New vs. Old Gear

in LD at Large

Illustration by Andy AuFall is one of my favorite times. Because that’s when all the lighting manufacturers showcase their latest products. For me, it’s a chance to see what the coolest new toys are out there. For lighting vendors, I think they may see it another way. Kind of like a Catch-22. They get to see what’s out there, but then they have to make some serious decisions on whether or not to open their wallets.  People like me don’t make it easy on them.

The buyers of such gear have to take a lot of factors into consideration. The first thing that comes to mind is “Will I recoup my expenditure this year?” The second is, “What gear can I sell to raise some capital for the new product?” In many cases, especially the companies that do the majority of their work in corporate shows, the client won’t know the difference in fixtures. If you have a talented LD on your show, dazzling your clients with their ability, they won’t know the difference between antique movers and the latest toys. If your gear is working, they may not be interested in buying anything. But if they cater to the live concert and theater markets, the opposite will apply.

Turning Heads

I have seen LED products come and go in waves for the last few years. Last year, I was simply wowed by a certain moving LED fixture. I thought it would take years for someone to match it. But then last month, I saw a new cool LED head that I thought took things one step further, and I wanted it. Less than a month has passed, and today, one of my clients said to me, “Well, if you like that fixture, have you seen this one?” No, I hadn’t. But I have seen the cool new one, and I want it now. This one head takes 49 channels of DMX, but I can do things with it that I cannot do with the others. This is a frickin’ nightmare for the big companies who have die-hard LDs who always use their services. They can offer their steady customer replacement fixtures they already own, but if that fixture doesn’t have the bells and whistles I really want, I may say “Nah,” or I may not.

Michael Keller says, “I don’t care. Does the light turn red? I can make it all look good.” I agree with him. But deep down, I know he would really like the stuff he spec’d on the plot, if at all financially feasible. Heck, vendors come to us all the time and say stuff like, “I will give you two for one if you work with me.” That means, “I will let you have two three-year-old fixtures for every one of these new fangled toys if you don’t make me buy them.” Quantity often beats quality.  Some of my clients are cheap. They want 100 movers for $20K per week. So I go for it. But these same bands will go to see another rock show and wonder why they don’t have all these new cool toys Nickelback was using. And wonder if they shouldn’t have hired my friend, Butch Allen, instead of me.  They forget about their wallets when they see the other shows, it seems.

The Aftermarket

If I was a vendor and had to make a decision, the first person I think I’d call is Marcel Fairbairn. Marcel has been hawking gear for 20 years. He’s worked every deal possible and is a stand-up guy in my book. Twelve years ago, he ventured into a new business. His company (GearSource, out of Florida) specializes in selling quality used gear. So, of course, he is a valuable commodity in the vendor world, for two reasons. He can tell you what price to expect for used gear you want to unload, AND he just might be your best bet at unloading it. On the flip side, if you need anything related to the lighting biz, he will find you a price where you can buy it.  The guy should just set up a shop at the exit door at LDI.

When lighting manufacturer Martin released the MAC Aura last year, everyone realized this was the next wave of updated LED product.  But to buy these, they probably wanted to replace their entire inventory of MAC 301s. But here lies the problem. All major lighting vendors have websites. And they have a section devoted to used gear, with their own pricing, to kick off the haggling process.  I wonder if anybody ever visits that particular page unless they are directed from a salesman from that company. If that’s the case, the manufacturer is going to need a guy to peddle that gear.  Millions of bucks worth. And you have to pay that salesman for his time. I wonder if all these companies just call Marcel in the end.

Really, what do you do with 20-year-old fixtures now? Can you even get 10 cents on the dollar, or should you just throw them in a dumpster? Personally, I wish all the gear that’s been paid off three times over went in that bin, because I don’t ever want to see them again. There are certain companies that I despise, because I may play a state fair, and I know they are gonna be squeezing that last dollar out of a piece of gear that was cool in 1997.  And I’m sorry if I insult you, but your crap doesn’t work, even if you swear it does.

Value Pricing

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Marcel can be a godsend to the companies who have limited budgets. He checks out the gear before it’s on his website. He may even guarantee it, I don’t know. If you need those three-year-old LED fixtures that you know will still get you a lot of miles, you love this time of year. You can make an offer. The MAC 301s are still great fixtures, and the corporate world can use as many of these as possible. To find them, you can view everyone’s websites all day long. Or you can pick up the phone and call Marcel. Kind of like Travelocity. You can go to five sites to save 15 bucks on a plane ticket, or you can just go with the first price they give you and stop wasting your time. That’s how I roll.

I feel the same about some old gear that is still reliable. The Vari*Lite 3K is probably the most popular hard-edged light on the market. I adore them. On tours, they rent for about 250 clams a week. Have been for years. But now I think I want me some of them new MAC Vipers. And the more I think about it, I think I should only pay 200 bucks for a VL3K if you want me to use them now. I don’t know if you bought them six years ago or last week. Will they break, or will they be pristine? Crapshoot. I know the Vipers are new, I just saw them revealed at LDI. Makes me want to see what Marcel’s price is, versus the list price. Oh wait; VL has a new bunch of fixtures. Better check out their booth first before I make any decisions.