We interview Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumnus Jon Doig about his acoustic treatment company Kiss Your Ears – the bass trap specialists.
Tiugieiensuuhabgsindnkonxasuiotbelelsbctlfciohtilsfe. What’s that? You can’t hear me?
*steps out of studio*
I said, being successful in life is all about thinking outside the box. And for those embarking on the potentially turbulent seas of a creative career, that often means leveraging your wider skill set, or supporting yourself with multiple hustles. As the seasoned panellists of our Music Pool Berlin collab agreed, producers especially shouldn’t limit themselves to making a living solely from their music. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Far from putting all his metaphorical, 100 percent vegan, eggs in one basket, Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering Bachelor alumnus Jon Doig knew early on that his passion for music could also be channelled by setting up his own acoustic treatment business. And, talking of eggs, this ain’t no DIY egg box shit. Jon spotted a gap in the market for a service that was both high quality and very affordable, designed by music makers for music makers. His ultimate aim is to cultivate a network of empowered musicians, rather than profiting from their learning curve.
Keen to learn more about his inspiring creative journey and what he’s got in store for the business, we caught up with the multi-talented entrepreneur for an interview.
“The deeper I delved, the more astounded I became at how little people actually knew about acoustic treatment and the propagation of sound in space”
Hey Jon, how’s it going?
I am experiencing a simmering energetic force biding the next opportunity for cathartic release. Also, I’m a bit hungry.
You recently graduated from a three-year music production and sound engineering course at Catalyst. What have you been up to since then?
I immediately started a business called Kiss Your Ears, making quality affordable acoustic treatment. We also do extended services such as consultation, analysis and installation. I am now also involved in other projects building isolated and acoustically treated studio spaces in Berlin.
What inspired you to start the business?
Initially, for a Catalyst assignment, I was looking into treating my own bedroom studio acoustically and quickly realised how incredibly expensive these modules were. Furthermore, many units are required to yield substantial results. I opted to build the units myself as I have a history in the construction industry. I wondered if anyone else would like some affordable (not yet quality at that stage!) acoustic elements, so I made some posts online and it served as some interesting initial minor market research.
Just over one year later, I eventually burned out quite hard whilst working full time as a chef alongside my full-time studies. It was a toxic lifestyle. From the injury, I could not use both my arms and hands properly for almost half a year, which was very scary as a musician. All of my previous skills were with my hands so I had to start from scratch using my head.
Tell us about your journey from conception to creation.
Once I realised I should start up the acoustic treatment idea, I cleared my bedroom of all unnecessary stuff and got a mountainous shipment of raw construction materials. I made absorbers with my ex-lover (now best friend) in batches of 36 units in my 27m2 bedroom. My flatmates were not so happy (apart from Pete who was super amused and I love him even more for it – thanks Pete!).
I would do a bedroom build like this twice per month. Just enough to survive my studies. When I handed in my final work, orders just kept piling in, so I went full on. I didn’t want to be one of the “lost” ones after university. It felt good because it felt like we were doing a good thing and spreading helpful science-based information.
The deeper I delved, the more astounded I became at how little people actually knew about acoustic treatment and the propagation of sound in space. I think we are amidst a phenomenon where a multitude of misinformation strains are created by marketing departments of capitalist manufacturers. Then, they are perpetuated by online forum mansplainers. My will and intention to do something for the common music maker is continually strengthened as I cannot accept this “smoke and mirrors” approach to studio acoustics as standard.
A huge hurdle was finding and training the right staff and also getting rid of the wrong ones.
Now, we have a workshop and showroom facility. We have worked for some of the biggest names in house and techno, as well as other genres – and some massive international companies such as well-known music instrument manufacturers, etc. Some testimonials and such will feature on our website when it is released. So far, our word-of-mouth network from satisfied customers has been so powerful that we have not needed it yet.
We specialise in sub bass control for electronic music producers. That’s something we had to research extensively in the practical physical domain as the info and data simply was not readily available in the literature, online courses and so forth.
“I was sick of being told what to do. As an artist, I have freedom. Now, as a practitioner of another job description, I have freedom there also. That is a feedback loop”
How did your Catalyst study help you in the creative process?
It gave me something to sink my teeth into. That led to exponentially greater strides in the journey. Before I moved to Berlin, I was a somewhat dissonant, young, crazy, nomadic fool. I really needed to be accepted into a place where I could grow. I was and still am allergic to establishment, traditionalism, conservatism and all that normally comes with education. Catalyst provided an environment where I could learn but where I could also be my authentic self. I still study constantly. Catalyst was really just the first big step.
Why was it important for you to have a self-employed career outside of being a music producer?
I was sick of being told what to do. As an artist, I have freedom. Now, as a practitioner of another job description, I have freedom there also. That is a feedback loop.
Where do you see the business in five years?
We are going to ship all over Europe and bring quality affordable acoustic treatment to the people. We are going to connect our growing network of empowered music makers. We will hook them up with each other, with studio spaces, etc. We will do our part to keep the music community we love thriving. We will stand in defiance to those ridiculous out-of-touch companies who would prey on the music makers we aim to support. So, that’s the mission statement for year one. The next four years are for me to know and for you to watch.
What’s your advice for current students thinking of starting a similar business in the future?
Study beyond your degree. If you do the bare minimum whilst studying then you are missing constant opportunities to learn. Appreciate shared knowledge as a gift.
Remember that the purpose of a business should be to provide a service or a product that people want and need. Financial gain should not be the first incentive. If you want to do a ‘similar’ business to mine, then you must prioritize network over profit. Word of mouth is extremely powerful in Berlin.
Take an overview of all the skills you have amassed in your entire life, then try to combine them. Identify the skills you need and systematically develop them. Make a chronological record of everything as you progress so you can reference that to develop tactics. This will also just help you know where you are with planning, etc. Study psychology. Meditate. Chill down your ego. When something bad happens to you, harness that momentum and turn a failure into a victory. A breakdown into a breakthrough, to quote a teacher of mine. Schedule time off. Be patient. Be meticulous. Have a keen attention to detail. Keep a holistic overview. Be analytical. Note all critical feedback. Embrace those that doubt you. Think outside the box (by first learning exactly what the box is)!
Finally, how can we keep up with your progress?
More from Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering: Go behind the scenes with our students as they record our Studio Sessions series.