A Primer: Attending An Audio Show
Photo By Andrija Ćurković Of HiFi Media
Hi guys and gals in AudioLand.
With all these show reports contained within the Enjoy the Music.com
pages, i felt you would be interested in what it takes to cover shows as
a humble writer looking to get scoops on all the groovy gear. First comes making
all the arrangements. The airline tickets, the hotel reservation, the rental
car... Nothing hard with that except being a bit strenuous on your wallet. Have
you seen what these hotel rooms cost? Almost 300 sheckles for the 'phile
City show... each night! Hmmm, being short on cashola i guess it will be fun
staying at the YMCA for me again this year (i hear you out there singing that
Village People song). Ok, so now you're all set for the show, if a tad bit cash poor... and the show is
now only a few daze away.
Check all your gear.
Check all your gear.
Batteries for your portable music player all charged up for those Rush and Neal Young interludes between listening to Gwendolyn DePré and Her Magic Singing Lute audiophile music (yep). Digital camera works (yep). Are both the laptop and handheld computers working and backed up (yup). All reservations confirmed (yep). Got enough clean underwear (ummm). So it is laundry time to remove those skid marks from two weeks ago. Ok, so I need to do laundry more often. Once everything is set you pack up and drive to the airport.
Now I must tell you there is always something that is gonna go wrong at the airport. The E-Ticket did not register, the arriving flight is late so you inevitably miss your connection flight, bad weather conditions, or the usual equipment failure suddenly came about and now all your plans are pushed back a day with eight glorious hours at the LAX / Boston / Miami airport. As a well-seasoned traveler, I have successfully reported "virtually live" on nearly 150 shows. So you break out the laptop and find a pay phone (wait, how old is this article?!?) or wireless access point, then surf the web and harass the ABX / DBT guys online. Hmmm... Maybe a great game of Donkey Kong or Defender on your laptop computer is in order to sooth away the hours? It is amazing the fun you can have while waiting for your plane to arrive. Just remember, when they say it is an overnight lay over it is just that. A lay over. Eh hem, anyway gentlemen...
Entering your room you discover the bed is lousy and they only gave you these two apologetic thin pillows. No biggie as calling room service for three more pillows makes up for having some real pillows available. What is it with Europe and short bed comforters?!?! Is it just me?!? The great news is that your computer network is all up and running and the digital camera works fine. Your gear survived yet another abusive handling by the ape-like TSA / airline baggage handlers. A modern miracle! Once all is said and done, you check your day's e-mail and get a good night's sleep.
Wakey Wakey Eggs And Bakey
What? You though this was all fun and games? Ok, so there is some fun in seeing manufactures you saw only two months earlier in the show at (insert name of country here). Off to the rooms to scout out the new gear young man! No long talks allowed! Entering a room you see Joe all hung over from setting up his gear the night before and with only two hours of sleep (and on his fifth cup of coffee that morning)... you walk in. Of course I ask "So Joe, anything new at this show?" Joe replies "Nope, same stuff we had at the (insert same country name here) show." So you talk with Joe for a few moment about how the rooms are too small at this venue.
The great things about going to twelve shows all around the world in a year's time is the really unique gear you get to see, touch, and hear. Within one of the rooms here in Italy you see the grooviest lookin' vacuum tube amplifiers you have ever laid eyes on! An Armani garbed man, speaking broken English yet very helpful, asks you to come in. While the music does indeed sound good, you are caught like a deer in the headlights on these tube amps. Oh the glow of the Type 45 tube, the Mullard new old stock GZ34 tubes are looking ever so fresh while some other tubes you forget about elude your eyesight as the hand crafted exotic wood enclosure begins to make you drool.
Mr. Armani says they are the Onna-Matta-Peea Seductress Valve Amplifiers named after the mystic nymph Goddess of Erotic Poetry from his country's heritage. So you ask him to spell the name of the amplifier out to you while you type it on your Windows CE handheld computer (anyone remember the HP Jornada?) frantically like a psychotic madman on furlough from the insane asylum... which incidentally may not be too far from the truth on this crazy day in April. I mean, have you ever spent time in a room filled with Super Duper High-End Audiophile Reviewers? But I digress.
Are You Not Impressed?
Since this is an April 1 article, let's all imagine that a popular print magazine asks for a 25% commission.... oh heck, make that a staggering 50% commission to help this commercial show book more rooms. So what happens if the show is cancelled? How is the show promoter going to give 100% refunds if they paid a magazine 25% or the utterly unthinkable 50% commission to help them get exhibitors? Hmmm, maybe i can get in on this side-pay action too? Maybe they'll give Enjoy the Music.com free show sponsorship too? Naaa, everyone within the industry knows that's not my style and Enjoy the Music.com has always paid thousands of dollars when we sponsor events. It's the right thing to do and all that instead of looking to profit off getting more exhibitors at shows (btw we also give many shows free ad space on this site to help support them).
Back To The Show Coverage
Successfully resisting the urge you move onward to cover as many rooms as possible before the show closes for the day. Whilst schmoozing with a manufacture you hear about the free party that night for members of the industry and look forward to attending it to see all your old friends in one place and time. After all, no self-respecting reviewer would ever pass up a free meal, free gear or anything that is free. Remember: Free is the key word. This is especially true with food it seems as the more important the USA-based reviewer, the larger his waistline.
During the first day you bump into more friends from the Internet who enjoy your postings on rec.audio.opinion (can you believe newsgroups are still a thing in 2021?). You share some advice on cheap tweaks, laugh at that British guy who plugged in his loudspeaker wire into the electrical outlet almost burning his house down, and later share notes on the really cool goodies one of you saw two floors down. Being the guy of Free Stuff myself, before we say our final goodbyes I hand over one of the many chachkies that will hopefully help my Internet friend achieve audio nirvana. With a handshake and smile this brief relief from hearing yet another system playing Gwendolyn DePré and Her Magic Singing Lute has come to an end.
Time To Party... Or So You Think!
Arriving at the party you realize, well, they do not let types like you in. Seriously! At a Las Vegas CES, back when when that show mattered, I never made it much passed the door of a party. Guess they know about the likes of me and are very scared of the competition due to what the Internet is dong to their dwindling (and aging) readership. Well, maybe them and Canada, but that is another story now isn't it? Truth be told i very much love Canada, and sometimes wish i lived there, if only it had the sandy beaches and Florida weather, and we must remember my loves include surfing, kiteboarding, skimboarding, SCUBA diving...).
In fact one year i blew off the lame arse party to see Smashmouth for free at the Hard Rock. The incredibly delish free food and drinks, and ladies, can't forget about the truly lovely ladies, were far more welcoming at the Hard Rock than that other lame guy-fest party.
Hey, so I write for a different 'phile magazine than that (soon to be defunct?) magazine that did not let me in the door don't cha know. Here's a mind blower for April 1. What if you're at a show and the exhibitor's door is closed with a self-important reviewer doing a 'listening session'. Please be kind and remember that someone has to pay them because it's not really a labor of love. It's their 'job' to be a reviewer, so due to cost-cutting measures by their parent company (number 5 or 12, i lost count), so am sure we're all ok with a reviewer asking for $5000 to $10,000 from manufacturer to write a review. Since the magazine obviously can't pay them, this is a wonderful workaround and the manufacturer will surely get a great review.
Wonder if the magazine's owner(s) and editor know what's really going on; perhaps exhibitors and gear manufacturers should call them and ask, you know, just to be sure all of this is on the up-and-up and allowed within their show / publication. So please understand when you're at a show and the door is closed for a 'private session'....
Back To The Future....
Anyway, back to their party where the likes of you are certainly not welcome. So their bouncer refuses to let you in. You almost want to put up a struggle and consider making a Big Scene, but then you realize this is 2021 and many of them will be dead within the next five or so years... plus the party is big time lame with barely warm food from some Discount Catering Service. So you wisely bail to the Burger Thing down the street for their $6.99 flame broiled bacon double cheese burger meal special. Yummy! Being the nice Jewish boy that you are, your mind wonders as you try to think about any other fast food sandwich that breaks as many Kosher laws as this incredibly flavorful and satisfying burger other than The Best F--kin' Burger You Ever Had, which is only being served at Pooltopia.
Following your scrumptious dinner it is once again back to your $300 a night room to finish up the photo editing and website work in your hotel room. Thank goodness you don't drink alcohol, as one reviewer got roofied in Vegas... and the woman stole all of his computer and camera gear within his hotel room (this actually did happen to a great audio dude of mine).
Safely within your hotel room, alone of course, you post all the day's work on your website and then let the Newsgroup and forum folks know about the awesome products you just uploaded. Of course by now it is 1am and you have been awake since 4am. You think to yourself "Thank goodness this is only a three day show". After smoking a nice cigar and congratulating yourself for a good day's work you pass out and get four hours of restless sleep struggling with those five pazny-ass hotel pillows that equal only one 'real' pillow. Then the whole Carousel o' Fun begins again.
Some Show Secrets
That last day is to say goodbye to all your Italian friends. Remember, there are many glories in shopping for more cigars, fine Swiss made mechanical timepieces, and basking at all the splendor that is Italian. If you find yourself in an Asian country, remember not to eat any raw seafood. Your stomach and bowels will thank you later for thinking wisely now. Also, just because you are some self-important, self-proclaimed professional audio reviewer the Ferrari manufacturing facility and test track that is only two hours away will not let you take a private tour and drive their new F1 car for a few laps no matter how profusely you beg and grovel at their feet.
Postscript: I did get a private tour inside the Ferrari factory the next year :)
Be happy with the Ferrari museum and lovely restaurant across the street. Me amoré! Lastly, you must remember to bring gifts for friends. "Gee, this naked female lighter with glowing LED nipples and a flame coming from her lower private part will look great on editor of Positive Feedback David Robinson's desk" so you buy it and send it to your friend when you arrive home (right David?).
Of course virtually all shows have live music so enjoy it! There are usually some great bands playing around town as well so make sure you scout out all the great ensembles in town that week.
Key Important Info!
Truth And Consequences