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Vendors being 'creative'

Here's something that makes me uneasy: The idea that some vendors in the Broadway market have been providing content 'services' (in addition to the gear package) to shows that don't really have a defined Projection Designer.

Hasn't there always been a sort of wall between renting gear and also providing design, specifically in the theatrical market ? I own a Hippotizer, but I don't rent it to clients out of respect for the relationships I have with my favorite vendors. As a designer, what am I supposed to think when I find that some vendors are going ahead and providing content ?

Let me be clear: A corporate event, a party, a little advertising thing, any of these I can see the vendor stepping up for the complete package. There's clear precedent. But when the vendors suddenly become the competitors to some of their biggest clients (i.e. the designers) on Broadway level shows, or big tours... That makes me nervous. Is it every man for himself now ? Isn't theatre the province of a collaboration between artists ?

Certainly the flip side exists... There are programmers and projection designers out there who rent their own servers to the same people hiring them for programming or content. But this tends to take place in the world of one-off events, corporate stuff or broadcast. It's not something Colleen and I have done up to now. And on the concert side, there are a number of LD's who provide the rental of the gear to the client and then subrent it... It seems to be the way that those designers construct on-going compensation for a gig, sort of building a royalty sensibility into an industry that doesn't do royalties for design.

And on reflection, it's fairly common on the sound side of things. But in those cases, at least it's acknowledged and named. If the show is designed by Richard Fitzgerald, I'll expect to see Sound Associates boxes everywhere. But the sort of situations I'm talking about don't fit that. Vendors are just 'throwing in' the content... or maybe billing it out by the hour. It feels like a model that blows away the market standards for fees vs. work produced that the designers have been struggling to define. And does it undermine designers as artists ?

What do all of you think ? Is this just part of our changing world ? I really welcome the comments. I'm not entrenched here... I'm wondering, is the market changing ? And if it is, how do we as designers, figure out how to remain competitive.

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