AV People: Bill Mullin of Starin

bill-starin-0514Like many people who work in AV, Bill Mullin of Starin backed his way into the industry. As a child, Bill was always interested in anything that flickered an image or made a sound. Having grown up in the 1960s as a product of the British invasion, music and the technology behind it always intrigued him. On top of that, Bill’s dad was an engineer who encouraged things like modeling and building.

“In the early ’60s, I built my first transistor radio,” recalled Bill. “I could pick up WABC out of New York City all the way in Philadelphia and I’d play it until the wee hours of the morning without my parents knowing. And from there, I was getting an understanding of how PA systems worked and that eventually translated into using them for my band.”

Bill’s fascination with equipment just continue to grow. He ended up with a degree in radio and television and he continued to play music during and after with his band Peddler. Around 1973, Peddler was signed to a record deal with United Artists. According to Bill, Peddler was a no-hit wonder… they produced one album, then Peddler was no more after 1976.

After his brief stint with Peddler, Bill ended up solo again and saw an ad in the newspaper for a radio and television transmitter operator. Since he had his FCC license, he applied for the job.

Over the next few years, Bill worked in various jobs until he started a production company that had a contract with the city of South Bend, Ind. for its convention and civic auditorium. He did contract production work, design and installation services, and even helped to run its small recording studio.

“That job was really my first foray into the real world of AV,” said Bill.

One thing led to another and eventually Bill found himself working for Starin, where today he serves as the president. He’s been there for 11 years. One of Bill’s strengths is in crisis management — he actually jokes he got his “degree” in crisis management from MCSi, the AV mega-company that failed in the early 2000s after its infamous CEO was convicted of fraud, resulting in the company’s bankruptcy. At Starin, Bill is able to translate a lot of those skills into making sure that every resource within the company is allocated appropriately — everything from the time and energy people spend on something all the way to ensuring that they are good stewards of the funds they receive.

“I think one of the things that is most important [for a company] is adaptability,” said Bill. “I think people have it mixed up — it’s not ‘survival of the fittest;’ it’s ‘survival of the most adaptable.’ That’s been energizing to me no matter what stage of my career I’ve been in. I’ve always looked at the situation around me and thought, ‘How do I do this best?’ This is all inherent in the DNA of AV people. AV people are all about communication and creativity and looking at how to take a situation and make the most of it. That’s been one of my greatest lessons.”

It’s clear, through Bill’s successes, that he’s been able to apply that lesson over and over.

Currently, much of Bill’s passion and energy have been focused towards education. As more and more happens with the convergence of technologies and the changes happening in the digital age, Bill believes education is truly the most important thing for anyone to spend time in.

“Education helps us collectively look at how we remain relevant and how we adapt to the changes that are happening under our feet,” said Bill. “We have to be able to shift.”

Outside of his day-to-day work in the industry, Bill loves spending time with his family. Bill and his wife Joanne are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year. In fact, he brought his wife with him to the NAB show in Las Vegas this year and took her to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel, said something to her in French, and basically “proposed” to take her to France for their anniversary.

“[I did it] for all the times I put her through me being on the road, her putting her career and aspirations on hold for the sake of me and our two sons… I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her support and her ability to adapt through the times we’ve move and the tough times,” explained Bill.

Bill and Joanne have two sons, Matthew and Billy. Matthew is taking after his father (and mother) by working at a recording studio in Sausalito. Joanne was actually once a singer in a gospel group. So music is in Matthew’s blood.

Billy, age 17, is a passionate skateboarder, and Bill has really come to enjoy the skater community as he shares in his son’s interests.

“The skater community is really strong,” said Bill. “They often get characterized as the punks, but they are so respectful and encouraging of each other… and they’re all into video like crazy! They’re making their friends document their tricks and put videos together. This has all made my son really interested in photography and videography so he may go in that direction professionally. I’m just so proud of both of [my sons].”

And through it all, the career, the family, etc. – Bill’s love for music has never stopped. In fact, much of the music he produced and made in his production days is still a big part of his life.

“Back in my early production days, I did everything from industrial video to commercials to slideshows. I’d produce music here and there with my business partner and about a dozen other guys,” recalled Bill. “Then, we’d start to get calls from motion picture companies who’d be working on a film or project and their contract with Hanz Zimmer would be up but they’d need tracks for scenes or transitions and we’d send them something. I’m still receiving royalties from a lot of that previous work today.”

Some of Bill’s music has appeared in movies like The Pelican Brief and Wyatt Earp.

Bill’s work spans a few decades and a few industries, but he’s clearly made an impact on so many and works so hard for what he’s passionate about. He truly believes that when passion, work ethic, drive, and education are behind something – you can do anything.

“It’s a very connected world,” said Bill. “And in a connected world, you can do anything.”