Too Many Shows?

Are there too many audio shows? With the Chicago AXPONA having been held two weeks ago, the Montreal SSI having just concluded, and the New York Audio Show coming up in what their website currently indicates is 16 days, 21 hours, 51 minutes, and 9 seconds away, people are starting to wonder whether we're getting an overload on audio shows. This is a sentiment that I've heard expressed by manufacturers and distributors—and, from the business point of view, their concerns are well founded. Participating in shows is an expensive endeavor, and the benefits in terms of additional business, while real, are difficult to measure.

The number of exhibitors at the 2013 SSI was down significantly from last year (from 85 to 70, according to the report by Jason Serinus. There is a Toronto show, which has had two successful years, and their next show is being held November 1–3, 2013. The Toronto show provides additional competition for the Montreal show, at least for exhibitors. The Montreal show gets some attendees from Toronto, but my sense is that this is not a major effect. Most of the people attending the Montreal show are from the Montreal area.

In any case, although I have no figures on this, attendance at the Montreal show seems to be holding. Friday was a bit on the quiet side, but the corridors on Saturday were teeming with people, and many rooms were difficult to get into. Show organizers Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay keep coming up with new ideas to make the show interesting, eg, this year's headphone exhibit, and the designated "Under $5000" systems. And, as a group, exhibitors are at least as intent to share their love of music as they are to "move product." As a result, and with the cheerful, highly competent contribution of the SSI staff—like Claudia L'Ecuyer at the registration desk, shown in the picture—attending SSI is simply fun. Look at the faces of the people in the picture and see if you don't agree.

volvic's picture

As a former Montrealer this is the Hi-Fi show for me, it has been a around in one guise or another for a very long time and always enjoyed going to it.  The other shows are relative newcomers and while some may stumble and disappear (I hope not) I do have a soft spot for this one and hope it survives and thrives as it is a favourite of mine. Hello NYC show in a few weeks.   

deckeda's picture

... these shows are partly the result of failed brick and mortar stores. They serve a similar function, where the public and go and see, smell, and hear (hopefully.)

So it's a shift in financial expenditure back to the manufacturer. And to the customer, who must pay just to window shop.

deckeda's picture

- the under $5K systems
- the headphones grouped at the tables


Those are obvious ideas but very good ones.

The next step, and I'll be surprised if no one is able to make it come to pass, will be relatively large displays where attendees can glance at a wide selection of grouped gear such as amplifiers or turntables. These would be static displays with information as to which room(s) had them displayed with staff playing DJ.

jmsent's picture

Way too many shows. Even for a modest exhibit effort, a small company that typically exhibits at these shows is going to be paying a minimum of $5000 in exhibiting and shipping expenses alone for the smallest space available. Add to that the cost of transportation, hotel rooms, meals, and cost of staff, and it isn't hard to top 5 figures for a 3 day effort with a limited number of attendees. Now, multiply that number by the shows that one can potentially select:

RMAF, Axpona Chicago, THE Show Newport, Northern California, NYC audio show, Capitol Audio Fest, Toronto, Montreal, and don't forget CES. Plus, now many US companies also feel compelled to exhibit at Munich in order to reach international customers. And that one's a big chunk of change.

What small niche company, as most high end audio companies are, can afford all that? It's unsustainable. The loss of exhibitors in Montreal is no doubt in large part due to the new Axpona show in Chicago 2 weeks ago, which was both less expensive and more convenient to do, with  more perceived "bang for the buck" in terms of attendees, and no need to deal with cross border issues of shipping and other problems. Too bad for SSI which indeed is a well organized and fun show. 

I think it's inevitable that there will be winners and losers in this game, and ultimately some of these shows will have to go away. At least I hope so, because what's going on now isn't really healthy for anybody. They're clearly starting to cannibalize on each other.

jonahsdad's picture

No law that says you have to go to every one.  Small companies will do what small companies do:  pick and choose how to spend limited resources. 

For consumers there is no better way to sample a variety of audio products.  And so I can think of no better investment of marketing dollars for the audio company.  Don't do them all, just as many as you can.

volvic's picture

cannibalize is indeed the key word.  

pwf2739's picture

Audio shows are like a two edged sword. On the one hand, it is informative to see a lot of gear in one place and to talk to manufacturers and dealers about their products. No other arena is available to the high end consumer that provides such a learning experience. On the other hand, yes there seems to be a lot of them to attend.

I visited Axpona, RMAF, and the Capitol Audio Fest and I had a great time at all of them. I enjoyed talking to a lot of people and had fun visiting the cities in which they were held. But I probably also spent about $5000.00 on all three considering air fare, hotels, rental cars, meals and what ever else. And of course time away from work.

Clearly, these shows are very expensive for manufacturers and dealers. But again, where will they have the opportunity to talk to so many potential customers?

In my business life, a growing trend in trade shows is a larger number of smaller, more regional shows as opposed to large mega shows. Most are put on by the same companies only in different cities. This allows visitation, in large part, by automobile. And usually done in one day. This is a formula that is far easier to accommodate participation.

Maybe this is not the recipe for high end audio but I do know that I would have rather taken one day driving to and from a smaller local show and spent the $5000.00 on new gear.

Seems pretty clear that no one answer is the correct one. Audio shows will most likely continue to thrive for the immediate future. Everyone will complain about the associated costs and difficulties attending them. As with so much else in high end audio, you just have to live with it.  

Audio nut's picture

Well I just went to my first Audio show here in Chicago a couple weeks ago. Whatever happens, I hope they don't cancel it. I am already looking forward to next year.

planzity's picture

Great way get tax deductions for  vacations for the remaining purported "dealers" and some "manufacturers."  Also preparing, attending, and returning for can be cited as reasons not to attend to any needs of those awful, pesky "customers" that Mike Kay in NYC conditioned every sociopath in the industry to hate and despise.  Put everybody off so well that they will go away, never to bother the lordly masters of their own little unrealities again. 

Curious Guy's picture

I'm looking forward to the NY show.  The last 'hifi' show I attended was also in NY at the Pennsylvania Hotel.  That was the year Philips introed the audio cassette..So it's been awhile!

2_channel_ears's picture

Here in the Northwest far reaches we are show starved.  We had a DYI show visit us about 4 or 5 years ago.  That one was a lot of fun but went by the wayside from what I can tell.  Closest shows now are 1,000 or so miles (Vegas, Newport, Denver).  So if y'all are tired of 'em send one are way.

audioclassic's picture

There are currently WAY too many shows in No. America.  

Vendors who support real hifi stores are straining to afford participation. Vendors who sell direct to the public are THRILLED!

The (perhaps) unintended consequence will be the failure of brick & mortar retailers, the vendors who currently market through them, the audio magazines and the high end itself (in that order)!  

The remedy is for traditional vendors to wake up and discontinue supporting ALL these unneccessary shows.

SET Man's picture


     Yes, there seems to be more audio show now than before. Bad for Stereophile's staffs because you guys have to cover them all and I can understand the effect of smaller companies... but they can choose war show they want to exhibit. 

     But I'm in NYC so  it is good for me since there will a show in NYC again this year. Otherwise I can't afford to travel elsewtooth for other shows.




audiocaptain's picture

AXPONA was the first of the new wave of Shows and we feel it has a signaficant advantage over other events. The only other shows, when AXPONA was founded, were RMAF and Montreal. The principals of AXPONA have a 40 year background in the industry as retailers, distributors and consultants. This experience actually translates to real advantages for those attending an AXPONA show as a exhibitor or attendee. If you read the reviews from both of these groups you will find the rooms sounded better, the prices for display space were more resonable and the results much greater as a means to educate those looking to really be able to hear and see the differences in equipment. 

As a distributor displaying at over 12 years worth of events including RMAF Montreal, Stereophile and CES as well as traveling to Europe and South America to visit shows, a greater understanding of the needs of the exhibitors and attendees was learned in a real world fashion. This translates to a heightened experience for those attending AXPONA Events.

AXPONA was originally set as the only spring show in the US and picked April as its target month. We will now return to April with a annual event in Chicago. This years show set a great standard for not only AXPONA but for others to strive to reach.

See you next year in The Windy City

TriodeDave's picture

I'm not sure if there are too many, but as someone who exhibits at every single one, I can tell you we've reached a limit. What makes it worse is the serious clumping around certain times and the seasonal head scratchers.

SSI came just two weeks after AXPONA this year. As a result, my demo system only made it back to CT the night before I needed to leave for Montreal. Worse yet, Calif. Audio comes the weekend following Capital Audiofest. In practical terms, that means shipping many hundreds of pounds of large boxes 2nd Day Air coast to coast on top of all the other show expenses.

I imagine some shows are timed the way they are to get good pricing from the hotels, but Chicago and Montreal in March, D.C. at the end of July and Toronto now the first weekend in November are HORRIBLE times for shows. Three of the four risk missing exhibitors or extremely low attendance at the hands of extreme weather.

It would be nice if someone not connected to the shows could referee the timing and spacing. . . I know - dream on.

audiocaptain's picture

AXPONA will be 24-27 of April 2014. We will maintain this date for all AXPONA future events. When we first strted AXPONA we choose April for our show. The Atlanta Event in 2011 was April 15th. When the so called NY Audio show intruded on the April date we took a step back and decided to do one March Show. Now that we have confirmation that Chicago is a must city for our event we choose to return to late April and plan to stay with this date for the future. 

tmsorosk's picture

There's not too many shows , it's just that these shows are always in the same handful of cities .  There's never been one within a 1000 miles of my area , and I'd love to go to one . If these folks are really interested in promoting high end audio and keeping it alive they need to open there doors to the other 99% of the continent . It's a no brainer , but I guess the show promoters and people involved would rather sit back and complain about the death of high end audio than help it out . 

John Atkinson's picture

tmsorosk wrote:
There's not too many shows , it's just that these shows are always in the same handful of cities .  There's never been one within a 1000 miles of my area , and I'd love to go to one . If these folks are really interested in promoting high end audio and keeping it alive they need to open there doors to the other 99% of the continent.

Having been involved in promoting Stereophile's audio shows 1987-2007, our experience has been is that a show can only successfully take place with two geographical conditions: 1) that there be a sufficiently large number of attendees within driving distance, and 2) that the show take place in a city where there exists a critical number of retailers. As well as exhibiting, those retailers also give logistic support to manufacturers. So the number of cities where success is probable devolves to the usual suspects: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Denver. Toronto.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

belitzer's picture

It seems nobody has explained why this is bad to the point I believe them.  I am a high end consumer that recently HUGLY appreciated the AXPONA show in Chicago......  Who does it hurt again????

-  Companies trying to attend them all?  Seems it is great PR for the compaines that can afford that.  They get the free write ups in all the audio mags.  This is a marketing expense to those companies and they can choose where to spend their budget.

- Companies that can't afford more than one or two?  For those companies, again, cheap way to get noticed and be visited by active, interested, and hungry consumers.  Additionally, the audio shows are not the only way for companies to compete in the highish end.

- Brick and mortar?  They benefit as well.  There are brick an mortar shops at all the shows.  Also, I have seen that brick and mortar shops carry lines, but do not have them on display for hearing in most cases.  This is a chance to hear the components and then buy them from the brick and mortar shops.

- The poor reviewers that have to travel to other cities to do their jobs?

- Seems like only a few select cities in the US have the retailers that can afford to have nice components on display.  10 years ago this was different.  These shows allow people to travel to these shows and sample many, many components within hours.

- People in NYC, LA, and a few others are not allowed to comment because they have the retailers that make these show redundant in those cities.  Consumers also have different concerns in those cities with all the options.

- I am in Chicago and there has been no audio show there in recent history.  Audio retailers in Chicago are few and far between. I don't know why.  But, even in Chicago, you cannot make educated decisions except in only the most popular lower to mid priced brands.  Many smaller local outfits, such as were there and received world wide exposure for the cost of a single pair of speakers.

Seems like the critics here are focused on the "plight" of the popular high end retailers rather that getting products in front of people that keep this whole thing afloat.

EvidenceBase's picture

Having gone to Montreal show for years, it's great, but it seems to be slowed down considerably last 3 years running. Your photos are selective and telling. There was a table of used vinyl and 1 retailer for music. That's pretty much it and there used to be a lot more. The biggest record store in Montreal didn't show up last year (they advertized and drove people to their store instead) and this year they did NEITHER. The other Canadian retailers for music have stayed away. The Montreal stores were well represented (Son Ideal, Filtronique, CoupdeFoudre, etc..), as were Bryston, MBL. But the attendance seemed way down. They had photo lenses and stuff having little to do with the show. Home theatre was an afterthought, with small exhibits by Sony, Samsung even though there's movement with 4K coming). Big brands were just shown like Ayre, AudioResearch, Pass Labs (not set up at all that I saw).

I plan to go to Rocky Mtn or elsewhere for a a year or two to listen to different brands and hopefully find more records and SACDs and may give Montreal a skip for a while. I hope it's just the lull in the economy and that they will come back strong.