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Market Profile: Greater Los Angeles – MI in the City of Angels

Christian Wissmuller • ArchivesCurrent IssueJanuary 2024Special Report • January 9, 2024

The second largest metropolitan area in the United States, Greater Los Angeles is also home to some of the world’s most significant suppliers of musical instruments and gear. From legacy brands to innovators pushing the limits of technological advancement, the MI companies that call L.A. County and the surrounding area home have long helped to shape and guide our industry in meaningful ways – and continue to do so.

MMR recently connected with some of the major players in the Los Angeles region to learn about benefits and challenges to operating in and around the city. Specifically: What are some upsides to being an MI supplier in the L.A. area? What are some of the downsides? How has the metro area changed in recent years and how may it continue to evolve?

EveAnna Manley

President

Manley Laboratories, Inc.

While the initial draw to come to So Cal was the bountiful availability of military and aviation contractors, machining, plating, and local industrial supply, what remains so important to me is being involved with such a huge community of music recording and film production creatives. This immersion has been essential to my own growth and beneficial to the products that I have brought to market over the decades in that I have always had the opportunity to be able to work with my friends’ studios to conduct listing tests to choose capacitors, for instance, or fine tune a frequency choice in a design. Beta testing in real working studios ushers in more suggestions for design and feature requests. And then this combines with the social aspect, we religiously meet every week over some tacos and margaritas. There is no ugly paranoia, only generous collaboration amongst the recording world here in Los Angeles. All of the resources are here.

Fortunately my factory building, which we purchased in 1993, is just far enough outside L.A. proper. This was always the main reason for Manley Labs to remain in Chino, in the Inland Empire, as housing for workers has always been more affordable than many other Southern Californian pockets. One needs to budget about an hour to drive from Hollywood to Chino, however if you’re trying to join that commute later in the day, say, after 3pm, plan on it taking much longer.

During the past 35 years of course we have seen many legendary facilities close with the creative energy relocated directly into the hands of the musicians and composers. This expansion of the base of the pyramid has also diluted the concentration of electronic technique and knowledge, as a home studio won’t have their own house engineer or dedicated studio tech. While not unique to LA, we have definitely tailored our designs and features on the gear to be more innate for anybody to operate. During the COVID shutdowns, everybody was working isolated from their homes. We learned to embrace collaborative tools such as video conferencing to stay in front of our co-workers and buddies on a daily basis. I am hoping for a return to group working environments and to this end I am in planning stages for redevelopment of my Eagle Rock commercial building to include a few production/mastering rooms, a flex-office space, as well as a creative “maker space” for myself.

Virginia Castro

CEO and Founder

Get’m Get’m, Inc.

For me it is all about the energy. The energy and the vibe in L.A. is always exciting. Seeing different cultures and being around diversity of people and music gets me excited and keeps me inspired and motivated. Also, the local access to the Fashion District, with textiles, manufacturing, et cetera. We are surrounded by that here, and I am grateful for it. It’s so important to support local vendors and businesses.

Because there is so much industry, it can be a very difficult business altogether. The downsides can be when everyone supports these giant companies that don’t care about the local community. It is a challenge getting the voice of small businesses out there and heard. So, don’t forget to support small businesses and especially American made, that delivers effing quality!

Over the years the amount of traffic and homelessness has drastically increased. It makes it a lot harder getting around to vendors and manufacturing. Everything takes more time, which ultimately increases costs. The cost of living going up has increased the homelessness. It’s hard. I hope that the future brings positive changes! I am hopeful that the city gets better in managing traffic flow, public transportation, and housing for everyone. It can only help the economy, which helps the business. Spread the love!

 

Daniel Hughley

Senior Manager, Brand Marketing

Focusrite, Americas

Los Angeles offers a vibrant music scene, making it a major hub for both national and international artists. Many iconic albums are recorded in the city, and it serves as a crucial tour stop for major acts. The proximity to Anaheim, where the NAMM convention takes place annually, provides a valuable opportunity for networking and exposure. Additionally, the city hosts various official and informal meetups amongst the minds behind many of our favorite products, fostering collaboration and problem-solving among industry professionals.

Despite the musical richness, the high cost of living and doing business in Los Angeles poses challenges for MI suppliers. The rising global inflation further escalates these costs. Additionally, the notorious traffic congestion in the area can impede efficient business operations.

Over the years, there has been a notable shift in the music industry out of Los Angeles due to escalating costs. Cities like Austin and Nashville have become attractive alternatives where expenses have not yet caught up with those in the L.A. metro area. This trend is likely to continue as Los Angeles experiences crowding, further driving up costs. As a result, more businesses may choose to relocate to more cost-effective locations, impacting the dynamics of the local music industry.

Brian Ball

Chief Executive Officer

Ernie Ball, Inc.

In 1984, the company relocated from the greater Los Angeles area and relocated north to San Luis Obispo, and then eventually east of Los Angeles to Coachella in 2002. Our packaging, artwork, creative, and entire vibe stems from our DNA as a Southern California brand. Being near the entertainment capital of the world has huge advantages, especially when it comes to networking with artists, managers, and touring acts from all genres. Our 20 year partnership with the Vans Warped Tour likely wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t near the greater L.A. area. In 2016, we opened up a brand new Artist Relations office in Burbank. It was all about location. We wanted to be closer to prominent music venues and rehearsal spaces. This proximity has opened up a lot of opportunity for both product and marketing collaborations with many incredible artists.

The greater Los Angeles region is an expensive area to operate a factory, let alone the various governmental regulations we have to abide by as a manufacturer. There are plenty of other business friendly, and manufacturing friendly states in the U.S. Our heritage is so rooted here that we’ve tried to improve in every way that we manufacture our products so that we can continue to operate here and provide many families with jobs in both San Luis Obispo and in Coachella.

The metro area has grown exponentially since Ernie opened up his first shop. With this growth came innovation in business, product development, and manufacturing, along with new opportunities prompted by music trends. Los Angeles is the heartbeat of the entertainment industry and we don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. We love having an office here so we can better serve our expansive roster of artists.

Antonio Ferranti

President

Proel North America

For an MI manufacturer like Proel, which produces musical instruments, pro audio, and lighting solutions, Los Angeles provides an incredible opportunity for global exposure. The city is home to world-renowned artists representing every genre of music and entertainment. From legendary arenas, venues, and clubs to iconic television, movies, and broadcast production opportunities for product placement, Los Angeles is the ultimate entertainment capital of the world. Just this week our keyboards have appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” being played by the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire to millions of viewers around the world, and millions more on YouTube clips which endure forever after. Two weeks from now our drums will be featured on the Jennifer Hudson show, being featured played by social media drumming sensation Dorothea Taylor. A few days after that our products will be in rehearsal and on the set of the forthcoming sequel in the ‘Spinal Tap’ movie franchise. These are incredible opportunities that only Los Angeles and its artists and decision-makers can provide.

Living and doing business in Los Angeles has its perks, such as the vibrant entertainment industry, its diverse cultural scene, and a favorable climate. However, like any major city, it also comes with a few, albeit minor, downsides. The high cost of living and the challenge of finding convenient office space throughout the city can be significant. The city is notorious for heavy traffic congestion, and commuting can be very time-consuming. Thus, with all these opportunities in entertainment, having solutions in place to reach and navigate them is crucial. It’s definitely a challenge I prefer to embrace.

Proel North America was founded in Los Angeles in 2017 through a partnership with Proel, an Italian company with nearly 40 years of experience. Since then, we have witnessed several significant events that have transformed the way musicians work, create, and publish their music. Whether faced with the challenges of a global pandemic lasting several years or an entertainment industry strike spanning several months, Los Angeles area musicians have been compelled to get creative and find new outlets to generate income and protect their livelihood. These events have significantly impacted an already evolving industry, and their effects will be felt for many years to come. Proel has adapted along the way, adjusting our product mix and communication strategy to address this continuously evolving post-pandemic world. The creation and proliferation of music and music education have increased during these times, albeit through alternative channels. As venues reopen and studios resume production, I anticipate a hybrid world of remote and on-location production and performance in Los Angeles over the next several years.

Simon Jones

Vice President of Marketing

Yamaha Guitar Group, Inc.

L.A. is L.A., with a rich diversity of people and players and styles of music. It’s an entertainment center and hub for major touring bands that use our products. Located in LA means that through our proximity and access to artists it is easier to develop relationships that can lead to scheduling new product evaluations, marketing content, and a myriad of artist opportunities. With a high density of recording studios, rehearsal facilities, performance venues, opportunities to create, connect and collaborate are numerous. Not to mention LAX is a global hub, so the rest of the world is not far away. Budgets aside, it’s never very difficult to persuade people to visit. Home to NAMM is not a bad thing either.

It’s an expensive place to conduct business and this becomes a factor in all things. For example, it can be expensive to create content. But there are ways to work within and navigate those expenses. It’s really competitive because many manufacturers, even those outside of L.A., look at L.A. as a place to “win” business. Oh, and then there’s the traffic. Although our forced adoption of virtual meetings has alleviated some of the aggravation.

Industry-wide, more and more people are making and recording their own music at home. Social media platforms have become a major performance arena. Whether we were trending this way or not, the pandemic certainly played a big part in opening this up. There are new opportunities to explore here, in addition to supporting the physical, in person collaborations and performances. We are all living, exploring, and evolving the ‘new normal’ right now. Social media platforms are opening up a whole world to those that may have only been able to reach a local L.A. audience. But to really experience the joy of making and listening to music together we need to be in the same room and L.A. remains a fantastic place to do that.

Chris Lombardi

Chief Executive Officer

Drum Workshop, Inc.

Situated in Ventura County, Drum Workshop is just outside the Los Angeles metro area, strategically positioned to leverage the city’s unique advantages. The vibrant music scene in LA affords us access to a diverse pool of talented artists and music enthusiasts, facilitating meaningful connections and collaborations. Moreover, our close proximity to this major entertainment hub enhances visibility and creates opportunities for valuable partnerships.

While the LA market offers numerous opportunities, it also presents challenges. The competitive nature of the music industry in this region demands a continuous commitment to innovation and quality. Managing logistics and transportation in the sprawling metropolitan area can pose logistical challenges. Additionally, the cost of doing business in and around Los Angeles, including real estate and operational expenses, can be higher compared to other regions.

In our company’s time in the greater LA area, we’ve witnessed notable shifts in the music landscape. The emergence of digital platforms has revolutionized the way musicians connect with their audience. Additionally, California has become more environmentally conscious, impacting our approach to sustainability. Looking ahead, we anticipate further integration of technology in music creation and distribution. The city’s commitment to fostering creativity will likely lead to the continued growth of niche markets and collaborations within the MI industry.

Katherine Wing

Vice President of Marketing

Roland Americas

Our North American headquarters in Los Angeles enhances multiple facets of the business, with the city’s location playing a crucial role in shaping and fostering innovation and collaboration. Los Angeles allows us to develop meaningful relationships with our customers, gaining insights from the vibrant musician and production community in one of the most important entertainment hubs in the world. These relationships are essential for the continuous success of Roland’s initiatives. The Pacific time zone is ideal for working with our global teammates. It allows several hours in the morning to work with our European colleagues and several in the afternoon with our headquarters in Japan.

Our world-class in-house content production team produces most of the assets used for our brand and product marketing. Los Angeles provides us access to an incredible pool of creative freelance talent to support our in-house team with new ideas and fresh work methods. Being near the Port of Los Angeles and LAX also reduces the transit time of inventory arrival to our distribution center, giving us faster fulfillment times to dealers.

As we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in music and technology, we remain dedicated to leveraging the unique advantages of our Los Angeles location. The energy of this influential city will continue to inspire Roland’s pursuit of excellence and contribute to the evolution of the music industry.

We receive invitations to collaborate on many exceptional projects based in Los Angeles, and unfortunately, we cannot accept all of them. It can be an incredibly competitive environment. Also, being based in Los Angeles requires traveling across the country with fewer direct flights to see many of our key partners, which makes for longer travel times. That said, the upsides of being L.A.-based far outweigh any downsides.

Los Angeles keeps up with the evolution of music and its many touchpoints in our lives, including recording, live performances, film and TV scores, podcasting, AI, and music for gaming. We can keep our finger on the pulse of changing trends as they happen right in our backyard. As the world begins to understand the impact of AI on music, L.A. is in close proximity to the developers of future technologies and innovative creators that will surprise all of us with what they realize from their imagination. The rise of streaming platforms and technology giants has redefined how music and content are accessed and shared. This shift has changed traditional entertainment models and has played a crucial role in shaping generational preferences and behaviors. The quick and easy access offered by streaming services has fundamentally changed how people from different age groups engage with music and entertainment.

At Roland, we understand the dynamic connection between generational culture, technology, and entertainment. Our dedication to innovation in music technology allows us to engage with and influence these changing cultural trends. Whether offering a new instrument, innovating in new areas like music for gaming and esports, or collaborating with emerging artists exploring new genres, our goal is to be a vital part of the changing landscape of generational culture. As we explore this exciting landscape, we are committed to connecting with the diverse interests of our audience. The interaction between technology, streaming, gaming, and music culture motivates us to push boundaries and shape the future of musical expression.

 

A Musical Odyssey: Alfred Music’s Journey from the City of Angels

by Ron Manus, Chief Business Development Officer, Alfred Music

For 44 remarkable years, spanning from 1976 to 2020, Alfred Music proudly called Los Angeles its home amidst the rhythmic pulse of creativity and diversity that defines this sprawling metropolis. Looking back on this chapter of our 102-year legacy is like gazing through a hazy lens at a musical paradise enriched with challenges and triumphs.

Like any major city, Los Angeles presented its unique set of hurdles – the notorious traffic, higher taxes, and an elevated cost of living. Yet, in the city of dreams, where smog, wildfires, and earthquakes are part of the landscape, Alfred Music found itself in a vibrant tapestry of culture and inspiration.

Beneath the hazy skyline lay a wealth of opportunities. The city’s heartbeat echoed through its impressive access to music, arts, culture, restaurants, and a nightlife that never slept. Sports enthusiasts reveled in the excitement of college and professional games featuring championship teams such as the Lakers, Dodgers, Rams, Kings, Bruins, Trojans, LAFC, Sparks, and more. Home of the happiest places – amusement parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the iconic Hollywood Bowl, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, and the sun-kissed beaches of Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice beckoned. And let’s not forget the weather – a perennial 70 and sunny, providing the ideal backdrop for a creative haven.

Our decision to anchor ourselves in L.A. was not just geographical; it was strategic. Being in the heart of the entertainment industry meant proximity to composers, songwriters, and world-class musicians. As artists converged in L.A. for business, our headquarters became a nerve center, and we thrived in the dynamic energy of being surrounded by creativity.

Sure, we encountered the occasional challenge, like the occupational hazard of sand finding its way into laptops, a small price to pay for the luxury of year-round beach weather. Yet, it wasn’t just the allure of the sun-soaked shores that kept us rooted; it was the proximity to major publishing companies and the pulse of the music industry that fueled our passion for educational excellence.

However, as our journey unfolded, a new symphony emerged, leading us to shift strategically. We relocated our main offices to the picturesque landscapes outside Boulder, CO, aligning our educational team more closely with our music technology counterparts at MakeMusic. This move allowed us to synergize our efforts, ensuring our educational products reached new heights of innovation.

Though our main offices may have moved, a powerful contingent of remote workers in LA continues to nurture relationships with our key partners. For some, once you’ve experienced the magic of LA, there’s no turning back. It remains a cherished chapter in our story. It is an ode to a city that fueled our creativity, inspired our innovations, and played a pivotal role in shaping Alfred Music’s enduring legacy.

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