Lynn Martin Turns the Big 5-0!

May 7, 2004 12:00 PM, George Petersen

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Fifty years ago today, on May 7, 1954, the headlines were filled with amazing stories from around the world. The U.S., Great Britain and France rejected a Russian bid for membership in NATO; and Roger Bannister, an Oxford medical student shattered track and field's most famed barrier, running a mile course in three minutes and 59 seconds. Looking off the newspaper front pages—meaning way off—you might have noticed a tiny birth announcement for future pro audio magnate Lynn Martin.

One of those guys who shrugged off the notion that he'd ever reach 30—much less 50—Martin lived the ultimate dream rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of playing screaming electric violin solos in a long string of bands that ultimately went nowhere. However, the years of road life, filthy roadside bathrooms, late-night gigs in sleazy clubs and an existence on cheap cigarettes and cold morning-after pizza took their toll, and Martin gave up his wandering ways for a real daytime gig.

Pictured above right: Lynn Martin back in his days as a hippie musician with the band Talus. Note that he seems to be holding himself upright with his left hand.

Of course, as a musician, the ultimate fantasy job is to work in a music store, selling gear to other people who somehow think they can make money in this biz. It's always been this way, so he signed on at K&K Music in the bustling metropolis of Sacramento, Calif. After working there long enough to get all of the gear he needed at an employee discount, Martin quit and became a manufacturers rep for Brian Trankle & Associates, calling on local stores and dealers and wholesaling them gear that they could sell to musicians who thought they could make money in this biz.

Pictured left: Lynn Martin today, having achieved his lifelong dream.

Martin’s friendly smile and easy-going nature helped him in his new career, but also led to a stumble or two, according to Skip Maggiora of leading Sacramento retailer Skip's Music: "I always enjoyed giving Lynn a hard time and he made it very easy since he could be pretty gullible. Even before he heard the news, I already knew he would be offered the rep job. This was a perfect opportunity pull a fast one on my good friend Lynn. Knowing he'd be my new rep for Audio-Technica and Digitech, I sat in my office and waited for his call, which came later that day. Lynn was excited and said, 'I have some good news for you,' but before he could say anything else, I said, 'I've got some news for you: You don't have to worry about losing any of those A-T or Digitech sales [from K&K] to Skip's anymore, because I just discontinued both lines!' There was a long silence on the other end of the phone and with a whole lot less excitement in his voice, Lynn asked, 'You're not doing business with A-T or Digitech anymore?' I quickly said, 'No, never again. Why?' I let him stew on it as long as I could. I knew that he had probably already seen just how much business we were doing in his new territory and had calculated those numbers into his new paycheck. Of course, I was just kidding him and went on to do a lot of business with Lynn."

Turning his back on the Golden State, Martin pulled up stakes and moved to Salt Lake City in 1991, beginning a long stint with the Harman Music Group, helping to develop the Allen & Heath and dbx brands. In a November 2002 interview in Mix magazine, he was quoted as saying, "I knew I was in the right profession when I found myself developing, marketing and selling products for the brands and the type of gear that I used to dream of owning." However, what he really meant to say was that as a manufacturer, he could use rep firms to sell gear to dealers who'd sell gear to musicians who thought they could make money in this biz. And after eight years of that (and a long, unfulfilled yearning for decent local sushi), he returned to California as the VP of merchandising for Guitar Center's technology division.

Allen & Heath left the Harman group in 2001, and Martin saw an opportunity. Some months later, he left Guitar Center to form NAPA (North American Pro Audio), an Agoura Hills, Calif.-based consortium that handles U.S. distribution of A&H and other brands, including the famed Swedish Hagstrom guitars, again putting Lynn ever-closer to that lifelong dream of selling gear to people who think they can make money in this biz.

So today, May 7, 2004, marks Lynn Martin's first half-century. If you know Martin, drop a note or call to wish him a couple more...half-centuries, that is. He'll appreciate it.

Mix correspondent George Petersen also runs www.crazycampsongs.com, a Website offering wacky children's music books to people who think there's money to be made in the music biz.






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