They are still very young in the industry and yet seem like old hands: The Austrian Audio team was founded in 2017 by former AKG manager Martin Seidl as a Viennese start-up and is now active in 54 countries worldwide. Austrian Audio’s fans include star musicians such as Divinity Roxx (Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Erykah Badu) or Kat Dyson (Prince, New Power Generation) as well as numerous producers and sound engineers – above all Adrian Hall (The Black Eyed Peas, Robbie Williams, among others) and Jim Ebdon (Sam Smith, Maroon 5). The Austrian manufacturer focuses on high-quality, durable sound equipment and a comprehensive range that currently includes the OC818 and OC18 large-diaphragm microphones and the Hi-X headphone series with its Hi-X50, Hi-X55 and Hi-X65 models. In this interview, CEO Martin Seidl tells us what the company’s plans are for Prolight + Sound and gives a very personal insight into the past two years.
You are planning to present several new products at Prolight + Sound. Can you give a sneak peek of what visitors can look forward to?
Austrian Audio, as a very young company but with decades of experience in developing headphones and microphones, has made a very good reputation for itself in the studio/recording/broadcast world in just four years. Surprisingly, our studio microphones have featured, even very prominently, on many a major live tour on drums and guitars. In early 2022, we introduced our first handheld vocal microphones, primarily for live applications. You can look forward to iver new products for the live/touring/rental business from Austrian Audio at Prolight + Sound. Vocal and instrumental microphones of the upper league. Made in Vienna. Again!
They will also be present in the Live Sound Arena and have planned a highlight there as well. The drummer from Depeche Mode, Christian Eigner, will be performing. How did that come about?
Well, as mentioned earlier, not only our engineers are old hands in the scene. The fans of the products we have developed in the past have also remained loyal to us and many are thrilled by the way Austrian Audio has managed to go one better on top of the quality they are used to. Anyone who has read our recent press releases will also have read that some of our mics can be found on the current Rolling Stones tour. Christian Eigner is a very demanding and creative drummer when it comes to good and reliable sound from his instruments. He has tested and is a convinced user and friend of the house.
The event industry has been very shaken in the past two years. How did you feel about that time?
It was a sad time. Concerts are simply an enrichment of life that cannot be compensated for by online events, or recorded music. Live is Live, as very famous compatriots of mine have sung. People are hungry for live events. The musicians and performers are very hungry to be on stage. Until the pandemic, I myself sang about eight to ten gigs every year. You get a lot out of that – even as a part-time musician. Unfortunately, it’s not over yet and many fans are still very wary of gathering in front of a stage with thousands of others to celebrate and dance together. And of course, this has massively damaged the music industry, as well as Austrian Audio. I very much hope that we will all learn to live with the situation and that we will be able to enjoy the lightness of live events again very soon without restrictions.
What are your expectations for the development of the industry in the coming weeks and months?
As the past has shown, better times are coming our way again with spring and summer. There will be concerts and tours. Many of them will be catch-up concerts from the last few years because a new tour can’t be organised from one moment to the next. Many artists were very creative during the time without live performances and released albums. Now they want to perform live. What unfortunately cannot be explained away is that the rental and event scene still lack the money to invest – even when it reopens. Therefore, there will certainly be a drag-on effect that will continue to burden us and all those involved in the industry financially for quite a while. But I think positively and hope very much that autumn/winter will not hold any new surprises for us. Even in times of crisis – keyword Ukraine – many people don’t feel like celebrating. Nor do I. All this madness must come to an end.
Many trade fairs have not taken place for two years. What significance do trade fairs still have now?
There are certainly many opinions on that. Not only since the pandemic-related forced break. There are companies in the industry that set up their own event centres and invite customers there because they canot only freely choose a date, but also take much more time for a customer. The other side of the coin is that interested people have to spend a lot of time on just one brand and cannot get an overview of new products and developments. The costs of trade fairs have clearly skyrocketed too quickly. Stands are bigger, louder, longer, more beautiful, more expensive. That doesn’t have to be. Then the costs are no longer in proportion to the benefits for companies and interested people will only find the big companies at fairs. And not even they are willing to pay any price. Let’s think back to the time when trade fairs were still industry festivals, sometimes handmade, but very personal, and not corporate meetings. After all, we all come from the event industry and deal with ambitious, creative people. In my opinion, trade fairs can be a strong counterbalance to pure online marketing. There are fewer and fewer local retailers where customers can touch and try out products. This important “I want to touch it, try it and have it explained” need and the showing of a broad spectrum must be served by trade fairs.
We are all looking forward to Prolight + Sound 2022. What are your expectations of the fair?
First, I expect to see proof that trade fairs can attract interested people again. I am looking forward to coming into personal contact with musicians, technicians, artists, users, performers, content creators, simply many people. To share my enthusiasm with them. That’s why we bring people from all relevant areas of the company to the stand. I am looking forward to getting feedback and giving it if necessary. And I very much hope that the Prolight + Sound team will use this opportunity of the break to present itself anew to all these people, to arouse interest in order to attract even more visitors and exhibitors to the event in the coming years.