Cohesion Series CO-12s on the production line at
Clair Global headquarters.
The loading docks had all the precision of a sharply drawn schematic, with a few extra notes of colorful detritus in the margins revealing the long hours and creativity that buzz through the space. Aligned with each bay door there were neatly configured rectangles of gear, stacked in the exact dimensions of a truck’s interior. Paused there, with laptops displaying pack lists and test results, the speakers, amps, consoles and outboard gear were the very calm center of a smoothly managed global operation. The result of countless individual actions by a vast team of engineers, cable assemblers, testing technicians, production designers, manufacturing and painting craftspeople and a bevy of account managers, these precisely calibrated packs were ready to roll out on tour around the country.
It was actually a relatively placid morning at Clair Global headquarters in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Late spring, pre-summer madness, and I probably could have been drinking chocolate milk, as it was available for free in the kitchen, along with the region’s iconic pretzels and other healthy snacks. But I’d opted for coffee on my shop tour with the gallant Kelsey Gingrich, who happens to oversee many aspects of what prepares those truck packs so nicely and neatly for departure.
The original family company founders, Roy Clair and Gene Clair
with the team years ago.
He’s the Director of Engineering, Manufacturing and Marketing for Clair Global, and like many at the company, he grew up in this shop, acquiring knowledge for each of the areas he now oversees by working in various departments through high school, college, post-college and now graduate school, where he’s capping off his engineering degree with an MBA.
Walking through the pristine shop and offices, dotted with whimsically assembled speaker-stack standing desks and era-defining audio gear, we talked about how this community-minded business is heading into its third generation of family leadership. A gradual strategic transition is occurring at just the right methodical tempo as current CEO and owner Troy Clair, son of late co-founder Gene Clair, begins to hand over the reins to his sons, VP of Sales Shaun Clair and CIO Matt Clair.
As it turns out, the wholesome, process-oriented, precise mandates that built the Clair Global reputation are all kinda magically aligned with what the future demands of a business with a global footprint. There is much talk of the “why” in enterprise today, especially as purpose is a big motivator for those millennials we keep hearing about. But it can be said that all generations at Clair get the “why” of their business. Those clocking 50 years of experience at the company and those just coming in as high-school students are universally driven by the company maxim: “Boldly advancing the entertainment experience.”
After all, the conversation company-wide is about how each piece of the process matters to creating the best possible experience for clients and their audiences. Those team members testing every single cable before it goes back into inventory, and those working the CNC machines as they cut out the extra ounces of baltic birch so Clair Global speakers can be just that much lighter — they all know why they’re doing their jobs.
Just a few arrays of Clair Global’s new Cohesion Series CO-12s and
subs at the Kanye West show at Madison Square Garden.
“We’ve often talked about how our industry is a little different,” Gingrich noted. “My generation is really known for skipping around from company to company. But here we’ve had a lot of people in the millennial generation who are staying and want to make this a career for their lives.”
The “bold” aspect of Clair Global’s “why” might be one reason many want to see things through for the long term at the business. “People want to be doing things that are daring, that are out there,” Gingrich said. Case in point, he waved a hand toward the massive, new and expanding Rock Lititz rehearsal studios and live event business campus next door to Clair Global’s HQ. “The Rock Lititz campus wasn’t a foregone conclusion that it was going to be a success, but we believe that it’s a huge step for the industry. So those are the kind of things that we’re all excited about.”
Rock Lititz is most certainly a success, and I’ll definitely be writing more about that endeavor in the future. But for now, we’ll let Gingrich provide some further analysis of Clair Global’s “why,” because it will really resonate with the AV crowd: “The word ‘experience’ is something that we’re definitely focused on. Not just the details, but how does it affect someone, how does it move someone. That resonates with a lot of people here.”
Next door to Clair Global HQ is the sprawling Rock Lititz campus,
which is partially owned by the Clair family, and includes gigantic
rehearsal studios, a live event industry business hub, and a new
hotel currently under construction.
The experience part of Clair Global’s future includes some very cool new additions to its audio foundation. Beyond the rehearsal studios at Rock Lititz and also at its Nashville location, the company is getting into data services in a big way. Looking ahead, the provision of high-density Wi-Fi environments will not only serve the logistical side of connectivity at festivals and on tours, but it’s also going to be pretty key to the advent of augmented reality (AR).
“There’s going to be a new level of connectivity between the artist and the fans, and we don’t know exactly how it’s going to evolve, but we think having the network there will be a key part of that,” Gingrich observed. “And as augmented reality and mixed reality come into the space, and obviously as there are new visuals that are being incorporated, there’s going to have to be a way of tracking that from an audio perspective.”
But it’s not just a “hey that seems new and cool, let’s do that” kind of thing for Clair Global. Ultimately these new technological advancements are all about why most of us got started in this business in the first place. “We’re really excited about augmented reality because we think there’s huge value in that communal experience at a show, and how you’ll still be interacting with the people around you,” Gingrich said. “There’s just something so powerful about that. That’s really one of the main reasons people continue to go to events, that collective energy. And obviously that communal experience is something that we’re all really passionate about, just because we work here all day, and do all the emails, meetings and spreadsheets, but then we go to the show and we realize what it’s all about.”