Show on Show on Show

Written by Bill Leebens

The title is of course an allusion to “In the Bleak Midwinter”.  Make of that what you will; it just came to mind, unbidden, while thinking yet again about audio shows.

This is a subject I’ve written about perhaps too often, starting in our very first issue of Copper with “I Am So Over CES“. A year later another CES piece,  “Leaving Las Vegas” ran in Copper #25.  In Copper #8 I wondered, “How Many Shows Are Too Many?”—and that’s a question we’re going to revisit today.

“Shows are good for high-end audio.” “Shows are a waste of money and time.” “Shows are saving the industry.” “Shows are killing the industry.” Talk to any group of audio pros or audiophiles, and you’ll hear all the preceding sentiments, and more.  And to a certain extent, all of them could be right.

If you’re a manufacturer of custom-install, integrated, or in-wall audio products, CEDIA is likely the big wazoo for you. The CEDIA Expo just finished in San Diego, having run from September 5th through the 9th. Aside from the expected booth-space on a giant convention center floor, much like the main zoo at CES, CEDIA features training and certification classes, offered by CEDIA itself and by individual manufacturers. The intent is to create better-educated, more skillful audio professionals, and I’m all for that.

The problem is not with CEDIA (although it’s seen some upheaval itself this year, as covered in Industry News in Copper #26), but in the bigger picture. If you’re a 2-channel audio manufacturer who works in the custom-install world as well, CEDIA is pretty much a must-do. But then what? Let’s take a look at just the next quarter.

Imagine you’re a sales or marketing guy who has to work the show, losing not only that weekend, but likely a couple of weeks’ worth of sleep before the show, as well. And of course, if you do your job properly, there’ll be plenty of follow-up to do after the show. So…after having worked CEDIA, how would you greet the prospect of  THE Show, all of 12 days later?  Or the even-bigger RMAF, less than a month later? (As this issue was being assembled, it was announced that THE Show was being cancelled, at least for this year.)

Imagine being in charge of shipping or logistics, and having to ensure that what may be tons of gear gets safely from one show to the next?

I say these things not to pick on any individual show, but to give you an idea of the decisions and dilemmas that face manufacturers and dealers who have to leverage the greatest ROI from their finite budgets. It’s a decision-tree of sequential questions: Do we do shows.—period? If so, which ones? Can we ship from Show A to reach Show B in time?….and so on.

But wait! There are still a bunch more options, just this quarter.

The week after RMAF-— mind you, the very next week!—there’s TAVES, in Toronto. Originally focused on just high-end audio, TAVES (once an acronym, now apparently just a name, like CES) has broadened its scope to include gaming and all types of electronic toys. That’s probably prudent, from a commercial standpoint. Exhibitors include a number of dealers and prominent Canadian manufacturers like Totem, Bryston, and Reference 3a—but not a lot of US companies.

You’d probably think that November would be a dead-spot in the show calendar, what with the onset of the holiday season, the approach of winter, family travels for Thanksgiving….
Well, you’d be wrong. The Capital Audio Fest  has moved from its former sweltering summer spot to the first weekend of November. And—here we go again!—the very next weekend has the New York Audio Show at its what, fourth? venue in its six years of life.

Both CAF and NYAS are smallish, although CAF has outgrown its DIY/tweak origins to fill just under 50 rooms, plus a headphone area and a central marketplace. It looks to be a nicely-balanced, manageable show. The NYAS website shows 28 rooms, including some yeoman troopers who are also showing the previous week at CAF.

December is the quiet before the storm of CES, coming up fast next January 9-12. An informal survey indicates that the presence of high-end audio at CES will continue the steep decline of the last several years.

So: depending on who you are and where you are, there is either a shortage of shows, or just too many.

You decide. Whatever the viewpoint, I’ll keep reporting on what’s out there.

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