‘We want to enlighten people who don’t know the joy of listening to vinyl’
Japanese brand Audio-Technica started out by making phono cartridges 55 years ago. Keisuke Kobayashi (pictured), director, chief marketing officer and general manager, and Richard Garrido, president and chief executive of Audio-Technica Europe, give Sean Hannam their views on the vinyl revival
Q: How’s business in Japan?
Keisuke Kobayashi: The market in Japan is OK, but Japan has been in a stagnant situation for over 20 years. It depends on how you see the marketplace. The business is there, and it’s a fair-sized business, but it doesn’t really create a sense of ongoing growth.
Q: Has there been a vinyl revival in Japan?
KK: The younger generation in Japan has been seeking to collect vinyl for some time. If you go to some areas in Tokyo, you can find great collections of relatively high-quality vinyl.
Musicians and artists spend more energy on touring and making a point of difference with vinyl, because of the low revenue from streaming, MP3 and CD.
The vinyl trend is up and we hope that it is not just a short-term fad.
We originated from phono cartridge manufacturing and we have some responsibility to provide people with a way of truly enjoying music. We want to enlighten people who don’t know the joy of listening to vinyl.
Q: [to Richard Garrido]: What’s your view on the vinyl revival in the UK?
Richard Garrido: There is a UK trend that is very worrying. If you look at the top turntable brands in Germany you have Dual, Project, Rega and Audio-Technica. In the UK, in December [last year], you had Crosley, which was selling through fashion stores.
In Germany, there is a growing trend of people who want to listen to music on [quality] turntables, but the whole growth of turntables in the UK is a fashion statement or about social positioning.
Fifty-five years ago, the founder of Audio-Technica started by designing phono cartridges. The root and the DNA of our company is in the name – Audio-Technica. We want to make technical products to provide audio material to humans and we still have a line of 25 phono cartridges – from £20 to £4,000. We would never consider making a turntable as a fashion statement.
Q: Is it a challenge to convince consumers to trade up to quality turntables?
RG: I think we should look at it as a positive thing. People like myself, who are over 60, we understand what vinyl is because until we were 30, we had nothing else to listen to music on. MP3 was invented the year my son was born.
Today, when I see a Crosley turntable and the cartridge that comes with it, as a pro audio person, I feel really bad, but if it’s the door [entry point] to people discovering analogue, then we should look at it as a positive trend.
‘If I was a UK retailer, I’d see Brexit as a tool to protect my territory from aggressive pricing and goods coming from continental Europe’
We ask Richard Garrido, president and chief executive of Audio-Technica Europe, for his views on Brexit and the retail market
Q: How will Brexit affect Audio-Technica?
Richard Garrido: For us, as a Japanese manufacturer, distributing product all across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, it doesn’t change much.
As far as Audio-Technica Europe is concerned, we will have some small changes because, today, most of our logistics, warehousing and shipping is done from Leeds in the UK.
We will have to change the logistics aspect – at least part of it – because we are sending hundreds and hundreds of parcels to Germany, France, etc, every day.
A distributor taking a €30,000 pallet doesn’t care about having trucks going through customs and having to do the paperwork, but the small dealers who receive three headphones and five microphones don’t want to have to deal with customs.
As far as shipping and logistics and where the invoice will come from, we will have to set up proper logistics in continental Europe and, probably, when the corporation invoices French, German and Spanish dealers, it won’t come from the UK.
Does it change a lot for our staff? Not really – some of our pan-European staff are in Leeds, some in London and some in Rotterdam, Barcelona, Paris and Brussels.
This will not change – the main language for communicating with distributors across Europe will still be English.
Q: Are you worried about the impact Brexit may have on consumer confidence?
RG: From a personal point of view, I think what it will have an impact on is that you have British web dealers that are serving customers – and shipping products – across Europe. You also have very big German dealers that ship hundreds of parcels a day to the UK. I don’t think this business will disappear, but it could…
It would be a nightmare for an end-user buying a €600 piece of equipment – even if DHL and FedEx are providing the service – to do the paperwork and pay the duty – when he could find it for a similar price from a German retailer. Why would he buy it from a UK website?
Today, to save a little bit of money, a German consumer can buy from the UK, or a British consumer can buy from Germany.
If you’re a British retailer selling on Amazon Marketplace and you’re selling to France and Germany – and the end-user has to go through customs – then it will probably make their business very difficult.
My vision of the future is that cross-border selling and shipping between continental Europe and the UK – and vice versa – will become more difficult. But I could be wrong – it could depend on how the British authorities manage the negotiations of their new trading relations with the rest of Europe.
If I was a UK retailer, I’d see Brexit as a tool to protect my territory from aggressive pricing and goods coming from continental Europe.