Just Like the Good Old Days
"We're building something special here," Richard Beers, president of T.H.E. Show, told Stereophile. "Audiophile manufacturers have been kicked around and pushed around. A lot of people can't afford CES. Our expansion to both venues makes T.H.E. Show a real community event, as is the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Our venues are not just a place to do biz, but also to socialize."
T.H.E. Show's expansion was fueled in part by feedback from both manufacturers and press unhappy with CES's decision to abandon the Alexis Park. Although Beers acknowledges that many people were happy with the sound they got in the Venetian Tower's rooms and suites—quite a few thought that sound superior to anything they could achieve in the Alexis Park—a number of exhibitors who occupied the far larger, cubical, air-walled convention spaces on the Venetian's second, third, and fourth floors were quite unhappy with the sound, the noise leakage between rooms, and the lack of traffic.
"My job is not to bad-mouth CES," says Beers. "They're in their business, and we're in ours. Our job is to make audiophiles happy."
As proof, Beers claims that most of the companies that exhibited with him in the St. Tropez in January have already renewed their contracts. With the addition of the Alexis Park, T.H.E. Show can now offer potential exhibitors an additional 150 rooms, plus a lot of convention space. Already, five LP and CD outfits—Classic Records, Acoustic Sounds, Reference Recordings, M•A Recordings, and Straight Angle Records—most of which boycotted CES entirely last year, have contracted to sell their wares in CES's former traditional outlet for CD and LP sales, the Alexis Park Parthenon.
But what about the big issue of state sales tax, which the Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and operates CES, claimed was a primary reason for not giving exhibitors free rein to sell merchandise directly to consumers, as they have in years past? "I called the Nevada tax people," says Beers, "and they told me that our vendors simply have to estimate their taxes on a piece of paper and send the state their money after the show concludes. CES's system is a little too complicated for most folks, so we've giving them an opportunity to go back to the old system."
T.H.E. Show hopes to further simplify matters by keeping all Alexis Park exhibits on the hotel's first floor. Many or all second-floor rooms in the St. Tropez may be closed to exhibits, with second-floor rooms in both venues reserved for lodging. The fees charged by T.H.E. Show for furniture removal and freight requirements are purportedly more flexible and lower than those charged by CES.
"In our advertising, we used to say that some of the rooms at the Alexis Park were not as good-sounding as the rooms at the St. Tropez," says Beers. "Those we're hoping not to use. If we do, they'll go for less. The other complaint that people had about the Alexis Park was the traffic flow. To improve matters, we're only using rooms that go right and left, and closing off rooms that face the parking lot. We'll have easier signage, and make the venues easier to traverse. Rental rates for the St. Tropez have also been dropped lower than anything we've seen this century."
Building 6 of the St. Tropez has been reserved exclusively for Asian vendors, with a Japanese translator available. Six of the 10 rooms on the first floor have already been reserved. Other enticements include a restaurant and bar at the Alexis Park, a jazz trio to encourage evening listening in a nonsmoking environment, free outdoor lunches every day, twice the number of free shuttles between the Venetian and T.H.E. Show's two venues, and promises that the Las Vegas Department of Transportation has finished the street construction that made for hellish travel between the St. Tropez and the Venetian at CES 2007. (Just ask any of us at Stereophile, who watched hour upon hour of show coverage go up in exhaust fumes as our buses and cabs crawled between venues.)
Nor will showgoers any longer have to traverse the narrow sidewalk on Harmon Road between the Alexis Park and the St. Tropez—what Beers calls "the little slice of hell." Instead, T.H.E. Show will install a little bridge over the drainage ditch that separates the venues; no one need walk in the street.
T.H.E Show also begins and ends later in the day than does CES, to encourage people to attend events. While show hours at the Venetian are 8am–5pm, T.H.E. Show will run from 9:30am to 6:30pm. Although the dB level must drop at 8pm, T.H.E. Show's exhibitors are allowed to entertain and entice people with music until 11pm. Those trying to sleep in the rooms above may not get much peace and quiet, but at least the exhibitors will be able to hold as many private listening sessions as they wish.
"We're keeping most of the big-name exhibitors we had last year," says Beers. "I did offer special discounts in February as a bit of an incentive, but people can still pick up the phone and call me if they want to renew; I'm not that corporate."
Certainly, T.H.E. Show has nothing to hide. Anyone wondering about room availability, exhibitors, layout, and prices can check it all out at http://theshowlasvegas.com. I don't know about their claim that, "Proportionally, T.H.E. Show receives far greater attention from the Audiophile Press than any other high-end audio show in town," but I sure love this line: "You won't find any tire-kickers or musical watches in our convention spaces." I wonder if the Department of Homeland Security knows about those watches.