Too Many Audio Shows? Sarah Tremblay, SSI

A Response from Sarah Tremblay, SSI, Montreal

Like any other industry, the more direct contact you have with the public, the better it is to awake awareness on your specialty. Dealer shows are very good and necessary, even if in most case they reach a limited number of their already established customers. Consumer Regional Shows are playing a different role, as you know; beside the very positive influence on the spirit of the industry members, they allow manufacturers to find new dealers or distributors, they allow the loyal customers of store X to look and listen to what store Y has to offer, they allow new brands to be discovered, they allow reviewers to find products to review as well as editors to discuss advertising with manufacturers. When well promoted, they attract hundreds of new customers that are not high performance audio's aficionados.

Are there too many shows, too many magazines, too many bloggers, too many manufacturers, or just not enough brick-and-mortar stores?! Until our industry learns how to promote itself, there will be a perception that there are too many of all of this. Is there room for more shows? Absolutely not. Should we reduce the numbers of shows? Not necessarily, if they all find their own niche— most of the shows are, year after year, at the same time, in the same city while others are playing "yoyo" with dates and cities, which is what has disturbed a peaceful industry. Exhibitors might have to put their foot down and request that certain show starts to respect them.

Besides the world is changing and the audio business as well, manufacturers and the media should consider to create new position in their business and allocate some resources strictly for shows, while eliminating positions that are obsolete. This way, the show organizers will still be able to maintain the best platform to develop their business.—Sarah Tremblay, Salon Son & Image / Montreal Hi-Fi Show

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John Atkinson's picture
More to come

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
Too Many Shows? Maybe, maybe not ...

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?

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
Probably

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
That's Show Biz....

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
Shows of limited usefulness for an actual purchase

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
Show off

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
Too Many Audio Shows

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
No Dealers = More Shows

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, (-$). 

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