Turning Pro

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Has anyone thought of turning this hobby into a profession? ie, a Diy speaker person selling their speakers on a commercial level??
just a thought for future reference.

For those that are in the industry, how did it all begin??? Personally i cant think of any better life then listening to music as often as possible, developing ways to make your music sound better, and, if done well, making a living out of it.

Just a thought......
Making it big

I think its somewhere between "build it and they will come" and the car salesman...

There's a guy in a van local to here with some logo depicting tube amplifiers. Once when pumping gas at the same time, I inquired about his business. Basically he said "Well, people like what we do". Apparently, enough people to keep him afloat.

I got a lecture recently from an enterpreneur, who said there's lots of folks with the big money to spend on audio / HT. They want the whole package spec'd and installed, not just a pair of speakers.

It was suggested to take your knowledge about audio and apply it to a small business which does installations. (You could certainly sell your speakers as part of a package) The gist of the message was that there's plenty of people who desire top-notch performance, but dont want to be bothered with what type of capacitor or wire sounds better.

They want YOU to have all that worked out for the money. How you gain their trust to invest in you and your stuff is the salesman part. Maybe they know just enough to be dangerous (like cables make a difference) but have no idea how to integrate what. That's something you could leverage your sale off of.
How did it all begin?

Don't remember, and not sure I want to. Try it, you'll be sorry. I spent less time listening and more time fighting with parts suppliers, dealers that didn't pay, and schmuck reviewers. Got to the point I didn't listen at all to music. And a good way to go broke fast.

Let's say you have $100,000 to invest. Put it in the stock market. You have a much better chance of getting rich, and less likely to go broke.

Right, Harry?

hobby into a profession

Only everyone who has done any hobby long enough to think they can make money at it has tried to turn it into a business. This would probably account for 95% of high end audio companies. Don't anyone quite your day jobs to do this. Hard work and you will grow to hate audio if your not careful. Go to bed Jocko, and the rest of you insomniacs too!

he`s right

now audio diy is my hobby, and i love it to design ans build amps and speakers- and sell them sometimes- when i am lucky to do that...

But when you do it as proffessional -YOU MUST- !!!

In earlier times computers and networks were my hobby, too.
four years ago i turned it in to proffession.
And what do i do in my free time, now? nothing with computers - (in the moment)- but much with audio!

hmmmm, maybe not then.

so i just go for the double economics/commerce degree at melb uni whilst hobbying?

isnt as apealling as my first thought, oh well.

summary, a life in audio leads to pain, poverty, and in the end not actually listening to any music?
I have been lucky to have attended many Hi End CES in Las Vegas and had the chance to speak with many audio designers, salespeople, and audio magazine editors. And I have to agree with what has been stated in this thread.
I have talked with these audio people (short convesations didn't want to get in the way of doing business) about starting an audio business and they said pretty much the same things.
If I remember correctly back in the early 90s, I asked Mr. Pass the same thing. Can't remember what he said, but I wasn't going to embarass myself by asking any cicruit design questions.
Well I'm a flower shop owner.
No, not really. I was just kidding.:D
I have mainly worked as a electronics technicain for years but for manufacturing companies were the work was the same problems over and over again . I didn't have to use much imagination or test equipment but the money was very good. The company I work for now mainly does (boring) ATE and...drum roll... They hired me as a Electrical Engineer which means I can operate toy electric trains.
Switches things on and off again
Joined 2000
Paid Member
I would advise anyone wanting to turn their hobby into a business to read <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0887307280/qid=1017969194/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_67_1/104-8416059-2039910">"The E-Myth"</a>. The books talks about the 3 classes of mental states - "Technician", "Manager", "Entrepreneur" and the fact that most people slip back into the Techician state because that's what they love doing.

To make a business successful you have to learn new skills in the other states, a jump that most small businesses fail to do. The moral of the story is that if you want to run a successful business, you have to aim not to be part of the machinations of the business - otherwise you may as well work for someone else doing what you love, and not have the stress.

I know this is a bit skewif (sp?) wrt. an audio business but the principles stand.
I'm a strong believer in the theory that one's best strength is also one's greatest liability. The skills that make me a good engineer are also the skills that make me lousy at running a business.

But putting that aside, I can only speak for the US market. I can think of a lot of better ways to make money. Takes too much money to play the "desinger jeans" game. You have to promote yourself, and not just your product. And at monetary proportions that are out of line for most other businesses.

You have 3 basic consumer types to deal with:

Mass market- they will buy Sony. You don't want to compete there anyway. Commodity is the rule of the day here.

DIY types- they won't buy much, except maybe kits, and there is not much money there. OK for a hobby business. Could be fun, as long as you keep your day job.

Audiophiles-neurotic, insecure twits that need to be told what they should think. Fickle, easily swayed and duped. You don't want to hang your sucess on the whims of these types.

And speaking of getting to listen to music all day.....

You get very sick, very easily, of hearing the same audiophile-grade dreck in every dealership, in every town you go to. Until the next "must have" piece of dreck comes by. Repeat process.

Getting back to the first point, there are too many acts to juggle to make it fun. It takes too much time away from designing to worry about putting on "dog-and-pony" shows at dealers, or worse: CES. And can you really imagine pleasant, personable types like me and Harry doing that anyway?

You have to decide if you will use standard, industrial parts, and get skewered for buying everything from Digi-Key and charging too much when you could just as easily use "politically-correct", audiohile-approved parts in such an expense product. Or you can put yourself at the mercy of unreliable suppliers just so you can use the "flavor-of-the-month" part, only to discover that by the time you get it, some poofter decides that you need to use something else by then. (A guy I designed an active crossover for switched from using soft dome tweeters to those nasty metallic ones just because the popular press liked those types. He had a wife and 2 kids to feed. He now works on networks, and makes more money.)

I could go on, but I think that gives you enough insight to chew on for now.

As Frank Zappa once said: "Does this kind of life look interesting to you?"

I hope not for your sake.

alright, so its all ****, so who is going to be innovative in the audio market? or does it all just fall to the floor?

has a career in audio destroyed your love of music?

do you know of anyone who has been happy with "the life"?

jocko, u sound really really shattered, what went wrong?

moral or the story - STEER CLEAR of audio fullstop as a career, do your money making, bill paying day job and come home to it

ok, ill keep that in mind come uni selection time

thanks for your input everyone

There is plenty of innovation and neat audio stuff happening out there. The Web, DYI, construction magazines. Guess what folks, the High End designers are working from the same data base as the rest of us for the most part. The high end as become bloated and lazy in many ways. The magazines have helped in this, and now there is a shake out the magazines. Stereophile even ran a poll on thier web site to see how much interest there is in DIY!This means they are looking for an oppourtunity to shake money out of that segment. I am afraid that these days hobbiest turning thier passion into a business is much harder than 25 years ago when the well knows of today got started. Things couldn't be better for DIYer's, parts availability, construction articles, resources on Web. This makes even harder to enter the market with a commercial prodect. You have to ask yourself how many more $1000 wires and $15,OOO amplifiers can the marketplace support.
Love of music? Not anymore. I would rather listen to some hick broadcast the baseball game.

Not shattered, just a lot wiser. A least I didn't lose my wife, life savings, and ended up living at the factory like one of my best friends is doing now.

Remember I said the skills that made me a good designer were exactly the same skills that made me rotten running the show. My technique of solving the problems I didn't foresee were, shall we say, a bit too assertive for spineless audiophiles. (The same practices in the real business world worked, that is where I learned them.)

I got tired of dealers crying about how no one would listen to anything new unless some poofter told them to first. You can probably imagine how much sympathy the got from me.

J. R. "BoB" Dobbs said it best: "You would pay to know what you really think." That is high-end audio in a nutshell.

Innovation will always happen. Maybe not the way we want. But the gang here will find a way to make it work. We didn't invent digial audio, and we would have done it right if we had. Yet we still found a way to make it come out as best as possible.

I take that back........you non-o/s guys are the exception. [joke]

Audio is not unique to these problems. Technology has made it very difficult for a garage operation to hit a home run now. You need venture capitalists who can't wait to take over and run you off if it does hit.


(J. R. "BoB" Dobbs is a registered trademark of The SubGenius Foundation, and can't be used without their permission.)
Yep, once a hobby becomes a job, it is not a hobby anymore, you will have to find a new hobby. I studied electronics, did electronics at home and designed metal and plastic components as a job. Later I found a job designing electronics. To be fair, it takes a lot of effort to do some electronics at home. I find myself switching to loudspeakers and modelling. Same happens with the programmers at the office, 7/10 cannot sit in front of a PC at home, sick of it after 8-9 hours working at the bloody thing.
Griff and all,

i have read quite some naysaying in ths thread and i feel urged to speak up against it. Getting on your own feet is risky, no question. And it does not necessarily make a person rich. But if it is atleast successful enough to make a living from it, it is very satisfactory, it creates a happy person. So please, noone intending to turn pro should get discouraged from what he read here, warned and get alert maybe, but not discouraged. :)

Has anyone thought of turning this hobby into a profession?

yes, i have. I am quite deteremined.
I have been warned, i don't care (not meant as disrespect or offense, Jocko :) ).
I am unemployed and a change is not within sight and reach. I have nothing to loose. And i feel the inner urger to provide good gear and to earn serious money with it.

"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what cannot be done and why. Then do it". To anyone planning to turn pro: listen carefully to those wha have failed and try to grasp why they failed and how you could avoid this failure. But do not let them guide your decision whether to turn pro or not.

Listen carefully to those who succeeded and ask them why they believe they succeeded and what it takes to succeed. Do let them guide your decision whether to turn pro or not.

Let's ask Nelson Pass to that topic!
He is successful !

as you know, i myself plan to start an audio venture. As an entrepeneur it is not sufficient to do a terrific engineering and e.g. technical manual. I know i must do every and any aspect of my entrepreneurial activities right. I really do not want to track later what messed up my success, was it engineering, manual, customer treatment, bad rep, careless handling of finances, taking the wrong risks, handling my 1st employee wrong, being once impatient (once is once too much) with a non-responding bank clerk, whatever. If i have to start to track my mistakes as an entrepreneur, i start being the effect. Effect of my mistakes and circumstances caused by it. I do not want to be the effect, i do want to be the cause, that it why i start my own business. Right? And as i am the cause of my success, i happily can enjoy the benefits.

Unfortunately success is impossible without appreciation of others. So if i make my customers happy (maybe successful in what they want to achieve?), i make me successful.

I may fail but my strong intention is to never snort at a customer or to be disrespectful to him any other way. He pays my living.

See, i am quite competent in what i am doing. but that doesn't mean i am competent in other fields. My customer maybe be utterly competent in his field.
So who am i to snort at him?

Admitted, there are customers asking for way more than they are willing to pay for. And there are "customers" not intending to pay at all. They must be shaken off gently and in a way the fall on their feet and keep their face.
They must be "given notice" only of nothing else helps.

But to topic. Reading what you posted (sorry that i have to be that merciless in public, no offense meant) gives me a rough understanding of one main reason why your audio venture failed.
You wrote:
You have 3 basic consumer types to deal with:
Mass market- they will buy Sony. You don't want to compete there anyway. Commodity is the rule of the day here.
DIY types- they won't buy much, except maybe kits, and there is not much money there. OK for a hobby business. Could be fun, as long as you keep your day job.
Audiophiles-neurotic, insecure twits that need to be told what they should think. Fickle, easily swayed and duped. You don't want to hang your sucess on the whims of these types.

Your attitude forms your reality. These guys sense how you look at them, they do not feel respected, neither of them, and they let you suffer for it. They sense nosiness and arrogance pouring out from all orifices, they turn away..... so you created your reality by expecting it.

Let's face it: customers are the entrepreneur's employers.

Would you dare to expose your disrespectful to your employer? Maybe suicidal.

good advice! I'll read that book. And i agree totally with the conclusions you described.

i am very grateful for your post. You backupped from what your discussion partners said a thing i had in mind as a foggy concept. Supplying total service, supplying the customer with a complete system.
About 1 business in 20 makes it. Ten will fail because of uncapitalization. The others will fail from poor product, inadequate market research, etc, blah..blah.

To start a business, you need to have enough cash to get you by for the first 3 years.

Sure, it can be done, but why pick audio?

To make it in the US, you better plan on spending $50,000/year in advertising. Which is way out of line. So why bother? Go start a business in something that is more sensible.

Maybe Nelson or John Curl can get by on reputation; they have both paid their dues. But when was the last time you saw a product that said "John Curl Design Electronics Consortium" on it? You may have seen one that said "Vendetta Research", and trust me, there was a good reason he picked that name.

Actually, lots of them.

Pick something because you are good at it, not because you like what it is. I design electronics. I'm good at it. As long as it is audio, RF, or some other analog related field. It just so happens that I like to listen to music. But I can design (which is what I want to do) long after I get sick of listening to someone else's music. Which I did. I still design stuff, just most of it is no longer audio stuff.

I see too many people try to go into audio, we'll say as dealers, because they like audio. They should do it because they like to sell. If they like music too, then that is a plus. But they lose focus because they are focused on the wrong thing. When things turn to dirt, they crumble because their dream is shattered. They could just as easily sell shoes, or cars, or houses, or whatever. Which is what they end up doing. They end up being happier because they are selling, which is what they wanted to do all along. When that job ends south, well, they just pick themselves up, and move on to the next matter.

But when they lose their dealership, they usually end up losing their house, their car, their wife, life savings, you name it, and the joy of what lead them to ruin in the first place.

This is not just my reality; this is the story of dozens of friends I have had in the last 25 years. Sure, some still plug away. Boldly claiming "Yeah, we had a real good year last year. Things are looking up." But we know better. The ones still in it that are doing OK have made the transformation from specialty audio to commodity audio. They can now make more money doing less. But it took 10-20 years to build the business up to the point that they can compete there. And lots of capital, none of which belonged to the figurehead. They all had significant financial backing to get started.

Bernhard: Don't get discouraged. Keep plugging. Get back to work. On the project, that is.

hmmm, Jocko and H.H's points are too real to ignore i feel, but i also see Bernhard's side, and i know that i would be the first to buy a Bernhard original TT.

We are all very aware of the electronics expertise of you Jocko, so that cant be a factor in your business's demise, did you have any business background prior to commencement? Did you receive any advice along the way etc.
Turning pro

Starting an audio company is like breaking into show biz. Everyone thinks they can do it if they want it bad enough. Good luck. Ask Nelson Pass about the demise of Threshold while he was there. Or Steve McCormack about his adventure until Conrad Jonson bailed him out. Maybe John Curl can tell you about what fun it is. Mark Levinson couldn't even use his own name on his products after Madrigal got done with him. These guys got started when there was a tenth of the competition and there weren't a tthousand free designs on the internet. These are just ones you have heard of. There are hundreds of unknown but very talented designers that have tried and failed despite having dealers, an export market, and magazine reviews. I know a dozen personally. Two of them are bartenders now. By the way, I read that Audio Research is for sale for 1.5 million. I bet thier assets are worth more than that. Don't quit your day jobs anyone......

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