An earlier installment noted the large sums of cashola being used in the construction of what can nominally be described as Multimedia Entertainment Venues for Christ (MEVCs). The Gardendale First Baptist Church in Alabama dropped $110,000 for a Yamaha digital mixing console for example, let alone all of the goodies that go along with it. Seems like a lot of money that might be better used more directly in their community. But these guys are small time.
This month’s issue of Pro Audio Review features a cover article on Houston’s Lakewood Church. We’re talking amphitheater with all the trimmings: Huge stage (isn’t this what the used to call the “pulpit”?), extensive lighting, multiple jumbo screens, and audio and video production facilities out the wazoo. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and apparently the wallets are deeper and the multitudes more credulous as well. Let’s just have a taste of what’s involved here. In their effort to sell their snake oil to what seems like an ever-widening audience, the Lakewood MEVC features three Euphonix Series 5 consoles, two for on-air work and audio post production, and a third for front-of-house (i.e., the house sound reinforcement mixer). They also have a Euphonix Air Max console just for monitoring. Now forget about all of the other gear involved. All we’re talking about is audio mixing consoles which are just a portion of the capital budget. The Air Max console sells for between $115,000 and $225,000 depending on options. The Series 5 consoles start at $150,000. Each. And they’ve got three of them. So even if they got the entry level versions of each (which is doubtful), we’re looking at nearly $600,000 just for audio consoles, but perhaps twice that. And then there’s the recurring costs of maintenance, upgrades, the salaries of people to run these things and so on.
OK, forget the good that that sort of money might do in a community. Forget the hypocrisy of the message versus the medium. Let them spend their money as they see fit. Could someone explain to me again why these salesmen are not being treated like normal businesses when they’re this flush with cash? It certainly can’t be because the taxation that every other business or individual has to deal with would present an undue burden on them and limit their exercise of free speech. Tax exempt status needs a serious rework.