Zooming In on Innovation: ZOOM North America’s David Via

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • December 2018
  • Upfront Q&A
• Created: December 3, 2018

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Since the 1980s, ZOOM has maintained a stellar reputation as a supplier of effects processors for guitars, basses, and related gear. Starting in the mid-2000s, though, ZOOM virtually defined a new product category with the introduction of the H4 Handy recorder – and the company remains at the top of the field.

MMR recently sat down with ZOOM North America (ZOOM N.A.) vice president of marketing, David Via, to get a brief summary of the history and evolution of the brand, as well as recent product introductions and expectations for the future.

Most MMR readers are bound to be familiar with ZOOM, but can you give us a brief summary of the company’s beginnings back in the early ‘80s? Who were some of the key figures at the company and what were some significant early product offerings?

David Via: ZOOM was founded in 1983 in Tokyo. Masahiro Iijima, Founder and CEO of ZOOM Corporation Japan has always been dedicated to developing affordable yet innovative products with intuitive interfaces that allow artists to freely express their ideas.

Initially ZOOM worked with other companies as an ODM (original design manufacturer) developing sound generator LSI, rhythm machines, and MIDI synchronizer systems. In 1989 the first Zoom-branded product was released. The 9002 was an ultra-compact multi-effects processor designed to attach to a guitar strap. It was a huge success.

Then, in 2006, ZOOM totally redefined audio for video with the release of the H4 Handy Recorder. We continue to grow the H-Series Handy Recorder line-up, and just this fall introduced the H3-VR virtual reality audio recorder. Today our product line-up includes video cameras, field recorders, audio interfaces, and larger-scale recorders/mixers, along with our flagship line of guitar effects processors and pedals.

In 2013, ZOOM North America was established. With Scott Goodman as CEO, ZOOM North America is responsible for distribution, sales, marketing, and service of ZOOM products throughout North America, as well as a few select countries internationally.

Similar question, but this time focusing on yourself: What’s your own background in MI/music and how did you wind up at ZOOM?

I was actually expecting to be a university percussion professor, but my career took a turn and brought me into the music product industry. Over the years, I have worked for Yamaha, SABIAN, SKB, D’Addario, and now ZOOM. Joining ZOOM has been great. The company’s sales have continued to grow year over year, and there is a vibrant market for our products.

You mentioned ZOOM’s revolutionary portable recording peripherals a few minutes ago. I know that, for myself, I first became aware of ZOOM as a supplier that produced guitar and bass effects and multi-effects pedals, but through the years ZOOM’s stature has really grown and the brand’s reputation seems to be based at least as much on portable and field audio and video recording. Can you talk more about the evolution of the company and the current product offerings?

For many, especially those in the MI space, the initial awareness of ZOOM was from their multi-effects and FX pedals. ZOOM has evolved in response to the evolution of the market. In Japan, we have a great team of designers who are in-tune with the market, watching emerging trends and working to introduce products that intersects those trends as they mature.

Today we serve not only musicians, but all those we identify as “Creators.” Our statement, “We’re ZOOM. And We’re For Creators,” keeps us focused on finding solutions for a multitude of individuals involved in the arts.

Relating to the above, if you were to break down total ZOOM sales in 2018 across all product categories – effects, video and recording, accessories, et cetera – what would the percentages be?

Great question, however we don’t divulge that type of information.

Let’s get some quick ZOOM N.A. “vital stats”: Where is the HQ located and how big is it? How many current employees are at ZOOM?

ZOOM North America is located in Hauppauge, New York, approximately 45 miles east of New York City. We’ve got a small, efficient, and effective team that accomplishes an incredible amount of work for its size. ZOOM North America distributes ZOOM products in the U.S., of course.

Can you describe the distribution model? How would interested dealers go about becoming a ZOOM partner?

Today the most challenging part of distribution is having an effective multi-channel distribution model. E-commerce and brick-and-mortar must be able to thrive together. It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other. And while our distribution model is limited, we are always interested in speaking to dealers who want to come on board presenting unique and accretive opportunities for the brand. The Q2n-4K was only introduced a few weeks ago and already is generating a lot of buzz.

Can you talk about the development of that unit and early response from both dealers and end-users?

ZOOM continues to develop its line of video/audio cameras. The Q2n-4K is the most recent introduction. Utilizing 4K technology, while remaining our least expensive camera – the Q2n-4K has quickly created a buzz.

Scott and I were reminiscing the other day about how dramatically marketing has changed in only the last four years. Social and digital marketing has changed everything. It plays a massive role in what we do. We can launch a product and literally within hours, have consumers starting to talk about it. Today marketing is 24/7 engagement. The fact is that the shop never closes. It can be overwhelming, but it is definitely amazing.

Finally, as 2018 draws to a close, what are your expectations – both for ZOOM and for the MI industry, overall – for 2019?

While the distribution and consumption of music has changed significantly, there is more musical content development taking place than ever. Content is king. The internet is the way that so many audiences congregate today. Creators of all ages, styles, and abilities have something to say and share. Let’s help them do so.

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