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Engineer's view on the music industry - Clyde Clark from Bartolini


We had the opportunity to talk to Clyde Clark - President and Owner of Bartolini and just an incredibly nice guy. Bartolini is renowned for their high quality bass and guitar pickups as well as other guitar related electronics. With Clyde's background in electronics and experience in the high-tech industry, he shares some of his thoughts and views of the music industry from his unique and amusing perspective.  Here's a transcript of our interview:

Clyde Clark: So I'm Clyde, I own and I'm the president of Bartolini Pickups & Electronics. We make pickups for guitars and basses. We are really focused on professional level equipment. We also make electronics for guitars and basses - mostly onboard pre amps, EQs, buffers for piezos and magnetic pickups. 

We're very focused on pro level players or people who want to be pro level. Not everybody wants to be pro level, not everybody wants to practice and that's fine. They can do their thing. But we very much approach pickups and electronics as engineers. So I've been a musician for a long time, I studied music in college. But my main focus was electronics engineering. I had a career in high tech, and then moved over into the music industry. But I'm bringing something into this that is not always what's brought in. So often pickups and electronics are made by people that got into it because they love music. Maybe they're musicians. They're trying to solve a problem, but they're not coming at it from an engineering perspective, right? And that's how I always approach, sadly, everything in my life. In this case, it works out pretty well! And so I've applied that not only to pickup design, but also to our manufacturing processes, to really, our whole structure of how we run now. We're very efficient, we can make things that are very complicated. But we have elaborate test and test procedures and processes that are semi-automated and really powerful. 

We have an enormous product line. We've got this banner here, and this represents maybe a quarter, 20% to 25% of our product line, which is crazy. Yeah, we've got at least 2,000 products, because we build for the retail market. So people that are doing upgrades and existing instruments, but we also build for instrument builders. For what we call our OEM channel. And they just put it directly into the instruments that they make. We customize things for them and so that's stuff you're not going to see on this chart because this is for retail. 

I've got a mental task switch thing that has to happen, right? I used to be in high tech and I'd go to tradeshows, things like the embedded systems conference, for example - that's a good one. But 90% of the people you interact with are other engineers. And so the language that you use is talking to engineers. And that's one of the things that I've learned being in this industry is - I gotta turn all of that off most of the time. Because otherwise people I watch, they just glaze over. It's like, "Whatever, dude, is this gonna sound good?" Oh, right.... But it's funny now, when I talk to engineers I don't correctly task switch back into (engineering speak)... unless I'm doing things like talking about task switching, I guess!

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