To maintain a competitive edge against larger touring companies, local sound providers must often look beyond just audio — spec’ing backline, lighting, video, staging, etc., to be a one-stop service shop. But for Bauder Audio Systems (Horsham, Pa., www.bauderaudio.com), the past 25 successful years have seen the company primarily focusing on just audio — providing gear for touring musicians (local, national and international) and local venues.
Bauder Audio Systems recently handled SR for Temple University’s graduation ceremonies.
Bauder Audio Systems’ owner, Rick Bauder, started in the field. His musical career began in 1969 as a roadie with local band Catch, which led to a playing gig with the band while keeping his sound duties. “As I amassed more gear,” Bauder recalls, “my hobby slowly turned into a career as other bands asked me to work with them. In 1980, after graduating from college, I formally started Bauder Audio Systems.
“Initially,” he continues, “the company did installs and service work to support the sporadic rental market. As the rental market improved, I phased out of the other areas to concentrate on sound and backline. My vision to be a sound company took an interesting turn in 1982, when local theater Shubert Theater [now Merriam Theater] called looking to rent what was then a new product — a Yamaha DX7 — for a play. I agreed to rent it to them and purchased one from a local music store. When other customers found out that I rented instruments, as well as sound equipment, a ‘backline’ need emerged.” Today, the company is split between sound and backline rentals.
Bauder says that this approach can be hairy business, as he is often required to don a referee’s outfit and whistle. “As a production company, being stuck in the middle between these warring factions [a person paying for the gear vs. the musician requesting the gear] puts us in a precarious position of alienating either the band or the promoter, or both,” he explains. “The musicians want what they want for audio and backline needs. The promoter wants to pay as little as possible to put the show on. This is where the shirt and whistle come in handy. Oftentimes, the promoter wants us to negotiate with the band on their behalf to cut production. We are in the equipment rental business and don’t want the band thinking we don’t want to service their needs by refusing them their requested gear.”
Fortunately, these sticky situations don’t seem to have a lasting affect on business, as Bauder is servicing a wide variety of clients (concert promoters, festivals, casinos, TV/radio stations, theaters, churches, schools, arenas, record labels, etc.). In addition, traveling musicians not carrying gear are often regular customers, including Dennis DeYoung, Tower of Power, Average White Band and others. “Bands like the Beach Boys may use our services 10 to 12 times a year or more,” he says, “and that comfort factor for them of having a reliable production company in a region is very important to their performance.”
Bauder also points out a very real benefit to focusing on rental gear. “Security in the post-9/11 environment, along with increased transportation costs associated with international and coast-to-coast travel, has caused customers who used to travel with instruments and production to rely on companies like ours to provide a turnkey rental package. [For] musicians flying in from other countries to perform in the U.S., clearing customs with anything other than personal items can be very difficult.”
Handling these events is a core crew of three office/shop and seven audio/backline personnel; in addition, the company maintains a list of qualified subcontractors. “Of special mention is my production manager, Brian Naab,” Bauder points out. “Brian left a successful Nashville-based touring sound company as one of its road engineers to move back to the Philadelphia area to be closer to family and friends. A production manager with his audio background and event-management skills helps us to understand customers’ needs, and his gear knowledge allows us to design the right equipment package.”
In addition to the contracted gigs, this staff must maintain a sizable inventory, including Crest, Mackie, Midas and Yamaha rider-friendly boards; a full complement of Turbosound speakers, along with models from Electro-Voice and JBL; and an array of mics, amps, processing and DJ gear, in addition to its extensive list of backline and instruments. “With continuous investment in technology and embracing the digital age head-on,” Bauder says, “I look to refine system design and improve the packaging of our systems.”
Sarah Benzuly is Mix’s managing editor.