20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY - Sound & Video Contractor

20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY

Editor's Note: As part of S&VC's 20th anniversary, we will be bringing you 20 Years Ago in the Industry, a retrospective glimpse of the industry and S&VC
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20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY

Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Editor's Note: As part of S&VC's 20th anniversary, we will be bringing you “20 Years Ago in the Industry,” a retrospective glimpse of the industry and S&VC through the eyes of industry notables. The new feature kicks off with a discussion with Mark Gander, JBL Professional's vice president of marketing, who has begun his 27th year with the company. Special thanks to Nathaniel Hecht for his contribution to this article.

Q: How has the market evolved?

In the early '80s, we were on the cusp of a big transition in pro audio. From the '50s, '60s, and '70s, big manufacturers like Altec, Dukane, and Rauland-Borg were full-line, single-source suppliers. Influences from the recording and the tour sound businesses caused people to look at other suppliers who were more specialists in their individual product areas, be it amplifiers, mixing consoles, or whatever. Contractors and consultants recognized that the integration of multiple brands might actually give them better system performance. So it was a time when the systems integrator was considering breaking out of the mold.

A major social change was happening around 1983 — also celebrating its first 20 years is the digital compact disc. That begat a trend of access to and an expectation of high-quality sound by the consumer. That cultural change drove owners of facilities to want improvement in their sound systems. That was one of the things that led the industry to want to embrace the new, more modern magazine that talked more in terms of system integration, and not just for audio but also for video, interconnect, and all the aspects of contracting that allowed S&VC to start and flourish.

Q: Do we need more emphasis on education and training in our industry, and perhaps should we partner with universities to develop the brain trust necessary to move the industry forward?

Elements of what we do might be more suited to university study. I think we're more of a trade school — level type of industry, and there's nothing wrong with that. The NICET program has made some progress in this direction. Important in this area, too, has been NSCA, which is also roughly 20 years old.

Looking back at the development of the industry, I think a major contribution that S&VC made was to help present a sense of the industry to itself, by recognizing changes were taking place. S&VC also recognized this was a two-tiered discipline to begin with; there were paging horns and ceiling speakers, but there were also complex, high-level sound systems for stadiums and arenas. Even understanding there were different segments within the market, bringing in the video segment, and involving wiring and interconnect all resulted in giving this industry a real sense of itself. And we had a trade organization, like NSCA, which began to understand and highlight the educational, training, and business issues facing the industry. The growth and rise of the NSCA trade show as well as the organization itself is something that paralleled, and was symbiotic and interactive with, these social changes, industry/technology changes, and the magazine itself.

Q: Where do you see things headed for the next 20 years?

We are systems integrators, that's what we've always done, and that's what's going to continue — by technology enabling it, by manufacturers providing more integration within individual boxes or systems, and by systems integrators bridging the gap between some of those disciplines to meet the end-user's needs.

Certainly, we'll see more computer control systems, be they centralized or distributed intelligence. The key is dramatic computer control capability, enabling sound-system communication and flexibility; and the same thing with lighting and video control. But again, it's enabling systems to be better integrated, and more single-box solutions that combine more and more functions, and that is going to continue as we move forward.

Q: In view of the presence and integration of computer control and networking systems, do you envision computer or IT-oriented companies coming into our segment and carving out their own market share?

Everything is going to be shuttled back and forth on Ethernet, or whatever replaces Ethernet, but what goes on to that and how it's applied to the individual solutions is going to stay. There are so many segments and demands, from theme parks to transportation facilities to entertainment venues, and they have specialized application needs. From what we see now, the Microsofts of the world are interested in creating a platform — just as in their software business, they want to provide for individual manufacturers to write within their format. The specialty, though, is going to stay within our discipline and all of our subdisciplines, as opposed to being dominated by some single source.

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