Don't be “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”

by Ben Stowe, CTS

My last post on deciding when to purchase equipment was so much fun, I figured why not follow it with another diatribe on how much gear to purchase.

I’m probably best known for my understanding of the physics and “geekery” of how equipment works, so why not shake up the establishment a bit and try to purvey myself as an economist now. With apologies to my fellow writer, Jerry Bazata, I’ll go back to geekery after this.

“We’re On a Budget”

So many times when a DJ contacts NLFX the conversation begins with, “We’re on a budget.” My immediate thought is, “Good. So you’ve done some financial planning.” A budget is designed to help you maintain profitability and fluidity. It is not meant to restrict you from conducting business.

However, that’s usually not the context within which it’s said. Usually it’s meant to convey to me that the customer does not want to spend “too much” money. I usually respond by saying, “Everyone should be on a budget. I work with national music tours and professional sports teams. They all have budgets too… it’s just different than yours.”

The “Nuts and Bolts” of Achieving Results

I prefer to approach every equipment purchase from an engineering standpoint. Maybe that’s because it’s where I’m most comfortable… the nuts and bolts of what it takes to achieve a result. I try to help my customer to understand what those nuts and bolts are, and then decide if changes are necessary. Changes to the desired effect to fit the budget, or changes to the budget to fit the desired effect. Maybe it can be done for less than they “budgeted.” This is the best case scenario. We can achieve the effect and they are “under budget.” Often however, this isn’t the case.

The Two Worst Mistakes We Can Make

It reminds me a bit of how we approach the contracting side of our business. When you’re working on multi-million dollar jobs a few mistakes can be nearly fatal. We have a phrase that has been recited like a religious chant in our engineering room at the NLFX HQ. It goes a little like this, “The two worst mistakes we can make are to bid too high and lose the job, or to bid too low and win it.”

The same applies to what DJs and Event Lighting professionals do. You need to have enough income to support the equipment you have in your fleet, but you also need to make sure you have enough equipment to support the events you are doing.

What Your Future Success Depends Upon

I often see my customers faced with this challenge. I hope this post helps to reinforce the idea that your future success may have a lot to do with the history you are about to make. If you have adequate equipment to do the job, the results will almost certainly be better, the clients will be more satisfied, and you will earn a reputation for quality.

On the other hand, “blowing it” at a gig will probably cost you far more in the way of lost future events and marketing expenditures trying to recruit new clients. This cycle will likely continue until corrective measures are taken.

Don’t spend too much, but definitely don’t spend too little! It can cost you more than spending a little too much!

Ben Stowe, CTS – Sound and Lighting Guru

Ben Stowe serves the AV industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993. Ben’s AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. He has assisted lighting manufacturers with product R&D, as well as contributing to the DJ industry through presentations at trade shows and articles for magazines in the U.S. and Europe. Ben holds an electrical license as well as other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS. Ben’s highly praised “Event Lighting” DVD is available at To watch a promotional video about it click here. To contact him email

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