Cooper Cannady, owner and founder of North Carolina-based production house, RMB Audio, speaks to Headliner about the return of live events, how new blood is revitalising the industry, and his long-standing relationship with Martin Audio.
Thanks for joining us, Cooper. How has 2022 started for RMB Audio?
It’s been very interesting. I told everybody on my team in 2020 that when we start to return to production, forget everything you’ve known for 40 years. And I was pretty accurate about that. Coming back, many people in the industry were moved or furloughed to another position, or they were released. With that, in 2021, some people returned to their positions, and others went on to new occupations. We’re meeting new people in management slots that may have only two or three years of experience, where you’d ideally like them to have 10-15 maybe. But it actually shuffled the deck. It’s great to see things opening up and seeing which acts are willing to tour and take those risks.
Has that shuffling of the deck brought about some new opportunities and perhaps a new way of thinking?
Because those people had not had the repetition of an older, experienced individual, they basically were a bit broader in how things would play out. They had ideas to move away from just music and go into things like ballet. In the past year we had ballet in an amphitheatre. It was really exciting, and we had a little opera as well. These are things you would not normally do. Opera generally takes place in an opera house, ballet takes place in a performance space, not an amphitheatre. So, we were seeing these different things because the managers were either actively pursuing them or were open to new things. It’s very diverse and very interesting.
What kind of shows are showing the most resilience at the moment?
The ones that are most reliable are acts that are resident in the US. We do some Pakistani music and working with those individuals there is real concern over whether their visa will be cleared for them to fly and enter the country. They were the ones that were a bit risky, but we managed to support one of those. Right now, we have Motown with a symphony, which we’re very excited about. We have a date for Nine Inch Nails coming up. But the variety has gotten pretty wide, because we have new individuals in these management slots, and they have a different perspective. They may have not seen something before and are willing to try it, whereas a more experienced head might say ‘we tried that in 2008 once and it didn’t work so we’re not doing it again’.
Tell us about how the company has grown into the business it is today and its relationship with Martin Audio.
It all started as a small outreach business in 1982. I started building an audio rig to service certain customers. My wife and I managed that and then I put together a PA. Through the process ran into Dave Martin (Martin Audio founder). I was a big fan of his designs. As time went on I had conversations with him and he was a great gentleman to talk with. I learned a lot from him and one of the things I took away from him was to do with human articulation. Human hearing acuity. One of the things he said was, ‘If you take a child and put them in a room with 20 women, it can easily identify its mother’s voice out of those 20 people’. That is our acuity and articulation. It was all about working on that basis, and it’s one of the things I love about Martin Audio designs. My interest has always been about intelligibility and that’s why I have always stayed with Martin Audio. From the small systems to the largest, the voicing is consistent. Their systems sound human.
Also, with Phil Dudderidge and Focusrite now owning Martin Audio, you couldn’t have written a better script. I don’t think it could be in better hands.
How important is it to have a consistent partner?
I go back to Dave Martin. I once had a project I needed to fulfil. I had a conversation with him about what I needed and what the product would need to be able to do, and he said he had some ideas and that he’d call me in a week. So, a week later he calls me up and recommended a system. I said great, ship them and tell me when they’re coming. He worked out what was best for me without providing something that was so customised that it couldn’t be used anywhere else. The key is that the articulating and acuity is so consistent across their entire range. And the whole team is great to work with.
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