PSSL Podcast Episode 3: Mobile DJ to Production Company with Tom Freret of ADJ
PSSL Alumni and current ADJ Regional Sales Manager Tom Freret stops by to talk about the 44 year history of ProSound and Stage Lighting while sharing inside information on how mobile entertainers take their business to the next level as a production company.
Brent: Welcome everybody to the PSSL Podcast. My name is Brent Young. I'm the Vice President of sales here at ProSound and Stage Lighting. And as we do in each episode, we're sitting down with a very special individual here today, someone with a very storied past and history within the lighting industry and who also has a really interesting connection to PSSL. So today I'd like to welcome Mr. Tom Freret to the microphones.
Tom: Hello, I'm glad to be here.
Brent: Yeah, good to have you. So let's start with you. Tell me, I want to know about you. How did you first get involved in the professional audio and lighting industry?
Tom: Well, probably like some people, it was by chance. I was playing in a band back in the 80s and working at a pizza place. And Bill Dettman the founder and original owner of ProSound and Stage Lighting at the time, now PSSL. He used to pick up pizzas every couple of weeks. And we would talk a little bit, I didn't know what I was doing as far as sound and lighting but I played in a band and had purple hair back then.
And he offered me a job and I went down and there were four people there and I accepted the job. And Bill, I sent him an email through Facebook a while back thanking him. If it wasn't for him and the foundation of ProSound and a lot of people in this industry can say that, his training was great and his innovation and all that. So I'm very thankful for that. But I started at PSSL and it was great.
Brent: Nice. So you had purple hair, we've established that --
Tom: Yeah, that was a long time ago --
Brent: And for those of you out there in radioland, it is definitely not purple anymore.
Tom: It's gray but that's okay. Each of those gray hairs is experience.
Brent: So tell me about it, so you started. Bill brought you on the team, you were employee number four?
Tom: I think so, yeah. I don't know how many were before me but when I started there were four people.
Brent: Wow. Okay, so that's cool. And tell me about what happened. Talk to me about how PSSL came to be and what was innovative about it and the people there at the beginning.
Tom: Well, the first thing and I used to play guitar, I was terrible but I used to go around to different places buying music gear and I didn't know much about sound reinforcement or lighting. And when I went to Bill's store, the first thing I noticed was they had DJ gear and they had professional stage lighting and a little bit of recording gear and they did rentals and they did 'rent to own'.
When Bill hired me, the first thing he did was give me training on customer service and how to help people. And he gave me cassettes I had to memorize and I remember and he would quiz me. And I remember starting to apply that when I was helping people. And it really allowed me to do a better job of understanding what people needed and helping them make decisions and all that.
I remember going around to other stores because we didn't sell guitars and all that. I'd go into other stores and say, man, ProSound and Stage Lighting is really different. Like I would have to walk salespeople at other stores how to sell me stuff, how to do this and that. Also, Bill's relationship with his customers was really good. And then one of the other things that was really neat was, I don't know if this but a lot of musicians and DJs, and it's probably true to a certain extent. They didn't have a lot of money for gear. They might not have great credit or want to put things on credit.
So Bill did 'rent to own' at the time and he was the only shop around that did that. So that was really innovative where we would see the same people every Friday coming in and picking up, back then a couple of 1200 to the new mark mixer or some lighting or whatever. And they would get it as needed. They'd booked their jobs and they come in and pay whatever for the rental and then after a certain amount of time, they would own the gear.
Tom: And then I think the other thing too was there were a couple of other shops, really good shops around Southern California that had DJ gear. But you could come in and get an Altman Follow Spot from us or get, you know Bill would talk to you about CMY and red, green, blue and how dimmers work and theatrical stuff. And --
Brent: Yeah, that was really different, right? Because --
Tom: Oh yeah.
Brent: There were a lot of, a fair amount of people doing audio pretty well. Bill had a very unique background in lighting.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Brent: And actually why don't you talk about that a little bit?
Tom: Yeah and that's I think part of what separates ProSound from some of the other companies. Bill was a lighting designer and Bill's strength was creativity. He'd been on the road with Heart and Ice Capades and different things and did design work.
Brent: That's the band Heart from --
Tom: Yeah, the band Heart. Yeah, the 80s and all that. And he was also a DJ and he used to DJ and do some famous parties and all that and have a DJ system and so it was really interesting. I mean, Bill knew what he was talking about. One of the other things too that was really interesting about Bill is he didn't socialize or look to our industry for growth.
Like he was always reading different books or talking to different people and he would come in and be like oh, we're going to do this. You know there was something that maybe another industry was doing; we're going to do this and we're going especially as the retail store grew and all that. There were times that everyone would look and just be shaking their head like okay, everyone's working Sunday. We're completely ripping this store apart and redoing it because I read this thing or I got this idea or whatever.
And I think you know other business owners probably do that but Bill didn't go to other music stores and get ideas. He was like going to the latest high tech stores or this or that and you know, and.
Brent: So Bill was the founder and owner for quite a while. So the CEO currently is David Rice.
Brent: But talk about how Dave Rice fits into that because those aren't exclusive relationships there, right?
Tom: No, and in the middle he had Mark come in. Bill was creative at systems and procedures weren't his strength. He brought in another DJ who had deejayed clubs and ran restaurants; Marc Ottestad. And Mark --
Brent: That's Marc Ottestad
Tom: Yeah, amazing guy and he'd put a lot of great systems in place and then Mark also brought a real culture of integrity, teamwork, hard work and add that to the table as well. He really created an amazing culture that I think is probably still here of integrity and hard work and a lot of things that other businesses and a lot of our, you know sometimes you're competing against other companies and we would do whatever but we'd always stay within the lines.
Tom: You know to make sure that we are feeling good about the work that we're doing.
Brent: Very ethically run businesses, right?Tom: Yes.
Brent: And that's still true today. I think that most people who have interfaced with ProSound and Stage Lighting, that's probably the thing that they can say is we really stand behind doing the right thing.
Tom: Well and the common thread is they're both DJs.
Tom: They were living the dream and --
Brent: They were the real deal.
Tom: Yeah. And then Dave came into the picture I remember. Dave came in and bought a TJ system from me and he was 16 years old.
Brent: Now, what color was his hair?Tom: It was brown. Brent: I heard it was blue. So purple and blue.
Tom: I think I missed that, yeah. Dave came in and he got some really good stuff and was very busy. And then he was 16 and then he came back when he was 18, he was managing a teen club. No, he came back right after that, he was managing it. And then when he was 18, he was owning the club and he brought me down. We put some sound and lighting, we enhanced what they had and all that. He was 18 years old and was running a club, three different rooms.
Brent: Was that Toe Jam?
Brent: Yeah, down at Long Beach, California.
Tom: Yeah. So how many 18 years olds are owning a club, going to city council meetings and all that. And then Dave loved the music and loved the lighting and the bands and the DJs, they had a boat there and all that. So again, they were, I guess that's innovation right there.
Tom: I think he had a goth room, his main room and then his hip-hop room or something. And I think he lived there.
Brent: There are some very famous people that came through there too.
Tom: Oh yeah. If you go to the Facebook page --
Brent: No Doubt, Snoop dog, Sublime.
Tom: Yeah, Sublime I think was the house band.
Tom: And then it was Tone-Loc, Warren G, Offspring.
Brent: Big names.
Tom: Smashmouth, No Doubt. There's a flyer on Facebook I think and Green Day is the second band down on the flyer. And there's actually a video on YouTube and it's Rage Against The Machine playing there. Before they were Rage Against The Machine I forget what they were called, hopefully, some of the listeners know. But they were just Rage Against The Machine as 16 years olds and they sound the same and stuff.
Brent: Yeah, that's incredible.
Tom: Yeah, there were a lot of good bands that played there and Dave ran the whole thing and then that kind of took its course. And then I remember Mark saying hey, we're going to bring Dave on board. And we had all known Dave at that point from coming to the store and all that and we were excited about that. He's a good guy. So yeah.
Brent: Yeah, so Dave. Talk about the innovations that Dave brought along as he grew within the organization. Can you bring us up to currently today from your understanding?
Tom: Well, back in the day, Bill was creating a catalog and then I think Dave kind of took it over and then immediately separated it from the retail store.And then one of Dave's strengths was to put the systems in place. And rather than reinventing the wheel like a lot of people who take ownership of a department or a company, he went out to outside companies that were doing what he wanted to do, you know that could do a lot of business and give great service and be efficient and treat their employees right and do all that.
And he would go out and meet with these people and he would model what they are doing and he would write the procedures. And there was a long time that it was six, seven days a week for Dave and putting together MOU; Mail Order University and making sure that the level of customer service is consistent and you know it's at a very high level which is something that Bill started that was kind of different from what people were doing at the time.
And then also that he was growing with the customer base as well, that he always had his finger on the pulse. That whether people are creating their own music, I think the PSSL back then, the ProSound and Stage Lighting catalog was the first full catalog that was DJ gear, pro audio lighting and all that. It really spoke to those customers and it was you know the nightclubs and it was the mobile DJs and people in bands who needed PA gear, you know Musician's Friend was out back then and they have a great catalog.
But they were, as I saw it, it was more, a guitar from there and pedals and amps and secondary was the PA and forget about it for lighting. They did a really good job at that. You know they've been around forever. But PSSL, there was a whole other customer base out there and eventually, it was schools and churches and all that. And over the last few years, and we talk about this all the time whether it's ADJ, the company I worked for now or PSSL, a lot of the customers who are buying stuff 10 years ago, whether it's a controller or dual CD player, whatever, and basic lighting now have grown or looking to grow.
Whether it's a home studio and they want to create their own music or they want to start doing events or they are doing events and going out building a business where they're not playing the music so much, they're setting up Truss and lighting and doing a lot more events and that sort of stuff.
Brent: Well, and of course you have Janet Hundertmark, our chief financial officer right there at the beginning with Mark and Bill, right.
Brent: She really was and is the person behind the operational excellence of PSSL, right?
Brent: Yeah. I think that you've touched on a couple of things that are really interesting and that is that not a lot of people have been doing lighting for a long time as the main product that they offer and are good at too and train on regularly.
Brent: And that's something that both Bill and Mark and Dave and all of them have continued on within the organization and that's what we do today. Now, you touched on where you're at today. So let's talk about where you landed. You have been part of a few manufacturers, organizations and you have been for quite a while. You've been with ADJ is formerly known as American DJ. Why don't you tell us about your story there and a little bit about this name and what's going on with ADJ?
Tom: Sure. Well, I'll kind of go all the way back. So when I started at ProSound and Stage Lighting way back in the day, we would get deliveries. I don't know if it's once a week or whatever but this guy would drive up and with oscillators and four-light spinners and a couple of flathead screwdrivers. And he'd be in shorts and a t-shirt and I'd sit in the backroom by the safe with him and we'd put the bolts in and screw the caps in and all that. His name was Chuck, he was starting a company too. Yes, true story.
Tom: And Ted Molina was our rep and we used to go over for pizza and beer training at ADJ and all that. So I've been with ADJ about 15 years probably and I was with American Audio really about the last twelve and a half and then a little over two years ago I transferred over to being the regional manager for lighting and audio and Avante and Accu Cable and American Audio and all the brands. I also do Global Truss and some of those territories as well and so I oversee all those brands.
And it's interesting because American DJ has a lot of similarities as far as integrity and innovation to PSSL. But we made a big change about five years ago. American DJ was kind of known as a mobile entertainer's lighting company and we saw where our customers were going as far as going up market and we saw where the market was going. We also saw the success of Elation, one of our sister brands as they were doing more and more bigger installs and big productions and there was a gap underneath Elation.
They were going up and up and they're having great success, a great company too. So we changed the name from American DJ to ADJ to better reflect where we were going. And then we also came out with a lot more production-ready stuff, video walls, CMY and moving heads. We have a tremendous amount of IP fixtures. And so we've just continued to grow and grow to meet the needs of our customers. And then we've also expanded our installation and production businesses you know.
Brent: So kind of at the same time that American DJ rebranded or just simplified to ADJ, that was a very conscious decision because ADJ is no longer making oscillating lines number one and two; they really moved into a predominant position in the market that addresses that whole mid-market need. Right?
Brent: So we're really past the sound-activated, what some might call the spin and puke lights or the disco lights. I mean there's a small offering of that still under the ADJ brand.
Tom: Yeah and I'm sorry to interrupt but eliminator too, which we bought a couple of years ago which addresses a lot of of that plug and play --
Brent: So the eliminator has that stuff on lockdown and ADJ addresses this kind of mid-market need. What are the core customers that you see utilizing ADJ lightning? How do they use ADJ products?
Tom: We still have effects lighting and that does well and we still have those customers. But it's really the mid-market, you know the DJ looking to upgrade their moving heads, the bands, the House of Worship, the small mid-level production companies, some of the larger production companies, a lot of install places. People would be shocked to find out the places we're in, whether it's Dollywood or different, I can't say too much.
But there are theme parks, there's just a lot of venues that have ADJ that people are shocked if they heard all that. And it was actually the American DJ, the ADJ switch was a very conscious decision. It was literally like turning a big cruise ship. It was like everybody was changing direction. It was very well thought out. There was also branding and other things; 80 Jamie a lot more sense. We're a worldwide company for being able to offer our products all over the world, it made a little more sense and then also structurally and all that from what I hear made a lot more sense internally in the company.
But it was a big decision for us to do that. And it's been very targeted and focused and it's going great, the business continues to grow and we continue to grow with our customers as well. We're always trying to, through trade shows and all the events we do and all that, we're always asking people, you know; what do you need, what are you doing, what aren't you getting and trying to address their needs. And sometimes they don't know they need it, we're always, you know just like you guys, you might put something on the cover and go, this is going to be wonderful. And then you go not so wonderful and then he might go, well, we'll give this a try and then you're like holy you know whatever, this is doing really well and we're in that same boat.
Brent: Yeah. It's been successful from what we can tell. And we mention some of the customers that are using the ADJ products and a really important one that I see are the, what I would call the mobile entertainers that are starting with the ADJ brand and even continuing on with the ADJ brand as they maybe become even something a little more sophisticated such as a production company. So let's just define that to start with. What would you say, what's the difference for our listeners between a mobile entertainer and a small to a mid-level production company?
Tom: You know that's kind of hard to define but a mobile entertainer is going to go out and he's going to worry about the show he's going to put on. A production company is going to worry about the show somebody else is doing. He's there to make them look good, to expand that experience. But he's not the centerpiece, he's not providing the entertainment so to speak. He's providing the vehicle to make the entertainment look great and sound great. And I think that might be one of the key differences.
Tom: Also, they don't have to worry about what songs are being played. They are caught between the event planner and the bride and groom's father and this and that as far as trying to keep everybody happy. And you know they go in and set up their audio and lighting or whatever the job calls for and --
Brent: Yeah, the look and feel are super important when you get into the production level of things. It's not so much about the personality, right? It's the look and the feel that the end-user wants, that's what the customer wants.
Tom: Yeah. It's interesting. And I'm going to make a little detour here. I made a couple of notes and you just hit on a critical point. And we talk about this from time to time in the office and one of the things that we're super fortunate about is we don't sell rubber tubing. We're not sitting here talking about semiconductors.
Brent: I don't think there'd be a podcast.
Tom: I bet there isn't. I bet people get fired, have to listen to it. You know most of the people listening to this hopefully are helping create magnificent events or great songs or recordings or whatever and those create emotion and those create memories and everything else. And so it's our job, it's our honor and obligation. I've met a lot of people that take what we do for granted.
We'll be at a trade show and whether it's mobile entertainers or whoever and they take what we do for granted. And they're out every weekend doing weddings and doing this and it's a job and it's a paycheck. And you know they're trying to do it as quick and dirty and easy as they can. I think we all need to stop sometimes and realize that we have the ability to really enhance the memories and create amazing experiences. And it's really a great honor to be able to do that.
I mean you've been in situations talking to people and I've been in situations where they're on the fence about getting a product and we, of course, need to do the best job we can do for our company. The fact is if we're not selling stuff, people lose their jobs, we go out of business and the economy stops working. No pressure. But if we do our job, we are helping people with that and they're showing up with some new gear or creating a song because they're inspired and it sounds better than ever or they're doing a podcast with mics. But we're helping them create great events that are going to be part of people's memories and all that.
Brent: Yeah. The vast majority of people that are going to be listening to this in some way, shape or form, there's an income being produced with the gear and that's really what puts the 'Pro' and ProSound and Stage Lighting, right?
Tom: Yeah, oh yeah.
Brent: I'm glad that you brought it up because we can't forget about the income sometimes is paramount when at the end of the day if the emotion is there for the customer and the end-user, the sky's the limit for whoever it is that provided that sound and lighting gear.
Tom: Yeah, you're exactly right. I think we need to remind ourselves. There's a couple of parts and we talked about this a little bit before the podcast, how to maximize your business you know when you can do that through gear which I think we'll talk about in a minute. But you can also, you know Brad and me and everybody is faced with how do we separate ourselves from the competition? How do we provide this? This goes back to Bill and Mark and Dave, how do we separate ourselves and better and be more innovative and be more genuine and you know I think Dave is creating music these days.
Brent: Yeah, he is.
Tom: It doesn't get better than that.
Brent: Now, he is back to it, he's creating his work, yeah, it's really cool. And he's very passionate about it. Again it's great, we can't forget that. We can't forget what we --
Tom: Oh yeah.
Brent: What brought us to this.
Tom: Can I share a couple of stories that I heard back in the day about, and these were guys and I love these kinds of stories and it's a million years ago, but how do you separate yourselves? And I would always just talk to, when I worked in retail at the counter or whatever, I'd always ask people; what's good, what's going on or what do you do to separate yourself? And I would always use that to inspire myself or share it with other people. A couple of stories and I love these. You have kids, right?
Tom: Okay. So, and you're probably thinking about when they get married or trying not to?
Brent: Not even there yet, man. Two girls, yeah.
Tom: So one of my customers way back in the day, a great guy said, what do you do to -. Actually he was buying some high-end cassette players, from Tascam this is how long ago it was. And I said what do you do with these? And he goes, oh, when I do a wedding, I put a mic under my arm and kind of hide it. And I'll ask the father, what do you love most about your daughter? And he'll talk and he doesn't know I'm recording and I'm not trying to hide it, he just doesn't really pick up on it.
Then I'll go over to the bride, I'll take her aside at some point, it might even be before the wedding and say, tell me some things you really love about your father. And she'll tell me some stuff. And then guess what, during the father-daughter dance, it's the bride's voice that comes over the song talking about her dad and then the dad's voice comes out. Is there a dry eye in the house? And so does he get much business, how special has he made that event?
Brent: He's a number one referred entertainer at that point.
Tom: Yeah. And another one, I had a guy back in the day and this was cassettes and it could be thumb drives today but he would have his logo and all his information on it and he wouldn't tell the people what he was doing. But he was recording certain parts of the toast, the first dance, different events during the ceremony. And then he would send like five people who were in the wedding party a handwritten thank you note and he would include the cassette in there. You could do it with a thumb drive and so they put in the thumb driver or put it in the cassette and they're listening to that and they're reliving those times. Now, are they gonna play that for anybody else?
Tom: Are they going to talk about, oh look what the DJ so-and-so sent me.
Brent: They can't wait to talk about the DJ entertainer to their friends. The next person --
Tom: Oh yeah, absolutely. And you could even, and again we're talking about innovation and expansion and all that. If you were doing corporate events and they're making announcements, couldn't you do the same thing? Just about anything you could send. And you and I and a big PSSL thing is; thank you note and all that too. Again, just any type of event you're doing, you know finding a way to make it more special. And those are just a couple of ways, just as basic as it gets.
Brent: Yeah. Those are things that really excite the customer at the end of the day and really set apart those entertainers as professionals. Let's just call it what it is.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Brent: That's a professional at that point. Now as we talk about this kind of customer that goes from DJing entertainment situation to maybe production, what are a few, maybe a couple of things that you're most excited about in the field of LED entertainment lighting right now product-wise?
Tom: There's so much awesome stuff out. And I'm fortunate to work for a company that offers a lot of it but the things that are on my mind right now are a powerful moving head that is getting more compact.
Brent: And not much more, the prices not going up --
Tom: The prices aren't going up, the power is going up, the functionalities going up, the optics, the light path is better than ever. Things like prisms, rotating gobos, things you would never have at the price points you have now. And also easy gobo replacement. So again making it special where you can get a set of four moving heads, put them on some totems or on some truss and get some custom gobos made whether it's a corporate event or wedding.
Brent: Yeah, that's going to be a really common thing that sets apart small scale, even large production is that on the red carpet or on the backdrop is the corporate logo from a custom made gobo. And gobos are not, a regular metal gobo is not expensive.
Tom: No and you can go online and call up, a lot of the sites have the libraries built-in and you can just bring up our light, the light you own and then upload your image. Three days later, it's in the mail.
Brent: It's in the mail, you slot it in and you can put it right in...
Tom: And it's easier than ever to put them in. And then the other thing too is control systems. We have you know iPad control systems now that are preprogrammed where you're just, if you want your moving heads to sweep, you hit a broom on your iPad or you want your lights to do the blinder effect; you hit a person with sunglasses on our myDMXGO. The other thing too is a video wall technology. We were a couple of years ago, probably three years ago at a big trade show in Atlantic City. And ADJ has been doing video walls for I believe four and a half, five years now and we have five different models and they're just great.
Brent: Yeah, they are.
Tom: But the mobile entertainers were coming in the booth, the East coast ones and getting four by three facades and this and that and using them. Again, just they're trying to separate themselves in the cities that they work and being the first guy in their market to offer a video wall. Now more and more people, whether it's a sports bar, whether it's a House of Worship, whether it's a mobile entertainer, whether it's a band, they're getting video walls.
And it allows you to change the environment in 10 seconds. You know in a House of Worship you would, if you want to go from Christmas to Easter, there was some work involved and now you just change, you just bring up a different image on the video wall and the sanctuary is completely changed. The other thing too is they're so easy to set up and take down that you can set them up in different configurations. The other, and I'm sorry to --
Brent: No, I just want to --
Tom: I know you're going to say some --
Brent: I just wanted to make sure. So on the moving heads, the fixture that you're like super excited about is which one? What's the model?
Tom: Right now the focus spot 2X and the focus spot 4Z.
Brent: I know we get a lot of calls about the focus spot 4Z.
Tom: And then the 6Z and the 5Z are in the pipeline and those are really good.
Brent: And then on the controller side, what were you --?
Tom: Well, that my DMX go is awesome and then the Airstream bridge is really, I mean you can touch a picture of what you want the scene to look like and it looks like that. And you can actually, one thing about the Airstream that's cool that we don't ever talk about is and I believe it's on the forest stream, possibly the Airstream, I should know this. But say someone in the wedding party has a pink dress, you can take a picture of that pink dress and it'll make the lights that color.
Brent: Oh wow.
Tom: Like it'll actually match the color of and it --
Brent: I have a feeling we might get some calls about that.
Tom: Yeah, how cool was that? So take a picture --
Brent: I didn't know that, yeah.
Tom: Take a picture of Dave's blue hair.
Brent: That's right. Your purple hair and his blue hair.
Tom: There we go.
Brent: Yeah. And then video walls, I know just like moving heads have advanced and come down in price too, LED video walls are just, it's amazing what's happening now. We're on the model. The model is kind of the model that people are asking about is what; EV2X now?
Tom: Well, we have the new VS series. It's literally just launching, we have the VS2, VS3, and VS5 and those for indoor applications are going to be fantastic. The front-rear serviceable, they have the magnet so one person can set it up really easily. They're lighter than the previous ones. They have corner protectors built-in. They have a really high refresh rate. They have the latest Nova start video cards. They're the same price as the previous models. Again, you're getting a lot --
Brent: And the resolution is super tight, right?
Brent: Like the price you're paying today, would have gotten you a much different kind of resolution two, three, four years ago.
Tom: Oh absolutely, yeah. And the ease of setup, they're lighter, they're easier to set up, they have magnets, corner protectors built in the setup.
Brent: So you can stand even closer to these video walls and still see it?
Tom: Yeah, depending on the pitch.
Brent: The content that you can put on it is tighter. Yeah.
Tom: Well and here's the thing with the video walls, one of the reasons they're so popular is for a production company whether it's small, medium or large, labor is one of your biggest expenses. A video wall is a pretty hefty rental or production but the labor to set it up is minimal. So you're literally if you're going out and setting up lighting or lighting and audio, and you're going to set up a video wall, you're not going to bring any more people to set up a video wall.
It's going to take a couple of people, maybe 45 minutes to set up 50 or 60 panels walls and you're going to get a lot of, you know, maybe $100. Every market is different so anywhere from say $75 to $150 per panel for that job, depending on your market. So the labor cost which is for the production company is one of your biggest expenses is going to be minimal but the return is going to be very high. And one thing I heard that was really interesting, I was at a trade show a year ago January and I had a couple of people come up to me, a couple of production companies who bought video walls and they both said the same thing.
And I thought it was pretty amazing. They said, you know it was the end of the year and they were reviewing their business for the previous year and they said one of the things I didn't expect when I bought a video wall was, it raised my average ticket or my average event. And what happened was they were charging $6,000 for a video wall and they're doing a 20,000 and say they have customers every year that do $15,000 to $20,000 events with them. It's a corporate event or whatever, scenario these days, you never know.
They would say hey, I've got a video wall, do you want me to bring it out? The customer would say how much is it? They might say well, it's $8,000 whatever.Then the customers would say oh man, there's no way I can work that in. And so the production company is smart and savvy and has it in its warehouse and doesn't have to sub rent it from somebody else goes, you know, what if I just charge you like 2,500 bucks and I'll bring it out, it's normally $1,000. Most of the time that people would go, I'll find a way to make it work.
Tom: So let's think back of something I just said. So they're making an extra 2,500 bucks on that job. Has their labor costs gone up?
Tom: They own the product so there's no investment there. So now at the end of the year, they're looking at those $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 jobs and they've also got all their regular new video wall business. So this is just gravy on top of that.
Brent: Yeah. The LED video walls remind me a lot of where Lighting was many years ago, that was the thing that really differentiated someone that really brought a decent setup of lighting to an event was able to have a different premium. Obviously they were able to charge more to the end-user, the customer because they're providing a different atmosphere, a different emotion. Back to what we were talking about originally.
Brent: You have got sound and lighting. There's a value to that and you set yourself apart in the competition.
Tom: Well, it's amazing. I don't know if you know this but people like to take pictures of themselves.
Brent: Really! I haven't noticed.
Tom: We have our design series where you can do letters and all that. A couple of years ago we were doing nightclub and bar and at the pre show party, I think it was at the SLS out by the pool, we had CNB set up in video letters and it was about six feet tall. We had our marketing department put together some great content where there's dice rolling across the velvet table and their roulette wheel and people dancing and the Vegas sign and this content just going on and on. And it was really cool.
And for the three hours of the party, there were people in front of that the whole time doing videos of themselves and selfies and this and that. And so at events, you could literally have it, set up a camera where people see themselves on there and they're taking selfies and hash tagging themselves at the event.
Tom: Smart, safe.
Brent: Well speaking of that, we actually get that in our showroom here in Southern California. We have a very nice and generous showing of American DJ products and Elation products for that matter courtesy of American DJ and Elation, including the AV2X video wall which is in our showroom. People just are so impressed by that and some of the fixtures that you mentioned before are all on display here.
So you know as we look at where we've been, why don't you tell me more about what you're excited about in the future. What's on the horizon for the ADJ companies? What products are going to happen? Get your crystal ball out and tell us what's going to happen in the future.
Tom: We have a theme of just going, as Elation goes up market, that line that divided the companies continues to go up, we'll continue to go up. You know more powerful moving heads, higher end production products, more for the House of Worship market, more video offerings, more control solutions and at the end of the day, just audio; it's lighter, louder, better sounding. And lighting and video. it's just more output, easier to control. We want to make it where just about anybody can put on an amazing show and we're getting closer every day.
Brent: It sounds like if you just touch your iPad or your iPhone and it becomes so. That's the future.
Tom: Yeah. And Video is a lot easier to control than people think. And we just want to continue to help our customers grow just like you guys. You know and the other side too is we have a brand called Avante, an audio brand that's been around a couple of years. It has some really neat stuff and they have a new array that's really cool and it's super compact. And that means, especially for installs and --
Brent: That array is really impressive because it's almost invisible.
Tom: Yeah. I'll tell you --
Brent: We have it in our showroom as well.
Tom: Yeah, the Imperial System and I'll tell you a true story. One of the production companies we work with, Tony, did an event for 1400 people and with the Imperio tops. I think he had 12 tops and two or four subs and he was able to fit it in a small SUV. It was so compact.
Tom: Yeah, we actually had it set up our premium open house and the truss that it was on the F34 Global Truss is wider than the array.
Brent: Yeah. Oh wow, that's unusual.
Tom: Yeah and people were 300 feet back going oh my God, that sounds amazing.
Brent: That's incredible.
Tom: And it's attractively priced too.
Brent: Well, Tom, you have for years you've helped educate the PSSL staff and not only that, you're a part of the, oh gosh, you're part of the foundation of PSSL. You know what I love talking about and why I love talking to you too is because it's in your blood because you sit on both sides. You know the discipline and the history that PSSL kind of inspires in its employees and its customers. And now you're on the manufacturer side and we get to still interface and talk and have a podcast together. So it's been really great having you here today.
Tom: Oh thank you. We are both so fortunate to work for great companies; ADJ I work for a few, you know some of the people I work with there, whether it's the president of the company or the owner or whatever, they are great people. And you work for a great company as well so we're really fortunate.
Brent: Yeah, as are you, my friend. Well, thank you, Tom, for being here today. I appreciate it and I know this won't be the last time we get together and talk.
Tom: All right, thank you.
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