January 2, 2020
Each month, IEMITO proudly presents an inside look into the visions and concepts behind the products and the people who make and sell them.
THE FOUNDER'S PHILOSOPHY
You founded Soundcat in 2005 to distribute in-ear monitors. How soon was it before you began distributing other pro audio lines?
Actually Soundcat started doing business by distributing soundcards manufactured by CME, TerraTEC and EMU. In 2007, we were able to acquire distributorship of Westone and Etymotic. After 4 years of establishing ourselves as an industry pioneer for CIEM distribution, we expanded into the Pro Audio sector starting with some of the microphone brands such as sE and MXL.
How did you build up your network of dealers and how did you grow your channels?
Just like most businesses now, I started selling products online. And back then, some of today's biggest online retailers were also just starting off. There was a lot of cold calling and I had to use my connections to grow our network of dealers. However, as experienced employees joined our crew, our dealer network rapidly grew.
The fact that we were the pioneers of introducing CIEM's to our market and the connections that in-ears created with record labels and entertainment companies help us grow our channel.
Since you work with so many K-Pop artists, you are able to leverage your relationships. Do you offer localized marketing for your brand partners?
Yes! Working with so many K-Pop artists has always been our strong suit and we have use our relationship to organize local marketing with our partners. Currently, we are running a marketing action with Fender and a Korean artist called Jannabi! We ran a successful promotion with one of the top youtuber, Producer DK for Westone.
What do those channels look like now? How many points of sale are in your network?
We have two business division; consumer-audio and pro-audio. Each has more than 100 dealers, retailers, big-box stores, etc. Some of them have been working with us since the beginning of our wonderful adventure and some we are getting to know much better now. Since the disparity between online and offline in Korea is getting larger rapidly, there are only few with physical stores but I can guarantee you that you can find our products in all the major offline audio stores.
Exactly how large is the S. Korean market for pro audio equipment in terms of dollars?
The Pro-Audio equipment market size is comparatively small compared to that of Japan and China since our geographical size differ significantly. It is about $300 million USD and we expect it to grow as popularity in K-pop grows.
And how about your consumer electronic / Hi- Fi outlets?
Since Korea is home to CE giants such as Samsung and LG, its current size is about $9.7 billion USD.
How large is the S. Korean market in terms of money spent on headphones?
The headphone market is the smallest out of three and its about 70 million USD.
Do you distribute throughout all of Asia or what is the full Soundcat footprint?
We only distribute in our region and never have sought after a multinational distributorship. Although there have been many tempting offers, but we will stay true to our roots.
Tell us more about your earphone R&D labs?
Our R&D lab is operated by Paul Park who has been working on earplugs ever since he started working with Soundcat. Currently our R&D lab is cooking something interesting and we will be able to unveil it to the world in the coming years. It's too early to reveal anything at this point.
Tell us more about the online communities that you foster and host / support and how that dovetails into your brand marketing efforts.
In 2016, we outsold U.S with Launchpad and this was an amazing feat if you consider the market size and the population. This was all due to how we fostered the launchpad community and supported them to grow as a community. I am sure there are thousands of books / videos / articles stating that it is important to communicate with customers. We found that the easiest way to interact and form a relationship with customer was to directly involved with community owners and operators to act as our spokesperson and ambassador.
Please also tell us about Legend Magazine. What is the relationship there?
It is a monthly magazine published by a small team in Soundcat. There is no monetary value or revenue from it but to engage and expand our network of influencers and legends in our industry. We have always valued human network and the Legends is another form of that interconnection.
And finally, what is your key to success in the S. Korean market?
Our recipe for success is our dedicated employees who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the company. Its because of them that Soundcat have been able to overcome many obstacles it had along the rocky road. I truly hold dear to each and every one of them.
Sang Park is the CEO and founder of Soundcat. Soundcat is the Korea’s #1 B2B and B2C distributor of musical products and related solutions. Since 2005, Sang has led a ‘Happy Listening‘ revolution in Korea.