Providing tools for the expanding ranks of content creators
Founded in 1995, Blue Microphones carved out a market niche with high-performance professional microphones that delivered an aesthetic alternative to the standard “gray stick.” The company’s $4,000 flagship “Bottle” tube mic, with its unconventional bright blue body, vintage audio quality, and interchangeable capsules, quickly became a favorite among top-flight recording studios worldwide. Building on the success of the Bottle, Blue pioneered the USB microphone with the equally distinctive Yeti and Snowball models that found a ready market among the millions who embraced Apple’s Garage Band to create content.
The common feature that runs throughout this diverse product portfolio is the ability to inspire. Much like Apple’s iconic product offerings, every Blue product has a distinctive style and high level of functionality that generates instant consumer satisfaction. John Maier, who has headed the company since 2009, explains, “Microphones are colorful variables in the creative process and people want mics with character. Every Blue mic has a unique sonic persona, and everything from our industrial design to our brand embodies our commitment to being different and creative.”
Blue’s unconventional R&D effort is guided by a different marketing approach. All Blue microphones are sold to serious users through the specialized m.i. and pro audio distribution channel, while the USB mics can be found in Best Buy stores and other consumer channels. Yet the company, in Maier’s words, avoids “the antiquated view” differentiating pro and consumer buyers. He elaborates, “We follow our customers without putting them into any preconceived categories to find out how they use our products. This has allowed us to understand the incredible growth of content creators in all walks of life.”
The “content creators” Maier refers to are the millions who have taken advantage of software micro-processing technology and platforms like iTunes and YouTube to record music, events, video, and the now ubiquitous podcasts. Maier sees continued opportunity in supplying tools for their growing ranks, whether they’re rank amateurs or potential Grammy winners.
For the most demanding professionals, Blue has been expanding its professional series with “all-in-one” systems like the Bottle Mic Locker, which includes a flagship Bottle mic, along with four interchangeable cardioid “Bottle Cap” mic capsules that can address any studio task, from vocals to percussion. A comparable package of mic capsules is offered with the more affordable Bottle Rocket Mic Locker. These packages, along with products like the Encore Series of handheld dynamic mics, and large diaphragm condenser mics like the Spark and Bluebird, create a line that addresses virtually every application and price point.
It’s accepted as fact that great entry-level guitars and keyboards seed the market for higher-end products. Blue’s new entry-level USB mic packages could conceivably have a similar impact for the full range of recording gear. Recognizing that most first-time customers have little audio experience, Blue is offering its top-selling Yeti USB mics with a software bundle that includes PreSonus recording software and a collection of studio vocal effects from iZotope. These tools enable even an audio novice to achieve high-quality results. The hope is that they will also inspire a greater number to take their recording efforts to a higher level.
Building on its mission to provide tools for content creators, Blue most recently introduced a line of premium headphones. Addressing a broad spectrum of users, the line includes: Sadie, which features a built-in audiophile amp; Lola, a sealed, over-ear high-fidelity model; Ella, a planar magnetic model with built-in amp; and Satellite, with a premium wireless noise canceling system. Like Blue mics, the headphones boast distinctive industrial design and high functionality that set them apart in a crowded marketplace.
The growth in the number of content creators shows no signs of slowing down, which makes Maier bullish about future prospects for Blue. In addition, he sees great untapped potential in international markets. “The U.S. market tends to set trends for the rest of the world,” he says. “But, it can be a challenge when those trends don’t catch on as fast as you’d hope in other regions due to either social norms or government regulations.” Eventually, as the rest of the world catches up, he anticipates that Blue export sales will top 50% of company revenues.
Despite a flat market, Blue has averaged 40% annual growth over the past seven years. Part of that growth was driven by market share gains. “While many larger companies were hunkering down during the Great Recession, we were aggressively looking for new customers,” says Maier. However, innovation also made a major contribution. “We asked the basic questions, ‘who are the next generation of content creators?’ and ‘how can we make their jobs easier?’ Our growth has been based on that premise and we’re confident that by focusing on those questions, there is a lot more growth to be had.”
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