Life And Music After COVID-19
Although it seems vastly longer, it's really just a very few months since we first heard of COVID-19. For now, at least – although another outbreak this fall is declared certain by one group of "experts" and roundly denied by another – it seems that the disease has largely passed and that, after months of self-quarantining, it's time for what might well be described as a new kind of "Groundhog Day." Audiophiles are finally peering forth from their (hopefully acoustically treated) listening rooms and, not so much looking to see if they have a shadow but with eyes blinking after so much time indoors, trying to determine whether it's time to go back out into The World.
That remains to be seen, but there are plenty of other things that have happened during this last "Time of the Plague" that we remain to learn the consequences of, and that must, either for good or ill, affect the times to come.
For one thing, we have, for all of this past time, entirely lost the ability to enjoy "live" music. Along with sporting events, sit-down dining, new movie, and television production, and a host of other things that involve people getting together in any but the smallest groups, concerts of all kinds (indoor or even outdoors), stage performances, parades, political rallies, parties, graduations, and any other kind of event where live music might be playing have all fallen by the wayside in the interests of promoting or maintaining public health.
No fun at all! But, just as the human heart needs music to express itself and to buoy up its spirits in troubled times, so too, do people have the ability to find music where they need it. That's why even the general public has found renewed interest in music these past months and why audiophiles have been spending more time with their systems. Music speaks directly to our soul, and when we can't get it one way, we'll find it in another.
During this time, recorded music has been all we've had, and with our hearts and ears forcibly turned to its products, our industry is seeing surprisingly good times – a "bump" in the sales curve. My own audio cable business, RSX Technologies, Inc., is off to a great start, doing much better than we had expected for this time of general economic shutdown. So is the very famous brand of high-end audio electronics whose COO I spoke with just today. And so, according to the editors or publishers of the three leading high-end audio publications that I've asked about it recently, is the seeming majority of our industry. One company, I was told, had even, in just the last three months, sold out all of its planned production for the rest of the year.
Times are seeming to be much better for high-end audio than they might have been, considering the pandemic and the state of the world economy in response to it. But it's time to end the shutdowns and try to go back, as much as we can, to our normal lives. How will that affect our hobby and our industry?
Although we've been doing well with people locked down, who have nowhere to go and have unprecedented amounts of time on their hands, and we have no idea at all what will happen now that it's time to try to return to normal. Will newcomers who have just discovered how well-recorded music can sound become audiophiles and continue in our hobby? Will those who bought headphones as their personal recorded music source during COVID-19 go on to make their music something more than just a one-person experience and build full speaker-based systems? Will new audiophiles continue in their fervor? Will the already-serious audiophiles who took advantage of the extra hobby time available to them during lockdown to expand or improve their systems go still further in their renewed quest for sonic perfection?
Or, was all of this just a way for people to enjoy some time and take their minds off what could have been (and for many was) a terrible health, emotional or economic catastrophe?
We don't know, but we will soon find out.
Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by COVID-19, seems now to be on the path to both physical and economic recovery. Asia – hit even before COVID-19 with political unrest and the threat of international conflict – is showing signs of improvement, and RSX is not the only American audio manufacturers whose list of Asian distributors is growing. New distributor activity for RSX and other American high-end audio manufacturers is now happening in Europe, as well. And everywhere in the United States, Governors are ending their State's shutdown policy and gradually allowing businesses to reopen, people to go back to work, and customers to shop and congregate again as they wish.
Personally, I think that what we've seen in our industry during these last few months is genuine and long-term. There can be no denying that people love music, or that it's a basic and necessary part of our lives. Certainly, the loss of live performance forced us to seek out music from recordings, but ever since the inventions of the phonograph and the radio, most of our experience of music has been recorded, anyway. The loss of live music just made it, for a while, our only musical experience.
And that's a good thing for our hobby and our industry, too: Just as people prefer food that tastes good, so do they – if they notice it – prefer music that sounds good. At least many of the people who've bought audio equipment during this time will have bought something that sounds better to them than anything else they've ever owned before, and that won't go unnoticed. Having heard good sound, they'll want more of it, and are likely to buy both more music and more and better equipment to play it on.
They're also likely to do as so many others have done before – spread the word; tell others what they've found; what's so good about it; and how it can change their lives.
If I'm right, the audio "bump" during the COVID-19 crisis could be a positive indicator of times to come and might not only be good for our hobby and our industry; it could also help more people...