You don't need me to tell you that our little world is changing at warp speed. The reasons are many. As I write this, a war in Iraq seems all but inevitable. Whether it goes badly or well — and I hope that, if it happens, it goes very well indeed — there will be many unintended repercussions. All we know is, there's a giant question mark dangling over all of us and it's difficult to know how to proceed, in business and in one's own life.
Everyday, I pick up the newspaper and read that the Middle East is a tinderbox of political passions and that everyone in Europe is furious at the US. However, I'm just back from the trade show Pro Light and Audio, in Frankfurt, where everyone was very friendly and there was a great deal of talk about the Middle East as an emerging market. To me, we're in a wide-open situation and the way events play out will have a lot to do with what happens next, in the economy in general and in this industry.
Closer to home, the industry has been roiled by a number of incidents that add to the feeling of uncertainty. Just this week, Broadway was shut down for a weekend, the by-product of a labor dispute between the Musicians' Union and the League of American Theatres and Producers. Interestingly, the sticking point was technology, with the producers using the Virtual Orchestra as a club to force the union to eliminate required minimums in Broadway houses. Yes, this was a dispute about sound, but such conflicts are the result of technological change and we're likely to see more of them in future.
Then there were two horrific club disasters that stunned the nation in February. The second one, in West Warwick, RI, was particularly grisly, leaving over 90 people dead. The disaster was caused by the reckless use of pyro effects, apparently without a permit, in an inhospitable venue. Events like these provide further proof that industry standards are urgently needed; in the long run, ESTA's Technical Standards Program will save lives. In fact, it probably has already. It's up to each and every one of us to support this work, any way we can, by offering time, money, and commentary on individual standards as they are released.
Of course, the sad truth is that no matter how good technical standards are, some idiot is going to take a chance, use a product improperly, and cause harm to others. But the more we can do, the more likely it is that such disasters can be averted. That's one thing you can be certain of in this uncertain world.