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August 2004
News & Notices
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
ESTA Studies Industry's Buying & Specing Patterns

Stan Schwartz
Rosco Laboratories

As any concerned manufacturer, distributor, or even customer can tell you, much has changed about how products are marketed, specified, and purchased in the entertainment industry.

Certainly the expendables, equipment, and complete working systems have changed dramatically. There are more moving lights, media servers, and projection equipment than ever before, not to mention the explosive growth of the new style of ellipsoidal reflector spotlights. The materials used in set construction have changed as well, with treating and finishing compounds of all types playing a significant role in creating fantasy worlds or simulating reality on stage.

Perhaps most importantly, the methodology and purchasing habits have changed throughout the industry. It seems more and more people go to an electronic search engine or a specific web site rather than look at a printed catalog. It also seems fewer and fewer customers ever talk to a salesperson face to face unless they happen to come into a dealer show room or attend an industry trade show. It also seems that a significant amount of commerce in the entertainment industries is done entirely on-line.

But which of these buying trends are transient or even illusory and which are real and permanent? More importantly, how do the customers ­ ranging from the high school teacher needing color filters and gobos for a spring show to the theatrical consultant designing and specifying an entire theatre full of equipment ­ want to go about their purchasing? Does the Music Minister at a 5,000-seat church/community center discover new products by leafing through trade magazines, going on line, attending a trade show, or all three? Or none of these?

The answers to these questions, and many more about the trends in buying and specifying habits of a broad cross-section in the entertainment industries, will be revealed with the publication of a significant new study titled How Customers Specify And Buy Expendables, Equipment and Systems In The Entertainment Industries. The study is sponsored by ESTA, the Entertainment Services and Technology Association. It is believed to be the first study of its type conducted by a non-partisan, not-for-profit sponsor in the entertainment industries.

The study was managed by an ESTA committee of industry volunteers supplemented by the technical skills and guidance of a well known market research firm, Stiernberg Consulting. The ESTA committee was headed by Stan Schwartz, Executive Vice President at Rosco, and by Bill Groener, Vice President at PRG. Other manufacturers and distributors represented on the committee were Texas Scenic Company (Lee Ellen Benjamin), ETC (David Neuser and Jody Hansen), and Creative Stage Lighting (Fred Mikeska).

The database of customers and specifiers prepared for this study is the most comprehensive and wide ranging ever used. Using its member resources, ESTA assembled the data from manufacturers, dealers, publishers, and others. Stiernberg Consulting processed the database, removed duplicates, supervised the preparation of the questionnaires, and pre-tested them. It will also tabulate the results, complete some follow-up telephone interviews, and prepare the final report.

Two survey methods were used: several thousand customers and specifiers were reached by e-mail and asked to complete the survey on-line. Several thousand more received mailed surveys. Two separate questionnaires were created by the ESTA committee, one for buyers and specifiers of expendables and the other for buyers and specifiers of equipment and systems. The surveys not only asked about buying habits and patterns, but the customer’s demographics, seasonality of budgeting and buying, favorite sources of product information, and many other questions of interest to marketers in the industry.

The study report will include tabulated answers to all the questions cross-referenced by markets and other demographics, as well as verbatim comments from the supplemental interviews. The report was scheduled for publication in July and will be available to ESTA members at $250 (for companies with less than 25 employees) and $500 (for companies with 25 or more employees). The report is also available to non-members at $500 or $1,000, depending on the number of employees. Orders for the study can be entered by downloading the form at or by contacting the ESTA office at or by phone at 212-244-1505.

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