REDBAND: Why Apple’s Advice is Right and Wrong for Us by John Sciacca

When I come across a quote that I find especially meaningful or poignant in magazines or books that I’m reading, I write it down – or take a picture of it – so I can remember it.

In reading an extensive interview with Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, in the December 10-16, 2012 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, I stumbled across this quote from Apple’s new CEO:

“A great product doesn’t mean an expensive product. It means a fair price. The iPad mini is all the way down to $329. This isn’t an expensive product. So when we can do great products and achieve a great price, we feel great. But what we shouldn’t do is say, ‘We’ve got to have something for this price, and then let’s see what we can do for it.’ That’s not how we think. We think about the product and making a great product that we want to use. When we can do that and achieve another price point, that’s great. But our customers have a high expectation, and we’re not going to try to pass off something – we would never do that. That’s not how we think.”

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been inspired by something from Apple, or by Apple mind-think, and this comment from Cook immediately got me  thinking about our business and how I used to specify A/V systems and how I go about specifying them now. Let’s break this quote down, shall we, and see what custom integrators can learn from one of the most powerful and successful tech giants on the planet…

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John Sciacca started a personal blog back in 2010 which dared to ask the hard questions like, “Huh?” and “Whaa?” all written in a pithy, deliciously witty and uproarious manner. His blog likes to make new friends and would love to have you over for some caramels. You can follow John Sciacca on Twitter @sciaccatweets  and at his personal blog


REDBAND: Remember to Listen by Joshua Stackhouse

I remember it very well. It was the first time I had ever heard anything like it. It grabbed me. The sadness and grief. The raw emotion. The melancholy. It was blissful and radically different than the European pop and (what now is considered “classic”) Hip-Hop plastered all over the air waves. I could have been no older than 12 years old, yet I remember. I had never before experienced a musical composition that so powerfully captured my imagination. It was a virginal experience. I had never felt music before, I had only…listened. It would be many years later that, as my appreciation of music grew, that I would understand that what I had experienced that day in my youth was true listening. You may ask yourself what song could have this sort of influence on a young man? The answer is simple, it was Moonlight Sonata. A Mozart masterpiece whose influence has lasted me my lifetime thus far, and I firmly believe it will remain my favorite piece of music above all else for as long as I shall live.

What I experienced that day was the universality of music. It was my first taste of understanding the connectedness of our species through our creative voices. Across time and geography, languages, cultures and customs divide us, but only a few things have the universality of music. It is easy to partake of, and costs us little if anything. It can be as simply as a human voice or as complex as an orchestral arrangement. Nothing, except for maybe food and the act of eating, binds us together as a species like music. Music is simply an expression of the human experience and the emotions which come with it…

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Check out Joshua Stackhouse profile on LinkedIn and follow him on his Blog and on Twitter: @StackhouseAV

REDBAND: Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself by Mark Coxon

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself.


Let me start off by saying that I’m excited to be joining the RedBand bloggers.  I have followed most of the crew for some time, and always look forward to a new Neto, Sciacca, Tucker, or Puma blog.

For anyone who may follow me or be familiar with some of my work in the industry, you may already know my take on a variety of AV issues.  For those of you who know me in person from my work in AZ or CA, you know I am at heart a nice guy and a father of 3, as well as someone who likes to engage in some light hearted sparring, (verbally and otherwise ).  I do hold strong opinions but I am not mean spirited, and I am usually very fair.  Even when I competed in Muay Thai, I felt bad when I kneed someone in the face, but I was OK with it because we both entered the ring with the same expectations and knew the rules of engagement, (as well as the possible outcomes).  For this reason I wanted to layout my Rules of Engagement, and what I will be writing about in RedBand.

So. . .

“Let Me Clear my Throat!” –Beastie Boys

In the RedBand Spirit of polite irreverence and honesty, there are a few things that will quickly get my attention and the e-ink flowing.

1)      Superfluous Press Releases- If you are on my Google Alerts for AV everyday announcing that you are now installing in the closest suburb or have just hired an intern to shuffle paperwork, you may find your name in my blogs very quickly McCann Systems.

2)      “Me Too” Product Releases- So it is the nature of innovation that we will not always be the first to the party with a new piece of gear or industry changing technology.  However, if 18 months after a major competitor develops a product, you decide to finally copy it, do not announce it in a coming out party to rival the Ellen announcement Extron.  When my grandma finally got e-mail, it was kind of cute that she made a big hurrah about it, but when it’s a product you should have made a year ago it’s just sad.  Have a private webinar, send out a new catalog, add it to your website, but please don’t put it on twitter as “Sliced Bread” if you don’t want me to comment on it.

 3)      “Pretennovation”- Like everyone else in the Band, I’ve been around the AV block a couple times, and the thing that drives me more crazy than almost anything else, is the creative marketing of features that aren’t new, don’t make a difference, or pretend to be more than they are.  240Hz HDMI cables, formats without content, or strobing eyewear have all made my articles in the past, and anything of the same ilk will definitely get some attention in the future.

 4)      “Yes” Men- As Edmund Burke so eloquently stated, the reason that evil exists is that good men do nothing.  When any of the above scenarios happen, there are 3 choices: Ignore the mistake, help promote the obvious idea out of some sense of loyalty or fear of loss, or call them out.  I will always do the latter, but many choose to help promote obviously failed logic and products out of a sense of loyalty or loss.  Instead of admitting the manufacturer’s baby is ugly, they first contemplate the ramifications and choose instead to Follow You into the Dark in Cutie’s Deathcab.

I’m sure many other things will come up between now and the time I put keyboard to backlit screen, but I thought I’d introduce myself, and let you know what to expect.  I encourage your comments, feedback, and well thought out arguments, and promise I will always respond in a kind and loving manner while either coming to a whole new perspective or attacking your premises at their foundation.  Either way, it’s bound to be fun!

Best and God Bless!

Mark C.


Mark has been in the IT & AV field for over 12 years. He currently works as an Account manager with  Horizon Display and is a contributor with Commercial Integrator magazine. You can follow Mark on Twitter @AVPhenom.  The expressed opinions are his own…You have been warned.

REDBAND: Maintain Price Margins and Keep the Sale When Clients Go Price Shopping By Todd Anthony Puma

It happens in every industry, to everyone. It’s what killed Border’s and Circuit City. Price-shopping online. We’ve all felt the pain of a client taking our estimate, after we’ve put in hours of work to formulate the perfect package for them, and then calling us back a day later telling us how they can get everything cheaper online, completely ignoring our expertise and time put forth to recommend just the right product. I’ve found it tends to happen more in the middle-market (jobs under $30,000), but will still occur in the high-end as well.

While it is tempting to get into a negotiating and bargaining back-and-forth to salvage the sale, there are some other great tips I’ve learned along the way to help maintain margins and keep the sale. Some of these I’ve had the great fortune of being taught by people who’ve been there, done that, and some I’ve learned on my own through trial and error.

Just today, one of my very close peers got a call from a client in Queens whom he had gone to visit several months ago after Hurricane Sandy. The client was rebuilding his flooded basement and wanted to make it a family room and listening room. He was originally looking at a few different brands of speakers, receivers, and remotes but my friend steered him toward Paradigm Studio towers, center and surrounds, a Marantz SR7007 and a URC remote, along with all of the ancillary products. He was pinging the integrator constantly with questions, and I just knew he was trying to bleed him for information so he could either work with another integrator or try to do it himself….

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: Ain’t No Cure for the Job Huntin’ Blues By Joshua Stackhouse

Ain’t No Cure for the Job Huntin’ Blues By Joshua Stackhouse

I realize many salty AV veterans either didn’t go to college at all but instead learned on the job or went to school for something not related to AV at all. However, as some of you will know, this “kid” is probably the only person you have ever heard of who has a degree in AV. Yes, you heard me right. Let me say that again. I have an actual college degree in audio/visual systems and electronics.

Here, don’t take my word for it. Check out this video here of my graduation commencement.

See that right there, yeah, that’s me walking across that stage receiving an actual academic degree in audio visual systems. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Degrees in A/V actually exist, and I am one of only a handful of people in all of our industry to have one. That makes me special…and highly unemployable.

If the that statement seems odd, let me explain by plainly telling you that just having a degree in A/V doesn’t get you jobs. In fact, it has only served to make things harder in some ways. While you might think that I have the holy grail of education for our industry, many employers do not even really recognize my degree as a valid alternative to experience in the field. This is something in the industry which I am hoping to reconcile. As you read this, if you are an employer, consider that just because degrees in A/V are relatively new, it doesn’t mean that I’m not every bit as capable as doing the job as the guys who have been doing it for years.

Now as I stated, finding employment after graduation wasn’t necessarily easier just because I held an AV degree. I faced many challenges but we’ll just focus the big five. A pseudo sixth problem which I won’t discuss, but deserves mention is that I had to teach myself through research who the players in each market segment are in my local area and the industry at large.

The first obstacle I had to overcome in searching for a job was understanding what exactly employers call each job and what that job entails.  It is a disservice to our entire industry that we still have so many job titles out there and no standards. For example, some companies have dedicated “Structured Cabling Technicians”, whereas another may very well employ someone whose sole job is to install cabling but instead is only called an “Installation Technician”.

Figuring out what each job is called is really minor in comparison to the big two insurmountable obstacles of consistent employer demand for several years experience and the desire for employees with specializations. While I have years of IT and technical support experience behind me, I only possess the experience I gained from two years of school when it comes to AV. Well, that’s sort of true, I’ve been dealing with AV my entire life off and on as a technician, though from an employer perspective that doesn’t really count. Employers consistently asked me about my level of experience during interviews, and each time I had to defend the validity of hands on trade school training.

While not quite as restricting as lack of experience, not having a specialty also made finding a job difficult. My academic studies were blanket program covering home theater systems, fire and life safety, surveillance, live sound, building automation, and more. Time after time I would be drilled on in my interviews about how deep my training went in each area. Without fail, I almost always didn’t have enough knowledge in one or two areas to satisfy them. It was constantly a “close but no cigar” situation.

Normally our personal networks provide us opportunities to interview with a company. Even if you lack a job skill or two knowing someone who can vouch for you helps employers overlook things like not having enough experience or a specialty. In my case, having no industry contacts made this door opening technique unavailable to me. Of course my professors had their contacts, but I am a significantly better designer than I am an installer, and sadly design jobs are rare. While I actively use social media and regularly attend networking events locally, the opportunity to meet A/V professionals is far and few in between.

Perhaps the biggest impediment to employment was that as a whole the A/V industry just doesn’t understand what a degree in A/V entails. Since Madison Media Institute is currently one of a kind, most of the industry has only begun to hear of academic A/V training. As the industry grows to become aware that formal education exists in our field, I believe that employment opportunities will start to open up more readily. Indeed, employers are beating the door down at my Alma Mater asking when our next crop of graduates will be ripe and ready. Each graduating class becomes more refined and better trained as the curriculum matures.

As a rapidly expanding industry that is heavily concerned with gaining recognition, we must concern ourselves with the challenges formal education creates.  Certifications will not take us all the way; we must develop academic programs that deal with specialties such as video conferencing or building automation. We should not be content to continue business as usual and be merely a trade, but instead a valid career field that colleges will find appetizing. We must embrace this change, and do whatever we can to help those entering our industry with solid education find their place in the great electron sea of A/V. The only question left at this point is what part will you play in helping that change to happen? This guy, well, I’m “Mr. AV Education” and will continue to push for formal education in AV for years to come. Will you become an agent of change and actively help or will you sit by on the sidelines as things fly past you? Which side will you be on?


Check out Joshua Stackhouse profile on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter: @StackhouseAV

REDBAND: Communication is Key When Working with Contractors by Todd Anthony Puma

Communication is Key When Working with Contractors by Todd Anthony Puma 

The key to success in our business is referrals. Doing great work and providing top-notch customer service are the cost of entry, so in order to grow and expand, you need your clients to pass along your good name. While client referrals are awesome, and we all aim to get those, there just isn’t always enough volume there. That’s why we all strive to work with designers, architects, and contractors. Good relationships with our industry partners take a lot of work and nurturing, and sometimes we are willing to take big risks to enable these partnerships.

If I had to sum up my ideal client, it would be someone who trusts my direction, is understanding of the integration process, is open to communication, and pays promptly. I am currently working with just such a client on a large renovation in NYC. He has brought us on to do all of his AV and to integrate lighting control, HVAC, and security. Being the end result is for us to integrate all systems, we are obviously working closely with the client’s general contractor, as well as the other professional teams (designers, architects, landscape architects, security firm, HVAC installer, etc).

While each contractor is responsible for the operation of their own individual trade, we are not only required to ensure the AV system works in and of itself, but that the entire interface operates together as one.

During the beginning stages, each group listed what manufacturers they would be using so that we could guarantee it could be integrated together. Somewhere along the line, one of the trades changed their operating system to one that cannot be integrated by any of our control systems. Since our system will ultimately interface and control the entire home, the GC assumes that we will take responsibility in finding the solution and has put the ball in our court…

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

Quick Tips: What Not To Do at Infocomm 2013 as a First Time Attendee


Quick Tips: What Not to Do at Infocomm 2013 as a First Time Attendee

Do Not Over Commit

You’ll drive yourself insane if you are the type of person who lives and dies by the hands of the clock. Just remember that there are 35,000 attendees all with the same goal. The best way to prepare for the show is to develop a flexible schedule and a “must see” list.  Prior to the show try to book one appointment in the morning and one in the afternoon for each day by contacting the product reps. Most booths are very well organized with their appointments. Be sure to check in at your scheduled time and if it’s running over make sure to let them know that you plan to reschedule. In between those previously scheduled appointments, visit as many booths as you can. The show can seem overwhelming with so many products to see and places to be. Try to enjoy the ride and soak in as much as you can.

Do not Limit Yourself to a Specific Area

Explore! One of the biggest mistakes you could make is to limit yourself to one particular area or niche. I get it … you’re all about “Audio” but why limit yourself to just one area of technology. Try branching out to an area that you may not be familiar with. The show can be a great place to learn about all the different technologies that make up the AV industry. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people and network as well. You may want to consider joining an Infocomm Committee or Council such as the AV Technology Managers Council or the Independent Programmers Council. Try taking a class, participate in a seminar or attend a product demo to broaden your show experience.  Venture outside of your comfort zone and you may find that your time at the show may become more enjoyable and rewarding.

Do not “Write off” the last day of the show

I find that the last day of the show is a great time to see the booths that were overcrowded or overbooked. By Friday the crowds typically thin out and the atmosphere seems more relaxed. Chances are you will be able to get into those hard to reach booths that were packed the first 2 days. Seize the opportunity to visit those popular booths or carve out some time to visit the smaller booths tucked away in the back. You may come across some great products or solutions at those smaller booths. Plan your travel accordingly and if possible try to use Friday to your advantage, book some appointments and check them off your Bucket List. You will be glad you did.

What Tip do you have for the Infocomm First Timer? Post in the comments section below.


REDBAND: Give the People What They Want By John Sciacca

Give the People What They Want By John Sciacca

When you think about it, we custom integrators work in a strange industry… An industry unlike any other.

Often we encounter people that not only aren’t sure exactly what it is we do, but also aren’t sure they even want or need what we offer. This is a dynamic pretty much unlike any other shopping/buying experience.

As an example, consider a typical purchasing encounter that people might go through.

Customer: “I want to buy a (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine).”

Salesman: “OK. Do you have your eye on anything in particular?”

Customer: “Well, I’ve been doing some research and I really like this (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine).”

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John Sciacca started a personal blog back in 2010 which dared to ask the hard questions like, “Huh?” and “Whaa?” all written in a pithy, deliciously witty and uproarious manner. His blog likes to make new friends and would love to have you over for some caramels. You can follow John Sciacca on Twitter @sciaccatweets  and at his personal blog

REDBAND: Cultivating Vendor Relationships That Benefit Your Business by Todd Anthony Puma

We all have relationships in our lives that really matter, and then there are other relationships that we treat as more transactional, such as those with our suppliers—be it distributors, manufacturers, or reps. I think, however, it’s important to make your supplier relationships as strong as your other professional relationships because this can help you solve problems when you’re out in the field.

We got a call from our NuVo rep recently because a customer had contacted their headquarters concerned with the poor performance of their media server and that the system was continually lagging. Unfortunately, their integrator had moved out of state so they had nowhere else to turn. I could tell right away that the problem sounded software-related and that server needed to be updated and subsequently hard-rebooted. It was not a huge job, but as I’ve said before, you never know what can happen with these small troubleshooting jobs. And I also wanted to support NuVo and help them retain a customer, because I value our business relationship.

I scheduled time to personally go to this customer’s home in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. It was a beautiful apartment, owned by an accomplished producer and talent manager in the entertainment business. The apartment was outfitted with a NuVo Grand Concerto 8 Zone system, multiple iPod docks, a projector in the living room, and an 80-inch TV in the bedroom. While fixing the NuVo system (the problem was exactly what I thought, and it now works great), I chatted with the property’s caretaker and now have the opportunity to maintain and upgrade the system as necessary, run new coax lines for their recently added DirectTV service, re-mount the bedroom TV on an articulating arm, and possibly upgrade the projector and screen. What started out as a quick service call as a favor to a great vendor partner turned into a client worth tens of thousands of dollars in future billings…

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: Home Theater Doomed?! Hardly…by John Sciacca

Home Theater Doomed?! Hardly… by John Sciacca

A recent post by my brother-blogger-in-arms, Andrew Robinson, caught my eye and I felt compelled to respond. His post was “Commercial Cinema May Be Doomed But Home Theater Is Far From Safe.”

First, I think that it’s important to note that despite all of its foibles, and all of the griping that you read about here, and all of the reasons why the multiple may very well deserve to die we’ll probably always have “commercial cinema” around in some form. For many, the cost of owning even a modest home theater system is prohibitive of just impractical in their living space. There will always be a desire to see films on the largest screen possible, and that will mean a commercial experience. There will always be a desire to see films in the most cutting edge manner – IMAX, Dolby Atmos – available and that will mean a commercial experience. And there will always be films that you want to see in a shared, communal experience to revel in the roller coaster of emotions with hundreds of others.

Further you have a reluctance of film studios to break away from the theater exhibition model. Pete Kafka at All Things D recently interviewed of Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Corporation of America and Sony Entertainment, and asked, “You are not going to fulfill my desire to let me see Zero Dark Thirty at my house for a bunch of money when it’s still in the theaters?”…

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John Sciacca started a personal blog back in 2010 which dared to ask the hard questions like, “Huh?” and “Whaa?” all written in a pithy, deliciously witty and uproarious manner. His blog likes to make new friends and would love to have you over for some caramels. You can follow John Sciacca on Twitter @sciaccatweets  and at his personal blog