Monday, April 25, 2011

E-mu Emulator "Breaking the sound barrier" ad, Keyboard 1982

E-mu Emulator 1-page advertisement from page 46 in Keyboard Magazine October 1982.

What's this? Is E-mu getting all "conventional" on Keyboard mag readers? Well... maybe. I consider the two earlier Emulator ads that I've posted much more "out there" anyways.

First, the attention-grabbing, humorous black and white "Play a turkey" ad had you tilting your head sideways after initially reading the title tag-line. Of course, it all made sense once you started reading the ad-copy. The ad ran during the spring and winter of 1981, but even high profile users such as Stevie Wonder and Daryl Dragon, along with this ad, couldn't help move units into the hands of keyboard players. According to E-mu co-founder Dave Rossum in Mark Vail's Vintage Synthesizers book, "sales just hit the wall at the end of '81".

E-mu knew they had to make some changes to the Emulator if they wanted to get sales back up to a respectable level, so on the engineering front, they focused their attention on improvements such as the inclusion of envelopes and a sequencer, as well as providing a "substantial" price break. Then, Dave Rossum went out in the field making those upgrades to Emulators around the world. And then finally, E-mu was off to January '82 NAMM to show off the "Mark 2" Emulator.

Around the same period, E-mu must have figured it was also time to make improvements to the promotion of the Emulator, and came out with a new ad in January 1982. The awesomely cool "Arthur C. Clarke" color advertisement went so sci-fi-minimal on readers asses that it could be questioned by some E-mu accountants on whether shelling out the extra cash for a color ad spot was even worth the money (BTW - from my point of view, the answer is most definitely yes :o)

Surprisingly, the Sci-Fi ad ran for only two months, and then E-mu went "radio-silent" on the advertising front. At least that was the case in Keyboard magazine, where there were no Emulator ads for over half a year later. My guess - they didn't need to advertise. According to Rossum (from the book Vintage Synthesizers by Mark Vail), all those upgrades made to the Emulator were a success, and E-mu was shifting 25 units per month.

But even with high sales (hard to believe that back then 25/month was considered "high"), you gotta keep your product in front of people, or potentially face the not-so-bright future of not-so-high sales. And so this late '82 "Breaking the sounds barrier" ad appeared out of nowhere in Keyboard, bringing with it some much more conventional style and design. Trendy neon glow, ska-influenced floor tiling, even the tag-line sounds kinda trendy. In a way, the ad looks like it is trying to reach out to all the regular keyboard folks attracted to pretty things. Regular folk with $8000+ to spend on cutting edge technology.

The ad-copy is also a lot more descriptive about the Emulator's editing features - now that the Mark II featured envelopes and such. Also, the ad-copy in this ad is also all about the sounds, and more specifically, the sound library, that was growing at an alarmingly delicious rate. In fact, it was part of E-mu's new '82 marketing strategy to really promote the sample disks that came with the instruments.

And it must have worked, because people really started hearing those Emulator sounds in film and on records - as pointed out on
"Famous samples: the Emulator sample library was used on many famous tracks in 1981 - 83, perhaps the most unusual is the Mexican radio sample which was used in both the bar scene of BladeRunner the film, an forms the basis of the MOD track "Junk Culture".
But what's this? As far as I can tell, this ad only ran once in the October 1982 issue of Keyboard. Is that really enough to keep sales up? Did E-mu even need to rely on advertising to sell 25 units per month? Or was two thumbs up from Stevie Wonder enough?

Well, I have another theory (or fantasy, as some would call these theories of mine). This ad was put in Keyboard to do one thing...

Interuptive side note: Now, I realize I just shamelessly used the exact same dramatic effect that I used in my previous Bob Moog/Kurzweil K250 blog post. You know - leaving readers hanging at the end of a paragraph with a mysteriously incomplete thought. But, in that post, I completed the thought on the next line in dramatic bold type.

End note: This time, you'll have to wait until my next blog post... :D

1 comment:

ahclem said...

I can hardly wait for the next post.


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