Jands celebrates 50th anniversary
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
jandsJands - celebrating 50 years of continual ownership
Australia - Jands, Australia’s largest theatre and audio visual technology distribution company, celebrates 50 years of continual ownership on Friday, 27 November, capping five decades that closely tracks the history of live production and indeed, Australian rock’n’roll. 
Starting with some psychedelic lights in the basement of their parents’ home, Brothers David and Paul Mulholland were soon joined by school friend, (the late) Eric Robinson and went on to buy the fledgling J and S Research Electronics on 27 November 1970. The business took off as live music boomed from the straight-laced 1960s and solid state technology took hold, allowing louder, larger amplifiers. Column PA systems gave way to horn loaded systems derived from cinemas while swirling psychedelic liquid lightshows were replaced with stage lighting systems.
Jands built all their equipment - including speaker cabinets and cases being handmade by the company accountant Robert Young, Strobes, Colour Organs, dimmers and amplifiers being made in the company’s Marrickville factory. When promoters began booking international acts for outdoor concerts more sophisticated sound systems were required. Rock festivals like Sunbury needed more and louder sound, soon the Par Can came along and Jands bought the first 20 Altman versions, quickly copying a hundred to fulfil the demand.
“There is no better example of the strength of Jands expertise than when we were asked to provide audio for the first Elton John tour of Australia and New Zealand,” recalls Chairman Paul Mulholland. “All of the sound equipment was designed and manufactured by Jands and the technical crew were all our staff. This ‘can-do’ culture developed in our formative years has been the driving force behind the company for the past 50 years.”
With punishing import tariffs and sales taxes on most equipment, Jands made their own, selling mixing consoles (the JM series) far and wide, then dimmer racks, lighting desks, signal processing, amplifiers and speaker cabinets loaded with JBL transducers - then the top brand worldwide, and eventually Jands became the JBL agents. The Shure microphone agency soon followed, establishing Jands distribution and commencing a respected thirty year business relationship.
When Genesis blew everyone away using the first Vari*Lite moving lights, Jands swooped to secure the Australian agency. Rapid expansion followed as technology raced to keep up with the insatiable demand of live music.
Venue installations grew as convention centres and theatres were built and Jands added skillsets and staff, attracting and developing many of the well-known names in today’s tightly knit world-wide live performance industry.
Paul and Eric forged an iron-clad partnership, playing off their strengths and determination, leveraging, negotiating and strategising year after year as the firm grew and diversified. With parallel Jands enterprises - Eric running Concert Production and Paul running Electronics and Distribution - Jands entered this century in buoyant mode.
It didn’t rest on its laurels. Eric saw the future of live sound as a global industry and, keen to secure the future for the company and staff, started negotiating his most important deal, which saw Jands sell its live sound business to Clair Global. Sadly he passed away in 2015 before the deal was completed.
Paul Mulholland undertook a complete review of the business, and invited one of Australia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs Richard White onboard. Richard, who sold his business Rock Industries to Jands in the 1970s went on to establish WiseTech Global, a $9 bn Australian success story, and now a significant shareholder in Jands.
Over the past three years Jands has dropped and added brands and today has a portfolio of leading brands across lighting, pro audio, retail, audio visual, ICT, and theatre hardware.
(Julius Grafton)

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