It's not what you pay, it's what you get
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
In a world of tightening budgets and increasing expenses, many clients find themselves looking for more cost-effective providers to help them wrangle the numbers. Unfortunately, when you manage a festival by looking at the cost, you often end up over-looking the value, at the expense of quality, safety, reliability, and many times, the savings simply never materialize. This blog will give the cost-conscious event planner some things to think about when looking for the best deal.
The numbers game for our industry is relatively the same for every provider- good gear costs more money, skilled workers cost more money, comprehensive insurance costs more money, taking the time to do things right slows efficiency and costs more money. So if a provider is offering a price that seems to be drastically lower than the norm- that is a key indicator you need to do some research.
First- lets take a close up look at gear. Not all speakers are created equal. There are speaker boxes you can buy for $79 and speaker boxes that run $18,000. How they perform and sound are quite different, as is their intended application. More expensive speakers provide more value in ways that you might not realize- they might throw farther allowing you to eliminate delay towers, they might offer better pattern control providing for increased intelligibility and reduced nuisance noise from disturbing neighbors, they might produce better quality sound thereby reducing listener fatigue and increasing a guests length of stay and the amount of money they spend while there. No one wants to spend thousands on marketing their event only to be ripped apart on social media because guests could not hear. This same range of performance exists not only for speakers, but for all the other elements in a typical production: Microphones, mixing consoles, lighting fixtures, video walls, stages... If your provider is using consumer grade gear, or proprietary speakers they build themselves, chances are your performance will suffer.
Second- consider the labor. Is you provider using local "club" engineers and paying them a few dollars plus a sandwich? Or are they utilizing true industry professionals with experience and training, who earn a living wage and are covered by insurance and workers compensation? While both are fully capable of turning a sound system on and making a mic "hot", the true professional will make it sound better, faster, with fewer problems- and when things go wrong- and something usually does- professionals don't sweat it- they know exactly what to do to get things back on track.
Today I had the pleasure of consulting with a client during their event. It is a major event, held twice annually, and typically the event draws 40,000 people. The event is held by a major media conglomerate and features numerous big name entertainers. The client has opted to choose a lowest cost provider. But after our walk through this morning, the client is now realizing the lack of value they are getting for their money. Yes, the price was good. But sadly that is where the benefit stops. As the first two bands played, the sound system popped with every hit of the kick drum or bass amp. After more than 20 minutes, the inexperienced audio engineers were still trying to figure out how to eradicate the problem. The video walls were inexpensive units not designed to be viewable in full daylight. Thus, this daytime only event sold sponsorship on three video walls that was not visible to patrons in the audience. The IMAG camera was a camcorder- not a professional camera- so the image constantly had the battery level indicator showing on every screen. The inexpensive video switcher could not handle processing for all three screens so the middle screen would black out for a few seconds at least once a minute. The stage was not built as per the original specification so the client had to spend several thousand dollars to get last minute banners rushed- in fact- just as doors were opening the production company had personnel climbing the roof of the stage without the proper protection equipment to cut cable ties from the last minute graphics. The rooftop itself was improperly ballasted and not designed to handle any wind gusts. The stage monitors were so old the opening act refused to accept them, pushing their start time back as they unloaded their own gear, forcing the rest of the day to run behind schedule. In addition, the numerous safety violations create exposure for the media giant's deep pockets. Once you add up the additional banners, the overtime for event staff due to tardiness, the loss of sponsorship dollars due to "invisible" videos in the daylight- you quickly erode the few thousand you saved by choosing the lowest cost provider.
Do not make the mistake of choosing the lowest cost provider- carefully evaluate your proposals and the reputation of your providers, and calculate the best value. When you select best value, you are getting the most for your money- regardless of how much or how little you are spending.