Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vibronic Music Systems "Synthesizers?" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Vibronic Music Systems "Synthesizers?" half-page black and white advertisement from page 30 in the January/February 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

Another gooder from Vibronic.

Where that first "What a combination" Vibronic ad was a lesson in simplicity with a simple line drawing and a few bullet points, this advertisement piles on the content with a large ad-title, a large photo of a large Moog modular, and a large amount of ad-copy. All in a half-page space.

And it's all in the details. The way the keyboard in the photo breaks the border of the ad to catch the eye. And the way the dotted line of the form follows the shape of the photo, also breaking the lines of the ad and catching the eye. Not sure if any of that was done specifically for that reason (often its just 'cause it looks good), but it worked out that way. And it works.

Ken Fine working hard, 1975ish
Notice all that juicy historical
synthesizer goodness hang on the
wall behind him.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that through a few Google searches I managed to track down then-owner Ken Fine, now "head honcho" at Blue Moon Talent Inc. And, after a quick email exchange, we ended up chatting on the phone about his experiences opening the "first synthesizer-only" instrument shop in America. He also sent a few photos my way, including this one of himself at the shop. Excellent!

Although not readily apparent in this photo of ken hard at work (on the phone with Bob?), Ken comes across as a fun and friendly guy. And that personality definitely played a role in the development of that first Vibronic advertisement with its most-excellent t-shirt-ready drawing of a Moog Modular, and this more comprehensive second ad.

I find that smaller companies like Vibronic can get away with a lot more fun and humor in advertisements than larger companies, but there is still that real danger of getting carried away. But Vibronic used humor well, without going over the top.

For example, take a look at the ad-copy in this second ad. "We take the fun of making music seriously."  Not over the top, but you immediately "get" where Vibronic is coming from as a company.  And then you come to the punch line found in the cut-out form section of this ad. In that form are two check-boxes.
  • First check box: Send me the free Vibronic Catalog
  • Second check box: I want technical expertise. Send Kenny Fine
I wonder how many people checked off that second box. :)

I pointed this second line out to Ken and he chuckled as the memories surrounding this ad started flooding back to the front of his mind, noting that there was a lot of fun and laughter around the shop during this time period.

And how could there not be humor and fun?  Not yet in his mid-20's, Ken was an owner of a 1000 square foot futuristic-looking shop full of big analog monophonic and modular synthesizers, wired together through an audio switching matrix, feeding into a custom-designed sound system that would probably have felt at home in a large auditorium.

His excuse for the large custom PA - so clients could hear that deep Moog sub-bass. I'm sure one note and that bank loan officer understood exactly why he needed this sound system.  :)

This conversation led nicely into one of the topics I was really looking forward to discussing - that drawing of the Moog modular in Vibronic's first ad. That's one nice piece of... er... fun.

Ken loves that drawing too  (why wouldn't he  :), and recalled that it, and the ad, were created by good  friend and artist Linda Chyhai based on a photo of one of the modulars in the store. He pointed out that you can make out her last name in the bottom left corner of the keyboard in the drawing.

Maxi-Korg - another example of
the Baby Teeth font
Photo taken shamefully
from a MATRIXSYNTH 2007 post
She was also responsible for the creation of the awesome Vibronic logo that can be seen in these ads. Without skipping a beat, Ken recalled that the font used was Baby Teeth. We both did a quick Google search while we talked on the phone and... sure enough... there it was. Baby Teeth! The font was designed in the early 70s by Milton Glaser. And you may recognize Baby Teeth from another appearance it made in the early synth world - on the front panel of the Maxi-Korg synth! Hello!

BTW - you may have noticed that the Vibronic logo seen in the office photo is different from the one in the ads. That original Vibronic logo was created by a high school art teacher, who Ken mentioned also created the store sign. 

Another question I asked Ken was how the heck he managed to get his advertisements into the first few issues of Contemporary Keyboard. I had three theories.

1. Cold call from CK sales guy?
2. Through his association with Bob Moog, who was a writer for CK and a guest at the opening of the store?
3. From the 1975 NAMM show that CK happened to attend prior to publishing their first issue?

I was secretly hoping for "3" since I had noticed that the first issue of CK included an article on the 1975 NAMM show. In that article, the CK author mentions that the magazine had a booth there, promoting the magazine before its first publication. And well - that would just be cool if all those little pieces fell into place to create a great little story.

I was quite happy and surprised to learn that "3" *was* the correct answer.  Ken had been there with a few Moog synths and had met magazine editor Tom Darter, who convinced him to sign-up for a 1/2-page advertisement for the first issue. And in the next few as well. He seems to recall paying approximately $500 for the ad in that first issue. There is always a cost to being a part of synth history.

So, why did Vibronic's advertising in CK suddenly stop early in 1976 after only a few ads? Ken realized that his audience wasn't nation-wide and that a national magazine maybe wasn't the best vehicle to reach his customer-base. He decided to focus his marketing and advertising dollars towards local area musicians as well as educators that were also discovering synthesizers and setting up labs to teach sound and music.

In fact for Ken, music and education played a huge role both before, during and after life at Vibronic.

But that will have to wait for the next post.:)

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