Crossroads Audio

by Debi Moen
in Regional Slants
Robin Magruder and Ed Spoto of Crossroads Audio
Robin Magruder and Ed Spoto of Crossroads Audio

When Clair Bros. Audio acquired Dallas-based Showco back in late 2000, the purchase left three Showco staffers with tons of touring experience searching for a new, clear direction. All signposts led Robin Magruder, Stewart Bennett and Ed Spoto to their friends at Crossroads Audio.

Crossroads Audio was started in 1972 — just two years after Showco started — by an ex-Showco employee, Chuck Conrad. The two companies had been friendly for years. “Many folks had migrated between Showco and Crossroads Audio over the decades,” Magruder says. “There was a long, fruitful relationship all the way back to the early ‘70s.”

Stewart Bennett

So while the three Showco staffers were considering their options, opportunity knocked. Bennett learned that Crossroads Audio founders/owners, the Conrads, were considering selling the company and retiring from the industry.

Bennett had worked at Crossroads Audio prior to Showco. He suggested to Magruder that they make an offer to the Conrads to buy Crossroads Audio. Stewart and Magruder then asked Ed Spoto — another top mixing/system engineer/Showco alumnus — to join them in their pursuit of the purchase.

To say it was “less than advantageous timing” to take on their new venture as owners of Crossroads Audio in December 2001 was an understatement, says Magruder. This was just three months after the terrorist attacks on September 11. The world stopped. The entertainment industry screeched to a halt.

“It was daunting. The bottom had dropped out of many markets. It was definitely a struggle for the first year,” Magruder says. “But we had nowhere to go but up. By late 2002 we started growing and have continued to do so.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX

‡‡         Touring Legacy

And the original veteran team continues to guide its growth today. Robin Magruder is president and general manager. Ed Spoto is director of operations. Stewart Bennett is ambassador-at-large. Mike Ponczek, another former top Showco staffer, is concert and event services manager. David Bell is senior staff engineer. Jeff Oakley, rental and sales manager, started at Crossroads Audio in 1987 and just retired at the end of June, with Chris Rodriguez taking the helm of rentals and sales.

The Crossroads Audio team contributes to the company’s success from their expertise gained in working with top touring acts of their day: The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, The Who, David Bowie, Bee Gees, Genesis, The Moody Blues, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Smashing Pumpkins, The Kinks, Soundgarden, Dixie Chicks, and too many more to mention.

“That is one of our major advantages for our customers: our extremely high level of experience and success at the top of the industry,” Magruder says. “I believe it brings a higher standard of professionalism, audio knowledge and problem solving expertise. Our customers would likely agree it creates a difference in the level of service and reliability that they can get here.”

Crossroads Audio’s speaker setup for the Red Bull X Fighters Motocross event at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

‡‡         Territory

Today, Crossroads Audio is a full service audio production company. They also offer dry hire equipment rentals along with sales of pro audio, video and lighting.

Their sales and rentals span all markets beyond concerts and corporate events, such as universities, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, DJs, houses of worship, governmental departments, school districts, bands, orchestras, civic/philanthropic organizations, special events/festivals and arts organizations.

They also do a substantial amount of work for professional and amateur sports organizations, such as boxing, gymnastics, soccer, football, and prestigious events such as the NCAA Final Four, for example.

The majority of events are in the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex and around Texas, such as at the Austin City Limits Festival.

But they also work nationwide. There’s the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL; Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE; and Lollapalooza in Chicago. They just finished their 14th year supplying stages at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN — plus major corporate productions, auto shows, special events and tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Bonnaroo Which Stage

‡‡         The Meyer Sound Connection

While touring experience allows them to handle any kind of project imaginable, Magruder says the company’s growth was bolstered from the start by another company — Meyer Sound.

“Meyer Sound is our primary relationship and continues to be,” Magruder says. “They have steadily offered innovation and high quality speakers and product lines, so in a way, we have grown with them over a decade and a half. We find Meyer to be a superb U.S. company and we are proud of that association.”

While Meyer Sound co-founders John and Helen Meyer celebrate their 50th anniversary in business with a “Summer of Love” marketing tie-in, Magruder says, “That spirit still permeates at Meyer Sound; although it’s new school in terms of technology and innovation, there’s still a lot of old school heart and soul in the company, and that unique blend continues to engender our support and admiration.”

Crossroads Audio’s sales and rental departments also offer products from other top manufacturers such as JBL, Sennheiser, Shure, Yamaha and more through a range of wireless and wired microphones, stands, amplifiers, mixers, loudspeakers, signal processing, cabling and DJ gear. Customers seeking those hard-to-find accessories, cable and hardware can special order it as well.

Along with sales and rentals of small LEDs, moving lights and small projectors and screens, Crossroads Audio partners with “carefully selected” companies to provide full-scale sound and lighting packages — sometimes including video/I-Mag — for certain clients who want a single source turnkey service.

“With our team’s singular track record of successful design, planning and execution of professional audio and production worldwide for literally thousands of major concerts and special events of virtually every kind, we are uniquely qualified to apply the same high standards of excellence to our customers’ projects and challenges,” Magruder says.

Crossroads supported the audio needs for the NCAA Final Four at AT&T Stadium in 2014.

‡‡         New Technology Purchase Considerations

But keeping up with technology and investing in new inventory is one of the biggest challenges.

“We keep a close watch on technology — what is really of value in our turf. We are careful. Our budgets are not unlimited, but sometimes our clients require something specific for the short term — so we are able to cross rent from our trusted partners.

“We keep up, but we evaluate quite carefully and invest steadily rather than in big chunks at a time. We now have one of the largest Meyer inventories outside of the huge rental houses in the South Central US, with many of their major product lines.”

Simulcast events, like this one for the Dallas Opera’s production of Carmen, have drawn thousands. Crossroads Audio provided the coverage.

Magruder says they are considering carefully their next phase of equipment investment. “We continue on a rather steady basis each year, investing in speakers, consoles, mics, infrastructure, Shure and Sennheiser systems — both wireless mics and in-ear monitor technology.”

When it comes to consoles, continuing with the Avid and Yamaha lines is under consideration, but Magruder admits they haven’t started looking in depth yet.

“We are interested in products that are extremely high quality and extremely well made and have some legs — that won’t be obsolete in two years. Products need to have wide acceptance across the market segments we service. Those are our criteria, and matching that up and putting them to our budget range is one of our constant challenges.”

Legacy Magruder says the influence of Showco on Crossroads Audio and the entire industry is one for the history books. For those who are relatively new to the industry, he sums up Showco’s legendary legacy.

“In its 31-year span, Showco’s accomplishments included the invention of moving/color-changing automated lighting by a Showco sound man (Jim Bornhorst), the first truly viable digital-recallable console for live sound (ShowConsole), the first arena/stadium scale fully-integrated speaker array design (PRISM) and a vast portfolio of innovative service, training, packaging, efficiency and technology solutions and processes — plus one of the most impressive client rosters the industry has ever seen,” Magruder says.

“But what really set Showco apart and attracted all those legendary artists was the passion, dedication, skill and professionalism of its people.”

“At Crossroads Audio,” he adds, “we are proud to advance Showco’s legendary spirit of pioneering service and innovation into the 21st century.”

Pacquiao vs Clottey Championship Fight at AT&T Stadium in 2010

The Crossroads Audio team contributes to the company’s success from their expertise gained in working with top touring acts of their day: The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, The Who, David Bowie, Bee Gees, Genesis, The Moody Blues, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Smashing Pumpkins, The Kinks, Soundgarden, Dixie Chicks, and too many more to mention.

Company Snapshot

Crossroads Audio

  • Location: Dallas, TX
  • Founded: 1972
  • Owners: Robin Magruder, Stewart Bennett, Ed Spoto
  • Phone: 214-358-2623 and 800-287-0436
  • Web: www.crossroadsaudio.com

 

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