The house of worship market has been one of continuing growth for many years for systems integrators as well as purveyors of live-sound and recording equipment. Now, with end-user education on the rise, and buyers more tech-savvy, customers are spending more, understanding that the technology can reinforce and enhance the venue's musical and spoken presentations.
John D. Fuqua, director of Pensacola, FL-based All Pro Sound, reported that the house of worship market represents approximately 70 percent of the company's business. "We have had continuous growth for 25 years and see no end in sight-the difference we see today is that churches are understanding the need for technology to enhance worship and use it as a ministry tool," said Fuqua. "Our customer base has not changed substantially; it has just become more knowledgeable and ready to accept new technologies."
Bill Evans, sales manager at SE Systems' Charlotte, NC location, noted that houses of worship makes up over 50 percent of his branch's business, with the main SE Systems retail facility in Greensboro doing about 35 percent of its business with worship venues. Evans said, in Charlotte, "there are plans for a new church just about every week. And the projects are expanding tremendously."
Evans' customers typify the overall market. Whether a traditional (Southern Baptist in Charlotte) or contemporary church, the customer's needs seem to revolve around the addition or expansion of live bands. "Most of the newer venues are starting off with contemporary-type bands or adding a service that contains a contemporary band," Evans shared. "The existing churches are changing their style of worship to more live music and acoustics become a problem."
These market trends are not just happening in the "Bible Belt" either. Daddy's Junky Music, a retail operation with 22 stores throughout New York and New England, is also doing a lot of business with churches. Dave Fuchs, manager of Daddy's Sound Solutions, the sound contracting division of Daddy's Junky Music, said houses of worship make up about half of the Sound Solutions business.
"I see an increase in 'contemporary-style' worship, even in traditional New England churches," said Fuchs. "I'm in at least one 'historical,' 1800s church every week. These churches are trying to adapt contemporary worship to both their sanctuaries and older parishioners. This often becomes a problem. We have basically the same customer base, but their needs are changing."
The changing needs of these house-of-worship customers translates into some major buying trends, towards more "professional" sound reinforcement, and, in some cases, recording equipment. John Vitale, national sales manager for Full Compass, sees the product mix for house-of-worship customers growing "more hip all the time." He reported, "The trends are moving into digital consoles (especially Yamaha PM5D, MC7L, and others that are not yet available), Shure and Aviom personal monitors-wireless is a huge business for Full Compass."
Evans echoed, "We're going to a lot more personal monitor systems-like the Aviom system-and with more personal monitor systems being used, it's getting the amps and wedges off the stage." As these venues become proper live music halls, they're looking for technology to enhance the listening and performing experience. The retailer serves as an important consultant, especially as customers understand what they're after.
While Sweetwater reports that the bulk of its large-format Digidesign Venue console sales have been to churches, VP of sales Jeff Radke pointed out that, "the biggest growth area has been in terms of the quality of recording equipment churches are acquiring. It's not at all unusual for even a smaller house of worship to have a DAW-based system, which allows them to archive and distribute a wide array of material to their congregations." Whether for sound reinforcement or recording equipment, Sweetwater strives to be that retailer the HOW customer can trust.
"These days, [HOW] systems are becoming ever more sophisticated, so more consultative selling is necessary. In many cases, the supplier really needs to educate its customer about the options available," said Radke.
Fuchs also acknowledges the NSCA for adding a marketplace education component. And All Pro Sound's Fuqua adds, "NSCA is vital to educating the systems integration industry as a whole. The advancement in systems integration has to be built around the members grasping new technologies or, in some cases, pioneering technologies hand in hand with manufacturers so that we can all continue to provide the best capabilities for our clients."
All Pro Sound…www.allprosound.com
Daddy's Junky Music…www.daddys.com