2020 has been very difficult for all of us and brought many challenges to the audio community. It has also in some ways made us more aware that even though our music passion is primarily an individual pastime, our audio community is very important and the roots run deep. The real core of the audiophile community is it’s people, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, though often we and those who look in from outside are focused on the gear or the music yet tend to overlook the connections in the community. COVID has changed that.
One way is an increasing number of online interviews. Most of these are talking with people in the industry about people. Not just a show and tell about gear but about the people and their lives. I find that very refreshing.
I want to talk in particular about Audio Shows. The consumer audiophile show on a large scale beyond the DIY essentially began with Richard Beer’s T.H.E. Show and AL and Marjorie’s RMAF. These shows were produced by people within the audiophile community, as were many of the shows since. These shows produced by people within the community have all had the interests of the community at heart and that has been their guiding principle.
Yes they had to make a profit, even non-profits must balance the books, but I know these people and profit was NOT their impetus for doing these shows. The advent of these consumer shows has coincided with the disappearance of brick and mortar audio stores as well as the explosion of small innovative manufacturers. The world had changed and we were not going back to the 80’s with six flavors of amplifiers etc and a store in every city where you could hear them.
Today one of the only ways that someone can actually hear the different choices is at a consumer audio show. These shows have become a very necessary part of the audiophile world and have also broadened and enriched our community. I am amazed at how many warm friendships I have found and sustained in these shows the last two decades. I do not want to give that up to a virtual world, doing so would diminish my life and take away much of what makes this hobby special for me. In my world the love of music and the connections with people are very much intertwined.
With COVID the world has changed again. In the short term, at least the remainder of 2020, it will be impossible to have any audio shows. Moving forward there will have to be changes. What those changes are we are only beginning to imagine. Maybe smaller shows, or possibly larger venues with few small rooms? Possibly more regional shows with less air travel involved? I don’t know? There are many ways we will need to change, but one that I think has become very apparent is that we need to respect our community. These shows are the main place we as a community actually meet face to face. This is our church in a sense, and that needs to be respected.
We should all understand as well the place of these shows in terms of the market and the importance to both the audiophile consumer and the makers. Some manufacturers have a substantial percentage of customers who buy based just on reputation, reviews and word of mouth. But if we had to rely on only that then I doubt many would survive. Some will say that is just a thinning of the herd or survival of the fittest. Be careful what you wish for is all I can say. The economic disaster from COVID with leave many storefronts shuttered forever, while many of our favorite little shops and restaurants will be gone. If we are not careful the same may happen to audio and that would be a shame.
I have heard many say that we are in the golden age of audio right now. I’d like to nurture that and I feel that we should look at the shows we support in that light. DO they nurture the industry and the community? If we can say that is their focus then we should support them, and support our community.