Frank Joseph is the senior director of marketing for HARMAN International North America, Professional Solutions. A lifelong musician, he built his own recording studio and later worked for Guitar Center Management. Nearly ten years ago he joined HARMAN International and has been integral to the ongoing operation of their Professional Experience Center in Northridge, one of four throughout the world. The 15,000-square-foot facility allows the audio, video and lighting gear giant to showcase its various brands including JBL Professional, AKG Acoustics and Crown International. For audio aficionados, it’s like a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory except that they gorge on gear rather than candy.
Music Connection: What’s your career path been? How did you come to work for HARMAN?
Frank Joseph: I was a gigging musician for many years and had a recording studio. I was a young man at that point and I realized that I had no business being in business. I began a retail path through Guitar Center. I started at the stores and left as a vice president. I actually joined HARMAN on the consumer side, not the pro side. I started with headphones, helped build out that business and formed partnerships with companies such as Best Buy and Target. I ran the entire consumer marketing for five years before I started on the pro side five years ago and have been with them for almost a decade.
MC: What’s been one of your career highlights at HARMAN?
FJ: Some of the big activations like our road shows, our Pro JBL Masterclass that we just finished in Las Vegas and helping to bring some of our pro install audio products to market. We film our AKG YouTube show Stories Behind the Sessions at our Experience Center for which we bring in various artists and producers. For example, we’ve had members of INXS, No Doubt and several composers. They tell the stories behind some of their epic recordings. It allows us to leverage our facility and our brand.
MC: What sets HARMAN International apart from other gear makers?
FJ: HARMAN is one of a few manufacturers that fits into the category of a true multi-brand, multi-vertical strategy. When you look at HARMAN across all the different verticals it’s not just pro audio. It’s our pro, consumer and automotive business. We’re entrenched in several areas other than pro. We’re one of the companies that stand out because of that strategy. There’s also our ability to leverage our technology across the board. For example, AKG is now in Cadillac.
MC: What’s unique about HARMAN’s Professional Experience Center in Northridge?
FJ: It culminates all of our technologies in one space. So from arena sound to Martin Lighting to our install business. We have the ability to bring in a customer, walk them through all of the different technologies in one location and see it all working together.
MC: There are now four Experience Centers across the world. Are more planned?
FJ: There’s been discussion of others but nothing is planned currently. The Experience Centers we have now round up a good amount of support for our global business.
MC: The Experience Center acts as a studio occasionally for various shows. For example, YouTube mix program Pensado’s Place taped an episode there last year. How do you draw interest?
FJ: It’s not really open for anyone to come in and tape. Usually bookings are made either through a partnership we have with a property or in the case of Stories Behind the Sessions, they’re very planned and part of our roadmap. There are either customers coming through, lighting designers or front-of-house engineers touring the facility. It’s booked about ninety-five percent of the time.
MC: What are some of the biggest challenges in your industry?
FJ: The biggest is continuing to generate new customers. Not a lot of people are playing musical instruments. It’s more content and music creation and certainly we have tools that serve those needs. Another challenge is continuing to be innovative. From a marketing perspective, any organization that deploys a multi-brand strategy, defining the areas that are strategically important, investing in them and continuing to stay on-message are all key.
MC: What’s one of your favorite HARMAN anecdotes?
FJ: No Doubt was one of the bands that had come into South Coast Recording, where I’d interned, to record their debut No Doubt for Interscope. When [drummer] Adrian Young came into the Experience Center to record our YouTube show, we reminisced about that.
MC: What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned about working in music and audio?
FJ: One, It’s not the music business. It’s the business of music. Two, Things ebb and flow. Everything isn’t at 100 percent at all times Being flexible and adaptable is important. And three, This is a creative business. It’s about the art of creating music.
MC: What’s in HARMAN’s future?
FJ: We’ll continue to leverage the Experience Center as a place to have our customers try our new products and have conversations that will help us build and define our future. We’ll also continue to update them with all of the latest and greatest HARMAN products.
MC: What’s in your future?
FJ: I’ve never aspired to a certain position. I’ve been blessed to work with some great mentors and I’ve learned a lot from them. Most of my jobs have been self-made; the result of bringing a new idea to the table. I’ll continue to do that.