What If They Gave a CES and Nobody Came? A Comment

Manufacturers' Comment

Editor: I read with interest, and not a little relief, Jason Victor Serinus's "As We See It" in the July issue of Stereophile.

Relief because, after we were forced to defer Salon Son et Image 2016 this year, various adverse and, in some cases, vile accusations were made. Why would we do such a thing? The truth is, no organizer of any worth has anything to gain by deferring or even canceling a show; the only genuine reason will be lack of trade support. That lack of support had to be influenced by the ongoing financial viability of this show, in the eyes of potential exhibitors. The fact that a replacement show is to continue as a "not for profit" show with free admission speaks volumes, and vindicates our experience. We were more than aware that, despite the sales efforts of Sarah Tremblay in 2014–2015, trade income/support was in decline.

However, this was not the main point of Jason's article.

Whether there is the "will" and "self-determination" for the industry itself to take the risks inherent in organizing a show is uncertain. Having spent 15 years in this particular niche market, I have seen this question pored over and over again, in whatever country such shows exist. Apart from [the High End show in] Munich (to my knowledge), [an industry-run show] has never and probably never will happen.

This is not to say I don't see the point in that. I do. The trouble is, with over 3000 highly competitive [audio] brands worldwide, and a market that is not known for its cohesiveness, it has always proven to be ambition over reality—hence the love/hate relationship that often prevails with organizers.

The whole aspect of show organization is hugely misunderstood, but at its base lies risk. Before any show can make a start, it has to provide a suitable venue in the right place and at the right time (in itself a huge challenge now), and venues are often hugely expensive—and this before a single sale can be made, or market research/reaction can be fully realized.

And apart from the challenge of securing all the sales necessary to at least cover costs, and ensure sufficient take-up and overall value for money to keep visitors happy, you have the marketing and organization, both demanding and key disciplines—all of which, with any new show, requires investment over and above income. It is not unusual for a new show to make a loss for at least the first two years.

So in the absence of this self-determination and inherent risk, it has always been left to the entrepreneurial organizer to step in and do the job, which they have done as we have done.— Roy Bird, Chairman, Chester Group


bornie's picture

many years ago b/c of the high price of everything, the frustration of waiting for cabs and jammed restaurants. I much prefer, RMAF, Axpona and The Show. Much more relaxed and attendee friendly!

dalethorn's picture

I liked Vegas in the 80's when we went to Comdex - not so crowded, got hotel rooms for $60/night or less, it was November and cool, we ate sandwiches in the day, a small meal in the evening, a $2 breakfast after midnight in certain hotel casinos, drank some. The strip was casinos then, very little accomodation for kids. Downtown was not real "safe" like the Strip, but it was lit up like the 4th of July, and fun to hang out there.

christophervalle's picture

Whatever happened to that? I see Google results from mid-90s to 2004, then nothing. Did it die with Harry Pearson?

John Atkinson's picture
christophervalle wrote:
Whatever happened to that?

It shut up shop in 2004. See www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1198awsi/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bill Leebens's picture

And several subsequent attempts to form industry associations have come and gone. I was involved in them all, and even I can't remember all their names!

Audio_Visionary's picture

The failings of the high end exhibitors at CES are not due to the people who pay the bills - the high end manufacturers and distributors, but to CES itself. First they pick almost the worst week of the year to hold the event - they get excellent rates from the Convention Center but they do not pass these low rates on to the actual exhibitors who have to pay the outrageous fees. Then they never think of looking to see when NAMM is being held - I could attend both events but CES is too early in January and there is too much time between the two trade events - sometimes as much as 2.5 weeks. Once again, the rich get richer in the US and the rest of us just pay the bills. Retailers have just gone through the busiest time of the year - Nov/Dec and if the event was in late January we could also add a few vacation days to the trip - and get a short break. Won't be there next year - I think there are options - Bristol, Munich, Warsaw, Milano, - if Drumpf is pres, there will be many cancellations.

audiocaptain's picture

I believe there is a misconception about some shows. Munich is a very popular show and also the most expensive, by far, of any mentioned in this article. €20,000 for exhibit space is the norm for that event so it should be clear that it takes significant revenue to promote a show properly. AXPONA has a serious and dedicated staff and a long term vision to offer just what's been suggested in this article.

jimtavegia's picture

Really, a 5.2X surcharge for Uber? That said it all about too many trade shows. I have attended your dealer shows which are excellent and great way to meet and greet as are the more active Audio Clubs like the one here in Atlanta that held the headphone gig.

It is very hard to be a high end manufacturer these days and get the word out about your product, let alone a chance for a customer to hear it. For most of us the great brick and mortar stores are often too far away to go to frequently. I am glad to see many manufacturers taking a stand against the crazy money it takes to attend these shows and find other ways to market their products.

findcount's picture

there's been no audio show here in Singapore for 5-6 years at least.......hardly any retailer can afford to waste their money on exhibiting.......now just waiting for the final demise of the audio industry over here......LOL

mrvco's picture

I attended CES this year for the first time and it was the most bloated and listless trade show that I've attended since the latter days of COMDEX.

I'd suggest starting RMAF on Wednesday and designating Wednesday and Thursday as "industry only" days, with the standard Friday, Saturday and Sunday remaining open to the public.

hifijohn's picture

high end audio is its own worst enemy,$20k this, $10k that, do we really need another 20w $20k tube amplifier???Imagine if the auto industry was run this way, all cars would be very expensive high end automobiles manufactured by a 100 very small auto companies selling a few 100 cars a year. you have no choice pay $150 for car with little trunk space and 8mpg fuel economy or learn to ride the bus!!! how long do you think the auto industry would last ?????My last high end audio show was in the mid 90's and it was already dying back then, personally im surprised it has lasted as long as it has.

garyyac's picture

I find it odd when I hear my colleagues in the audio world complaining about CES. We are an audio manufacturer who exhibits in the Venetian Towers and I think it is an awesome investment. I'd do it just for the press we get alone, but our schedule is filled with domestic and international dealer meetings as well. Several of our most important partnerships began with a conversation at CES.

I also think the resentment of the other tech that is represented at CES (drones, wearables, etc.) is a bit silly. Must all of us who love audio take pride in our irrelevance to the rest of the tech world? As for me, I'd like to see us fight the good fight for relevance to the technology world at large and CES is a great place to do that.