A Pro Audio Professional’s Journey from Graduate to CEO
In 1992, Julie Tan graduated from the Recording Arts program at the University of Southern California and set her sights on working within the music products and pro audio industry. However, her continued passion for our industry has impacted her career trajectory, leading her to own one of the world's most reputable pro audio companies.
After struggling to find a position in the industry, she finally landed her first job as a production assistant for MTV remote productions. While working for MTV, Tan began exploring additional production assistant opportunities and discovered a classified ad in The Hollywood Reporter for an office administrator for the professional audio manufacturer AMS/Neve.
Tan’s days at AMS/Neve were spent typing lease contracts and answering service calls until a friend recommended that she apply for a job at Alesis during the height of the Alesis Digital Audio Tape (ADAT) revolutions, a product first announced at The 1991 NAMM Show. While at Alesis, Tan worked her way up from a sales administrator to an international sales and marketing manager. Then, in the late 1990s, she joined the team at Line 6, and built the export department, spending years on the road surrounded by musicians, which resulted in a desire to return to making and playing music.
Ever determined to follow her dreams, Tan left Line 6 and took a year off to study and play at the Musician’s Institute. While there, she recorded an album, which included a song featured on NRP’s legendary All Songs Considered. During this time, Tan and her husband started their own music video production company, and she began consulting for various entertainment marketing agencies. Eventually, Tan was lured back to the pro audio world to assist a friend in launching Elite Acoustics.
While working alongside Elite Acoustics, Tan was reintroduced to everything that is NAMM and The NAMM Show. She said, “Being back to working with NAMM made me realize how much I missed being away from my colleagues, friends, and all the gear. Coming back to the community and my peers led to my recruitment by the TC Group to head its U.S. marketing, which evolved into marketing and artist relations for TC and Behringer brands.”
As with most professional stories, the pandemic shifted Tan’s world. Toward the end of the pandemic, a former colleague asked if Tan was interested in consulting for NAMM member Audio Engineering Associates (AEA) Ribbon Mics. Tan recalled, “I knew little about ribbon mics, but working for a small company after the years at Music Group sounded fun. Once here, I realized how magical ribbon mics are and how easy it is to get a great recording every time.”
Tan credits the growth of her passion for ribbon mics to the quality of AEA products and its founder, Wes Dooley, for remaining at the forefront of what Tan calls the “retro-revolution.” A few months after Tan came on board AEA, Dooley expressed interest in selling the company.
Dooley had started AEA in 1976 to repair vintage ribbon mics, and the company quickly became the service center for RCA ribbon mics, including the iconic R44BX and 77DX. In 1998, Dooley introduced the R44C, a replica of RCA’s R44BX, and from there, AEA Ribbon Mics was born.
In October, Tan completed a lengthy process and became the official owner of AEA Ribbon Mics. She said, “The first two years I attended The NAMM Show, I made my way in using borrowed passes with someone else’s name on them. Now I am in my 30th year in the pro audio community, and the fact that I am a voting member of NAMM is completely mind-blowing. At this point, I am committed to being a good steward of the AEA brand name. As a minority woman, I know representation means a lot, and I am eager to help bring up the next generation of musicians, engineers, creators, and entrepreneurs in our ever-evolving and always exciting community.”
As The 2023 NAMM Show approaches, Tan had to decide if exhibiting this April made sense for AEA under her leadership. She said, “Exhibiting at The NAMM Show is even more important now than ever because we want to inform our existing customers and fans that the brand and quality products they love haven’t changed. We also understand the importance of communicating that we are evolving and improving to serve our customers better and reach a broader market.”
Also crucial to Tan is the TEC Award nomination AEA has received. The TRP500 earned the NAMM member its 11th nomination, and the AEA team hopes to bring home a win to honor Dooley and his contributions to the brand and industry at The 2023 NAMM Show.
Tan continued, “The NAMM Show allows us to show off all our products and interact directly with customers in one-on-one applicational demonstrations. Introducing someone to a ribbon mic for the first time is exciting. You can almost see the light bulb go off in their heads when they see how easy it is to use a quality ribbon mic to simplify their workflow and get a great sound every time. With the high-end nature of our products, The NAMM Show is a perfect setting to showcase everything in one place and create a space within our booth where the attendees can fully immerse themselves in exploring everything we have to offer.”