Nook’s “State of the Business” Address

Nook Schoenfeld • Editor's NoteMarch 2019 • March 7, 2019

I guess the State of the Union Address has been left up to the citizens of the United States to decide what is true and what are alternative facts. It’s not up to us at PLSN to try and figure out whether to believe the president’s quotes or The Washington Post’s rebuttal to what seems like most of it. I figured the best way to judge the direction our economy is going was to talk to the vendors of products and the people that use them as well.

In the true fashion of The New York Times, it seems nobody at NAMM really wanted to be quoted. Especially while the government was still shut down. A few of the people I spoke with who were associated with the popular brands of lights were keeping it light and optimistic.

Matthias Hinrichs from Elation Professional was among those who are watching the trends closely. “We have seven new fixtures coming out this year, all of which bring something new and useful to our industry. By bringing innovative products with new ideas to the market, we think a lot of people will be interested in using them.” And hopefully they will buy them.

‡‡         Economic Zigs and Zags

2017 was a banner year for many. New lights sold well. Employment opportunities grew, meaning new jobs were coming into the economy, and the stock market rose at an unprecedented rate. It was a great time to be investing, and folks were looking to a bright future. Unfortunately, 2018 was the opposite in some ways. For most of us who saw 20 percent gains in our 401K programs in one year, we cringed as we watched a third of those funds disappear last year. The tax stimulus may have helped the wealthy and corporations to buy back their own stock, but it didn’t help anyone I’m friends with. I wonder how many manufacturers in our business gave bonuses across the board in 2018. Hard when the numbers from one year don’t match the last, even if a profit was still made. Of course, health costs for employees never seem to go down. For many, the coverage of those extra costs by your employer negated the yearly bonus this go-round.

The good news is that the live entertainment business shows are holding steady. I talked with an East Coast company rep who said he’s guardedly cautious this year. He’s not overly concerned about this year, but he is quick to admit that he’s not planning on doing much purchasing of new equipment this year. He’d rather wait until the market is not volatile and we are all on an upswing again. He quotes rising interest rates as a concern to him when buying new gear. Those interest rates were raised four times in the last year, he explained.

‡‡         Multi-Trick Ponies

In fact, I see more companies becoming multi-faceted in what they do. How many lighting companies own video walls now? I can name at least a dozen friends of mine that were once sole lighting vendors but now dabble in audio, video or staging as well. I know audio companies who now own a smattering of moving lights and some conventionals, smartly going LED with all of it as well.

Feel-good stories are hopefully a good sign of rising times. One of these is an article we wrote this month about a company from down South called Media Visions (See “Milestones,” page 44). Over the course of 25 years, Mike Cruce has gone from a basement office to a company that’s about to revolutionize how we look at framing LED display panels in the future. I think he’s on the verge of going in a direction that’s long been overdue. With that comes a big investment in technology along with some other big news from that company that we are proud to share.

‡‡         Out of the Woods

Production-wise, it’s always nice to see something that hasn’t really been done before. We have to give huge kudos to Fireplay for their design work on Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods tour (See “Production Profile,” page 26). Their use of projection, rolldrops and staging was cutting edge.

As long as there are brilliant minds thinking along the lines of this design team, there will always be a need for advancing technology. Here’s to hoping we see a lot of great products unveiled in Frankfurt next month.

For Nook Schoenfeld’s video introduction to the March 2019 issue of PLSN magazine, go to:


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