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HTSA Leads With Light

Early evangelists for the lighting category bring its CI-centric lighting convention back for a second year.

While there were many revelations and announcements at the HTSA Fall Conference — from the group’s “State of the Union” report to the latest in relationship science training — the big news coming out of Indianapolis was the return of Lightapalooza, the three-day event fully dedicated to lighting for the custom installation industry.

HTSA Fall Conference Breakout Sessions
HTSA Fall Conference Breakout Sessions

“We’ve continued on this path of lighting, and it has become an absolute business for us — a whole category,” says Jon Robbins, executive director, HTSA. “What it’s done for the businesses that have adopted and created lighting labs or showrooms dedicated to lighting is brought up their ability to specify the legacy businesses that we do as well. We’re being exposed to far more clients and they’re more interested in speaking with us because, in a lot of cases, we’re leading with light. It creates numerous opportunities that we may not have ordinarily gotten.”

Leading with light is not a new concept for HTSA members — the group was among its earliest industry champions, promoting the category to custom installers for more than five years. Still, even with its long-term promotion, there is plenty of room to grow — especially as businesses expand into selling fixtures.

HTSA - Fall Conference - Jon Robbins
Jon Robbins

“Lighting control is a huge business in our channel,” explains Tom Doherty, director of technology initiatives, HTSA. “Today, probably 90-plus percent of all new installations have lighting control in them, but the percentage of those jobs that have dealers providing fixtures is probably less than 1 percent. One out of a hundred projects are getting the full lighting experience.”

“There’s still an incredible number of homes that have incandescent and halogen solutions,” he continues, “and these fixtures from DMF Lighting, as well as replacement lamps from Soraa, let you retrofit old technology to new technology. You can do a house in a day and that’s a big opportunity. So, I don’t see this thing slowing down at all. I see lighting fixture sales being way bigger than lighting control sales.

“We’ve been at it more than five years and, after all the programs that we are doing and all the evangelizing I’m doing, more and more companies are getting into it. Our group is one of the most advanced and furthest along, and only half of our members are really in it.”

A Palooza By Any Other Name

Of course, getting into the lighting business is not an easy lift — it requires a deep dive into the technology and learning a whole new terminology with which to communicate to designers, architects, electricians, and builders. Bringing this education to the entire industry — not just HTSA members — was the impetus behind Lightapalooza.

Lightapalooza 2023 takes place on February 20-23 at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa. And while it is the second annual Lightapalooza, the concept has been around a little longer, having evolved from a smaller lighting event days prior to CEDIA 2019 in Denver. There, Doherty created an event for HTSA members named “Tomapalooza.” Inspired by music festivals, he wanted to bring together a “lighting learning festival.”

HTSA - Fall Conference - Tom Doherty
Tom Doherty

“We started Tomapalooza because we saw voids that existed and that needed to be filled. No one was addressing it, and so that’s why we initially put it together,” says Doherty. He also adds with a laugh, “I’m totally great with the name change.”

Like all sequels, the 2023 event will be bigger in size and broader in topic, with all the learnings from the inaugural event being put into action. “The exhibitor feedback I got was that there was so much going on with knowledge and teaching that there was limited time on the show floor. I fixed that,” says Doherty. “Last year there was a wide range of introductory knowledge and experience, but we’re a year further down the road and there are many more people that know what they’re doing and have been successful. So, I need to focus on some cutting-edge 400 Level courses, not just 100 and 200 Level courses.”

As mentioned, Lightapalooza is open to the entire industry — not just HTSA members and partner companies. Manufacturers will be vetted by the group to make sure they are working within the market. Any dealer serious about starting in lighting or moving to the next level can attend.

“It’s open to integrators that are either wanting to get in this and figure it out or are already doing it and want to go to a lighting show that is CI focused,” says Doherty. “There’re several shows that those interested in understanding the lighting category have gone to — Lightfair, Light Show West, LEDucation in N.Y., for example — that were valuable but had minimal applicability for CI dealers. The majority of the lighting fixture exhibitors at those shows didn’t even know that we existed — that there was such a thing as custom installers that have been selling lighting control for 30 years and have the complete trust and influence of their clients. Now that genie’s out of the bottle and people know it. It is the right time to have a lighting event exclusively focused on the CI channel.”

Related: Guide to Selling Human-Centric Lighting

The reason behind opening up the event beyond the membership is not completely altruistic, as HTSA understands that for lighting to take hold in this industry — especially in the eyes of builders, architects, and designers — dealers must know what they are doing.

“With a new category like lighting, an integrator can get in a lot of trouble making mistakes,” says Doherty. “It’s better for people to learn how to do this right and be professional. We need builders and electricians and lighting designers and interior designers and architects to observe that the people they’ve been working with to provide all the other technology in the home can take this on and be competent about it.”

More details about Lightapalooza 2023 will be announced shortly, according to HTSA. To preview the event, visit

HTSA Vendor Award Winners

During its Fall Conference, HTSA announced the recipients of its annual Vendor Awards. Here are the winners.

  • New Partner of Year: AVPro Edge
  • Video Partner of Year: Samsung
  • Audio Partner of Year: Sound United
  • Custom Install Partner of Year: Sonance/James Loudspeaker
  • Accessory Partner of Year: Liberty AV Solutions
  • Growth Partner of Year: Harman Luxury
  • Lighting Partner of Year: DMF Lighting
  • Member Support Award: Trinnov Audio
  • Person of the Year: Jeff Goldstein
HTSA Vendor Award Winners
HTSA Vendor Award Winners

Innovation Award Winners

  • Sony Laser Home Theater Projectors
  • Control4 CORE Controllers
  • Sonance Invisible Series
  • Display Technologies Projector Screens
  • Elemental LED Graze X Fixture