Since launching in 2019, commercial audio specialist Bluesound Professional has been rapidly ramping up its activities in the market. Here, VP and general manager, Graeme Harrison, explains why the company is poised to take on the AV industry…
Tell us about the origins of Bluesound Professional?
I worked at Biamp Systems for 27 years and during this time we had looked at the possibility of accessing network stored media and bringing it into our DSPs for processing and distribution. For various reasons, this didn’t happen and we found other ways of growing. When I left in 2018, I was looking for my next challenge, something that wasn’t being done in the commercial AV market. Gord Simmonds, CEO of Lenbrook Group, a Canada-based distributor and manufacturer of residential audio equipment and communications systems, was interested in getting into the commercial AV market, and it seemed like an unmissable opportunity.
What does Bluesound Professional do?
We make the world’s first purpose-designed range of streaming audio hardware for use in commercial spaces. If a business wanted to access digital audio content, usually (but not always) for replay in public spaces, they had various options – none of them compelling. If they were a large business with many outlets, they would go to a provider of ‘business music’. Businesses work with these providers to curate custom programmed playlists of commercially licenced content. This approach is very expensive and very inflexible. If you are a smaller business, you have a couple of options. You can install residential HiFi streamers into your business or the integrator can give you a line input to the audio system usually terminated with a 3.5mm jack plug, which you plug into your laptop, tablet or phone and sign into a streaming service etc.
Bluesound Professional makes a full range of streamers, streamer/amplifiers and all-in-one speakers, which apart from the speakers, are rack-mounted, operate at commercial audio reference levels, run balanced analogue signals, are secure and provide proper control options for commercial users. This is truly unique in our industry.
What are your plans for the AV/installation market?
We showed early prototype products for the first time at ISE 2019 and we started shipping in November last year. We showed second release products at ISE this year and are just about to start shipping these. Our main target markets are hospitality and retail. We are seeing installations beyond these markets now in assisted living facilities, convention centres, function spaces and more. We intend to expand into the corporate and healthcare spaces with additional functionality and services which are coming soon.
How do you plan on growing the business during this time of huge uncertainty across the market?
The pandemic came at a really awkward time for Bluesound Professional as we had just started to ship products. Additionally, the hospitality and retail sectors of the market, whilst not being quite as badly hit as the events sector, have been really badly affected by worldwide lockdowns, and most businesses aren’t looking to invest but rather just to make it to the other side without going bankrupt.
On the plus side for us, we didn’t really have business to lose, and most importantly we had the support of the Lenbrook Group. I have been so pleased by how Gord and our board have navigated this crisis. We have been working flat-out through all of this in developing both products and business and our moto is that we will come out of this crisis stronger than we went in.
What is your biggest strength in the market?
Our biggest strength is that we literally have no competition! There is no one else making a whole range of network streaming hardware, compatible with network media files, internet radio stations, streaming from custom URL’s and of course streaming from many, many streaming services, including an increasing number of services providing content which is licenced for use in public spaces.