Professional Sound - August 2022 - Page 33

LONG & MCQUADE AND YORKVILLE SOUND ’ S STEVE LONG that something that we really want to happen ? So , we ’ ll still try to absorb , but it ’ s obviously been very , very difficult in this environment . So , I would say , a small percentage of the items have seen no increase , but typically , we ’ re looking at anywhere from 5 % to 25 %, I would say , in price increases over the last couple of years , depending on the category . That is not insignificant .” As mentioned , paired with the increased cost of shipping has been major delays . “ Logistics has been a huge issue , because these ports are closing , so the boats just aren ’ t moving ,” notes Lindberg . As example , he points of the port in Long Beach , CA , which at one point in early 2022 had 109 ships sitting idle at sea waiting to unload . “ And I ’ m sure Vancouver or wherever else on the east coast of North America , there are boats just sitting there because the dock workers aren ’ t unloading . So , there ’ s a finite number of containers , and there ’ s nothing going back to China . So , it ’ s hard to pick up and keep the product moving .”
The result down the line is this has a major impact on production companies and anyone involved in time sensitive projects like concert tours .
“ Asset management is critical in a business like ours ,” notes Mickey Curbishley in an email to Professional Sound . He ’ s the president of Solotech ’ s Live Productions Division in the U . S . and U . K ., who are responsible for some of music ’ s biggest worldwide tours , such as the current stadium tours by The Weeknd and Coldplay . “ We spend most of our day trying to work out how we can fill orders for global touring clients who are facing logistical challenges of their own . When we throw supply chain uncertainty into the mix , it gets even more complicated . The rising costs are one thing , but delivery times are what really kill you . Our clients expect us to deliver whatever the circumstance and that ’ s the hardest thing for the team right now . Nobody wants to let their clients down and , so far , we have managed to hold it together , but it ’ s been a rough ride with no clear end in sight .”
Now , as Long mentioned at the beginning , the third biggest contributing factor to rising costs and availability is simply soaring consumer demand .
“ Certain things where demand went very , very low for a couple years , like PA systems , well now all of a sudden that demand is going the other way . So , there ’ s more demand but the supply is kind of fixed to what it was . We can produce about the same amount as we did before but we ’ re having more demand ,” says Long . “ For the first time probably ever at the retail level , we ’ re telling people , ‘ We don ’ t have a sound system for you this weekend .’ I mean , we ’ re trying to piece together bits and pieces the best we can , but it ’ s a lot more difficult . Our model had always been almost like you don ’ t need to reserve anything , just come in because we got lots of stuff , right ? But that ’ s not quite the same anymore , at least right now .”
At the retail level , Long says that from March to July 2022 , overall demand has gone up 60-70 %. “ Anytime the demand goes up that much , you ’ re going to run out of product ,” he adds .
Unsurprisingly , Carman says that Exertis JAM has seen the largest surge in demand on the live sound side of things . “ I would point to amplifiers as being a big issue . From what I hear , not just from brands that we distribute , but throughout the market and all channels , there seems to be a shortage of amplifiers , and also just PA in general . Coming out of COVID , suddenly there ’ s a new demand for products that can be used in a live sound environment . So , shortage of supply , coupled with increased demand has certainly led to a lot of problems ; that ’ s for sure . But it ’ s more the pro audio side that ’ s been affected by the component shortages ,” he says .
One of the somewhat ironic things is that the current shortages and increased demand may lead to excess stock in the future because of what Carman describes as false demand . For example , someone asks three different suppliers about an amplifier and is told that none of them have it . “ It ’ s like a false demand because , really , that person only needs one , but he ’ s asked three different people if he could buy it from them . So , the potential is that everybody ’ s going to try and ramp up their forecasting to meet what they view as an increased demand . In a way , it could really throw the forecasting model out a little bit . We could have a bit of a price to pay , after the fact , when we finally get back to a normal baseline demand . A lot of distributors and manufacturers might find that they have excess stock , because everything has been so topsy-turvy .”
Eventually , but no one knows when , shortages and delays will lessen and so too should costs . But for the time being , current supply chain issues are having real impacts out in the field .
“ If you have an opportunity for a big install right now , the first question is , ‘ Can we get the stuff ?’ Depending on what it is you need to get , if it ’ s pretty sophisticated gear , then chances are you ’ re not going to get it quickly . So , it ’ s completely disruptive to what we ’ re doing ,” says Gil Moore , founder of Metal Studios and Metalworks Production Group in Mississauga , ON . He even mentions a fourth headache affecting business right now , which is lack of labour . “ We ’ ve been walking away from a lot of opportunities . There is no really good workaround that I ’ m familiar with . As far as inventory is concerned , inventory at a high level . ‘ Hoarded ’ is the wrong word , but people in the space that have inventory are sort of holding on to their inventory , for obvious reasons . I mean , you ’ re seeing this right down with the live shows and the lack cross rentals . You can ’ t cross rent from many companies in the business right now because their inventory is over-spoken for . Or it ’ s other reasons , like they don ’ t have the labour to put orders out the door , which is another equally complex part of the puzzle . The lack of labour is an industry-wide issue and it ’ s very obvious to anybody in the business . And I think many of the people are not coming back , either ; they ’ ve moved on with their lives .”
Understandably , no one Professional Sound spoke to wants to offer predictions on when these issues will subside . As Carman says , “ There ’ s too many factors that can go in too many different directions . There ’ s talk of recession and what ’ s that going to do ? Is that going to slow things down ? There ’ s talk of a twenty-seventh wave or whatever it ’ s going to be that shuts things down . So , sure , if things get shut down again , then demand goes down for certain things . If there ’ s a recession , that also changes things . So , I don ’ t think my guess would be any better than any other person ’ s who ’ s just rolling the dice and saying ‘ this is what we ’ re going to get .’”
All you can do is try to weather the storm , be proactive and flexible , and hope for the best .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Professional Sound .