Whom Do You Serve?

in Editor's Note

For the video, go to www.plsn.me/201302ednoteIn late January, I attended Super Saturday in New York. It is an all day event put on by Sonny Sonnenfeld and Scott Parker from StageSeminars.com. The aim of the event is to educate and introduce students to lighting design, new technologies and products available in the market.

For the video, go to www.plsn.me/201302ednote

I look forward to Super Saturday each January; this marks my fifth time attending. Smaller events like this give everyone plenty of time to talk and really investigate what new products are out there. What I really enjoy is the fact that all of the manufacturers have the same amount of space to show their products. Even though I love big, attention-getting displays at large tradeshows, their sheer size makes it more difficult to visit every exhibitor at big shows before that show is over.

One Simple Question…
Throughout the day on Super Saturday, there were a number of 30-minute lectures on various aspects of lighting, ranging from Lighting 101 to Color Theory with Rosco and the art of programming from Strand. Often, you’ll find me backstage catching up with old friends and meeting new ones during these sessions. Not to say I am above getting a refresher course on various disciplines, but I have a limited amount of time to talk with everyone in attendance. While quietly talking with a colleague, I took notice when a new session started with Mr. Parker asking a question to the attendees. It caught me off guard. “When designing a show, who do you think you serve?”
It stopped my conversation. I never really thought about that. Answers came in from around the house. “The audience,” “The producers,” “The director,” and so on. It started an interesting debate in my head. Who do we ultimately work for? Whom do we serve?

…Multiple Answers
The question was posed in terms of lighting design, but in my opinion, it could be asked of anyone involved in a show, from set design, costume design, projection and sound — anything dealing with the production.
I started breaking it down. In a monetary sense, the producer hires us; they are the one paying us for the design. Artistically, it has to be the audience. They are the ones buying tickets to see the various production aspects of the show come together. What about the directors? They are the ones with the overall vision of the show. Perhaps the playwright or band? Are they not the ones with the original idea? Without them, we wouldn’t be there.

Taking Care of Business
On the train ride home, I pondered the question — which can expand beyond a focus on a particular production and include the way companies operate within the industry. Ultimately, we are all associated with businesses. Some of us design, some sell, some write for a magazine. At the end of the day we are out to make those businesses succeed. Is the almighty dollar ultimately what we all serve? A cynic might agree, while the more enlightened among us might note that, if you truly love what you are doing, the money will naturally follow.
Whether we are designing for a show or selling a product, we ultimately serve the customer. We aim to please our audiences with a spectacular design to make it a memorable show. We strive to provide our customers with the best product possible in hopes that they buy more and recommend us to others. The same holds true with PLSN.
As the editor of this magazine, whom do I serve? Yes, I am the magazine’s editor, but I do have a boss who hired me and oversees my performance, our publisher, Terry Lowe. He is the one I answer to. But we, as a magazine, serve another group — you, our readers.
As with live event production, there’s always that balancing act between the desire to create the best product possible while keeping costs down enough to ensure that the whole enterprise can be sustained through ongoing profitability.
Ultimately, any answer to the question, “Whom do you serve?” unavoidable leads to more questions to be answered. And the best answers, like beauty, might be in the eye of the beholder. I have continued this debate over on our social networking site, www.ProLightingSpace.com. I encourage you to add your thoughts and ideas.