in 2002, so even though we had great product, that leap forward came five years later. For me getting involved now, I’m as excited as I was when we were launching the SD7, because Coda has technology that nobody else has got. They design their own drivers and the way they make them, and the patents they have on them, makes it very much like Digico with its digital processing.
The way I see it is that the company is just crying out for communication with the industry and the marketplace. And what better guy to do that than Webby?
What are the main assets you will bring to the role?
DW: I’ve always been involved in all facets of a company, irrespective of title. At Digico, for example, I did the IT for the company; there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the background that people don’t realise. My skillset allows me to be involved in all the growing parts of the company, so helping the US, the UK, Germany and France in terms of creating their structure. And there are many channels where we don’t have distribution yet; a lot of consultants and installers will probably have heard the Coda name but maybe haven’t heard the product. If you like, it’s my contacts base that I bring. It’s about the relationships you have in the industry. It feels very much like Coda is gaining momentum with its senior appointments this year.
PW: The way I see it is that the company is just crying out for communication with the industry and the marketplace. And what better guy to do that than Webby? Technologically what Coda is doing is a leap forward from the transducer end, because a lot of the other speaker manufacturers are addressing issues with DSP and computer technology, which is all relevant, but when you look at the heart of the speaker systems, the technology is actually quite old and has been around for a long time. What Coda has done is invent technology, which is patented and unique. That in itself is one benefit, but it also gives advantages to the user that most other brands, if not all of them, can’t give. That puts us in a unique position, and we’ve got to communicate that. A lot of these other famous brands are to be respected and have done a great job, but we see Coda as the next generation of audio. When you’re going into the market and people say, What is it? And you say a speaker brand, people say – as I did when I was first approached – Oh no, not another one! That’s generally the state of play. But I got involved because I see what Dave sees, and it’s a fantastic opportunity. It’s a marketing man’s dream in a way, and Webby is at the top of that tree.
Houses of worship are a very big market, and it’s linked quite closely to the rock’n’roll side of things. People don’t realise that, in Europe especially. You can find churches that are 20,000-seater auditoriums. We think of churches as being these places where your grandmother and her friends go to on a Sunday and that’s about it!
David 'Webby' Webster
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for Coda?
DW: To be honest, it’s all market segments. It’s great from a rock’n’roll point of view in terms of what I call the magical fairy dust. You’re out on the tour, people see it and they link the artist to it. Also, if you use a Coda system you can hang more video screens and lighting because it’s a smaller product. From a lighting designer’s point of view, or a stage set designer, it gives them a lot more flexibility, because they don’t have to worry about horrible black boxes being in the way. It’ll be a welcome change for those people - if you can do anything to make their lives easier it’s great. And it sounds good – really good. There is no compromise. It’s the same with installs. There are many installs where you have to compromise just because of weight or position of the system. That’s another key market segment. For instance, houses of worship are a very big market, and it’s linked quite closely to the rock’n’roll side of things. People don’t realise that, in Europe especially. You can find churches that are 20,000-seater auditoriums. We think of churches as being these places where your grandmother and her friends go to on a Sunday and that’s about it!
What are the toughest challenges you face in the market?
DW: To be honest, I think the biggest challenge will be how many people we can see in the shortest space of time. Anybody who sees and hears the product will just want to be part of it, whether they are purchasing it, designing it or installing it. It’s just so exciting. There are so many opportunities with what we are doing and where we are going.
PW: The challenge is communication. You can have all this quality but people have got to be aware of it. We couldn’t do that before because we didn’t have the infrastructure to do it successfully. So that’s what we’re about to do, particularly stateside; we’ve got these subsidiaries set up but our main route into the market is via our distributors.
DW: “Watch this space!”
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