This was the main reason why I went to New York in the first place -the Audio Engineers Society Convention at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan (see map). Our professional line of Focal Loudspeakers - Focal Professional - is one of the hottest and up and coming lines in the professional world. And the AES convention is the major convention for record producers and studio engineers. That's the group we're targeting with Focal Professional and we had a big group of them to entertain during the four days of the show.
Now the Audio Engineers Society boasts thousands of members around the world. They have two conventions a year - one in Europe, and one that alternates between New York and San Francisco every other year. These are the guys who do the actual recordings and mixing of artists and other media, such as television shows, commercials and films.
Still, there are some famous faces that pop up at AES. The famous musician Peter Gabriel, who is co-owner of Solid State Logic, a British company that makes sound console boards, was on hand to help show "The Shed", a 900 sq. ft. all in one studio that closely mirrors Gabriel's own production studio that is part of his Real World Studios in Box, England.
I like Peter Gabriel as a musician and it was pretty neat to see him. To see The Shed and an interview with Peter Gabriel at AES, click here.
I also saw the famous session musician Al Kooper at AES. Kooper has played on albums with a number of great artists from Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. He was one of the founding members of Blood, Sweat and Tears. And as a producer, he's produced such artists as Lynyrd Skynyrd, David Essex and Joe Ely. Actually, it's not the first time I've seen Al Kooper at a show. He usually pops up at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But he was also poking around at AES.
One of the demonstration DVD's we were using at AES was a clip of a band headed by the noted jazz percussionist, Omar Hakim (right). It turned out that Omar and his bass player, Jerry Brooks, stopped in to listen to our speakers and we played the clip of his band playing. Hakim has played with such artists as diverse as Sting, Weather Report, Dire Straits and Madonna. He was a very nice guy and very complementary of our speakers. I think he was a little humbled and overly appreciative that we chose to use his clip as demo material.
I also met a guy by the name of Jay Messina, a production engineer who has recorded and mixed for bands such as Aerosmith, Supertramp, The Rolling Stones and Peter Frampton. We were actually playing a Supertramp track that Messina worked on when he came in. He sat and listened for a moment and he turned to me and said, "Yep, that's pretty darn close to what I heard in the studio." Then he introduced himself to me. It was pretty cool to talk with him.
The first night of AES, we, along with Dangerous Music, sponsored a party at PureMix Studios in the lower East Village of Manhattan. The owner of PureMix, Fab Dupont, is a big proponent of Focal Professional loudspeakers and Dangerous Music's control system. In fact, Bob and Chris who own Dangerous Music used to own Fab's studio. The building that houses PureMix has a long history as a recording studio. The Rolling Stones recorded in the facility back in the 70's. That was pretty wild to find out.
Fab has done a lot of work for a number of artists. Most recently, he mixed some tracks for Jennifer Lopez's new album. He told me that most of his work is done "on spec". He said that producers will come to him (and other production studios) with a number of songs to mix. The songs get mixed and then sent back to the producer. The producer and artist will then pick what they feel are the best mixes for the album. Fab said, "A lot of the time, you're doing it for free because they may not pick the mix you did. But the rewards, both monetarily and reputation-wise, are huge if you do get a mix picked." I thought that was pretty interesting.
One of the guys at the party - and also a user of Focal Professional speakers - Dave Kutch, is a master recording engineer for Sony Music. He has worked with such notable and diverse artists as Rod Stewart, Nelly, Kelly Clarkson, Outkast, and Whitney Houston. Most recently, he worked with Alicia Keys on her new album. Here's a picture from the party of Dave Kutch with Jacques-Hubert Constant, the head of Focal Professional on the left, and Dave's date on the right.
AES was certainly different from any electronics show that I've ever worked. First of all, our focus was on the demonstration of our speakers, which left a lot of production people stunned with how well they sounded. We had a big presence at the show - not only with our big bubble shaped booth - but we also had our speakers on display with about 10 other manufacturers. It was a very successful show for us. We got a lot of contacts, converted a number of people and got a lot of rave reviews on our loudspeakers.
I'd love to work another AES, but that probably won't happen until 2009 when the convention comes back to New York. It was exciting and invigorating. There was definitely a buzz about our products over the four day show. And talking with recording engineers and musicians who liked our speakers was really exhilarating. It was one of the most fun shows I've ever worked.