The audiophile world is filled with enthusiastic music lovers. It is no secret we 35+ crowd are a unique breed nowadays as today's youth have more diversions today than we had during our younger years. Diversions such as video games and the Internet are mixed with surround sound and lesser quality audio formats such as MP3. There are many issues within the high-end industry today that make these times ever more challenging for some of us. A few of these issues may be more personal to myself while others are more encompassing.
One of the issues that has perplexed me is in giving out awards during shows. A few of our loyal readers wondered why i did not honor rooms/manufactures during our 2002 CES and also THE Expo show reports. You know, the usual "Best Sound" or "Outstanding" awards that recognize those rooms with better than average sound. It is no secret i have attended more shows worldwide with more diversity in the past few years than any other editor/reviewer. The wise audiophile realizes that one of the most crucial parts of one's music reproduction system is the room and loudspeaker integration. Therefore is it fair to those manufacturers who have a less than adequate room to suffer, let alone certain manufacturers such as conrad-johnson who have static displays (no music playing at all) at the CES? Old timers like myself and our senior editor Dick Olsher have been around the block long enough to avoid the "fave of the moment" club unlike lesser experienced reviewers.
Of course awards are good for manufacturers as well as the magazine that gives them out. The manufacturer can use this award and positive words to help market their products while the magazine also gets mentioned to help serve their own self interests. This might also help to explain why our virtually live show reports as written by yours truly during the recent Las Vegas shows did not have any comments as to the music reproduction abilities of the room. More perplexing is how someone could report on the show commenting how "Product X" sound great when we all know that Product X was used with "Product Y" cables, "Product Z" power filter and "Product K" pre-amplifier/amplifier/loudspeakers... let alone if there were any room acoustic devices or special non-stock vacuum tubes used. Sounds confusing? It is! Being a (self proclaimed) professional writer within the audiophile industry is not an easy task... let alone the undertaking of heading a magazine such as Enjoy the Music.com™.
An issue that concerns us all is that the past few years have not been kind to various publications both print and on the Internet. Some may say it is survival of the fittest while others would simply call it the usual shake out. In any event, with each publication that comes and goes there is one less source for information in hopes of allowing more music lovers to discover the joys of high quality music reproduction.
Longstanding print publication Audio, once the Industry Bible with their October Annual Equipment Directory, changed senior staff members towards the final years in what appeared to be in hopes of appealing to a wider audience. With an apparent 1:1 ratio of advertisement to content, they eventually fell off the map. One wonders how long an audio publication can stay in business with such limiting content restraints. According to my source within the Audio chain of command, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines probably would have kept Audio going as long as it kept generating any sort of reasonable profit. The problem was that the magazine's operating overhead was too high and they were also late to acknowledge the significance of home theater in mainstream audio. Add to that the downturn in advertising and longtime print magazine Audio ceased publication.
Web site Audiocafe.com was rapidly emerging as a contender. They provided reviews of both equipment and music while offering industry news as well. Yet with new funding and sponsoring the 2001 CES (and going e-commerce), they quickly burned through said funds and went the way of many Dot Coms.
Probably the most well-funded consumer electronics Web site, eTown hired many prominent writers. Not only did eTown provide equipment and music reviews, they were also a great resource for generalized information. They appeared unstoppable as content partnership deals with major electronics retailers brought them ever increasing millions of dollars in funding. Founded by five journalists in 1994 and originally financed by the parents of writer Harry Somerfield, their small investment now received multi-million dollar infusions from major electronics retailers and investors alike. With the typical (1999) Dot Com burn rate reaching tens of millions of dollars in only a year it was inevitable that money, and time, would run out as Dot Com became Dot Bomb. eTown.com went out of business, or at least into receivership, around March of 2001 and now sits dormant (as owned by Best Buy due to contractual agreement).
Fi magazine first saw the light of day at the 1996 CES as financed by Jerry Gladstein and Gary Kaye. The magazine had great promise! With what appeared to some as endless funds, they hired many prominent writers from other mainstream print magazines such as Michael Gindi, Art Dudley (Listener), Jonathan Valin, Robert Harley (now editor of TAS) and our very own senior editor Dick Olsher (to name a few). Fi was filled with great writings wrapped in an attractive layout. Their news stand distribution was also impressive. With so much going for Fi one would feel they would eclipse the "mainstream audiophile" print world. Sadly, Fi made a small fortune. Why do i say sadly? Because as the old saying goes "How do you make a small fortune in high-end audio, start with a big one." Finances to support the magazine came to an end in early 1999 and, alas, that is the last anyone saw from Fi.
So what can we learn from all the above fairly recent events? Does virtually unlimited finances make for a good magazine? No. Does having a vast amount of well-regarded writers make for a successful magazine. Apparently not. Does being in business for decades make a difference. No. Success, like finding a great dance club in various parts of the world, can be elusive. One must not only understand the market, but also make subtle changes as the market shifts. In fact we here at Enjoy the Music.com™ have been busy with some small changes.
The main changes are within our content. Srajan Ebaen will continue providing his great think pieces and world music reviews, yet we are phasing out his equipment reviews due to possible conflict of interest issues. And speaking of the industry, we here at Enjoy the Music.com® are stepping up our Manufacture's Viewpoint articles. As many of us have known for years, people within the industry have a deep knowledge of electronics that can be very beneficial. Therefore we are happy to announce that manufactures will be contributing to our Manufacture's Viewpoint section on a regular basis. We hope to provide ever more quality information to our readership with this action.
In the end it is hard for any business to survive, let alone one that supports a very niche market. Such markets are usually supported by "acts of love" where passionate members within this small community dedicate their time and efforts to further enhance one's enjoyment. Please share your joy of music with others and let them know how much better their own music reproduction system can be. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...