September 06, 2023 I Appointments

Sweetwater Names Mike Clem New CEO

Mike Clem

Sweetwater has promoted Mike Clem to the role of CEO and president, effective September 29. Clem will replace John Hopkins, who is retiring after more than 30 years at Sweetwater.

Since joining the company in 2003, Clem has held several key leadership roles in e-commerce and marketing and has been instrumental in driving Sweetwater’s growth. Prior to being named president in January 2023, Clem served as chief growth officer, where he orchestrated strategic growth plans.

“Mike is a natural choice to become CEO and president and has played a key role in our tremendous growth and success for the past 20 years,” Hopkins said. “I have had the pleasure of working alongside Mike and am confident in his leadership and vision for the future. Sweetwater is in great hands.”

Ahead of the news, Music Inc. spoke exclusively with Clem to hear his thoughts on his new role as CEO, where he hopes to see Sweetwater head under his tenure, and more.

Music Inc.: Congrats on the new position! How has your background at Sweetwater prepared you for this role?

Mike Clem: Thank you. I’m very excited to begin this journey as CEO. First, I have been a musician since childhood, so I am very passionate about this industry, and I understand our products and customers very well. My background is in technology and marketing. I have spent the last 20 years at Sweetwater growing our e-commerce experience to what it is today. We have a strong vision of where to take it into the future. I also have spent 20 years understanding the nuance of what makes Sweetwater special and how we stay centered on ‘over-the-top’ customer service.

MI: Where do you hope to see the company head during your tenure?

MC: More than anything, I want us to stay true to our roots. Sweetwater is a great company. Our founder, Chuck Surack, built this culture on integrity and serving others. We’re a company with a heart. I want us to continue to obsess over details, innovate, add more value and serve our customers through true expertise and relationships.

MI: What are the top priorities for Sweetwater in the coming year?

MC: Our first priority is always to focus on current customers and nurture those relationships. Then, we’re meeting a lot of new customers right now in new markets like content creators and K–12 students and educators. We’re getting a great response to our used gear marketplace called Gear Exchange, and we’re continuing to find growth with our new Arizona distribution center, which can now serve customers on the West Coast with one- to two-day delivery times.

MI: Now that Labor Day has passed and we head into the holiday selling season, in your opinion, what’s the temperature of the MI industry at the retail level?

MC: From our viewpoint, I would humbly tell you that we’re seeing strong momentum and demand. We are seeing strong YoY growth in sales, total customers and total orders. Many retailers are concerned about the uncertain economy, and we would share that concern, especially the rising cost of financing. But, we’re very encouraged by the surge of new and re-engaged musicians these last few years, and we’re observing many staying engaged and excited about making music. MI

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