Austin Freshwater has been appointed Managing Director of digital audio mixing console specialist, DiGiCo.

The directors of DiGiCo’s parent company, Audiotonix – which also oversees Allen & Heath, Calrec, DiGiGrid, Group One Limited, Klang:technologies, Solid State Logic and newly acquired Sound Devices – say that the decision was made, in part, in response to Freshwater’s performance against the landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘We were talking about Austin moving into the MD position just before Covid-19 hit, by which time it didn’t feel right for me to run off into the hills,’ says James Gordon, who has held role over the past 14 years. ‘I don’t think it would have sent the right message to our customers and teams.

Austin Freshwater‘Anybody I’ve ever met who actually wants to be an MD is pretty average at it,’ he says. ‘As for the people who really learn about a company on their way up, those are the people who make the best managing directors. It’s not a job as such, it’s a responsibility you should want to take on.’

During the past 18 months, Freshwater stepped up behind the scenes when the unforeseen impact on live events took hold, presenting him with a huge challenge far sooner than anyone was expecting. ‘His performance and behaviour over the past 18 months has been nothing short of phenomenal,’ Gordon continues. ‘He’s done an amazing job in a company that, to be very honest, is used to winning all of the time.’

DiGiCo has grown year-on-year since its establishment in 2002 and as its 20-year milestone approaches, it remains one of the youngest brands in pro audio. Its success isn’t solely down to products, as the personality of DiGiCo as a company has played a significant part in building its status.

‘In March 2020, everyone went into ‘serious concern’ mode,’ says Gordon. ‘We’ve spent this time reassuring people within the company who aren’t used to not hitting their numbers that we’re all in it together. We’ve also spent a lot of time helping our end-users because they’ve been miles away from their on-the-road family, and their usual support groups haven’t been there in person. Seeing how well Austin has led the team during this time has been exceptional. It’s really shown everyone that he’s more than capable.’

‘We were in the office most days trying to keep in touch with everybody and keep them genuinely motivated,’ Freshwater offers. ‘Just checking in on everyone regularly and letting them know we were still around was vital. It’s been a challenging time both emotionally and commercially.’

James Gordon‘Pandemic aside, he’s always been the right guy for the job,’ Gordon adds. ‘We did surprisingly well during incredibly difficult times for a live event business, and that’s mainly down to how Austin handled the situation. Sure, he had all the right products and all the right people with him, but he still had to deliver in an extreme environment. So, where we were confident in his abilities before, it gave us certainty.

‘We don’t get everything right, but if we make a mistake we’ll fight to fix it. That’s what I know Austin will do, he’ll still be there when it goes wrong. He will save the day – and that’s what makes you an MD.’

‘Cultivating relationships, I believe, is an inherent thing,’ says the new MD. ‘People either have it or they don’t; it’s not a skill you can learn. If you’re good at it and can harness it to build professional relationships, even better. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know people and enjoy spending time with them?’

‘As CEO of Audiotonix, I was getting pulled everywhere,’ says Gordon. ‘If we hadn’t filled the position at DiGiCo and put Austin on the path that we did, when we did, we were in danger of not being as great as the company deserves. Finding the key person was such a crucial thing. People love DiGiCo for a reason, and we had to keep the same culture running throughout the company.

‘That’s actually the hardest thing when you’re in business – growing the right team around you. All of our businesses at Audiotonix have their own unique working cultures and that’s part of the magic of each of the companies complementing one another’s ethos. We’ve hired and promoted people at each brand that we feel fit the profile of the individual businesses.’

‘When I joined DiGiCo, I was nervous that I didn’t have the technical knowledge that everyone around me had,’ Freshwater recalls. ‘I didn’t know the products, the industry or any of the people, but it comes down to how well you’re supported.

‘I want to replicate the relationships James has built,’ he concludes. ‘Not replace them by any means, but add to them and offer that extra bit of support. After all, if you’re not driven to be the best for your customers, what are you doing it for?’


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