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‘We have first-mover advantage’: Bluesound exec talks major European expansion

The company recently appointed four new European distribution partners

Bluesound Professional vice president and general manager, Graeme Harrison, has spoken exclusively to Installation about the Canadian company’s strategy for major European expansion, following the appointment of four new distributors across the territory.

Earlier today (July 20), Installation exclusively revealed that Bluesound Professional had appointed four  new distribution partners covering key territories in Western Europe. They are Gaplasa Pro (Spain), M-Pro (Benelux), Magnelusa (Portugal) and Polar (UK).

“We are delighted to be able to welcome another four great distributors to our European team,” Harrison commented. “We are fortunate to be able to work with some of the best distributors in the business. Having worked with most of these companies before, this new relationship for Bluesound Professional will prove viable as this will help cover almost all of the key European territories.”

Here, he takes Installation inside the decision process behind the firm’s new distribution partners and discusses his strategy for expansion…

What do these distributor appointments mean for Bluesound’s business?
The appointment of these four companies, covering a number of geographical territories, almost completes our distribution network in Western Europe, and so as business in Europe begins to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have partners in place to supply the demand that we are beginning to see for our products.

Talk us through how each of these four agreements came about?
I have been talking to Polar since the formation of Bluesound Professional, but this formal announcement took a long time to come as Polar wanted to conduct an extensive market research study into the hospitality and retail markets in the UK, as these are not the main markets that they have been involved in to date. In the interim, we appointed OneAV as a sub-distributor for our products as they were keen to start and had jobs that they needed to get equipment for. They initially bought directly from us, but they are now buying through Polar. I’m glad that Polar were so thorough and professional with their research and also that we were able to hand them some business from day one.

Benelux is a very strong market for our residential brands and an important market in general. I had two very strong contenders for the distribution there and I was initially going to wait until after the pandemic was over to make a decision. However, we had a lot of integrators from the region attend our webinar series and want to start using our products, so this brought the decision forward. I have known Mario Clabots since before he started M-Pro and I’ve watched him build a stable and successful business with a strong and focused portfolio of brands. It feels good to be working with him again after a gap of many years and the demand has already been really strong in the territory, surprising both he and I.

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Magnelusa in Portugal approached us and they have a very strong and complementary product portfolio and also have experience selling streaming audio products, so they are able to get going with Bluesound Professional very quickly. I have also really enjoyed working with their technical and sales teams already as they gear up with our range.

Gaplasa in Spain is a company that I have worked with for a long time and for whom I have a great deal of respect. Initially they were not able to represent our line due to conflicts within their portfolio, but changes there created a perfect fit for us. They also have experience with streaming audio products and they have been able to launch our products in their market extremely quickly and effectively.

Why now?
I had been talking to some of these companies for a while and other changes in the industry also created opportunities. As well as this, the slowdown in activity caused by the pandemic allowed me to really focus on expanding our distribution network and as Bluesound Professional have been working full speed throughout this pandemic, it is allowing us to come back extremely strongly with an expanded distribution network as business picks up again.

What are your ambitions for the business with these distributors in place?
Bluesound Professional is the only range of streaming music players designed specifically for the commercial market. As such, we have first-mover advantage, but also the challenge of educating the market about a new way to create wonderful, varied immersive sonic experiences using media files from the network and/or streaming services. The key to bringing people back into public spaces is the creation of these experiences and the key to this is engaging as many of our senses as possible. With our senses of touch, taste and smell all being somewhat unsafe at the moment, we are left with sight and sound. These, happily for our AV industry, are the two senses in which we deal. Sight is already over-used as a sense so adding congruent audio stimulae can dramatically increase the effect of the experience and can significantly increase business.

Starting at the beginning of June, we saw our business really increase and this has continued until now so I am optimistic about the growth of our brand and the impact of signing these new distributors as an accelerator of this growth.

Are you targeting any specific markets with these distributors?
Our target markets are hospitality and retail with restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, gyms and spas being our main customers. As well as this, we are also seeing significant business in the corporate space and we are working with content providers to move further into this space as well as the healthcare sector. Some of these distributors are already well established in these markets whereas for others, these markets represent an opportunity for expansion.

What can the industry expect from Bluesound for the rest of the year and beyond?
Starting in September we will be shipping our innovative BSP500 and BSP1000 speakers, which we launched at ISE 2020. These speakers can be used both indoors and outdoors, which is especially important as restaurants and bars are now looking to use outdoor areas to increase their capacity and safety. The speakers also use PoE+ to allow for single-cable installation and transmission of both signal and power. This makes installation really quick and easy without the need to install AC outlets next to each speaker. As the speakers also include both amplification and streaming, an installation can be just a number of these speakers and a PoE+ Ethernet switch …. and nothing else!

Immediately after this we will start shipping our BSW150 subwoofer. This is the first in a range of subwoofers with built-in amplification and streaming, allowing them to be grouped with any of our players, amplifiers and speakers (including the BSP500 and 1000) to further enhance the audio and thus the experience. At the end of this year/early next year we will launch a number of new products including a network paging station and an ambience noise compensation unit, both of which can be retrofitted to existing Bluesound Professional systems to further enhance their capabilities.