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Pro AV Watch List pick Amnon Harman on immersive sound

CEO at d&b audiotechnik discusses his philosophy of more art, less noise

How did you first get involved in the AV marketplace?
Eight years ago I was contacted by one of the d&b board members who I knew from a previous cooperation when he was on my board some 10 years earlier. We discussed the CEO opportunity and I was instantly attracted by the brand of d&b, the international set up, the expansion plans of the investors and the freedom of defining the strategy for d&b. This was a perfect management challenge!

What would you say are the most significant changes / developments in the industry during your time?
I would say that the development of immersive experiences has been the most significant change over the last few years. Immersive sound provides the whole industry with a massive opportunity to bring audio back to where it deserves to be and put the customer center stage. Audiences are coming to a live performance to feel the passion that is created on stage and to be inspired, this should not be affected by what section of the venue they are sitting in. That is why the increased audio quality and new tools like d&b Soundscape are so important. With a professional high end sound system ‘cheap seats’ need to no longer exist, and everyone gets to enjoy the show as it was meant to be heard.

What personal, professional achievements are you most proud of?
We grew a lot pre-pandemic from being a €70 million audio system company to become a €170 million audio technology and solutions company within 5 years. Today we offer high-end pro audio solutions with a global reach having a leading position in many of our market segments.

What I am most proud of is that during this time we have maintained a culture where passionate people focus on innovation and quality and create an environment of togetherness within the company, but also within the community of creatives, planners and partners that we are working with. Having my part in that is rewarding and enjoyable and I am indeed proud of that.

Do you have a philosophy you live by professionally? And if so, how has it helped your career and those you have worked with?
I don’t believe in one philosophy or recipe that solves everything. I try to do the right thing in a specific situation. As a young manager I was too much focused on analytics and statistics to proof I am on the right track. This limits you, because it does not include the human factor. Today I try to create environments where people can achieve things, that they not did believe could be done. Analytics, KPIs and business plans are important, but it is all about how you ignite the talent around you to make the magic happen.  And then of course we have one principle at d&b that describes it all: More art. Less noise!

Pre-Covid, what would you say were the biggest areas of technological or operational challenge to AV?
With new technologies taking centre stage, audio is constantly advancing and with that comes the increased need for training. We want to be closer to our customers and so that’s why we opened offices and experience centres globally, expanded our Backnang HQ facility and why we continue to run such comprehensive training programs. The shut downs in 2020 did provide us with time to put together more training programs that could be accessed remotely and we were genuinely blown away by the participation and positive feedback we received. In general digitalisation has been accelerated by the pandemic. Like with the extension of trainings we work on a broad variety of online interaction and automation possibilities that range from digitalised sales channels to automated order processing to robotics in our factory. It once again shows the real need for constant development and learning
within the industry.

What needs to change in the industry?
In my opinion, the Covid-19 crisis demonstrated to us in a painful way that the industry is fragmented in many different interest groups. Initiatives like “We Make Events” and “Red Alert” were created with the support of many participants. However, it took us a long time to get our voice heard so that the politicians could react to the needs of all the hard-working people, who instantly were and partly are still out of their jobs. Unfortunately, I believe that we still don’t have the lobby that can ensure appropriate support during a crisis. We learned something in the pandemic, that we need to bring the different groups and associations closer together to form a support lobby and to speak with one voice – not easy to do, but desperately required to secure we get better support through any future crises. 

In your opinion, what will be the biggest drivers of change in AV in the next 5 years?
The pro AV industry was for many years very specialised and an industry for itself. For some time now we have observed an ongoing digitalisation, the convergence of audio-video-light as well as an increasing influence of hi-tech, AI and VR. Hence, the AV industry is merging more and more with the broader and more consolidated IT industry. While fixed audio installations are already part of larger infrastructure projects with significant IT/network investments, the pro audio projects in the live production and rental markets are still very focused and specialised on either audio, video or light. However, in the mobile market the merge is already happening and larger service companies are emerging that are covering all disciplines.

Driven by pandemic restrictions, lock downs and reduced margins based on additional investments for safety, hygiene and audience management, the event organisers and venue operators will seek new ways to secure income. This is the final break-through for hybrid event technologies connecting live events with remote stages and private homes using interactive broadcasting technologies – the best of two worlds. And of course, for hybrid events there will be a need for a fully-immersive experience that will require the AV industry to look toward new technology solutions.

As a result, venue/artist management will seek to work with professionals who can offer end-to-end expertise in the areas of project development, manufacturing, system planning, installation and maintenance. They will want experts who have consulted with end customers and creatives to generate insight-driven innovations. This is how we at d&b prepare for the future.

Finally, what would your message be to those starting out their AV careers?
Follow your intuition, live your passion and do what makes you happy. However, make sure you understand value creation chains, have your finger on the pulse of change and, most importantly, never stop educating yourself no matter what, whether for technology or business matters. Your brain always has to be on the move!.