Major Changes for Montreal & New York Shows
Roy Bird's UK-based Chester Group, which currently produces the New York Audio Show, has announced the acquisition of Montreal's Salon Son et Image. While the show will continue to take place in Montreal's Hilton Bonaventure in late MarchMarch 2830 in 2014Sarah Tremblay, former co-producer of Montreal show with her husband, Michel Plante, will join the Chester Group team and assume overall management of both North American shows.
In addition, to avoid 2013's industry-taxing situation of the Montreal, Chicago, and New York shows taking place with only two or three weeks between each, the Chester Group has decided to move the New York show from April to September. Given that a September date was unobtainable at the show's original location, the Palace, the New York show is moving to the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. While the hotel's only available dates for 2014 were September 2628, which will it uncomfortably close to Denver's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2014 dates of October 1214, Bird hopes to move New York's dates earlier in September in 2015 to allow at least a month before the two shows. Meanwhile, to make life easier for those who wish to exhibit in both New York and Denver, he is trying to get a good drayage arrangement that will enable equipment to go directly from New York to Colorado.
Bird is quite happy with the arrangement and facilities in Brooklyn. "Given that we've had bad experiences with both hotels we worked with in New York City, and promises made to us were not kept, we've made clear that everything they've promised us is fully inclusive of union services," he told Stereophile. "In addition, the Marriott's converted bedrooms are a very good sizelarger than the Palace's."
Asked what prompted his acquisition of Salon Son et Image, he cited what he termed "a chance encounter."
"Whilst I was at the New York Audio show this year," Bird said, "Michel and Sarah popped by. Rather than coffee, we enjoyed a pot of tea together. During our conversation, Michel intimated that he might like to sell the Montreal show to us. And because I say yes to everything, I said yes of course. I was very flattered, and said it was something I'd like to do. Michel had his children with him, and said that since we're both family organizations with a long-term commitment to the industry, he felt that we were very suitable to carry on with a show that's been established for a very long time."
Skyped in Montreal, Plante and Tremblay revealed the motivation for their decision. "Many different companies approached me during the last year, asking me to join their organization," said Plante. "One day, someone offered to enable me to do exactly what I've been doing all along, which is to help the industry grow and help to promote the industry. The offer, from Canadian company PlurisonAudio Plus Services in the USwill enable me to be in touch with hundreds and hundreds of dealers daily, educate them, transmit the passion, and use their marketing funds to better promote the industry. Working with Plurison allows me to influence the market at a faster pace, because I'm in touch with manufacturers and dealers every day of the year."
Once Plante had the offer from Plurison, he and Tremblay sat with the Bird family and suggested that Tremblay not only run the Montreal show, but also work to bring the New York Audio show "to another level." As the conversation progressed, Bird made an offer that the Canadian couple "could not refuse."
"Mostly what I'm doing with the New York show is working on the logistics level, which is our strength in Montreal," said Tremblay. "It's about organizing the show and putting everything together in a snap. You have to make sure that everything works."
The couple asserts that they were neither in bankruptcy or financial trouble, nor bored with the Montreal show. Nor did they feel the need to rethink their strategy.
"Last year, we had a bit less exhibitors than in 2012, but we had 10% more attendees than the year before," says Plante. "The Montreal show has a very unique spirit that we'll try bring to New York. We'll maintain the same good organization, and our young team that provides white glove service will remain the same." To which Tremblay added, "In Montreal, we're not trying to maintain our successful approach; we're keeping it!"
For his part, Bird points out that the Chester Group has been in the business 12 years, and will mount 15 shows in the next two years in New York, Montreal, England, Europe, and Australia.
"We're not speculators," he says. "We genuinely will do everything we can to help the industry, because it's in our own best interest. I've been a show organizer for 35 years, engaging with 10 different industries. Right now, we're concentrating on home entertainment and technology. Our forthcoming New Tech Shows will cover 14 different zones of the industry, and bring in a younger crowd. It's also probable that we'll bring to the U.S. a smaller high-end show, where the venue is picked for sound quality, and they'll let us bring in a system and exhibitors to check the rooms in advance. We're planning long-term, and have the industry 100% in our focus."