Attend a music festival, concert or convention anywhere in the world, and there’s a strong likelihood you’ll spot JBL speakers powered by Crown amplifiers above the stage. And, if you sneak a peek at the mixing position, you may see a Soundcraft console and a few Lexicon and dbx boxes. This is the domain of Nick Owen, Vice President of Global Tour Audio and Live Production Systems—an affable British ex-pat with a 14-year HARMAN history and a lifelong love affair with music.
“Complete system solutions for tour audio and live production systems, including anything that goes on a truck—for anyone from Linkin Park and Pitbull to the Pope in Central Park, and from the GRAMMYs and Academy Awards to the LakeShake Country Music Festival—is my team’s work,” said Nick.
Considering how travel and music have long underscored his life’s path, it’s no surprise that this is where his career has led. Nick’s father was the general manager of a chain of nine musical instrument stores in the United Kingdom and played the Hammond organ in clubs. “From the time I was six years old, I was winding cables, carrying loudspeakers, plugging in guitars and mics, and playing keyboards,” said Nick. He later attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England and the Royal Air Force Music College, which took him to Hong Kong, South Korea, Cyprus and Gibraltar. Nick left the Air Force when he was 21, “with the bug to travel and the bug to carry on in the music industry.”
He quickly achieved his goal, landing a rep position with Cheetah, a British company that manufactured controller keyboards, synthesizers and drum machines. In addition to doing tradeshow demos and programming, Nick worked on the road as a keyboard tech with artists including Rick Wakeman, John Entwistle, Gary Numan, Go West, Rik Astley and Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark.
Eventually, Nick and a friend purchased Cheetah’s assets and used it as a platform to build Soundscape Digital Technology Ltd., which manufactured hard disc recording and editing systems used on hit TV shows including “Mad About You,” “Seinfeld,” “The X-Files,” “Frazier” and others. “After 10 years and selling tens of thousands of systems, we sold the company in 2002,” said Nick.
Shortly afterward, Nick joined HARMAN as Director of Sales for Crown, EMEA. He was tasked with growing the amplifier company’s European and Middle Eastern markets. In the four years that he held the position, Crown’s sales increased five-fold. During this time, Nick worked closely with JBL’s VerTec sales team and cultivated relationships with all of HARMAN’s European brand managers, organizing joint Crown, JBL, Soundcraft, dbx and AKG roadshows across the continent.
In 2006, Nick was offered the position of Vice President, Sales of HARMAN Professional North America, in which he would oversee the sales of Soundcraft, AKG and Studer equipment in the U.S. “I was very familiar with Southern California and had always loved the U.S. I convinced my wife that we and our two kids, who were seven and nine at the time, should make the move,” said Nick. “I ran the division for six years. It was an exciting time of rapid growth and lots of change for the company, but change is something I have always welcomed with open arms!”
In 2015, Nick rejoined HARMAN to spearhead sales for global tour sound. “I was very proud and humbled to be back, and the timing was perfect,” said Nick. “It was a really unique opportunity to grow our incredible global touring business.”
“I love going to gigs and festivals and seeing our equipment flying proud for some of the best bands in the world,” he said. “I’m especially proud of the work of our tour audio team these last 12 months. For example, tackling the Yuma EDM tent at the 2016 Coachella Festival was a particular challenge. The venue required a specific combination of technology, acoustics and relationships. Not only did our system need to endure desert heat and dust while playing highly dynamic EDM music for 14+ hours a day, we also needed to earn the trust of the system designer and specifier who had the confidence that the JBL VTX line array system would deliver for them—and offer noticeable sonic improvement over previous systems. This sort of partnership takes time to develop, requiring the right product and team to help the customer achieve the superior result they want. That’s where my team shines.”
“Besides Coachella, my team spent lots of time this year supporting festivals around the world, giving artists and front of house (FOH) engineers the opportunity to experience HARMAN tour sound technology, some for the first time,” said Nick. “Festivals are notoriously tricky production environments. They require tremendous support for both the customer supplying the JBL VTX system and the many technicians who work with it. A great deal of communication and interaction with the visiting FOH engineers ensured that everyone was comfortable with the system and able to achieve the sound they were looking for. Festivals provide us with great opportunities to build new relationships that can lead to our products being specified on production riders.”
“At HARMAN, we’re committed to having all of our great brands work together on complete system solutions for the live entertainment market. Recently, specific focus was put on ensuring the Martin lighting booth at LDI [Live Design International] also featured a top-tier JBL VTX sound system. The Martin team worked with our Professional Solutions tradeshow team, and together, they did an amazing job of pairing the lighting and audio systems. They also created content that featured our ability to work together and provide a powerful interactive experience. The booth was widely viewed as one of our best to date, and was far and away the most talked about at the entire tradeshow,” he said.
When not managing the sales of HARMAN touring systems, Nick uses HARMAN Professional Solutions products himself, playing keyboards in “Close Enough,” his garage band with “a couple of other dads in Thousand Oaks.” To really get away from it all, Nick is a PADI-certified Scuba “Divemaster” and passionate about spending quality time underwater with his son and daughter, who learned to scuba dive in California.
Many thanks to Nick for sharing his story, and to his team for providing great live sound for listeners everywhere!