Interview with Maker hart's CEO William Shaw

Candy Ho
May 6, 2019

What happens when music and maker culture collide?

Bringing music into the maker community, Maker hart has been a unique, refreshing presence in Maker Faires in many different cities including Rome, New York and San Francisco for years, drawing attention with their interactive electronic instruments and mini portable mixers.

We sat down with Maker hart’s CEO, William Shaw, to talk about the inspiration behind their ideas and innovation.

CEO of Maker hart, Willam Shaw

What are Maker hart’s main products?

At Maker hart, we make two main types of products: mini (portable) audio and microphone mixers and accessories (which include mini-amplifiers), and interactive electronic instruments. We also develop apps to enhance the user experience with these instruments and stimulate creativity. Our ukuleles, violins, recorders, pianos and electronic drums all can be used with apps.

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As music tech trendsetters, how do your products lead and revolutionize the industry and what problems do they solve?

Our products are designed with a vision to make music more convenient and accessible for everyone.  

We were initially inspired to create mini audio mixers when we saw how musicians, when rehearsing or performing, often struggle with the limitations of their current mixer. For example, street musicians usually have a mixer with them when they perform, because they have sound coming from both musical instruments and microphones. They also need to play background music too, usually with their phones or tablets. The problem with this is that the electrical power necessary to support traditional large, bulky mixers isn’t always available in the outdoor spaces where they perform. Additionally, as you can see on TV in singing competitions like The Voice and American Idol, when singers practice, they almost always hold their phones next to their ear to play music, which means that the contestants can’t hear what they truly sound like. Our portable mixer solves the problems of both the performing and rehearsing musician, as our mixer is portable, compact, and is compatible with outside electronics, and it allows singers to mix the music and their voices coming from microphones, and at the same time, record the audio in another device. This way, when they’re done practicing, they can access the recorded files and know what they actually sound like.

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As for our electronic musical instruments, our experiences came from our experience as manufacturers and app developers. When aspiring musicians are learning an instrument, they need guidance. Some guidance is offered in user manuals, but no one reads those. So we decided to design apps to support the instrument learning process and make music learning fun and easy. Music lessons are expensive and inaccessible to the average person, but musicians need guidance. And our apps offer just that.

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Maker Faire Rome 2018

Our products are designed with a vision to make music more convenient and accessible for everyone.  

What is the inspiration and story behind Maker hart?

The financial crisis in 2008 affected us hugely. At the time, we were manufacturers providing products competing with Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that had the price advantage. So, at a time when many firms were going out of business, we needed to innovate and create value in other ways in order to be competitive in other ways and remain afloat in the market. By using the Maker hart Team’s information engineering background and genuine passion for innovation and music to our advantage, we have been able to grow as a company and innovate despite obstacles in the market, and come out of the recession stronger.

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Maker Faire Taiwan

What changes does Maker hart wish to bring to the music industry? How does your product help people enjoy music?

We’re not hoping to change the music industry. We want to inspire the maker community and the general public. Our years of experience show us that most musical instruments are designed for people who are already musically proficient, but in fact, more than 80% of our customers are beginners. Let me ask you this question - how many out of 100 people knows how to play musical instruments? About 10. We were stuck in the mindset of designing products for 10 people. But through events like Maker Faire, which we attend 2-3 times a year in cities around the globe, we were largely exposed to the other 90 people. They want to play music too. Through this and feedback, reviews, complaints that we received, we realized the market potential for people who don’t actually know how to play music yet. Our products are the perfect solution for these people. It’s easy to use and very fun.

What are some trends in electronic music that you’ve observed over the years?

Here’s the thing with learning music: usually people take lessons, and when they have certain skills they buy the instruments. But now, with smartphones and the internet, no one wants to learn to play music anymore. Everyone is busy using their phones. Kids are obsessed with internet and games and phones, so no one wants to sit and play musical instruments. I think this is shrinking the musical instrument market. But with problems comes opportunity. If we can create musical products that reflect our modern world, we can prosper. We’ve received great success and feedback with our mobile game that works with our electronic drums. Users aren’t only playing games, but rather, through games, they’re playing musical instruments and music. By adapting to changes and utilizing technology, we can spread music and thrive as a company in modern times.

If we can create musical products that reflect our modern world, we can prosper.

In one sentence, what is Maker hart’s vision?

“We want more people to find joy in music. “

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