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Visual Sound Headquarters: (Left to right) Zac Childs, Michael Weil, Phyllis Weil, Dana Weaver, Steven Bliss, Steve Mikesell, and Bob Weil. (Not pictured: Jamie Rowe and R.G. Keen.)
Phyllis Weil (Bob Weil’s mother) does the books for Visual Sound.
Envisioning the Future
Despite a world run rampant with pedal makers—from one-person outfits to smaller boutique outfits and medium-sized manufacturers—Visual Sound is thriving. Still, Weil recognizes all too well the challenges of this crowded product niche. “Five years ago, it was easier to be well known, because not everyone and their dog was making pedals. Now everyone and their dog, their cat, and their cat’s cousin is making pedals,” he says, adding with a laugh, “and it is mostly R.G.’s fault for having that site!
Mike Weil, operations manager for Visual Sound.
“It has gotten difficult to stand out from the crowd,” Weil explains. “There are guys doing what I was doing in 1995—making stuff in their basement. They don’t know any more than I did then. They watch some YouTube videos, solder up some pedals, and sell them on the web for $400. I am not saying that to put it down. It is like the recording industry: The great news is you can make a CD for next to nothing and sell it to anyone in the world. The bad news is—so can everyone else. I wouldn’t want to start a pedal company these days. As a hobby, sure, but as a business it would be like getting onto an L.A. freeway with a bicycle.”
Thanks to international distribution handled by Zac Childs, robust artist relations coordinated by Steve Bliss, and a social-media push spearheaded by Jamie Rowe, Visual Sound is staying in the game. It helps, too, that it is something of a family business. In addition to advice from wife Julie, Weil’s mother Phyllis does the books, and brother Mike is operations manager. And in a seismically shifting market where one day’s hot pedal is next week’s eBay item, that means a whole lot more to Weil and his crew than whether you call Visual Sound “boutique” or “mass market.” Because in the end, as their motto says, their real goal is to provide “Real Tone for Real People.”