The music products industry exudes a “cool factor” that virtually no other industry can even approach, and for no segment of the market is this truer than for lighting, which can add flash and sizzle to a live stage performance…or even a local neighborhood music store. All one has to do is go to the NAMM show, or any one of the other music-centric trade expositions that dot the globe during the year, to witness the vitality of the lighting space, which is bursting with evolving technology, innovative new products and companies committed to making sure everyone from the gigging musician to the roving DJ can complement their audio efforts with proper visual flair. The Retailer spoke to Alfred Gonzales, National Sales Manager, American DJ, who elucidated the value proposition that lighting presents, while also explaining seismic shifts that have occurred in recent years.

The idea of stocking lighting products has not always been persuasive to large numbers of music products retailers, but more of them than ever before have made the leap, and are reaping rewards as a result. Gonzales credits the LED transition with speeding the process, saying, “Years back, if you’d go to a music store and they carried fixtures, you might have broken bulbs, broken fuses, bad motors, etc. Now, with the LEDs, retailers are avoiding all that. So, now, it’s worth their investment and there’s return, as well.” And not only has the reliability increased dramatically, but the ease of use also has never been greater, making lighting more accessible to those for whom it once might have been too steep a climb. “Even if you’re talking about a little band,” Gonzales began, “now, they get a couple of LED tree stands, light themselves up and they’re good to go.”

American DJ’s Alfred Gonzales

American DJ’s Alfred Gonzales

The intangible value of lighting cannot really be overstated; on a visceral level, the idea of being bathed in flashing, colored lights transforms the mere act of making music into what seems like a full-blown rock concert or, as the case may be, a hazy, bass-thumping club performance. And now, with the LED transition, problems of a more practical nature have been eliminated. For example, Gonzales mentioned the 300- or 500-watt par cans of years past, which were very bright and very hot, therefore creating an uncomfortable environment for the musician or singer on whom they were shining. Technological advancement has rendered these former problems moot, breaking down potential barriers to lighting’s ubiquity in the music products market and making clear that every retailer—from the big boys to the mom-and-pop shops—should invest in stocking lighting.

Besides simply selling lighting products to the band that aspires to be the next U2 or the DJ who dreams of being Armin van Buuren, though, savvy music products retailers also employ lighting in-store to make the rest of their stock look hip and desirable. “If you’ve got a drum set, put two of the light tripods behind it with four lights. We call it a Mega Par Profile system,” Gonzales explained. He continued, “Not only that, but a lot of stores use them to light up the guitars, as well. People get that. They’ll see it and go, ‘Wow, look at these!’ They’ll hold the guitar and can actually imagine themselves performing on a stage.” Lighting is the rare category that not only sells itself, but also can help sell other products, making them seem almost irresistible to the shopper.

In dollars-and-cents terms, retailers might be wondering whether lighting products move, as well as whether they are profit centers on a unit-by-unit basis. “The best part about it, really, is the amount of turn,” explained Gonzales. “It’s very good with lighting.” He continued, “In other words, as far as stocking, if you bring in four of each item, you’re going to sell those items.” He remarked that, when he visits stores, he finds most of them just turning boxes like clockwork. “It really is selling itself nowadays,” he declared. With regard to margins, service is where the real profit’s to be found: in lighting design work, for example. But that’s not to say retailers aren’t making good money moving product. “With lighting, your margin tends to be a little bit higher than with keyboards, guitars and other things like that,” he noted.

When asked about the latest trends in lighting, Gonzales identified a couple of shifts of major significance, apart from the LED transition. Thinking about bands and performing artists, up-lighting is a major trend whereby lighting is used to enliven previously dull walls and ceilings. “That’s why a lot of these par cans—we call them flat pars—are selling really well; they go low to the ground,” he said. Battery-powered lighting has also emerged as a powerful trend, enabling bands to travel to venues in which power might not be immediately available or where, even if it is, it might be limited. “It’s for bands that are always touring and playing different gigs all the time, and that want to create a show that sells,” Gonzales stated. Because lighting of this type often will last for up to eight hours, an entire gig is covered.

“One of the biggest things with lighting, especially when we’re talking about music stores,” Gonzales began, “is that they—whether it’s a small, mom-and-pop shop or a big store—have gone through these phases where they carried lighting years back but they stopped carrying it because there were too many issues on the service end. They carried lights, stopped and maybe decided to try again.” He continued, “Now, people are willing to invest in it, and they know and hear about it from other stores. That’s what makes it very different from before: people are talking about lighting now.” You could say the word is out about lighting’s ability to sell, draw in curious customers and enhance in-store displays to make other products more appealing.

“I like to say, ‘Without lighting, there’s no party,’” Gonzales enthused. It just so happens that that observation is true inside your retail store, as well.

– Dan Ferrisi

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