Interview: Grain Audio's Mitch Wenger Talks Building a Brand, Importance of Design, and Catering to Music Lovers

Interview: Grain Audio's Mitch Wenger Talks Building a Brand, Importance of Design, and Catering to Music LoversGrain Audio Packable Wireless System, $249

The price for your products isn't extremely high. You talk about making products for people who have a love of music. There are brands who claim to the do the same, but they're just more expensive. If you really want high end sound you'd have to pay a lot. 

There's two things there. One is the notion of an audiophile vs a music lover. I'll give you an example. When I went to CES, I went into a lot of the suites there that were the audiophile suites, the ones with the $10,000 bookshelf speakers, the $3,000 headphones, and the feeling I got was that they don't love music, they love sound. It's not easy to make a distinction between the two, but you know, it was more for the sound reproduction than what they were listening to. I think for us, it's more about the music and delivering an audiophile quality sound for people who love music, while being approachable. Some of those products are just unapproachable at their price points. I'd be hard pressed to buy a pair $1,300 pair of headphones on my own. If I had all the money in the world, would I? I probably still wouldn't. Because I think what we're able to deliver is the same level of quality at a price that's affordable. What's more important to us is building that community of people who love what we're doing not making the sale. Because the $1,300 headphones don't cost that much more to make than what we're selling. It's marketing and it's positioning. 

Once the Kickstarter is funded, how do you guys plan on breaking into the market and getting shelf space next to other companies in places like the Apple Store and Best Buy? 

We have a bit of a different strategy. With some of the big box retailers, it's really hard to do well there and it's really easy to go broke there. We want to grow intentionally. We have a really good team that's helping us build out a sales and rep network nationwide. We're starting small. I'd rather be in the store that's a bit more of a tastemaker down on the Lower East Side. I'd rather be at an ALIFE than a Best Buy. I'm not saying that we won't migrate over time, but we want to be in places where music is at the forefront. Best Buy is a consumer electronics store, that's it. That's what they are and that's fine, but for us, getting our products in the hands of the right kinds of people and people who we think will be interested in growing with us and be brand advocates is the way we want to start.

So there's two things there: There's the design side of the world and on the other, there's the music side of the world. We're building it out with both. And another thing that we want to build out is our direct to consumer channel, our e-commerce channel. I think that we'll be able to provide more support, more customer service, than any store would be able to do and since we'll have price parity across everywhere, that gives people the opportunity to buy directly from us and get that level of support and care. We care about everyone who's buying our products, but if you're buying it directly from us, you have that channel. 

 

For us, it's more about the music and delivering an audiophile quality sound for people who love music, while being approachable.

 

Do you have any plans for partnerships with artists? A lot of brands team up with an artist and have them help design a product. But it seems like you guys are very hands on with your design. 

We've talked about doing things. We don't want to sponsor anything. We don't want to pay somebody to be like, "I like Grain Audio." 'Cause then it's like, so what? They don't really like it. But for us, doing an honest collaboration makes sense. We've talked about doing things with different bands regionally. The wood on the speakers is interchangeable. We're using walnut right now, but we can conceivably use other things. So, let's say, we're doing something with an artist in Atlanta. What we would do with them potentially is find someone in the Atlanta area who's doing something interesting with reclaimed wood. Do a limited run of the speakers with the reclaimed wood from Atlanta, and have that artist work with Dave to tune the speakers if they have a new album coming out. So it's a real kind of collaboration where everyone is putting in an effort and everyone is invested in it. I think doing those in a limited edition run is something we're really interested in. Then of course it will have to stay limited edition. That's one of the things we've told ourselves: If we make 200 of them and 200 of them sell out in 10 minutes that doesn't mean make another 200. Because that's what's going to have value. There's a level of honesty there, too. You can't say something's limited edition and make 500,000 of them. 

Is there an environmental slant to you guys using wood? 

Yeah, there is. All the wood we use is FSE certified which means its all been sustainably harvested, and that's important to us. We didn't start with wood for environmental purposes. We started with design and acoustic purposes, but we're being as environmentally responsible as we can with the wood that we're using. And that carries over with everything we do. All the cardboard is a certain percentage post-consumer recycled material. The plastic in the box is all recyclable. On top of that, a percentage of the proceeds, and we're still trying to figure out what that percentage is because we want it to be big enough to make an impact, is going to go back to music related charities. Whether that is the VH1 Save the Music Foundation or something like that where they're trying to maintain music programs in schools that's being taken away. That's important to us. Or if there are children who are autistic who learn better through music. It's like, what can we do to give back to the community through the channels that we love and maintain good karma. 

 

Stay Connected with
Complex Tech
Tags: grain-audio, speakers, headphones
blog comments powered by Disqus