The old Mercenary we knew ended after the Great Recession of 2010 when it was sold and then over a period of time, finally foreclosed upon, and yet it has remained in name and philosophy among those who value great music and great sound without compromise. Never satisfied with run-of-the-mill, the MERCENARY modus operandi is to reexamine everything, no matter how trivial or entrenched in current practice. Studio recording gear like preamps, microphones and converters comprised the bulk of that business. We got to know Mercenary as one of our dealers when we manufactured ribbon microphones, and we were sorry to part ways in 2010 when we sold the technology to Shure, Inc. who today manufacture them as the KSM-313 and KSM-353 ribbon microphones.
LIVE SOUND is arguably more important today because artists depend on live performance income. Sales of downloads, royalties and other income are secondary to what an artist can get performing live in a good venue. Even long-established or previously retired recording artists have increased the number of tour dates – if they can book them – simply because their income has dropped significantly. The royalties from even the old, great earners are lower than ever before.
Performing live is heavy work. The travel, gear, setup, not to mention years of preparation, songwriting, practice and developing the relationships needed to successfully tour are all daunting and expensive. Concert attendance can depend on a musician’s fan base to fill the house – if that artist is lucky enough to have one. After all that, you want your fans and their friends to hear your music well. Those who aren’t familiar with your music can’t easily like it if the sound on the hall is bad.
The music-related equipment business is a reasonably large one. Out of the millions of guitars, keyboards and drums sold, probably one one-hundredth of one percent ever get used in a paid live performance. Software is a large segment. Lots of PA systems are sold. Line arrays, amps, FOH mixers and software tools galore are sold and used. It takes knowledge and experience to use all of these tools, and organizations like AES have slowly recognized their new mission has to be more focused on performance sound than recorded sound.
The old Mercenary selected good recording gear and sold it based on first-person expertise in recording techniques and music making. The new Mercenary may follow that wise course again because live sound is even more important economically to artists who want to earn their living with music.