INTERVIEW: Polar Audio managing director John Midgley

Following the company’s recent UK distribution deal with Mackie, Polar Audio MD John Midgley talks to API about the latest addition to its brand line-up…

The firm is now part of the new European distribution force set up by Mackie and Ampeg parent company LOUD Technologies, which also includes Mega Audio (Germany), ALGAM (France) and BMI (Benelux).

So how did the agreement come about, and did Polar have to act quickly to seal the deal?

"These things normally take a long time, but LOUD had made its plans, and set a timeline that would do the least damage to the market and prevent any unnecessary speculation, so it only took around four weeks from start to finish," Midgley reveals.

"Usually a lot of hats gets thrown into the ring – there are always the usual suspects – but we ticked enough boxes to get the contract, and Tony (Williams, LOUD’s director of sales, EMEA) was a very diplomatic partner."

As for LOUD Technologies, Midgely says its decision to form the new Europe-wide distribution partnerships is simply its way of reacting to the industry’s evolution. LOUD has chosen to stick to what it’s good at, and has brought Polar Audio on board for its improved local stock availability, as well as high levels of in-market sales, marketing proficiency and brand awareness.

"With LOUD, MI was their core business historically and they had warehousing and direct sales in Germany, The Netherlands, France and the UK," Midgley continues. "They’ve now moved away from the dual model completely as the market has changed; their strength is in manufacturing. Tony is still in the frame, though, and remains the main man in Europe."

Adding a giant like Mackie to its continually-improving portfolio shows just how far Polar Audio has come since it’s early days. Once a one-brand supplier, the company now seems to be a serious contender whenever a UK audio distribution deal is being sought, and that’s largely due to the way Midgley has moved the business forward, giving it a strong presence in both the pro audio and MI industry.

"Polar Audio was originally a Beyerdynamic distributor when it was set up in 1969 and over the years it has gradually acquired other lines. I joined back in the early 1980s, when 80 per cent of the company was dealing in the consumer market, and proceeded to move it more into MI, which was a very strong business back then," recalls Midgley. "We’ve now got a good base of rental companies and a good dealer network.

"In the early 2000s, Polar Audio started to move more into install as Beyerdynamic went further into commercial – we’re not just a box shifting operation. It was also around then that Mackie went direct in Europe, which made it want to diversify."

And it’s partly this diversification that has helped Mackie become a major force in audio, as well as the fact that its products can be used for so many audio purposes, which has been the case for many years.

"With Mackie, it is immediately obvious from the name what it does. It started with mixers, then moved into powered speakers, but the mixers have historically been everywhere, across many applications," Midgley says. "It also fits in well with our MI offering (now around 40 per cent of Polar’s business), as it is both a pro audio and MI brand."

So having added Mackie not long after its decision to take on Danish loudspeaker brand Cornered Audio, and with a brand offering that also includes the likes of Behringer EUROCOM and Renkus-Heinz, has Polar Audio now completed its portfolio, or does it have plans to grow further still?

"Of course, we’re looking to grow the business further and are always on the lookout for good brands. Some might say we already have too many, but the majority fit into really strong markets," comments Midgley.

For now, though, Polar has its hands full ensuring it hits the ground running with Mackie before it can start thinking about other possibilities, and the appointment of John Kaukis – someone who knows the brand about as well as anyone – was of key importance to Midgley.

"John brings to our customers the benefit of his well-rounded industry understanding, with his extensive experience in all aspects of pro audio and MI sales. He is perfectly placed to spearhead our drive for continued rapid growth," remarks Midgley, "and will work with major retailers to see us safely through the first few months."

One thing’s for sure, Mackie has found a safe home with Polar Audio, and it certainly gives the company something to talk about at the MI Retail Conference & Expo on June 26th.

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