Loudspeaker manufacturer D.A.S Audio’s director of marketing, Robert Giner, speaks to Paul Watson at company HQ (pictured) in Valencia, Spain, about the struggles of working in the Spanish live sound industry given the current state of its economy.
What’s your current philosophy at D.A.S Audio?
D.A.S Audio’s owner has always kept two things in mind when it comes to business: one is export, and the other is to grow - perhaps at a slower rate than others - but at a constant, and to provide people with jobs; and there’s been a big emphasis on doing this here in Spain.
But that can’t be easily sustainable given the economic climate?
It's not easy, certainly. It's hard to say what will happen in the future, so we’ll have to wait and see. But also it comes down to being smart as a company, competitive price-wise and value-wise, and it's a bonus that we don't have to go to Asia for manufacturing; it's all done here. Many of our competitors don’t manufacture anything – it’s all done in either Mexico or China rather than in their US factories, or wherever their headquarters might be. OK, the philosophy and demands of the companies are different, of course; we don’t have 2,000 people working for us like some of the bigger players, but it’s still something we're proud of.
Would it be fair to say DAS is less corporate than many of its competitors?
I would say so, yes. Although we might not have the synergies of a corporate brand like, for example, Harman, we work with other friends - people like lab.gruppen and Powersoft - to bring technologies together for products that we want to develop. You have to work with what you’ve got.
The Spanish market, like so many in Europe, has been suffering; how are you coping at the moment?
Well, it's very slow; there’s no money, and that’s a problem. When there’s no money, people don’t buy. The main thing we heard at the last trade show in Spain, which was back in February, was: ‘hey, when the City Hall pays me, I’ll buy some gear’; and the problem is that the administrators have been the main movers of the live events: City Halls; regional governments; and to a certain extent they have spoiled the music industry in Spain, because the artists have got paid a lot of money, and they only did maybe two or three events in the summer, and now that’s it.
In the UK, bands are having to play more live shows as there’s more money in that than selling records. Is that the same in Spain; and is the recording side’s decline not helping the live industry here at all?
Well, in a way it is, yes, as there are now more live clubs in Spain than there’s even been. Before, it was very hard to go and watch live music, not like in the UK and the US, but now there’s a lot more clubs popping up everywhere, more bands, more people playing music, so yes, all of that has effectively fed a new industry. But although this is a good thing, it’s not as if a lot of new systems are being toured, because the companies that are not doing the rentals anymore are now renting their gear to the clubs and setting it all up, which means the owners don't have to buy a system.
So evidently you’re not benefitting from that at all?
Not in terms of sales, but there’s less gear in warehouses now; more is being used, because what they used to do for City Halls and regional governments, they’re not doing anymore. But they’re still waiting to get paid; and that’s put a serious strangle on a lot of sound companies, who have had to diversify and get into gig stuff and smaller systems. We’re not talking big line arrays, maybe six boxes per side and a small amount of subs; but on the flip side, it’s definitely kept these companies alive, and provided an aspect of music that was preciously non-existent in Spain up until recently. Madrid used to have two or three decent live venues, now there is maybe 12-15 just in Valencia alone. That’s how dramatic the change has been.
And in terms of your business, are things still solid?
It’s not crisis yet, put it that way, but it’s been very bad for the sales guys, as they work on commission. They are used to making a lot of money as recent years were booming, and that’s the hardest part. Sales were hit very hard by all the companies in Spain and thank God we are still going strong with our installations - much of the stuff we projected 18-24 months ago - because as far as live is concerned, we’re not doing many big systems at all; maybe half a dozen systems in the last year, that’s it.
Although on the other hand, you've had a lot of success with the Aero 12 worldwide, right?
Yes, that has been very successful. All the Aero series have been extremely successful, actually, which is a huge positive. After the last count a year ago, I think we had more than 20,000 boxes out worldwide, which is very impressive. The Aero 12A and Aero 15, which is the big guy, have both been used extensively at many big events around the world. Places like Brazil and Latin America in particular tend to deploy these systems regularly into big stadiums for political events and concerts; one recent example is a big Shakira concert that took place in Buenos Aries.
So there are still plenty of things to shout about at D.A.S then?
Sure. We have an amazing facility here; we build our own boxes, we set high standards, and we'll continue to do so. The facility has been expanded over the years which shows the business has grown, and although the climate is tough, I'm hopeful that our philosophy will stand us in good stead for years to come.