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Time For A Reality Check?
By Chuck and Brenda Surack
Owners, Sweetwater Sound

If you regularly thumb through the pages of Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Recording, etc., you know that hardly a month goes by that you don't see glossy, full page, four-color advertisements for a variety of new products - both hardware and software - that claim to be faster, cooler, more innovative and less expensive than the competition. In the majority of cases, their claims are true. The question is: Is it a real product yet, or is it just another case of industry vaporware?

While most companies do their best to release products in a timely manner, there are several reasons why ads start appearing for gear that simply doesn't exist yet. One reason is because the deadlines for submitting ads for all the various magazines are many months in advance of the day you actually get your copy. For instance, an ad placed today (in March)inside Sweetwater might not actually run until the June issue. To make sure there's a ready market for their new equipment, companies have to sometimes guess months in advance what the real release date might be to give their marketing departments time to build effective ad campaigns.

But suppose that sometime during those two or three months, one of their suppliers (for example, a subcontractor that builds power supplies) experiences problems on their own assembly line. Now the manufacturer has thousands of units ready to ship, but without power supplies. Such delays are understandable and completely out of the control of the manufacturer.

But there are other equipment manufacturers who begin to advertise well in advance of the actual release date simply to keep musicians from buying a competitor's product that's already available. As we all know, the music industry is tiny compared to other "mega-industries" (like automobile, appliance or furniture manufacturing), and any advantage they can gain to keep a specific share of their potential market can often mean the difference between a company's success or failure.

Unfortunately, like a stone thrown into a still pond, the ripples move outwards: Customers call and ask for this new product, so dealers order tons of it. Then, when the product doesn't ship when it's supposed to, customers get angry and often take out their frustrations on the retailer who has significant money tied up in a product that actually doesn't exist yet.

It's frustrating for all of us. Despite our best efforts, there have been a few times when we have published information about new products right here in Sweet Notes, only to have the manufacturer tell us (after we print 150,000 copies) that they just won't be able to ship on time. In most cases, it's hard for us to be upset with the manufacturer - they're doing the best they can to be successful in what is an incredibly competitive industry.

Here at Sweetwater, we have begun an innovative program that actually monitors the status of new equipment. Thanks to our size and enormous sales volume, manufacturers are only too happy to work with us in preventing the kind of disappointments many of you have experienced in the past when you've ordered certain products, then had to sit and wait, and wait...

What this means is that in the majority of cases, when you call us about a new item you see featured in your favorite industry publication, we'll have the inside track on whether this is indeed a viable product rather than just something a manufacturer hopes will be available in the near future.

In fact, as you read these words, we have just added another special page to our Web Site that will keep you totally up on the latest industry news and product releases. It's called "In Sync," and it's updated every single day. The URL is: "".

We've already pulled major stories from recent issues of this newsletter when we discovered that shipping dates on heavily-promoted products just could not be met. We'll do it again.

Hopefully, what should be apparent is that there are really no "bad guys" here. Everyone is doing the best they can to be successful and make products that musicians will find useful. It's simply the competitive nature of this business that makes every manufacturer dependent on "industry buzz."

So the next time you see an ad for an item you think you can't live without, give us a call. We'll have the inside story on what's real and what's not. We'll also have alternatives ready in case you need the capabilities some new item will offer. In many cases, there are already products that perform the same functions at comparable prices, but you might not know about them. If you feel you can't settle for anything less than that super-duper, whizz-bang new item, we'll make sure you get one of the very first units off the assembly line!

Though we're running out of room, we did want to tell you once again how excited we are about being chosen as the exclusive North American distributor for Oram Products (which, unless you read your publications back-to-front, you've already seen on page one).

Like many of you, we had heard about the Oram pro audio line for many years, and once we got to actually see for ourselves how versatile these products are (not to mention hear how absolutely phenomenal they sound), well, we just knew that we would do whatever it took to make the line available to our customers.

Fortunately, the Oram people agreed that Sweetwater was exceptionally well-placed to reach its prospective customers, and the hopes of a long-term partnership became a reality. So check out our lead story and remember, we're always keeping an eye out for products we know will be perfect for our customers. You can count on it!

Until next issue, so long.

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