European Business: MAG-LEV Audio has described its product as “a turntable of the future for a medium of the past”. What made you believe there is a market for such a device in the days of Spotify and Amazon Music?
Damir Islamovic: While there is a huge market for people who rush through their lives and skip songs every few minutes, there are still many of us who want to take their time to experience their music and do it the right, wholesome way, which includes the artwork on the covers and listening to albums in the song order that the artist intended.
Our turntable is something physical which you can appreciate even when you are not listening to records at that particular moment. Not to mention that the sound quality is way better than anything available digitally. Many contemporary artists have started releasing their albums on vinyl again, so it's not just old music that is available to play on our turntable.
If you produce something similar to what is out there, you are only one of the many these days. Damir Islamovic
European Business: As you just hinted, your product is not a mere device to listen to music, but an eyecatcher: This is part of its USP. Why are impressive visuals important to selling a product whose primary purpose is to make music sound good?
Damir Islamovic: If you produce something similar to what is out there, you are only one of the many these days. Even musicians have to think of ways to be different and set new trends for their music to catch on and be something worth listening to, something new.
We have taken this concept and visually expressed the uplifting experience that listening to music can give you. This way we enhance the entire experience visually, which is an aspect many tend to forget about. There are also many technological benefits to the drive we have invented, which is most obvious in the rumble aspect of playing the record, since we do not have a motor running the turntable, but coils and magnets.
We understand that our product is not for everyone, but those who appreciate it as something unique will understand the price tag. Damir Islamovic
European Business: Most start-ups aim for rapid growth by quickly making their products affordable for as many consumers as possible. With a price tag of roughly 2,500 EUR, your product is clearly aimed at particularly enthusiastic music aficionados, though. What led you to this strategy of not aiming for a mass market, but for a much smaller clientele?
Damir Islamovic: This is a really complex product, and the precision of all of the components has to be top notch. There are so many things which need to be on point, and that requires a lot of ingenuity, development and expensive components. The product was designed with the utmost care and put together carefully by hand. All of this is reflected in its price. We understand that our product is not for everyone, but those who appreciate it as something unique will understand the price tag.
European Business: MAG-LEV Audio is based in Slovenia, one of the European Union’s smallest markets. What is the start-up culture like in Ljubljana, and is it the country’s ambition to become as famous for its innovative and disruptive start-ups as some other small European countries, like Estonia and the Netherlands?
Damir Islamovic: Slovenia is among the countries with the most successful crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter per population. That goes to show that the start-up culture in Ljubljana is very good. The fact that the country is quite small allows for fast communication and community growth.
Among start-up companies, we help each other a lot and have set up start-up breakfasts and meetings. In Slovenia, everyone is really into entrepreneurship, and we are well on our way to catching up with Estonia and the Netherlands. It helps to have lower production and labour costs and then being able to make products for countries with higher standards.
The Slovenian government itself could be a lot more helpful, but they love the success stories and companies once they have become successful. The downside to the Slovenian business environment is that the investment pools are small or nonexistent. So it's hard to start, but great to work from, if you manage to push through in the beginning.
In Slovenia, everyone is really into entrepreneurship, and we are well on our way to catching up with Estonia and the Netherlands. Damir Islamovic
European Business: A personal question at the end: What is your favorite record to play on MAG-LEV Audio’s ML 1 turntable, and why?
Damir Islamovic: Everyone at our company appreciates Frank Sinatra's “Come Fly with Me” album. We have played it numerous times, and naturally, it correlates well to the concept of our levitating "flying" turntable.
Interview: Julian Miller, Fotos: MAG-LEV Audio; Peter Giodani