There's No Business like the Audio Show Business

With this year's Consumer Electronics Show behind us, readers of our on-line show reports know the sad truth: that the largest industry-only technology show in North America attracted even fewer "high-performance" audio exhibits in 2019 than it did in 2018. The phrase "CES is dead" is now a mantra, and no one should be surprised if this year's poor showing proves to be the final nail in CES's coffin as far as high-end audio is concerned.

Last year also saw the number of exhibits decline at two regional audio events: the California Audio Show (to be held July 26–28, 2019, Oakland Airport Hilton) and the New York Audio Show (November 8–10, 2019, Manhattan's Park Lane Hotel). On the other hand, a new audio show surfaced in Florida. With promises of "The Best Audio in Paradise," the Florida Audio Expo took place just before this issue hit newsstands, tablets, and mailboxes: February 8–10, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton at Tampa Airport Westshore. The FAE, spearheaded by Bart Andeer of Resolution Acoustics, was off to a strong start with over 40 active exhibits, free admission, and shuttle service from the airport.

Also featuring free admission, the attendees at this year's Montreal Audio Expo (March 22–24, Hotel Bonaventure) could top last year's total of 6000, thanks to new enticements that include a daily "Music Awakening for Kids," at which a professional theater troupe will introduce children to music and musical instruments. In addition, Montreal will see the return of a sommelier who will match wines with particular songs, and acoustic performances every hour in the Bonaventure's relaxed, intimate lounge.

Promoters Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, who plough all profits back into the Expo, also run the free-admission Toronto Audio Fest (October 18–20, Westin Toronto Airport). Given that TAVES, Toronto's all-purpose audio-tech extravaganza, is no more—it was one of two shows to fold in 2018—the Toronto Audio Fest will likely best last year's attendance of 4000. Says Plante of both his shows, "There is a vibe that is contagious, that goes with the quality of the traffic and the happiness of the exhibitors." Given that exhibitors have a genuine stake in the show's outcome, and that its organizers have taken the vision of a thriving industry to heart, this comes as no surprise.

AXPONA (April 12–14, Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, outside Chicago) almost blew it for 2019 when they suddenly announced, in fall 2018, that they were moving the show from April to October, perilously close to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and CEDIA Convention. Although their intention was to further transform AXPONA into the US version of High End (May 9–12, Munich) by scheduling it many months apart from that show, industry blowback at the conflict with RMAF and the prospect of three shows in the same month was so fast and furious that, rather than risk a major debacle, AXPONA's organizer, JD Events, canceled the rescheduling in record time.

More than five months before it opens its doors, AXPONA had already booked 90% of last year's record high for this show of 165 listening rooms, and was on course to book more than 190 rooms. Promising a return to its genuinely exciting and spacious convention venue, a dedicated space for its Ear Gear Expo, and major attendance, AXPONA seems on course to become the prime audio show in North America.

Marine Presson, who had taken over the 2018 Los Angeles Audio Show from the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society, went AWOL last spring, then briefly resurfaced, announced that she'd dedicated herself to her faith—and canceled the show. Exactly how and why everyone who had championed and promoted the first LAAS in 2017 could apparently hand over all ownership and control to a single person unequipped to follow through during a time of great personal and professional turmoil, then manage to absolve themselves of responsibility for the debacle, remains a puzzle.

Regardless, the demise of LAAS certainly benefited Maurice Jung, who took over the long-running T.H.E. Show following the 2016 death of its founder Richard Beers. T.H.E. Show 2019 takes place at the Hilton Long Beach on June 7–9. Jung stated that he was rebuilding T.H.E. Show to emphasize "the companionship between high-end audio and music," and expected to easily grow the number of active exhibits from the 50 of 2018.

The two other big developments of 2018 were that the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest announced its new dates (September 5–8, 2019) and new venue (the huge, brand-new, Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado) in a year that saw major exhibitor participation but less than record attendee turnout, and that Gary Gill's Capital Audio Fest (November 1–3, Hilton Washington, DC/Rockville, MD Hotel and Executive Meeting Center) expanded to 67 exhibit rooms and increased attendance. Two months after RMAF's new dates and venue reposition it as the premier North American gateway show to fall and winter audio sales, CAF will follow its lead by capitalizing on past successes while attempting to maintain its reputation as a fun, manageable show at which you can see everything over the course of three days.—Jason Victor Serinus

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Let the music play" ......... Shannon :-) ..........

CG's picture

Big shows are hard. And expensive. And, maybe not worth it, at least in North America.

Oh wait! I was thinking of auto shows.

Kal Rubinson's picture

CG said: Big shows are hard. And expensive. And, maybe not worth it, at least in North America.

Those are the only ones worth the trip.

CG's picture


My point is that other fields of interest are also not having warm feelings about big shows. The Detroit Auto show has seen better days, as one example.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Of course but I stand by my statement. Unfortunately, for me, NYC has a major auto show that is of no interest to me but the local audio show is small potatoes.

CG's picture

It's really a shame about the NYC show. It used to be worth the train trip for me.

Now, I find that all these shows leave me cold. I don't think I'm the only one, either. The only people I know who do go to shows are connected to the industry around whatever show it is.

Overall, I get the idea that many of these affairs have slid from being inclusive to exclusive. WC Fields appears to be the role model for the folks at shows.

That happened with the stores, too. Without naming names, many of the NYC audio stores had legendary reputations for keeping potential customers at bay. That attitude spread outside NYC, too. (Not every store, of course.).

Going to most stores of any kind is not much fun any longer. Same for shows. There's exceptions, and those are the ones worth seeking out. Otherwise? Meh!

tonykaz's picture

Shows are meet & greet Industry Events.

We show our latest Product release to Dealer Networks , arrange meetings with prospective New Dealer Systems, Entertain existing Dealers, do Award Dinners for Sales Associates, lubricate existing relationships with Booze, Food and good association.

I would keep the Pool Side Rooms at the Tuscany Reserved for VIP hosting and relaxing.

Big Shows that allow consumer attendance are actually Sales Events with Sales Booths selling everything from Cutco Knive Sets to Fishing Gear. ( like a Camper Show )

Tony in Michigan

ps. Audio Shows have very low attendance because there aren't any Audio Showrooms selling HighEnd Audio Gear. Does anyone know how many "Active" Dealers still exist in USA? : active Dealers like StereoExchange in NY? or how many Audio Sales Reps. are still working in HighEnd?

tonykaz's picture

Back in 1980, HighEnd's Peak, everyday Audiophiles considered themselves to be HighEnd because the term meant Performance not Price & Class Level.

30 Years later ( now, for gods sake ) income levels haven't budged an inch, most people are scratching out a living at dam near the same level as they were 35 years ago. ( in America, the best Country in the USA )

What the hell happened?

Clinton brought us NAFTA which hollowed out American Jobs by exporting them to Mexico, leaving our fellow Americans underemployed.

Obama brought us TPP which brought us Walmarts filled with Chinese crap that hollowed out Downtowns and filled them with Beauty Salons & Bars.

Our new budding Audiophiles no longer have disposable incomes or Retail Audio Shops.

Europe never got their NAFTA,TPP, Walmart, Clinton or Obama ( or as much as USA ) so they have lovely Audio Shows that the whole family participates in. Europe still manufactures Audio gear from very low price levels to very high.

Young probable USA Audiophiles are educated and bright but they face a Wall of Debt as soon as they enter the Educational System ( unlike the rest of the World who supply education for FREE ). So, our young Audiophiles will never be able to have an Audiophile Hobby because of their servicing a $200,000 30year Life Mortgage .

Today's Audio Gear is Superb, from lowly Schiit to Lofty CHORD. All of it is within reach of the World's Audiophile Community, except the USA Audiophile community who have been put on Starvation Wages and can no longer afford Diabetes Medications.

No wonder the USA Audio Show hallways are empty, everyone is working low paying jobs to stay afloat.


Tony in Michigan

misterc59's picture

If the show in Munich wasn't a first clue, the rest of the world is catching up economically and naturally to follow all other things first world countries used to take for granted will not be US based. One of your favourites, China (Chinesium ad nauseaum), India, and others have the population and drive to purchase items that we again take for granted. Manufacturing is another story for another time, although definitely related. We can all wail that our first world problems are terrible, but you cannot avoid the world economy and all that shift, which has already begun, will entail. I certainly hope I can maintain myself and my family's way of life in the not too distant future, but unless the current G7 countries or is it higher now, put in protectionism legislation, which may help in the short term, there are others currently not in "first world" countries that will have a say in how things are produced, purchased, marketed, etc., that we will have no say about. Just as the world embraced analog and now also embraces digital, "the times, they are a changin'" and will continue to do so whether anyone likes it or not.


CG's picture

Good points.

I also don't recall various presidents holding even metaphorical guns to industry leaders' heads forcing them to move production elsewhere.

tonykaz's picture

Our Presidents are working for the Corporations.

It's an Employer Employee Relationship.

Corporations finance all Electioneering, they choose Loyal Candidates to finance in trade for Favorable Business treatment.

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

China is what we in the USA see on our Store Shelves, ad nauseam.

It may not bother you but it impacts my Home Industry : NESCO in Two Rivers Wi. when we had our entire Product line copied by a Chinese Walmart Vendor.

This sort of thing angers a person for LIFE.

This same sort of thing happens all the time in Home Audio.

I'm not upset at China.

I'm upset at Americans ( or even Europeans ) using China to destroy us and make profit from our demise. Chinesium is the Poison they're feeding us while they're consuming our personal asset base.

Chinesium is the triple loss ad nauseam.

China is growing at the 6% Rate while we grow our Military at the 125% rate giving : "Be the Best you can Be" new meaning for our Youth.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Unfortunately the USA is not very good at capitalism, as demonstrated by its vast trade deficit.

Meanwhile the EU, which has near enough an overall trade 'balance', which is how capitalism should work, takes a more positive approach rather than just whinge and create ineffective barriers like the USA does.

It just completed a continuous railway line all the way from Peking (Beijing) to London, in full financial co-operation with China and Russia, which also sees a benefit from this line.
There was a real nice ceremony when the first train emerged from the Channel tunnel full of Chinese made goods (and some Russian-grown apples) and an hour or so later arrived in London. It went back totally full of EU made goods too :):):)

tonykaz's picture

I'd rather be a Social Democracy.

Corporations run this Country and control most of the Lawmakers, they've turned the population into a Cash crop.

I'm supporting One Vote per person while outlawing the Corporation's Vote Financing .

Tony in Michigan

ps. Can we understand how Capitalism has worked well for any Nation Group of People ? The USA practices GunBoat Capitalism as Washington is now trying to do with Venezuela's Oil Reserves.

tonykaz's picture

My Grandfather worked on and saw the Trans Siberian Railroad to completion before he Emigrated from Russia and Immigrated to Pennsylvania c.1911ish.

The Russia & China alliance is part of the BRIC trading group that does not use the US Dollar for any of it's Trading Commodities. Brazil/Russia/India/China already have their own Energy and extensive trade relationships. They invest extensively in US Bonds. phew.. China's Economy is growing at an unsustainable 6%, ouch!, while Washington is poking N.Korea with a sharp stick.

Tesla and AOC are the bright lights in America Today!, Tesla just bought Maxell Battery and Super Capacitor technologies increasing the Battery Capacity by 20% & Capacitor Capacity lowering rolling wt. of the Car.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Chord got reviewed this Month, any opinions?

spacehound's picture

The 'new' railway line is in practice mostly a joining up of the various bits and pieces and some work in Russia on changing the gauge of part of their lines.

Tesla? Electric cars are a load of balls at present. Nobody except Tesla really wants to make them and few outside the US want to buy them.

Their 'greenness' is a fake. Overland surface transport, trucks and trains included, accounts for only 5% of the world's pollution/GW effects. So concentrating on that 5% will achieve almost nothing. It's all a pretence.

Why? Simply because vehicles, their operators not being a coordinated group (especially the operators of private cars - you and I), are an easy target. This allows governments to pretend to actually be doing something whereas in reality achieving nothing of significance while simultaneously not affecting industry/agriculture in general.

They are good on DACS. I would personally not bother with anything else from them as their amps etc. while not being 'bad' are in no way 'outstanding'.

tonykaz's picture

Even the Car Companies don't support Tesla's presence in the Marketplace. I'm GM and I hear all about it.

"MY" GM is blocking Tesla from being Sold in Michigan where we're based. Tesla is a Big thing in the 3 Trillion Dollar US Transportation Industry.

BUT: Tesla is now the No.3 Auto Maker in the World!!! Toyota No.1, VW is No.2 Mercedes has just become No.4 behind Tesla.

Tesla is 4 Real.

Tony in Michigan

ps. of course, I can accept that Old Geezers like you and I will have a hard time embracing technology ( for the most part ), especially if we earned our daily bread from the old ways.

ps. One more thing, Your Tesla assessment will change once you get your first ride in one. Everyone reacts the same way after the first ride: "This is my next Car"!!! dammmmit ( I'll even betcha )

spacehound's picture

The world? Take a look at sales numbers (and profit). Tesla is absolutely nowhere.

I had a Model S on a weeks trial a year or so ago. It's nice enough on UK 'motorways' and UK 'A' roads but far too heavy (as heavy as a 12 cylinder Bentley Continental) to go round corners.

And over two years I have only ever seen TWO. One of which was the one I drove :)

tonykaz's picture

Ford announced ( to all us insiders ) the end of their ICE Cars. ( the Mustang being their exception ).

Electric Transportation Systems are OnLine NOW!

Solar based Charging Systems are being installed on a Mega Scale NOW!

Wind & Sun will replace Fossil during our lifetimes ( assuming the Big C don't getcha )

Humanity began as Pagan Sun Worshipers. We return to our Roots.

Tesla is only a symptom. ( Annd an investment much like Apple a few years ago )

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

….about 50,000 cars a year worldwide they are so small as to be almost 'invisible'. Certainly not even close to No 3.

And as I said, as land 'surface vehicles' only amount to 5% of world pollution/GW government efforts to persuade people to drive electric cars is just 'fiddling around the edges', done only because we are an easy target and it looks good to the uninformed. And of course electric cars are not pollution free when you consider where the power to charge them often comes from.

And despite what the enthusiasts claim the charging infrastructure is next to useless outside the USA. And will remain so. Gas stations don't want them as charging cars take up space for too long and people won't buy electric cars in quantity until there are more charging stations. So it's a 'chicken and egg' situation

Using London as an example even the 'local authority' is removing many of the atreetside charging spaces they initially installed as electric car take-up has been so low and they make more money using them as parking spaces for gasoline cars.

As it happens the UK is well placed on the renewable energy front. In 2018 31% of ALL UK energy requirements came from solar and wind and 2019 is expected to be the same or better. Were it not that the UK is self-supporting on oil and gas (though it imports when price are low to save our own natural oil and gas resources, which it exports only when prices are high) the savings would be huge. But the oil and gas won't last 'forever' and then the cost advantages of renewable energy will really appear. Also 90% plus of our trains, both freight and passenger, are already electric.

tonykaz's picture

You present a satisfying Summary of a Society built around easy access to Fossil Energy. We supported you, kept you in IRAN by toppling a functioning Democracy ( 1950s ), we kept an expensive Military base in the Middle-East so that British Petroleum would continue keeping the Cabs in London running. We love the UK!

Times are changing.

I'm Auto Industry Management in the planning process. We're closing Plants and Laying off.

Fossil Fuel use will taper off over the next Decade.

London, NY, etc will reorganize around Solar Energy but I have no idea how they will do it.

Our energy system is changing from a depleting source to a sustainable system that needs to keep functioning for the forceable future ( 200+ years or more ? ).

We can no longer build Fossil Infrastructure Systems for an Industry that requires Trillions of annual Dollars of Military Support.

I'm impressed with your persuasive arguments but the Next Generation is choosing to abandon Fossil and embrace Solar. I stand with them.

Besides, I'm starting a new Religion based on Amish Life in USA. I'm calling it Reformed Amish, it's based on life in the Good old Days & No shooting bullets at people. ( and Solar, of-course! )

Tony in Michigan

ps. we Americans can re-invent ourselves every 3 or 4 Generations

spacehound's picture

.....Can't possibly work when the USA is less than 5% of the world's population.

All that will happen is that the USA will become financially invisible to the other 95%. Rather like New Zealand and with no more influence on the world stage.
There is nothing the USA produces that the other 95% actually needs. We would miss New Zealand's agricultural products alone more than the USA's entire output of all products.

tonykaz's picture

I need Allbirds Shoes.

You miss the Militaryness of Global Gunboat Diplomacy, doncha?

US Spends more per year than everyone else combined.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

….some Goke (now a subsidiary of Orvis) moccasins once.

And several Orvis rods as their very first non-USA outlet was and still is at Stockbridge Hampshire near where I live and fish.

Incidentally Stockbridge was the place I saw the only Tesla other than the one I test drove a year before. I have seen none since.

mememe2's picture

If actual facts are to be believed, and this goes out to all audiophiles not enamored of an illiterate who has the reading skills of a 7 year old and is showing clear signs of late stage I dementia, 50% of Americans live pay cheque to pay cheque, with much of the remaining 50% with no more than 1K in their savings accounts. Food or a high end purchase - not much of a choice if any. Plus factor in that a serious medical diagnosis can easily bankrupt 2\3 of all families afflicted. I can hear the flushing sound as America spirals downward to the cesspool of history.

funambulistic's picture


mememe2's picture

I've never heard the present POTUS described that way, but sure why not.

spacehound's picture

….audio shows are just industry 'fests'. Rather like the Oscars, BAFTA, Globe, etc. awards nonsense where the entertainment industry gives itself prizes.

As for the general public, today better informed via the internet, nobody in their right mind PAYS to go to shows where corporations are there to attract your attention in the hope they will later sell you stuff.

And that is why such shows are dying

Kal Rubinson's picture

OTOH, you can touch and hear the equipment at shows. Counts for something.

tonykaz's picture

Learning is the biggest draw, for me!

I'm paying attention to KR now because of RMAF 2018 Seminar.

Tony in Michigan

ps. RMAF 2011 -- I met Tyll & Steve G . I've been benefiting from them ever since. I miss Tyll's contribution to all things Audio.

spacehound's picture

But the general public, who ultimately finances the ENTIRE hi-fi industry, magazines and shows included, usually has to pay to get in.

And, more and more, they are refusing to do so. As I said, nobody in their right mind will pay to be advertised to. And that's what these shows are - advertising.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Sure, it is. All such shows, e.g., auto shows, are but the physical presence is something that cannot be experienced otherwise (even in cities that still have brick-and-mortar shops). I see that some audio shows are now offering free admission.