They Have to Hear It to Want It

Written by Bill Leebens

Following last issue’s column on audio evangelism,  I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the requirements of that role. I was reminded that I rant about this subject periodically; in an interview with Jana Dagdagan of Stereophile last year I said of audio, “… this is experiential. Not listening to music reproduced well, and trying to get people to bite into high-end audio makes about as much sense as sending newsletters to people about wine without allowing them to taste wine. I really think it’s an immersive, experiential deal, and unless they can hear it, feel it, it makes no sense whatsoever.”

Well, yeah. I’ll bet that we’ve all had experiences where we played the favorite music of a friend of our kids, a neighbor, or an acquaintance and heard one of those “I never knew it could sound like this” comments. The demo has always been at the heart of audio sales, and that’s true even if by “sale” we just mean  gaining the interest of an acquaintance, increasing awareness, and incubating aspiration.

That’s how it starts. How do  we help that process along?

For many of us, the mere act of sharing our hobby/obsession may be difficult. The hobby may be too personal, or inviting someone to share it may be  too intrusive. Here’s my sympathetic encouragement: get over it.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but— most of us are introverts, and that doesn’t help spread the word about the benefits of high-quality home audio. If we are indeed serious about introducing audio to newbies, including a new generation, it’s gonna require action. And action doesn’t mean “play Diana Krall for the 15-year-old neighbor kid”. You’re going to have to be open to and familiar with material the listener (I nearly typed “target”, but that sounds a little threatening) likes, and is interested in—for starters. In my daughter’s case, that meant Pink, Deadmau5, Paramore, Eminem, Watsky, and Machine Gun Kelly, among others.

You may have noticed that these artists are rarely, if ever, heard at audio shows. Huh.

If your lips curled in disdain while reading those names, we may have pinned down part of the reason that we don’t pick up converts in audio. Snobbery is rarely appealing or attractive.

In my daughter’s case, I enjoyed a fair amount of her music, and continue to enjoy it. Some of the cuts sounded terrific; many sounded smashed-flat-compressed, as do many recent pop recordings.  Oh, well. We discussed why some recordings sound better than others, and the reason many of her cuts were compressed. She got it.

Was it life-changing for her—or me? Not exactly. But the quality of playback gear that she uses has improved greatly, due to her boyfriend’s efforts and she seems to enjoy that. The boyfriend became a convert, and actually works in the audio biz now. He’s been known to demo for his friends, so there was some success here.

To be pragmatic, if not cynical: no salesman closes every prospect. The more prospects you have, the more sales you make. Simple.

Sorry to put it on those terms. If that makes you uncomfortable, skip that.

Just share what you love…but keep in mind that your prospect may require a little flexibility on your part. The worst that could happen is that you learn that you don’t love Beyonce’, or Disturbed, or….

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