Too Many Audio Shows? Roy Bird, The Chester Group

A Response from Roy Bird, The Chester Group

I wish I could say, and as is usually said, "I read with interest" John Atkinson's recent leader in Stereophile . . . but alas not a day goes by it seems when someone somewhere feels it necessary to not just question the amount of shows, or the point of shows, or in the worst cases deride them; although I'm certainly not accusing a fellow Englishman of the latter.

There is a saying John that goes something like "if shows did not exist right now, then they would very soon be invented " and that's a truth.

Ever since the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in England in 1851, exhibitions (or shows as we prefer to call them) have endured over 160 odd years of popularity, and their appeal and objectivity has never really changed; yes economic woes have driven many to the wall and footfall and exhibitor support has taken its knocks, but overall shows are without doubt one of the media world's greatest survivors.

So just what "are" they? They are unique showcases, were the public (in our case) can see all that's new and exciting under one roof, where there is glorious and unfettered brand rivalry, choice and presentation backed up by fantastic expertise. And you simply cannot compare that with any other option.

And this is the point, none of the shows that John Atkinson refers to have hit the wall and failed to attract sufficient numbers, be that exhibitors or visitors; overall, therefore, the public have over the years voted with their feet and ensured that shows as a concept are completely accepted, looked forward to and loyally supported. Our only real concern is the "sameness" of some of the events in our own particular industry and, speaking for ourselves, we are doing a lot about that in order to address new markets and ensure that the overall packaging of our shows is commensurate with the products they represent.

And my comments above about visitor support applies to the trade as well . . . believe me we "do not" and "could not" drag exhibitors screaming and shouting to our shows, they make their own decisions, and having done so we do our level best to make that a rewarding experience.

Our next show will be (in my lifetime) the 150th that I have organised in the 30-odd years I've been involved in the industry, and I have helped and promoted many different consumer industries. Although the challenges are always there, each new show is for us just like a new baby. It's never boring and if it ever becomes so I have two able-bodied sons and a loyal team quite capable of showing me the door because we are showmen and we love what we do, and that certainly helps because believe me this is probably one of the most demanding, diversely skilled, stressful and entrepreneurial jobs imaginable.

So rather than all this continual questioning, particularly from key and influential media like your good selves, let's start talking things up and be grateful that we have such a great invention to help our industry, because they are there because "they are needed" and not because we make people do them, and when and where they "happen" and more importantly "succeed" in those locations and dates, is not decided by us, but by the public; period.—Roy Bird, Chester Group

Share | |
COMMENTS
John Atkinson's picture

Responses to this essay from almost all the organizers of the shows mentioned will be posted shortly, in the order in which I received them.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

sommovigo's picture

Hi John!

So - on this subject. I think the growing interest in regional shows is healthy for the industry, but it is a slog for sure. However, no one is obligated to support every single one of them. But it's not all that much when you look at teh schedule for home shows throughout the year in the USA. You've got folks that are trying to hit all these shows with their widgets because that's how they're putting bread on the table. Check out this schedule for just one of the Home Show organizers: http://acshomeshow.com/show-schedule/schedule

How many Magic Bullet blenders does one have to sell in order to fully monetize every one of these? ;-)

With that in mind we also have to acknowledge that a fair chunk of the market is developing in direct sales, especially when it comes to headphone concerns, and that these regional shows will do more to help promote brand and sell product than more traditional marketing investments might. Nothing beats face-to-face, and these shows are an excellent way to create the kind of social setting that makes it easy and fun to meet the people behind the products - as well as meet the people behind the opinions!

As these shows prolifrate, they will continue to bridge the gap between traditional retail and direct-sale brands, effectively creating a 3-day pop-up storefront for any brand interested in plying their trade directly to the consumer. And while I'd like to see them spaced more evenly throughout the year, I think that regional shows are HiFi's best chance to create relevance among those who might be interested in what it is that we do - but who might not be familiar with it, or might be intimidated by the kinds of prices they see published within any of the myriad HiFi publications from around the world.

Let's face it ... while there are a significant number of people who might think that spending $30,000.00 on a kitchen upgrade is reasonable, there are at least as many who think that spending $3,000.00 on a pair of loudspeakers is outrageous. The enthusiasm that we indulge in may be both specialized and intimidating, however regional shows offer a fairly close look and listen, and might provide the otherwise-intimidated person an opportunity to judge these things on their own merit ... and not just based on a picture and a price in a magazine.

Et Quelle's picture

Too many show is an imposibility. It might be burdensome to the workers but not attendees. To them, there is only 1 show!
But I love electronics, I would love working it too. Im in Nevada, I can see 2 cali shows and the one here which is small
due to CES. People with whatever budget might not go in for a private listening with salesmen 3:1. But thousands: hundreds
is more comfortable. The wife isn't as mad when you buy because it was part of the trip.

jgossman's picture

If at every show you notice it's the same people there, it's just industry showing off and selling to one another.  That's okay, look at the hot rod auto business.  From high end 30's American to high end Italian auto's, if you notice all you do is go to shows, it's industry looking for lots and lots of opportunities to sell to itself.  Because that's the only people with the money to afford what is essentially only marginally better (start the flame war..... NOW) than the mearly great but still affordable high end.  Why do you think there are shows every weekend showing off used and classic Ferrari's and Hot Rods every summer, but only a handful of new car shows showing of the latest midsized car tech from Ford or Honda.

Because even though you the audiophile may hate to admit it, the difference in great and sublime is a PRICE not worth COST.  Because the cost of going from GREAT to SUBLIME isn't worth the PRICE of a very nice house in the midwest.  And the to most people, what we consider mearly great, IS truely sublime.

It's really pretty simple.  Don't overthink it.  Start making better gear, more reliable, and easy to use, then charge a price that doesn't set off bullshit fllters.  You see the "little guy" is simple, not stupid.

Bill Leebens's picture

I understand JA's concerns, and those of the show organizers and exhibitors, as well. Having worked on all sides of Show Biz--with manufacturers, with the media, and as a show organizer-- I think the primary concern of all those involved is cost-effectiveness: simple bang-for-buck, ROI.  Such concern is understandable and warranted, but unfortunately is often reduced to unrealistic expectations of immediate sales, rather than steady, long-term development of the market and customer base.

There is a tendency, during a  down-market, to want to carefully sequester and protect one's own piece of the pie, whether it's miniscule or major. As public awareness of the audio industry has diminished, there has been a tendency for those in the industry to become increasingly guarded and wary of  forces perceived as threats to their share of the remaining market. Those "threats" in the past have included the internet and the iPod; two forces which present huge opportunities for the audio biz, if handled properly.

Similarly, too many shows? Rather than applaud the fact that the industry is experiencing public outreach unlike any seen in the past 30 years, the audio industry focuses on the strain on resources in personnel and capital.

I get it. Times are tough-- but rather than make them tougher with whining and internecine back-biting, can we please celebrate the new opportunities presented to us, and just freaking get ON with it?

 

DoggyDaddy's picture

To me one simple fact limits the usefulness of shows (and ok, I've only been to 1, as I'm a newbie).  It's that you can't listen to equipment at a show the way you would at home.  There's too much noise, too many people.  For generating brand awareness, fine, as well as networking w/ colleagues/competitors.  But it's no environment for listening musically.  For one thing - and this alone would make shows almost useless for actual auditioning - the equipment is usually played too loud.  There seems to be a sort of macho simplistic attitude: see how loud we are!  No one for whom the gear is a means to a musical end (as opposed to the end of showing off your fancy setup) would buy on the basis of a show demo, IMO.

AJ's picture

I doubt there are many (or any) retailers that have 50-100 rooms with 300+ brands of equipment.

As such, these shows are a unique opportunity for consumers to get to hear (not, read about, channel,  imagine, etc.) a much broader variety of products than one ever would in retail stores. The two are incomparable.

For a manufacturer like myself, it's an opportunity to present my product in what most would consider a tough environment, a hotel room. That tends to seperate the wheat from the chaff of sensible acoustic design (something quite often foreign to the "High End", where "bling" and "street cred" tends to rule).

Win win as I see it....and if it cost me an arm and a leg to exhibit, well, perhaps that's the price to pay in todays market.

DoggyDaddy, what is amazing, is how few people bring their own (reference) music, much less ask for a private audition with it, free from the crowds.

cheers,

AJ

Soundfield Audio (USA)

spyder1's picture

I don't think there are too many audio shows. I believe that the existing audio shows can be schedualed with 1 to 2 months downtime in between shows. I believe the audio shows are a great way to inform the consumer about new and inovative products, and teach the next generation of Audiophiles, that their future looks amazing!

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

The high end audio dealers / showrooms are becoming a thing of the past, so how is this equipment to be sold? If there weren't all these new shows how would people listen before they buy? I believe we need to support these shows or we will see this hobby become smaller than it already is! Remember smaller hobby = fewer advertisers, (-$). 

X
Enter your Stereophile.com username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading