The Loch Ness Monster and Abominable Snowman inspire folklore around the globe, but in Westlake Village, they are fodder for legend of a different sort – sound recording. Blue Microphones operates on a strict “function before fashion” rule according to CEO John Maier. But that doesn’t stop the company from getting a little “colorful” when naming specific models.
Blue’s visually captivating line of products sport names such as Nessie, Yeti, Snowball, Kiwi, Woodpecker, and Dragonfly. Catering to both the self-contained novice and the pro studio veteran, the mics are as versatile as they are eye-catching. The Yeti stands sturdy and strong, base firmly planted; Nessie’s sleek black form entices the eyes; and Snowball fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Creative freedom and innovation is synonymous with the brand; however, Maier reveals that though these designs are extremely distinctive, they are not the first concern of the development team.
Moving approximately 400,000 units a year with a staff of about 40, Blue is continuing to create innovatively designed, studio quality products. Looking to the future, Maier sees the market growing thanks to the introduction of a new consumer: the average individual seeking quality sound options, which has driven recent innovation in the audio industry. To keep in step with this change, Blue will be releasing its own line of headphones this summer. “This is a big, huge push for us,” enthuses Maier, noting that Blue is “the last microphone company standing” that had not released its own line of headphones. “You’ve got everybody trying to be Beats and Bose…We feel there’s a place for an alternative to that. We looked at the market and [saw] there’s nobody doing a product that handles how we’re listening to music now. We think we’ve built a great product for people who are discerning listeners [both creators and consumers].”
Blue holds its client relationships in high regard and caters to artistic preferences, regularly inviting an artist to its Westlake headquarters for a “mic tasting.” Once in studio, the artist will play an instrument or sing into an array of different models. The tracks are then played back to the artist in random order and the artist selects the track that sonically best suits his preference, thus confining the “judging” to a mic’s performance rather than its appearance.
A veteran in the music industry, Maier worked with TC Electronics, a neighbor in the same business park, until Blue’s then-owners offered him its top position in 2009. Now 50, Maier approaches team management with ample amounts of empathy and flexibility, hiring an extremely talented and driven group of individuals, setting clear goals and culture for the company, and then letting the staff do things their way.
“Talented people want to be challenged,” Maier says, and because of this, he tries to avoid micromanaging his team and having strict guidelines for each job. Rather than hold them back and restrict them, Maier strives to bring out employees’ sense of creativity. More than anything, he is a strong believer in a hands-on approach to business. “To me,” he says, “there is no replacement for getting out there, getting your feet wet, and figuring it out.”
41 worldwide, 38 in Westlake Village
Ranked #250 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™ for 2013
Yeti USB Microphone
Blue is scheduled to unveil its first line of headphones in summer 2014
On the Horizon
Hummingbird, a small-diaphragm condenser microphone for live and studio use, will be released fall 2014