Celestion Presents an Interview with Jay Peabody, Founder of Loudspeakers Plus

25 years ago, Loudspeakers Plus found a unique niche for themselves, supplying music dealers all over the U.S. with loudspeaker components. At the time, there were few outlets for dealers to buy replacement and repair parts, and often major manufacturers would not stock these items. Loudspeakers Plus became the “one-stop shop” that supported all the major loudspeaker brands so dealers could quickly and easily solve customer repair and replacement issues. Today, Loudspeakers Plus stocks over 95% of the speakers, high-frequency drivers, replacement parts, and components for virtually any major manufacturer that matters.

Founder and CEO Jay Peabody says that their formula for success is simple “Give every customer the right product at the right price.” And his team’s dedication and years of experience ensure they will get exactly what they need when they need it. We spoke with Jay about the origins of Loudspeakers Plus, the importance of providing great customer service, his thoughts about advances in the speaker industry, and more.

What is your favorite album of all time and why?
That’s tough, I don’t think I could pick just one. My parents exposed me to a lot of different kinds of music. Before I was 10 years old, I had seen concerts by the Monkeys, Johnny Cash, and Andres Segovia. It was an amazing, wide range of music. As I was coming of age in the 70s, I gravitated towards heavier music like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Rush. But if I have to pick one, it would probably be Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.
Great choice. Now, what first got you started in the audio industry?
I took kind of a convoluted path. When I left college, I had a degree in mass communications. I started working for my father’s promotional tech writing agency. I was writing copy and supervising product photography and things like that, but at the same time, I was an aspiring professional musician. I played bass guitar and sang background vocals. So, I was also a touring and recording artist for a few years. After some time, I realized that playing music probably wasn’t going to turn out the way I wanted it. My dad had a client in the music industry, and I started working for them. They made microphone connectors of all things. That snowballed into getting into the speaker business, and in 1999, I started my own company.

Was that Loudspeakers Plus? Can you tell us more about how it started?
Yes, it was. When I started with this other company, I moved up in the ranks and then I moved to another company and became a general manager, but the corporate thing didn’t work well for my personality, so I decided to do my own thing and just focus on speaker products. I took a chance with my savings and it seems to have turned out pretty well…at least I’ve been happy with it. Now we’ve been in business for 25 years. I must be doing something right. [Laughs]

Tell us about Loudspeakers Plus? We’d like to hear about both your business and the customers that you serve.
If you’re a speaker designer or small speaker builder, if you’re an artist or a musician, if you‘re a DJ or a PA company, or working on club, school, or corporate installs Loudspeakers Plus will not only provide you the original speaker parts that you need to design or build something, but also help replace and service them to get up and running fast. If we can’t help you, we’ll direct you to who you need to speak with.

It doesn’t matter what brand, people call us every day for help with JBL, EV, Mackie, and EAW products, to name a few. Those companies are great but contacting them is not the most efficient way for a customer to get support when all they need to do is replace one speaker driver. That’s where we step in. Basically, much of our business is supporting products that are out there to keep them going so customers don’t have to just throw them away when a part is damaged.
We don’t just do one-offs though; we’ll sell up to 50-70 speakers at a time. That’s the range where we operate.

How do you feel your background influenced your decision to do this, and how does your background influence the company overall?
Product-wise, I already understood what I was selling because they were the products that I used as a musician, speakers, so that was a no-brainer. One side of the business is understanding what it is that you’re selling. The other side is the attitude of how you approach people. Partnering with them and helping them solve problems has turned out to be the most successful part of our business. Over time we develop relationships where people can really count on us.

There’s no substitute for great customer service.
Yes, but it’s the kind of thing that you don’t see as often as you used to, especially with large corporations. As we go into the digital age, we’re less likely to connect human to human and engage with each other. Hopefully, as we continue to move forward, we’ll go back in the direction where we did have that more personal connection.
Where we’re a small business, when you call Loudspeakers Plus, you’re not talking to an endless phone tree or automated people who just push numbers, take orders, read from a script, and don’t know what they’re talking about. If I need something to help a customer, I can go back to the warehouse to find what they need or to the shipping department to send them what they need. I’ve done that from the beginning, so I know every aspect of the business. In fact, everyone in our company can be consulted to a point and do other things, outside of their job description to help customers, whatever it takes.

You and your company are well-known and well-respected in the industry. In your viewpoint, what’s the main reason for that?
In our small industry, word gets around and reputation is everything. If you talk to our customers, they’ll tell you that we help them, provide answers, give them advice, and solve problems quickly. We’ve done a great job of that, and I think our longevity reflects it.

What would you say the most important technological advancement has been in our industry?
There have been so many advancements, and it seems every few years those things are trumped by something better. I never thought I’d see wireless technology get to the point that it’s at as quickly as it has. I’m not just talking about wireless itself, but the integration of high-definition audio and acoustics with wireless technology. That doesn’t affect speakers as much as it does performance and musical instruments.We deal primarily with speaker components and it’s interesting to see their evolution over the past 150 years or so since the first speaker was built. The basic physics of speakers hasn’t changed much, but the technology and materials, and the understanding of acoustics and acoustic design have changed considerably. Those advancements have made speakers basically unrecognizable from products even 20 or 30 years ago, let alone 100 years ago.
So, the most significant innovations on the speaker side of the business have been in the acoustic design of speaker cabinets. Also using advanced materials like neodymium magnets which provide high power while being very lightweight. Those in my opinion, are the big innovations.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Our customers trust and respect us. I take great pride in that because we’ve built relationships where people can rely on us. I’m not just talking about when they need something in an emergency. Of course, we come through for them in those moments, but I’m also talking about the day-to-day when they are planning their business. Whether they’re doing a club install or getting a back line ready for a tour, they know who to call.
Can you tell me about your company culture and your philosophy for leading the team?
My philosophy is when someone asks you if you can do something, you’ll say ‘Yes, I can do it.’ If you can’t do it personally, you’ll talk to another team member, and they’ll help you. As a small business, we cross-train and can do much of each other’s jobs. Everyone here at Loudspeakers Plus can make a product recommendation or ship a box. Our customers count on that. It’s just whatever it takes for the customer at the time.

How are you poised for the future?
That’s a tough one. I never would have thought or predicted what we see today, even 10 years ago. We started the business in 1999, and things have changed in the world for everyone, in every aspect, not just our industry.

We think as a small business, our resiliency and ability to pivot and do things is how we are poised for the future. I’d like to think that we have an advantage over larger companies because it’s hard to stop a loaded train when it’s moving fast. But if you’re in a sports car, you can stop quickly and turn if you need to. That’s kind of a weird analogy, but the big players in our industry try to plan years in advance, and put so much energy into their focus on innovations. Because of that, they simply can’t switch and pivot like a small company like us. When the changes come, we can change quickly with them.
There’s no doubt that the customer relationships that we’ve built also have us prepared us for the future. One of the most important ways we grow our business is by referral. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we get every week that start with “I talked to someone and they said you could help…” In most cases, this starts a relationship that we’ll have for years to come.

What music are you listening to these days?
My musical tastes have matured in a lot of ways since I was playing bass in a metal band. I’ll listen to Eminem. I’ll listen to Megadeth. I’ll listen to yacht rock. I’ll listen to Paganini, and jazz, too. I’ve been listening to Charlie Parker and I’m reading a biography on him right now. I’ll even listen to house music. It runs the gamut.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I’ve had a long and wonderful relationship with Celestion and I have to say the whole 100th anniversary celebration with them at NAMM was just a total success. It was fantastic to get together with everybody and that night it wasn’t about business. We’ve already done the work to be successful and it was just about celebrating how we got to where we are through working together. My wife was with me, and it was such a feel-good thing. It’s one of those times I’ll think back on and fondly remember.