It Is Show Season... Again
The Show Season is upon us. As soon as the first leaf turns golden-brown, people in the audio world start instinctually packing. Journalists pack their notepads and cameras. Manufacturers break open the flight cases. It's now possible to be in a different country every weekend, attending a show. Sometimes there are two shows on the same weekend, spread worldwide.
It's logical that as the nights draw in, people turn their attention to listening to music in the home. And it's equally logical that people who want to buy new audio equipment will get interested from September to April, when the Northern Hemisphere gets a little darker for longer.
However, is the number of shows really sustainable? I know members of the industry who rack up enough air miles every year that they could get their own private Boeing, bouncing from airport to hotel to airport. They live out of a suitcase for six months of every year. Sometimes more.
The problem is, I can't help but think we are simply moving the same show from country to country week in, week out with very little change and not much business to be had from most of them. Yes, the rise of the show is related to the disappearance of the audio store, and I don't see a way out of small show events without a return to the stores of old... and that won't happen.
This isn't some elitist cry, that only big events should happen. It's often easier for a couple of dozen brands to turn up in a city to bring audio to its enthusiasts than it is to get those enthusiasts to fly halfway across a continent. But, an endless cycle of the same event just moved from one country to the next isn't doing the audio world any good.
Big shows like Munich and AXPONA are showcases for new product launches, but by the time it comes to an event in a hotel in late November, those new products are well-established, so the excitement fades.
There's an easy way to spot a problem in audio shows. It's the Sunday Afternoon Ghost Town problem. If a show shuts its doors at 5pm on Sunday and by 2pm, manufacturers are packing up because they haven't seen a customer in three hours, there are too many events and not enough people attending.
While there is often a good excuse for this Sunday lull (the Bristol Show, for example, always seems to clash with an England-Wales rugby match on Sunday, which empties Bristol in general and the show in particular), are we really entertaining new clients if we the audio industry is just playing music to itself for one day in three at a show?
As we went to press in our last issue, we learned of the death of Patrick Miller of Sugden Audio following a short illness. Our thoughts are with Patrick's family, friends, and the Sugden team.