27 Feb 2023


by John O’Brien

Modern day consumers are an entitled bunch – we want it cheap, and we want it now. Like old timers, we also expect our gear to be reliable and always work.

We expect the same of our humans. With all their quirks and peculiarities – we still expect them to be professionally and personally reliable.

Reliable Apparatus


No-one likes a gear failure. Especially mid gig. But we’ve all been there, and our various responses have taught us tough and rapid decision-making skills. We find a solution, or work around, and we find it quick. We also find our trust in the piece of gear that failed is diminished. So, we tend to stick with what we know works. Proven and trustworthy gadgetry is crucial at showtime.

The success of the big box stores pumping out cheap and flaky consumer items is self- evident. In the rush to the bottom, reliability is purposely compromised. As long as the product hangs in there until warranty expires, the manufacturer is covered and when it does inevitably fall over, there’ll be a brand-new model just waiting to be sold.

Of course, production companies cannot afford the time penalty of arranging RMAs, shipping, waiting, calling, following up when a show is on the line. So, they have spares. Of quality gear that they know will keep the show running.


I wonder how many use el-cheapo tools for DIY work? Personally, I find them a pain. They rarely do the job well; you have to force them when they are inherently weak by production design and will fail just when you don’t have time to waste arranging repair or replacement. Time is precious; it’s false economy to waste it, either at work or home.

Harsh experience has seen me less inclined to put up with rubbish. That means taking the time to research and find the best tool for the job that I can afford. Whether it’s mechanical, household goods, clothing or some kind of electronica, I want to enjoy using the item and I want to keep doing so for a long time.

Reliable People

Few enjoy the consequences of human failure. Showing up late, under the weather, distracted by life’s problems, or not showing up at all – ask any employer and they’ve seen it all. As an employer, or employee responsible for other workers, it’s an ongoing hassle. As a life partner or family member, these behaviours can fray the relationship, if not make it untenable.

As a fellow human, I have at times failed others (and thus, myself) as a contractor / employee. More importantly, failures on a personal level are something we all encounter and I’m no different. Sorry to those who slid off my learning curve; knowingly or not, you have likely done similar somewhere else.

I did it again just yesterday. Long booked in to see an anaesthetist for an upcoming minor surgery, I plumb forgot about the appointment. The day prior, I’d switched the computer (and calendar) off to go out visiting and my commitments for the following day didn’t register. Long story short, a call from the clinic 20 minutes after I was due there was most embarrassing. I apologised profusely for my lapse and pleaded for mercy. They were nice enough to reschedule later in the day. Then, I allowed extra time to be early, walked into the clinic only to realise I’ve gone to the wrong place and had to do a mad dash around the corner to the correct clinic. My memory is obviously not as reliable as it once was.

Our business and social groupings are also made up of people. Being able to navigate their anomalies is a lifelong pursuit. Learning to trust these folks along the way deepens the relationship. Those that are repeatedly there when you need them are deemed reliable and become fast friends / colleagues. The ones that are continually late, absent or don’t seem to care get dropped down or off the list.

Gear + People = Distributors

AV distribution is a combination of both people and equipment. For continued success, both of these components need to be reliable. There are multiple examples of great product let down by poor support. Likewise, there are some excellent staff who struggle to back a flaky piece of kit. I’ve experienced both.

With the ongoing supply upsets, some top- level manufacturers are taking a massive hit because they cannot be relied upon to provide a timely product. Having a box on the shelf is far more attractive to a purchaser than an open timeline with no concrete delivery window.

Old alliances are going out the window. You might have a favourite component, but if you cannot get your hands on it, you will need to switch camps to get your job done. You might have a good rapport with a particular distributor but if they cannot supply what you need, then needs must and you’ll have to do business with someone who can get you what you require to keep your own customers happy.

Then, you must use gear that is a little unfamiliar and, with that, untrusted. Only time (and successes with minimal failures) will gain that trust. Likewise, it takes a while to know whether your distributor is truly there to help or just after a quick sale. You will find out when something fails and you need it repaired or replaced.

In reliability we trust

So, how to be a good consumer? Buy equipment that you know will be solidly up for what you have planned for it. Cheap crap will give you a crap outcome. Support companies that you have faith in to deliver what you need and when you need it.

Be what you would want others to be. Follow through and do what you said you would. Be dependable; others may rely on you.


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