General Manager Paul Freudenberg Charts Rat Sound’s Success from Touring and Retail to Systems Installation
NAME: Paul Freudenberg
COMPANY: Rat Sound Systems
TITLE: General Manager
OVERTIME: Freudenberg has worked for corporate entities as well as entrepreneurial ones and found that each has its own dynamic, but in both cases, people are at the core.
SCN: At what point did music and audio technology first converge on your career path?
Paul Freudenberg: Nearly from day one. Looking back, it seems like one day I was plugging in an electric guitar and the next I was patching a console. In reality, those events are probably separated by a few years. But the seeds were planted. Playing music and listening to recordings as much as I did led me to my interest in recording studio technology. Playing live led to a similar pursuit in live (club) sound. In all, these seemed like a natural extension to the skill-set—mics, mixers, computers and recorders, cables, amps, and speakers all felt very comfortable and essential parts of the modern music creative process.
SCN: You’ve held positions at Aphex, Harman (AKG and BSS Audio), and L-Acoustics over the past three decades. Can you identify any constants in the world of audio?
(Left) Inspired by the 2010 film written directed by Emilio Estevez entitled, The Way, Freudenberg took up the challenge (with the encouragement of Rat Sound friend and colleague, Jon Monson, pictured, left) of walking approximately 400 km of the Camino from Burgos to Santiago, Spain. (Right) Freudenberg (left) and Monson at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
PF: Fundamentally, this industry is fueled by passionate and creative individuals who are engaged in the pursuit of high-quality audio. I have worked for corporate entities as well as entrepreneurial ones. Each has its own dynamic, but in both cases, people are at the core. It is our ability as audio humans to make contact with fellow audio humans to exchange information and ideas. I love the face-to-face communication and the cultural exchange that can happen as well.
I share a deep respect for the R&D engineers. If it weren’t for new ideas, our industry would not evolve. The need to stay involved in professional and trade activities is also essential. As our industry changes, we need to adapt to the change, but also to reinvent some activities that may seem outdated, but still have function.
One last constant: pin two is hot!
SCN: Rat Sound president Dave Rat is known for his globetrotting, nonstop innovation, and dedication to giving back to the industry through his training efforts. How was the purview of your general manager position developed and how will it continue to evolve?
PF: Dave is a very active, thoughtful, and charismatic figure in our industry. His passion for audio and innovation drives his own pursuits as well as those of this company. He believes in professionalism but with the preservation of creativity; put rules in place only when absolutely necessary. His ability to activate many projects simultaneously requires some discipline and follow-up. Additionally, the many facets of this company—rental and touring, installation, sales, and SoundTools—require a regularity in the management to ensure the forward momentum of all actions. Allowing Dave the freedom to be active and creative while the various projects and divisions have appropriate oversight is my main focus.
SCN: Rat Sound is known for touring, but the company also has retail and installation divisions, along with an ingenious line of SoundTools products. How might you best cultivate growth across these sectors?
PF: Each division has its own needs and trajectory. First, we encourage synergy between groups. For example, a touring client may need some equipment to purchase, or a venue may be interested in acquiring an installed system. We ensure that each division communicates to the other to create the appropriate handoff, ensuring the best client relations and retention.
Retail sales is very interesting to me as the professional audio boutique is something I am partial to but is almost lost in today’s online world. I know there is need for a place for professionals to seek the advice of other professionals. This is also a great outlet for our SoundTools product range.
The same is true for our installation division. Many venues are looking to add permanency and consistency to their product (the event) and Rat Sound offers these clients the advantage of our tour sound heritage, plus the convenience and technologies that a fixed installation solution delivers.
Most importantly, it is about the people. We have a fantastic team of individuals who love what they do and apply their experience every day to making the customer experience a quality one.
SCN: What have Rat Sound’s “board meeting” surf sessions brought to your life and work?
PF: In a word, balance. Carving out time for physical and mental “clearout” is essential to personal and professional wellbeing. I look forward to work and also to recreation. Many years ago, I met a wise person who said to me, “Just seek to make work seem like play and play seem like work.” I seek to attain this union every day.
Kirsten Nelson is the editor of SCN.