Total Production

Roland Systems Group

June 2013


Credited with many music industry world firsts, Roland still remains at the forefront of technology. since its 2007 formation, Roland Systems Group - which sits within the Roland umbrella - has established itself as a total solutions provider for the live event industry. TPi’s Zoe Mutter spoke to Roland Systems Group Sales and Marketing Director, Peter Heath, about technological progression, the importance of training and long-term strategies for success.

“Roland has a philosophy of developing products based on a solid foundation of great technology, combined with reliable software and quality hardware and that is why Roland products continue to be an ever popular choice with professionals worldwide,” commented Roland Systems Group’s Sales and Marketing Director, Peter Heath, as he discussed the secrets behind the company’s success in multiple sectors of the live industry.
    For Heath, Roland is a hugely rewarding company to work for promoting a strong family ethos that’s extended to dealers and resellers alike. “It’s essentially about the technology behind the products and what we perceive ourselves to be in the market place, this contributes massively to the success of the company as a whole. People are key to us and Roland people are special, they contribute massively to who we are today,” he added.

INSPIRE THE ENJOYMENT OF CREATIVITY

Founded in 1972 in Osaka, Japan, Roland Group was launched with a vision of developing products to help musicians achieve the best possible result with the help of first class technology. Now encompassing other areas of video and audio technology in the live performance arena, the company has successfully expanded into the development of professional audio and video products aimed at the live performance and production market, providing solutions for broadcast, theatre, education, videography and visual performance, as well as growing to become one of the leaders in design, manufacture and distribution of video and audio products and musical instruments.
    With the formation of Roland Systems Group (RSG) in 2007, the company is now established as a total solutions provider. “The underlying spirit of Roland’s unique corporate activities is embodied in the following three slogans: ‘Inspire the enjoyment of creativity’, ‘Be the best rather than the biggest’ and ‘The Roland family - cooperative enthusiasm’. The basic spirit has not changed since the company’s founding,” said Heath.
    Roland remains at the forefront of innovation, being credited with multiple world firsts including the invention of MIDI and the first fully functional electronic drumkit. Thanks to the company’s cuttings edge designs, recording was revolutionised during the ‘90s, allowing musicians to record and produce their own work. In terms of the audio and video products aimed at live event professionals, RSG’s offerings have proved a popular choice thanks to the company’s philosophy of developing products based on a solid foundation of great technology, combined with reliable software and quality hardware.
    “Probably the most obvious change in the industry since RSG was first set up is the move from analogue to digital and the advancement in the different types of protocol used in the event industry,” continued Heath. “From a Roland point of view, historically our aim was to present our technology to the sector of the industry. This aim still underpins the Roland philosophy today. This is achieved with a much wider spectrum - by supplying the audio, video and musical instruments for the performance as well.”

A TOTAL SOLUTIONS PROVIDER
Roland started producing video products a decade ago, yet not as separate products, but an extended line-up of a desktop music production products that included software and an audio interface in a package that could be used to create music via a PC. “At the same time we recognised that audio without video or pictures was only telling half the story. Fast forward to today and Roland has recently launched new video products that take the brand value in the live performance market to a new level, namely the V-40HD Live Video Switcher, the V-4EX Video Mixer and the V-800HD,” explained Heath.
    “We produce over 1,000 products and each area has equal importance in terms of new product development and promotion - we have audio and video being developed and produced in the same factory, which gives us an advantage over other companies. RSG services the audio and visual live event industries by developing new products for both that utilise Roland proprietary technology - such as REAC, Roland’s original technology for low latency, high quality digital audio transfer - and evolving our hardware and software to provide systems based solutions are key in our aim to becoming a total solutions provider and therefore better servicing the live event industry.”

TECHNOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESSION
Developments made by RSG all revolve around technology, highlighted Heath. “For example, in the last few years we acquired Cakewalk, which makes music production and recording software. We started to work together as partners some years ago and this led to us eventually acquiring them,” he said.
    “Progression, for us, is also about contributing to the environment - we are environmentally friendly wherever we can be throughout our production process. For example, if we have products that require wooden cabinets then we make sure we are replenishing wood by ensuring trees are planted. This has been consistent throughout Roland’s history, but the drive now is to do more of it, whether it relates to the electricity, heating or air conditioning for the factories, we’ll do it in the most environmentally friendly way possible.”
    Roland has been responsible for much evolution in the music industry as a whole, whether it be a musical genre such as the impact synthesisers had in the ‘80s in synth pop, right the way through to how people record music. “Instead of going into a recording studio they were able to buy one of our recording products to record at home whilst making use of the highest quality of production tools.
    “Musicians used to work together in bands and then through technology we were responsible for allowing them to work in their bedroom alone. Now what we’re trying to say is we need to work with other musicians and our products - whether they be instruments or those within RSG - they are all about getting people to engage. As we are a company that provides video and audio, I believe no other company offers the solutions we do in one place.”
    All products developed by RSG are aimed at the live market, whether they are used at a show, conference or live broadcast. Stand out products aimed at enhancing the way professionals work include the development of the digital snake in 2006 or REAC (Roland Ethernet Audio Communication). “We were one of the first companies to bring a digital snake solution to the market at a particular price and we were ahead of the curve for the development of that type of product,” commented Heath.
    “The way the R&D works at Roland is that the team don’t necessarily start with a product in mind, they focus on technologies. It’s only then they talk to engineers and production teams around the business to introduce the technologies, they then have an opportunity to use these technologies in new products. Sometimes our technology is so new and advanced that finding an easy way to incorporate it in new products is a big challenge”

A LONG-TERM STRATEGY TO INCREASE VISIBILITY

The headquarters of Roland (UK) are based in Swansea, but the company now has a second location at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, London. Whilst the Swansea HQ takes care of all of the administration, finance, marketing and logistics for the company, the Metropolis location is vital for the business to demonstrate the products in situ and to use as a hub for promotional events and training.
    “The decision to move to Metropolis Studios is part of our long-term strategy to increase our visibility as a total solutions provider to audio and video professionals, resulting in greater harmonisation with our music products through artists,” elaborated Heath.
    “The obvious synergy between both RSG and music products are demonstrated clearly in Metropolis and being in such an environment allows us to gain a better understanding of what our users want and how we can better address our target. The move to Metropolis helps us to achieve our goal to develop our relationships with dealers and end users. Artists who are drawn to our MI products often provide a stepping stone for RSG by the way of an introduction to their management or sound engineer, then we have an opportunity to talk and introduce our range of audio and video products.”
    Aside from its UK presence, Roland has sales partners in all major global locations. For RSG, the company’s dominant locations - outside of Japan - are divided into the UK, Europe and the USA. Recently the UK and Europe have begun working more closely on sales and marketing projects.
    “Roland was first put together through a joint venture system, which meant the local market - UK or US - would provide a percentage of the finances to start the business and the rest would be put in by Roland Japan. This has worked well since Roland was set up in 1972 and the local joint venture company was responsible for promoting and protecting the brand, sales, marketing and distribution. That was fine all those years ago, but the world has become a much smaller place so now the joint venture companies are working together. For example, in RSG I’m now responsible for harmonisation and coordination of activities in Europe because we need to be united and have one voice. Those joint venture companies are still there and still work, but whether it’s Roland Systems Group, Roland Digital Group or Roland Music, we’re all working together,” said Heath.
    “We have to acknowledge music and the other aspects of what Roland does, we’re trying to establish RSG as a brand. It’s part of Roland Corporation, the whole purpose of RSG is to support and help grow the corporation. The reality is that the music market is relatively flat and we only focus on electronic musical instruments and equipment. The pro audio and pro video sector is a market that’s been growing due of the number of live events held.  The ethos of Roland is cutting edge technology, solid and reliable software with robust hardware. RSG is the perfect way to expand our company whilst retaining everything that is fundamental to our business.”
    Roland products are now manufactured in multiple locations - Japan, China, Taiwan, Italy, Indonesia and America. This covers all the company’s products, whether it’s an instrument, vision mixer or audio mixer. “The biggest challenge is trying to get products to the market whilst retaining all the values of what we stand for and at an affordable price,” added Heath. “You’re always looking at ways to maximise those opportunities so up until fairly recently, a lot of our kit was made in Japan, but Japan’s got more expensive so we have moved some of our production to Taiwan and China and Indonesia. However, for RSG, the bulk of our products are still made in Japan.

INTUITIVE INTERFACES
Training events will always be an important part of raising the awareness of Roland as a brand and as a total solutions provider. The company believes training is hugely crucial in helping people understand Roland’s technology and how to get the best out of the equipment as well as being an effective method of producing ambassadors of the brand.
    “We still have work to do in proving the credibility of our products in areas such as the touring market and getting the end user hands-on with the product is the most effective way of doing so,” added Heath. “Our most important partnerships are with our key dealers and we will work with them throughout the year to co-host training events across the UK. On a more practical level, training events allow those who are currently RSG users to get up to date with new product developments in terms of both hardware and software.”
    The company has several training events planned - some aimed at consultants and others being held in the dealer’s premises, allowing the Roland team to travel to different parts of the country to spread the word. This is incredibly important because the key to building a strong client base for Roland has been working with the right partners and providing a credible product, which has the features required in each sector.
    “This sounds simple, but it is actually quite difficult. Fortunately for Roland, the diversity of the company and the people within it means that we are able to keep up with trends and feedback from multiple sectors,” said Heath. “We have an incredibly strong client base in multiple sectors and territories and it’s largely won by great products, fantastic people who work at Roland and the company’s integrity and consistency.”

TECHNOLOGY TRAINING
Training events will always be an important part of raising the awareness of Roland as a brand and as a total solutions provider. The company believes training is hugely crucial in helping people understand Roland’s technology and how to get the best out of the equipment as well as being an effective method of producing ambassadors of the brand.
    “We still have work to do in proving the credibility of our products in areas such as the touring market and getting the end user hands-on with the product is the most effective way of doing so,” added Heath. “Our most important partnerships are with our key dealers and we will work with them throughout the year to co-host training events across the UK. On a more practical level, training events allow those who are currently RSG users to get up to date with new product developments in terms of both hardware and software.”
    The company has several training events planned - some aimed at consultants and others being held in the dealer’s premises, allowing the Roland team to travel to different parts of the country to spread the word. This is incredibly important because the key to building a strong client base for Roland has been working with the right partners and providing a credible product, which has the features required in each sector.
    “This sounds simple, but it is actually quite difficult. Fortunately for Roland, the diversity of the company and the people within it means that we are able to keep up with trends and feedback from multiple sectors,” said Heath. “We have an incredibly strong client base in multiple sectors and territories and it’s largely won by great products, fantastic people who work at Roland and the company’s integrity and consistency.”

EXPERIENCED IN THE LIVE SECTOR
Concert touring is a more demanding market for Roland due to the format of our product, admitted Heath. “Our products are used at festivals and we’ve done many of them including a few years run at Glastonbury, where our products were used on three of the stages. The current format of our mixing consoles makes it more challenging from an audio perspective for larger format touring. For events where large format consoles are not required our gear gets used all the time, the M-480 V mixing console and V800HD Video switcher will be on this year’s Glastonbudget. Our V-800HD multi-format vision mixer will play a large part in Fatboy Slim’s upcoming tour too. This product also controlled all video aspects of the recent Olivier Awards.”
    Every member of the RSG team are experienced in the live sector and the company is made up of people who are engaged in the industry directly or have an engineering background. In the UK all the sales processing and shipping is carried out in Swansea. “Important members of the team I work alongside include Simon Kenning, Sales Manager, Chris Webster who is our Business Development Manager and looks after all our dealers and then we have Greg Oliver, a Sales Engineer who recently joined us from RCF. We all know our stuff,” explained Heath.
    “We’re not newcomers and we have history in the industry, all our products under RSG are very professional. RSG still gets a lot of rejection based on the fact Roland is a music brand, but I think we need to embrace it by saying ‘Yes we are a music brand, but this gives us so much we can bring to a professional audio or video project because we have all that experience, which actually gives us strength’. For any company these days, it’s all about sustainability and what you bring to the market that allows you to make the 40 years you’ve been going into 50 or 60 years and so on. You constantly have to invest in R&D and be aware of what’s going on in the market and constantly be ahead of the curve in order to keep yourself relevant.”

PROMOTING A PROFESSIONAL BRAND
Going forward, RSG’s aim is to engage end users with the product and the brand values - which is why the company has such a strong focus on events such as the training days and promotional events at Metropolis; with the intention of getting these end users to choose Roland products and continue to do so. By hosting the training events at dealers’ premises the RSG team is working closely with them to bring customers to its door. The company also uses social media to communicate regularly with and grow an online community, believing that by actively engaging RSG can develop a closer relationship where feedback and interaction is instant. 
    “Our future strategy is very simple - to continue demonstrating to the professional community that we have a professional brand, great products and great technology that can help them in what they’re doing. We just want to keep getting out there and talking about what we believe to be our gospel, which makes our company so unique,” concluded Heath.
TPi
www.rolandsystemsgroup.co.uk

 

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