Matthew Manasse’s Blue Fish Audio business is going swimmingly. After more than 20 years of touring with some of the world’s major artists, the FOH engineer has established an audio rental company targeting the corporate event market. He’s netted a based of regular clients, while still finding time to mix shows for Eric Clapton and The Straits (that’s Dire Straits post-Mark Knopler).
Now Manasse has taken on the additional challenge of launching a distribution company. His first line is from Dutch loudspeaker manufacturer Sound Projects. Will someone take the bait?
In the past, you could have Manasse mixing FOH for Katie Melua or Rufus Wainwright. But having put in the hours of sardine-like living on tour buses, it’s time to dive into fresh waters.
“I’ve been building my corporate customer base by word of mouth,” he says. “It’s a slow process but means that my customers come to me because of my reputation, instead of me having to go out and find them. I put a very strong emphasis on sound quality, and I make sure the engineers I use share this ethos. I also make sure that the equipment is prepared in advance for each individual job and that the crew are properly briefed so we can work very efficiently on site. It makes the whole event more relaxed and gives us more time to concentrate on looking after the customer’s requirements.
“We use Sound Projects X-Act stage monitors as part of our rental stock and all our customers love them. Some of the acts we work with have said they use us primarily because the stage sound is always so good. Becoming the UK distributor for a brand that I know and trust seems like a natural extension of the core business.
“At the moment I’ve got the Sound Projects stage monitors in stock and hope to have more of the product range later in the year,” he says.
This 29-year-old company should be familiar to PSNEurope readers. Based in the Netherlands, the original ‘Master Blaster’ brand has gradually matured into today’s Sound Projects marque, and now boasts a full catalogue of small, medium and large format PA systems, some with quirky names such as X-act (monitor) and DreamLine (line array). This time last year, PSNEurope carried a story about the Dubliners touring with the SPX-65 medium format array; recently, the company launched the SP2-15 sub at the Antwerp High Fashion show (see PSNEurope April 2012).
Yet Sound Projects doesn’t have much of a profile in the UK. Rental house Concert Sound was quietly involved with the brand for some years, but its migration into the Clair Group in early 2009, and a subsequent streamlining of the inventory to Clair’s specs, gave Manasse his opportunity. “I pounced on [Concert Sound’s Sound Project] self-powered wedges, knowing they are really good,” he says. “Then, in January this year I was in touch with [managing director] Jan Slooter to see where I could buy some more, and after several chats, here I am distributing them.”
Manasse knows he’s swimming against the current, bringing an unfamiliar brand into a crowded market, but that doesn’t discourage him. “I’m an engineer with a solid reputation; I bought the wedges because I really like them, I use them because I think they’re a great product, so why shouldn’t I be able to sell them? It’s cleverly designed, well built and great sounding equipment so I don’t see why it shouldn’t make a mark on the UK industry.” The Blue Fish is hooked, certainly.
Manasse adds that he’s A/B’d the new X-Tender wedge against some of the best of the competition, “and they are right up there. I wouldn’t say they will beat everything on the market as different engineers and acts have different requirements but if it’s a loud, smooth, exceptionally clean sound that you’re after then these will certainly do the business.”
Manasse reports that all of the PA houses and engineers he’s demonstrated them to are very impressed with the kit. Now it’s time to wait patiently and see whom he can reel in.