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What’s Hot About Audio Systems In Asia?

Music Press Asia speaks with Ramesh Jayaraman, vice president and general manager of HARMAN Professional Solutions, APAC, to get his take on opportunities merging with Samsung and how the music industry is shifting in Asia.

"Asia has many karaoke-loving nations, from Japan and Korea to the Philippines, it’s an activity that brings people together." -- Ramesh Jayaraman, VP & GM of APAC, HARMAN Professional Solutions.

"Asia has many karaoke-loving nations, from Japan and Korea to the Philippines, it’s an activity that brings people together." -- Ramesh Jayaraman, VP & GM of APAC, HARMAN Professional Solutions.

He’s a family man, lives in one of Asia’s most exciting city and a self-proclaim music buff for Jazz music and, only on special occasion, R&B, though he had in actual fact grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Guns N’ Roses and AC DC.

Ramesh Jayaraman has a warm smile. From the friendly voice we heard across the telephone line, one may have thought of him as a man whose interest in music could have, perhaps, find himself leading an established record label. He had, however, carved his livelihood and grew his executive role in leadership in the fire and security industry listed under the Fortune Global 500 for over a decade.

He takes the bait fulfilling a destiny in a career in entertainment by joining HARMAN Professional Solutions in 2016. And led the Asia-Pacific region and its division that continues to see a growing demand for karaoke solutions.

Music Press Asia: What is driving Asia’s audio solution market today? ///////////////////////////////////////////////
Ramesh Jayaraman: Cinemas are a growing segment that we are seeing in the region. The cinema industry in Asia-Pacific is expected to exceed US$20 billion by 2022, mainly led by China. As the middle class continues to grow in this region, they are looking for entertainment options. One example is South Korea’s largest cinema chain operator **CJ CGV, a global conglomerate, planning to invest big time in Vietnam by 2020 and open up theaters as the entertainment market booms.

MPA: LIVE NATION and global indie promoters are continuing their efforts to flood Asia with more bookings for live music performances. Have you seen an increase in demand for live audio system? ////////////////////////
RJ: The entertainment and media sector in Southeast Asia is expected to grow 7%+ by 2021, according to recent third party reports. At Harman we are seeing similar demands for live audio systems. Traditionally our business has been around touring bands and fixed performance spaces, but the sophistication of our latest sound technology means this can be widened to cover more performance spaces than ever

In recent months, we have helped set up Ba Na Hills [Vietnam] and 3.15 Art Center [South Korea] with the most modern audio solutions today. And in Tokyo, Billboard Live Tokyo celebrated the 10th anniversary of its club and restaurant venue by upgrading its sound system to Harman’s JBL VTX Series speakers.

MPA: Will karaoke audio system continue to increase in demand? ////////////////////////////////////////////////
RJ: Karaoke is another hugely important sector for us and we definitely see it growing and our market share increasing. Karaoke is also a very diverse sector in Asia, and has many karaoke-loving nations. From Japan and Korea to the Philippines, it’s an activity that brings people together.

We expect demand for karaoke audio systems to increase in double digits over the next five years as the region’s middle class continues to grow and seek various forms of entertainment. We also see a growing variety in the range of karaoke systems the market wants. From large systems designed for bars and restaurants, to smaller karaoke booths and the growing enthusiasm for home systems, it means that manufacturers are going to need to meet a wider range of customer needs than ever before.

HARMAN Experience Center

MPA: And why is this especially important to such a company like HARMAN? ///////////////////////////////////
RJ: It’s about taking what I call an “inch-wide, mile-deep” approach to a sector. I don’t want us to be a supplier that offers one or two products for a particular sector. I want us to cover the entire sector with more variety than anyone else. That means big systems, small ones, portable ones, hi-spec ones, etc.

I can tell you that as we move through 2019 and beyond, customers can expect a lot of new and exciting products from Harman for the karaoke sector. Just because one particular system is popular in Japan, doesn’t mean it’s going to appeal to customers in the Philippines. It’s important to understand the individual requirements of markets in the region.

MPA: What is Harman focused area after joining Samsung? ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
RJ: I think it’s very critical to understand Harman’s relationship with Samsung from the top level because Samsung is a parent company. We are a fully owned company of Samsung but operate as a completely independent company relative to the remaining three, so our strategy is based around what we need to do and where we need to go.

If you look at cinemas, when Samsung were working on setting up LED Screens, the logical choice for audio was us. So now any time you buy a Samsung phone at the higher end of the scale you’re also getting AKG high quality headphones as well. Samsung sees real value in the brands of Harman Professional Solutions.

For example, digital cinema screens integrated with JBL speakers, or the AMX Acendo Vibe conferencing sound bar, is ideal for pairing with a Samsung display. We believe the future holds huge opportunities for HARMAN Professional Solutions and Samsung.

MPA: What technology interest HARMAN these days? /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
RJ: Online videos play a big part in the creative industry now and we are seeing more music being made at home. We are literally tapping into budding musicians starting out by offering quality microphones, mixers, sound panels; essentially a package for someone to get started on their music journey.

What’s interesting is that as the home artist is growing, the broadcast industry is also growing so we’re still building up products for all the spaces, but also taking professional quality equipment like sound monitors and shrinking it down to a size that the budding artist can use at home.

We are also looking at cloud-based solutions so as they move from one studio to the next, their settings can follow. Bringing many control units into a single device is also something we are trying to do so you don’t need that much space to operate.

MPA: What are some of Harman’s latest products that showcase the capabilities of Harman hardware and software engineering? ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
RJ: Probably the best example is the Harman Connected PA. It’s a fully integrated live sound ecosystem controlled by a single free app. So, using your phone or tablet, bands can just ‘plug and play’ at the venue without the hassle of acting like a part-time music technician just trying to get set-up. Users can configure over 70 unique parameters and when the system is plugged in, each component is automatically recognized and paired with its unique preset. It’s available on both iOS and Android, so it’s ready to use for anyone.

For me, Harman Connected PA is a great example of what our company is all about: a true solution that brings musicians capabilities they’ve never had before at instantaneous speeds.

MPA: What are the most exciting products you currently have for the live entertainment industry? /////////////
RJ: I’d say that’s the JBL VTX A8 compact line array and the EON ONE PRO.

The JBL VTX A8 compact line array and B18 subwoofer brings JBL Professional’s flagship VTX A-Series technology to compact solutions for small- to mid-size rental and installed applications.

The VTX A8 combines proprietary JBL transducers and latest-generation high-frequency waveguide acoustic design to provide performance, efficiency and 110 degrees of horizontal coverage, while the companion VTX B18 is JBL Professional’s next-generation, compact and lightweight subwoofer, designed to extend the low-frequency response of full range JBL VTX systems below 30Hz.

The JBL Eon One Pro is exciting because it’s our first portable, battery-powered sound system. Its compact design allows performers to host shows in any venue for up to six hours of play time—from rooftop carparks to underground bars. The powerful Eon One Pro optimizes sound dispersion so audiences can hear from all angles, even from behind. The system even recalibrates its sound depending on the number of high-frequency height spacers used. In addition, it houses an 8” subwoofer that delivers low-end response that audiences can really feel.

MPA: What has evolved and shaped HARMAN as we know today? ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
RJ: Increasingly live concerts are not just about the music — people can listen to those songs on Spotify or watch them on YouTube. Concertgoers are now looking for a holistic experience from the audio, visuals and the ambiance. And so in recent years, we have shifted from being a ‘product-centric’ organization to a ‘solution-centric’ one that allows us to take a ‘Customer First’ approach.

We are in the business of creating experiences, which is why we recently opened five partner Experience Centers around APAC — Vietnam, Singapore, Mongolia, Myanmar and Thailand. This is in addition to our central regional Experience Centre in Singapore we opened two years ago. These spaces provide a deeper understanding of specific products to our customers. And when you walk into our Experience Center, you’ll see that sound and light has different shapes and forms that bring it to life.

Interview ends.

[** In 2018, CJ CGV, a flagship cinema brand from South Korea, has already 480 locations totalling 3,553 screens, globally. They hired Kinoton Korea to replace CGV Yongsan theaters’ aging sound systems using HARMAN’s state-of-the-art JBL Professional speakers and Crown amplifiers. And it is also in CGV Yongsan I Park Mall where IMAX Screen houses its largest screen and world’s first 4DX-Screen X combination theater. HARMAN’s revolutionary move in the audio recording world comes from having partnered with some of the world’s legendary live concerts including Woodstock.]

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