CE Pro of the Week: Brad Sundberg, BSUN Media Systems
He describes the wildest installation requests ever. Think Michael Jackson, Madonna and rattlesnakes.
Brad Sundberg, owner, BSUN Media Systems
Each week, we aim to provide an informative - yet colorful - profile of one of your fellow CE pros. Interested in being featured yourself? See below.
How would you use Twitter to describe what your company does (140 character limit)?
Quality audio and video still matter to me. Like a great recipe, you can’t go wrong with great ingredients and a lot of experience.
After you complete a project, what do you think your typical client tells his friend about the experience?
I hope it is something like what Lucy Buffett [Jimmy’s sister] wrote after the work we did for her restaurant Lulu’s on Alabama’s Gulf shore:
“I humbly applaud Brad with a vociferous BRAVO BRAVO! Thank you for the absolutely impeccable job and rising to the occasion! You now are entitled to ‘gumbo for life.’
“Last January, we decided to upgrade our audio-visual program and somehow found Brad! He did an expert job and was always willing to work cheerfully and diligently especially when we would ‘make it up as we go’ — a LuLu’s trademark.
“Food and beverage establishments underestimate the importance of the quality of ambient music. We are hyper vigilant about how our music communicates an exceptional experience, especially since we have live entertainment every night of the year. It absolutely delights me to walk around the entire restaurant and property and to enjoy quality sound.
“I am completely confident in saying the quality of our audio-visual system actually increases my sales and makes a major contribution to the overall success of LuLu’s.”
- Principal: Brad Sundberg, owner, audio/video janitor
- Location: Fairhope, Ala.; Los Angeles; New York (Each location is independently owned; no fixed showrooms)
- Web site: http://www.bsunmedia.com
- Years in Business: 17
- Number of employees: 3 (in Fairhope)
- Residential/Commercial Split: 60%/40%
- Number of 2009 Installations: 24 (out of Fairhope)
- Top 3 Brands: Crestron, Episode, SpeakerCraft
What can CE pros learn from your company to make them think differently and run their business better?
When I built my Los Angeles office I spent a lot of money on a showroom. I had motorization, lighting control, top-of-the-line everything from cabinetry to carpet.
And guess what? No one came to it.
People are busy and are not likely to carve out 90 minutes to come sit in your showroom. I did 95 percent of my sales in my clients’ homes and offices, bringing key pieces with me. When I opened the Fairhope location I refined this concept into what I call a “portable showroom.”
I bring Crestron, SpeakerCraft and Kaleidescape into potential client’s homes and let them try it for a few days on their schedule. I also bring it to architect, interior design and real estate offices for trainings. This approach builds a deeper trust and friendship with my clients because I am on their turf, not the other way around.
What trade tip can you offer your fellow CE pros?
Stay in touch with your client base. Write a newsletter, email them or call them periodically. And don’t take yourself or your products too seriously.
What’s the wildest request you’ve ever had for an installation?
That’s a tough one. I built all of the music and video systems for Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch, plus did extensive work for Madonna, Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Taylor and Quincy Jones.
I have put music on bumper cars, horse drawn carriages, a steam train, a Gulf Stream jet and three custom motor coaches.
I have built a one-of-a-kind whole-house baby monitor for a celebrity in Brentwood, Calif.
I have built a fully mobile recording studio in rack cases for a touring musical artist.
I’ve folded TVs into ceilings, built a home with 60 zones of music control, even built a trio of matched recording studios in California, France and England for a producer with three homes.
And just last month we floated a 33-foot HDTV on barge for a secret Jimmy Buffett concert.
But perhaps the “wildest” was to provide a complete narrative and sound effect system for a snake barn. We recorded the narration off-site, but had to complete the installation above, below and around the snake enclosures with the snakes in them. I am not afraid of snakes, but being on a mechanic’s creeper in the dark, installing a speaker below a cage of perhaps 25 rattlesnakes (we had a microphone in the cage so guests could hear the rattles through the glass) sort of stands out in my mind as being out of the ordinary.
What is your 3D strategy and do you think the technology will live up to the hype?
I may lose my CE Pro ribbon for this, but I am totally bored of 3D. I have no interest in it; I consider it gimmicky; and in the past 12 months I would estimate that only one of my clients has even mentioned 3D. Her comment was how much she would hate to have to wear glasses to watch TV.
As far as a strategy, if my clients want to play 8-track tapes through speakers in their swimming pool, I will make it happen. Likewise if they ask for 3D, 3D they will get … but I am not promoting either one.
What is your absolute favorite piece of audio demo material?
Quincy Jones’ “The Places You Find Love.”
In my previous overlapping career, I was a technical director on several major albums including Jones’ Back On The Block. When you work on a song like “Places” in the studio for 16 months, you get a pretty good idea of how it should sound, and that comes in very handy when I tune systems.
My good friend Bruce Swedien bent the meters on that song. It goes from a whisper to scream and back to a whisper. Huge drums, huge bass, huge choir, Chaka and Siedah vocals with Quincy driving the train! That makes for a big song.
My other go-to song is “Secret Silken World” by David Baerwald. It is dark and warm and masterfully recorded.
What is your absolute favorite piece of video demo material?
I am such a dork with my video demos. Most CE Pro readers will dismiss me right now.
I don’t like loud explosions with trucks and body parts flying over my head. (Neither do most of my female clients, and they often control the checkbook.) For rich colors I show Finding Nemo. For a jaw-dropping scene I show Step Into Liquid where they surf 66-foot waves 100 miles off the coast of California. I have never played that scene without people stopping what they are doing and just staring at it in disbelief.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
When I was about nine years old my dad gave me a box of wires, batteries, motors, switches, buzzers and electronic parts for Christmas. It was the best gift ever, and I was hooked. Thanks again, Dad.
Michael Jackson, Madonna and Quincy Jones are on Brad Sundberg’s past clients list.
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Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at email@example.com
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