As each new brand joins the Audio Market, a page here on Pro Tools Expert where we offer smaller developers and companies the opportunity to reach the Pro Tools community at a much lower price, we introduce them to the Pro Tools community. This week we are going to turn the spotlight on Mixmastered Acoustics, a small acoustic treatment company run by Dan Morrell...
PTE: How did you start? Tell us about your journey to setting up your company.
Dan: Since birth I have had a passion for being an entrepreneur and entertaining people. I picked up the guitar in junior high school and I am still not over my addiction to the instrument, but ultimately found greater success as a club touring and radio DJ with an extremely eventful 12 year run as an on-air mix show DJ at a CBS Top 40 radio station in Chicago. After transferring to their sister station in Los Angeles to try my luck in the #2 market, my passion for music production replaced my interest in radio. This led me to seek out everything I could about the craft. Fortunately there was an ad on Facebook about a brand new online show featuring Dave Pensado that would prove to be a major influence in my life.
I actually owe credit for the existence of Mixmastered Acoustics to Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick who are two of the greatest humans in the world. After being inspired by a Pensado's Place episode featuring legendary acoustician Bob Hodas, where he described how useless foam is compared with traditional acoustic treatments, it floored me. I trustingly took the guy at my dealer's word for it that the "Complete Foam Acoustic Room Kit" was the best thing in the world for my studio. For 10 years I thought my crappy sounding room was as good as my home studio could get. Finding out otherwise I felt cheated. So, in short, I started Mixmastered Acoustics to serve a great foam alternative acoustical treatment product at a fair price to people who are as passionate as me about having an accurate listening environment.
The journey from an idea to a real company for us has been a really exciting one. For product development I worked with a professional cabinetmaker and consulted the director of the acoustics department at one of the top colleges in the area for input and product testing. Around the same time I was inspired by Pensado's Place, I read Tim Ferriss' book "The Four Hour Workweek" some of the tips in the book have really helped to move a big lever with minimal resources. The biggest tip I got of out it was to test the water before jumping in head first. So before buying every tool on the planet and going on a hiring spree I followed Tim's advice to see if there was a demand for my products by placing online ads to test the response. The response was so good, I was overwhelmed with orders the first week. By week three my wife, who is a web designer, quickly built an online store. Finally after further testing the market agreed that we had a great product that is more effective and not that much more expensive than foam, we were up and running.
Our sales have increased each year of being in business and we are sometimes busting at the seams to complete orders in under a week. Until now, for the sake of quality control, we have made it a policy to grow slowly and organically only by word of mouth. We have waited until 2016 to advertise using traditional methods in order to perfect our production processes and prepare for the big leagues. Today we are a well oiled machine with amazing relationships with our material suppliers, an uber-efficient small team, state of the art manufacturing equipment, a user-friendly website that can handle any amount of traffic and a nearly complete mastery of every facet of our business. We are positioned for major expansion and expect to be a well known and loved brand. Dare I say in the next 5 years we will be "The Universal Audio" of the acoustics industry. A statement I don't make lightly, as a total fanboy, I think UA is everything a company in the audio industry should be or aspire to be.
PTE: Tell us a bit about your company and the products you produce?
Dan: We are a small (calling us boutique may be stretching it) acoustic treatment manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Our team consists of myself, with 20 years of music industry and audio production experience, a professional cabinet maker with over 30 years of experience, two highly skilled professional carpenters and my wife who handles web design, marketing, sales and customer support. We are perhaps one of the most efficiently ran small businesses known to man which allows us to custom build and ship each order in less than a week 90% of the time. Our midwest location is perfectly placed for the lowest shipping costs to either coast which is how we are able to offer free shipping anywhere in the continental US and reasonable shipping prices globally.
Over satisfied 1500 clients have trusted us for advice and to manufacture treatments sound control products including wall panels and a variety of custom acoustical treatments, bass traps, acoustic art panels and sound diffusers. These products are used by professional recording studios, project studios, churches, schools, businesses, restaurants, theatres, and homeowners to improve their listening environment.
PTE: What challenges are you facing at the moment?
Dan: The temptation to hire and expand too quickly, as mentioned above we have set very high standards for our future. However, I see a lot of companies in the audio industry getting crushed under their own weight. I was guilty of this too with my last business, a night club promotions company. We had an unheard of 15 year run, but eventually we were guilty of having too many employees and expenses to maintain operations when the economy crashed and club goers' disposable income was drastically reduced. With Mixmastered Acoustics being a young toddler of a company we have had the opportunity to design the business strategy from the ground up while the economy was evolving as opposed to other long term established manufactures who had to scramble and make drastic staff cuts or expand in to unrelated products / industries just to keep the lights on.
I wouldn't say I'm gun shy on rapid expansion but our small team knows that in exchange for their extreme dedication to the craftsmanship of our products, exceeding client expectations and a lot of overtime hours, they can count on a great place to work and their checks clearing. I have to take that in to careful consideration, as tempting as rapid expansion is, because as Richard Branson correctly states "If you take care of your employees they will take care of your business.”
PTE: What plans do you have for the future that you can share with the community?
Dan: As far as products go, our customers are extremely pleased with the effectiveness and quality of our products. I don't see a "re-invention of the wheel" in the near future, but I can mention that we are making an improvement on the "little things" that make the entire experience of addressing acoustics much easier. Our future plans are more on the path of educating the market about acoustics and sound proofing in the absolute easiest terms possible. I HATE jargon and am on a quest to eliminate it from the world, if you need big words and confusing concepts to explain your product to people, you aren't serving their need for quick and painless results. With todays free flow of information, if your customers are not 100% satisfied with not only the product, but the purchase experience as well... I wish you luck staying in business.
PTE: What is your favourite audio tool (excluding any of your own products)?
Dan: As much as I'd like to take the easy route and say anything Universal Audio or Steven Slate puts out, I have to say the iPhone / iPad and here's why... While performing most of my daily tasks and even at the gym I am always listening to audio books or music, be it critiquing my latest revision of the music I'm working on or discovering new music I'm constantly learning and getting inspired and motivated from what I listen to on my phone. When I'm away from my proper studio, my iPad along with a mind-blowing collection of apps allow me to learn, record, edit, produce and share music. All in all they are my most importing tools for increasing consumption and production of media.
PTE: What one thing gets you annoyed about the audio business?
Dan: I to make it a practice not to give anyone enough power over my mind to annoy me, but in the sake of being a good sport... The prize would go to message board trolls and fixed minded people. In my DJ career, the luddites criticized DJs who used CDs and found it blasphemous to use computer based performance software like Serato Scratch Live (now a widely accepted industry standard). We experienced the same deal with some guitarists' rejection of amp modeling, not to mention the tiersome analog vs digital discussion. When it comes down to it, each of the aforementioned advances in technology are just tools to eliminate barriers to creation. Do you opt for a buggy whip because the automobile is cheating? Any new advancement in audio technology is a blessing if it helps me create faster or easier.
PTE: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Pro Tools Expert community?
Dan: First, I'd like to address the on-air and behind the scenes team at PTE as well as all of the winners of the monthly community award (the online world needs more supportive people like them). Every Tuesday morning for the last few years your podcast has been playing in our shop. With shows like yours and Pensado's Place, I am able to stay in tune with the latest news and learn audio tips and tricks while performing other tasks. You help to make my limited studio time as productive and efficient as possible, and even crack us up with your British sense of humour and I thank you for that!
As far as Mixmastered Acoustics' operations go, I have adapted a page from Steven Slate's play book by making myself, as the owner of the company, constantly accessible to all of our current and potential customers... even non customers. If I can be of service to YOU in any capacity feel free to reach out to me via email as all emails go directly to me. We look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you Dan for sharing your story with us and remember to visit the Audio Market page and support all the small developers, all trying to punch above their weight.