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AES reveals financial upturn, new exec director

Bob Moses (pictured) has been confirmed as the new executive director of the Audio Engineering Society, which recently posted a small but significant surplus of income over expenses.

Bob Moses (pictured) has been confirmed as the new executive director of the Audio Engineering Society, which recently posted a small but significant surplus of income over expenses, writes Mel Lambert.

News of the upturn – which follows two years of lacklustre financial performance in a downturn economy – came at the end of a turbulent 2011 for the AES, which included calls for a fresh commercial strategy for the society’s operations. The decision was taken mid-year not to renew its contract with executive director (ED) Roger Furness, who left the post on 31 December after 17 years of service.

“We need to adjust to reality and find another production model,” AES president Jan Abildgaard Pedersen acknowledges in an exclusive interview with PSNE. “We reduced the size of the London AES Conventions, knowing that the interest from exhibitors was down from previous years; we needed a different plan and to look at new business opportunities. The Budapest Convention in April will offer smaller and medium-sized companies the ability to show off current R&D programmes. And if the response [from exhibitors] is there we can always move into larger halls at the Budapest Congress & World Trade Center.”

Recent US government filings (required for all non-profit corporations such as the AES) show that while income from member subscriptions, the journal, conferences and conventions dropped slightly in 2010 to $3.1 million (compared to $3.3 million in 2009), expenses were dramatically reduced to close to $3.1 million ($4.0 million in 2009), resulting in a modest $35,000 profit. In contrast, during 2008 and 2009 the society suffered losses of $506,000 and $655,000, respectively.

Within Europe, the cost of regional conventions has fallen dramatically. The AES financial filing shows a cost of $1.14 million for 2008’s Amsterdam Convention, $787,000 for 2009’s Munich Con-vention and $167k for 2010’s London convention. “The RAI Center in Amsterdam was expensive,” Abildgaard Pedersen concedes. “For the London Conventions in 2010 and 2011 we opted for a smaller venue – Budapest follows that continuing trend.”

“We looked at every aspect of the society’s operations,” Furness explains, “to determine how we could cut costs without it showing to the outside world. While that [strategy] included opting for a smaller venue for the London conventions – we went from a $30,000 loss for Munich in 2009, to a profit of around $30,000 for London in 2010 – we also looked at reducing costs for the US conventions. We also reduced the office costs in New York and Brussels by renegotiating the lease for the AES HQ in Manhattan, as well as other savings across the board.

“And AES membership is at an all-time high; in 2010 we saw an increase of around 20%.” The society also saw a 10% increase in the sale of AES publications.

As 2010’s non-profit filing illustrates, major expense reductions were made in Salaries, down to $873,000 for 2010 compared to $902k in 2009, plus Office ($208k from $234,000), Occupancy ($116,000 from $238,000), Conventions ($1.0 million from $1.6 million) and Others ($70,000 from $118,000). Additional savings were made in Information Technology, Travel and European Office expenses.

“It’s a matter of trying to do good housekeeping,” the outgoing ED offers. “We looked for cost reduction wherever possible. It is too early to predict results for 2011, but we expect to at least break even; for 2012 I’m predicting that the society will make a profit larger than we saw for 2010.”

“Our conventions are unique,” Abildgaard Pedersen concludes. “The AES is the only real society that focuses solely on audio technologies. We have received a lot of positive reactions to our plans for the Budapest Convention in April. It will be a flexible show, with space for small as well as larger companies that want to take demo rooms. We have gold in our hands; the opportunity is there to move forward with good results.”

Pedersen predicted in mid-December that a new executive director would be named by year’s end, and on the 20th of the month it was confirmed that Bob Moses – a long-time AES member/office, product designer and technologist – would assume the post with effect from 1 January.

“An exhaustive search was undertaken for the best possible candidate for this pivotal AES position,” remarked Pedersen. “Bob Moses is eminently qualified to address the multi-faceted demands of our 14,000-plus member organization. He brings enthusiasm, technical acumen, leadership and communications skills to this critical position. During his 23 years as an AES member, he has established invaluable relationships throughout our international membership. He is committed to implementing the Board of Governors’ goals of ensuring the Society’s fiscal health into the future, growing membership, and increasing value to our members and supporters. His deep appreciation for our 63-year history coupled with his eagerness to address the challenges of the future make him an ideal choice for executive director.”

In accepting the position, Bob Moses added: “The AES has been the backbone of my career. It has provided me with a unique platform to evangelise my ideas and seek feedback from the industry. I’ve learned almost everything I know about audio, and met many of my closest colleagues, through AES activities. I can’t imagine achieving my career goals without AES there to support me.

“Outgoing executive director Roger Furness has done an incredible job over the past 17 years, and I deeply appreciate his decision to remain aboard throughout 2012,” Moses continued. “My initial task is to identify where the AES provides maximum value to its membership and the industry, and to advance new ways to enhance this value. Sixty-three years ago the AES was the place for the scientific community to share ideas. Over time, AES Conventions evolved as the best forum for manufactures to exhibit professional audio products. But today, the Internet and persistent economic challenges worldwide have changed the game. Based on my own experience as an AES member, author and exhibitor, I know the AES remains a vital resource for audio professionals. We need to clarify that value and communicate it better. I’m ready for the challenge.”

In 1987 after graduating from McGill University with an electrical engineering degree, Bob Moses joined Rane Corporation as a digital audio product designer. In 1995 he invented a novel means of transporting audio over FireWire and cofounded Digital Harmony Technologies (DHT) to deploy this technology. Moses worked as a consultant to numerous consumer and professional audio manufacturers until he was recruited by THAT Corporation in 2006 as program manager of its integrated circuit (IC) business. During the past five years he has concentrated his energies on managing new technology development at THAT.

As a member of the AES Board of Governors since 1999, v-p Western Region 2001 -2006 and president 2007 – 2008, Bob Moses has served an increasingly integral role within the organisation and on Convention development, including several consecutive turns as Product Design Track Chair.

The AES 132nd Convention will be held in Budapest, 26-29 April. The 133rd Convention is set for San Francisco, 26-29 October.