The Future: With or Without Audio Shows?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by David Cope, May 20, 2020.

  1. David Cope

    David Cope Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Mystic, CT
    With the North Am 2020 show schedule all but scrubbed, what do you think the future holds? Will a few/some/most shows come back, and if so, when? Or, will the industry move on to a post-show world? What would that look like? More focus/effort on web presentation? (How do you evaluate the sound of a system via the web?) Return focus to brick ‘n mortar shops?

    For manufacturers, distributors and retailers who survive/thrive for over a year without shows, what’s the incentive to return? I’m 2 of the 3 and can tell you shows are expensive, risky and damnably hard work in the best of times.

    For attendees, a very portion of whom are ‘of a certain age’, how do they assess risk/reward of attending?

    Surely everyone will need to re-examine the Show calculus. How do you think it will shake out?
  2. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I wouldn't count on any large group gathering type events for the foreseeable future -- not until there's a vaccine and lots of people have had the ability to be vaccinated. Even if states allow the gatherings, will the insurers of venues be willing to insure the risk? Will enough participants be willing to take part to make it economical -- in terms of these kinds of shows that's both kinds of participants: exhibitors and public attendees? Will people be willing to get on a plane and travel to events?

    I would guess the best bet is to plan for a future without events this year and next year. And of course plan for extreme recession levels of consumer spending -- the full economic of these unprecedented circumstances hasn't even begun to hit the economy yet, and there's another shoe to drop if there's not significant federal support for state and local governments in the form of enormous cuts in state and local gov't direct head count, and spending on everything from procurement to construction to health care and education, which will mean more cuts in those sectors even on the private side and state and local spending dries up. Whatever you can do to support online sales, online customer support, online outreach (post high-res demo files, maybe host virtual events, etc), will probably be helpful at least to keep you in the public eye when there aren't large trade shows or lots of foot traffic.

    Things might be better than that. We might have a vaccine sooner. We might have treatment options sooner that keep the worst cases from becoming so dire. But it's hard to count on that. And there's also very little chance that here in the US we're going to have a strong, national, central program of self-swab, overnight-result testing, contact tracing and quarantining, this year (other countries seem to be significantly ahead of the US on this score, so internationally, conditions may be different), so we're almost certainly going to have second wave outbreaks and it remains to be seen how effectively we're going to be able to contain them which will again change how people react. That's why I think everyone ought to be planning around the need for more virtual, less physical for at least 18 months and take any improvement over that as gravy.
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
    patient_ot likes this.
  3. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Agree with @chervokas on this one.

    Manufacturers will have to adapt. Show attendees will have to follow suit.

    Some companies will weather the storm, others will not and close up shop.
  4. IRG

    IRG Forum Resident

    Ithaca, NY
    I've never been to an Audio show, don't live anywhere close to one. And I'm not a big fan of crowds for the most part, and in this pandemic era, it certainly doesn't make we want to attend one more than before. It might actually be fun to attend one, but not a crowded one. I get that they're expensive to run, on many fronts. If I was a small manufacturer, I'm not sure what the biggest bang for my marketing bucks would be, but doubtful I'd put my eggs in one basket on a trade show.

    As a consumer, I get pretty much all of my information from the web. I don't have a local hifi store in my town now (thought about starting my own, but I know I'd go broke quickly!) I actually think more innovation needs to be done in terms of brick and mortar. For example, I could see a store that would combine similar interests for people. For example, a cool analog/audio store, with a coffee shop and a book store. Maybe something that would draw in more women too. This hobby is 98% men by and large, and we really need to try to do more on this front. If I could combine Barnes & Noble books/magazines, my local coffee shop, and a cool audio shop with a couple of demo rooms (so as not to interfere with the readers). Something that shakes up things.

    And since I (and many others) get our audio "news" from the web, that means hifi stores and manufacturers need to have a bigger presence on social media, and just better websites. Some places do ok, but some stuff is barely functioning.

    Overall, for me at least, if trade shows went away, I wouldn't miss them. But maybe there is a better way moving forward.
  5. Acapella48

    Acapella48 Forum Resident

    Elk Grove, CA.
    This should be an indication ...

    "No industry is ever immune to setbacks and disasters that loom large on our personal landscapes. Sometimes, they seem small in retrospect, but sometimes, the magnitude of the crisis is never diminished, and the only thing that matters is survival and managing the calamity with as much grace as we can muster. At RMAF, our hearts have been broken by some of those disasters, but our spirit has always triumphed. We have never shied away from difficult times. Over the years, we have endured many obstacles, and through it all we had the support of our community, a sense of humor and the promise of stories to tell our grandchildren.

    Here in the RMAF office, we have remained calm and quiet for weeks, waiting for the dust to settle around the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown so that we could evaluate the possibilities for our show in the wake of a worldwide shutdown. Even now, some parts of the United States are beginning to reopen, although the numbers of people contracting the virus, and the number of deaths attributed to it are still rising, and the CDC is projecting an even more deadly second wave in the fall. We remain uncertain that this is the right course of action, although we wish it were otherwise.

    The very worst thing that we can envision is for someone to fall ill because they came to our show, whether as an exhibitor, a journalist, an attendee, or a volunteer. Good health is a precious gift, and we are learning that although recovery is possible, the residual effects of COVID-19 can be profound, and we are unwilling to risk even one case. Up until now, we have held onto the possibility that our October show could be produced as planned. After watching and listening to the news concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, and reading all the trade publications, we no longer hold that hope.

    We have determined that the course of action is to cancel our show for 2020. You may rest assured that we are facing the future with optimism and exuberance, and plan to use the coming year to explore new ways of making RMAF better and more enjoyable for everyone! We look forward to a time when our closely knit circle of friends can gather again in celebration of sound!

    Until then, we send you our heartiest wishes for good health and great happiness

    Marjorie Baumert, Director and Marcie Miller, Operations Director
    Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest
    October 7-10, 2021
    patient_ot likes this.
  6. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Personally, I see no reason why we won't have shows again when this is basically all over.

    I hear questions being asked whether this will change how people do things on a permanent basis. I'm betting it won't really. When I go out I already see people together chatting, as if they are oblivious to what has been going on for the past four months. Yesterday in the grocery store two women who obviously knew each other were chatting in one spot for at least 10 minutes. Maybe a foot apart. And we are in the midst of this still. So it's easy to imagine a world where, when the fear of contracting this virus is removed, people will go back to doing the things they did before. And why not? If there is no threat then there is no reason to isolate and avoid other people.

    Some things will change; I'm betting that many companies will embrace work from home if they hadn't already. And retailers who weren't online before will be (imagine, having a retail store and not really being online in 2020). And companies will look at how they operate in general to produce and get their goods to market. And all of that will have ripple effects. In short, smart people and businesses will ensure they are better prepared if something like this should arise again. But even that will probably dissipate somewhat with 10 or 20 years of normal life as people let their guard down.
  7. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    As long as manufacturers believe that it is in their best interest to pay the fees in order to exhibit their wares, there will be Audio shows of some kind. They days of CES may have passed for the time being, but the Hi-Fi only shows seem to have an audience.
  8. Nostaljack

    Nostaljack Resident R&B enthusiast

    DC metro area
    Likely if they ever resume, it'll have to be by appointment. A certain number of people at a time. Not sure how else they'd do it.

  9. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    The short and medium term reality after all previous pandemics has been a gradual ramp up to a slightly altered normal. Pandemics have existed for all the eons that humanity has existed.

    In the midst of every pandemic, we tend to think that its severity and the imposed precautions will permanently alter human behavior. Some behavior and habits change no doubt, but only incrementally. No major changes have ever taken place except over long periods of time (e.g., gradually improved living conditions, gradually improved public health standards, better public hygiene, vaccines). People just don’t permanently alter their behavior overnight. Vaccines have been the single biggest game changer/improver. Few people in the western democracies and in the most progressive eastern nations fear influenza anymore because of ongoing successful vaccination. Even influenza battles are far from perfect - still too many deaths every year - but the flu is well controlled even in seasons when an unexpected variant shows up. The same thing will happen with COVID-19.

    If we look beyond 2021/2022, it is straightforward and supportable to predict a generally steady improvement over the next 18 months. The financial and equity markets, plus scary short-term economic conditions, will drive political decisions to a point where governments begin negotiating with the virus (and they’re already doing that). It’s a dumb thing to do because it’s not a risk/reward process - rather, it’s all risk because viruses don’t/can’t negotiate.

    The bigger problem over the medium and long term is that this will all happen again unless the major powers unify on systems of early viral warning and remedial attack. With pseudoscience permeating so many high political offices in so many countries, with umsupportable risk/reward calculations made in the face of a killer virus (not to mention the longer term physical aftereffects that many COVID-19 survivors have to deal with), people in countries without an overarching national healthcare system will end up sliding downward on the economic ladder.

    RMIAF, the Toronto Audio Show, CeBit, etc., etc., etc., will all be back in various forms irrespective of whether an effective vaccine is developed. So we’ll skip a year - big deal.

    There was later no Spanish Flu vaccine developed for that virus (which, according to the best full study to date, first appeared in good old Haskell County, Kansas, of all places), yet two years after that pandemic (30 million to 50 million dead worldwide), WWI was over, the markets were surging, Europe was rebuilding (yet again), the U.S. was on the rise, blah, blah, blah.

    Even if an effective vaccine isn’t found, what we will be able to rely on instead are increasingly effective care for people with the virus who have to be hospitalized. Through their continuous experimentation with drugs and a wide variety of physical interventions, doctors in China, Italy, the UK, Canada, France and the U.S. are well into improvements in the care of such patients. Because of their systems of national health care, all those countries (except the U.S., unfortunately) disseminate details about successful treatment methods nationally more quickly. But even the U.S. is only suffering in that regard because a succession of Democratic and Republican administrations have gutted the CDC’s budgets and resources into ineffectiveness. But even in some countries with better and more fully accessible healthcare systems, foolish political leaders who were afraid to react properly to the advice of their chief medical officers ended up unnecessarily killing their own taxpayers. Criminally stupid. Anyway, after 35 years of HIV/AIDS research there’s still no vaccine against that insidiously complicated microbe. Instead, antiretroviral and antiviral cocktails have been developed that provide infected people with literally normal lifespans. The novel coronavirus is nowhere as insidious as HIV, so I’m looking forward to the appearance of an effective COVID-19 vaccine by the beginning of 2022. Patience.

    I hope that not one more person gets sick as a result of commerce opening up too soon, but I don’t actually believe that hope can come true. Nonetheless, just like every previous pandemic, this one will run its course. However truly difficult or merely frustrating it may be, patience and care will be rewarded.

    Stop touching your face. Wash your dumb hands before doing anything else when you get home from the grocery store. Wipe down all your groceries. Wipe down everything you just touched. Then was your hands again, thoroughly. Keep your distance - minimum 6.5’/2 meters. When outside, or at least prior to going into a place of work or a store, wear a mask that covers both your nose and mouth. Don’t pull the mask down to talk to someone you know, because that’s a really dumb thing to do.
    Acapella48 likes this.
  10. Berner

    Berner Member

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Agitater makes a lot of good points, and there will be more Audio shows.

    Two things to add: 1. This is a great example of how way off base experts frequently are (feel free to extrapolate to controversial topics in audio of your choice). 2. New Info from NY Times, yesterday:

    Coronavirus Does Not Spread Easily on Surfaces, C.D.C. Says
    Coronavirus Does Not Spread Easily on Surfaces, C.D.C. Says
  11. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    The article lead states plainly, "It's not new information; the agency (CDC) has been saying this for months." So the experts aren't way off base at all on this matter at least.

    One of the failures in audio is that many audiophiles succumb to clever marketing disguised as technical rectitude that is actually inexpert advice or manipulated facts specifically assembled to persuade people to purchase something.

    What governments in power tend to do is balance moral or ethical or health imperatives against the economics of the day. When political power is at stake or when secular vs. non-secular arguments are in play or when the bourgeoisie is defending itself from the onslaught of a dissatisfied or disenfranchised proletariat, change occurs and politics shift in various ways. It's all a vast negotiation.

    By contrast, when a viral pandemic is in play it is primarily medical, virological and epidemiological expertise - not negotiation - that wins every time. It cannot be a matter of opinion or economic expediency because no person or government can negotiate with a virus.

    What the people in political power are prepared to sacrifice after a certain point in time during a pandemic, also represents the number of failed business and deaths in the population that will be laid at their feet. None of them want to be the one left standing without an open chair when the music stops. So we get advice from the experts that has been filtered by the political regime in power. That's frequently good advice on the science side mixed in with excessive risk taking on the political side.
    patient_ot likes this.
  12. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Shows and their visitors will reappear in direct response to a formula of factors. The number of daily new cases, the effective treatment factor (e.g., a fully effective antibody therapy for someone who gets sick enough to be hospitalized), the vaccine factor (e.g., a vaccine or a regimen of vaccine shots) that either prevents infection or significantly reduces the severity of an infection (either one will do), all tempered by the general mood of the greater population.

    As usual with these things, we develop a range of new safety habits that we practice until one day we find ourselves not practicing them anymore because the congregate dangers have been reduced sufficiently to allow our innate sense of socialization to reassert itself.

    Be patient. It's a virus. It will run its course. Reliably effective treatments will appear very shortly. A vaccine or an antivirus will appear faster than ever before in modern history. All viruses run their course. The more we practice physical distancing, the faster the virus will be isolated to smaller and smaller pools of people, the faster it will then die off below the community transmission threshold.

    Then you will see lineups again for show admission. I want to see and touch and talk about new components and technologies with the designers and developers. So do tens of thousands of other audiophiles. If I'm wearing a mask and nitrile gloves while doing so, whatever. But the mask & gloves thing won't last forever either.
  13. guitarguy

    guitarguy Tone Meister

    Planet Earth
    I agree, long term, but I am afraid that states and municipalities run by the pandering sycophants of President Spray Tan will do their best to spike rather than flatten the curve. Especially those that manage municipalities that rely on conventions and tourism to support their economies - such as Las Vegas and Orlando. I feel bad for anyone who has lost their job due to this pandemic - and I realize that the service sector is probably the hardest hit - those that rely on conventions and tourism...restaurants, cab drivers, hotel name it. But, delayed gratification does not pay the bills and that is my the name of Restarting the Economy at All Costs..the cost will just be more lives and and the prolonging of the crisis vs. shortening.

    Regarding audio shows. The only show still on the docket for this year is CEDIA. That is still 4 months away but I am secretly hoping that it will be cancelled because I don’t think there is any practical way to protect that many people. As others have said - if they are willing to accept the risk they should be able to do what they want - but not if their risk spreads the virus to those not WILLING to take the same risk.
  14. guitarguy

    guitarguy Tone Meister

    Planet Earth
    Hardly “new news” but it is not surface contamination that I’m concerned about - it’s the clowns that won’t wear masks or take precautions against human-to-human contact.
  15. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Well-Known Member

    The world gets used to virtual living. Streaming becomes 90+% the way people listen to music. And it gets mostly high-res (check out the Daily Audiophile today, Harley's column "Reversal of Fortune").
    Living in a virtual world and listening to streaming, why would you attend an audio show? You can get any amount of equipment news, reviews, and samples virtually.
    If I was an audio professional, would be planning for less and less involvement with audio shows.
    Of course, this could be the nail in the coffin for analog-based systems that require a physical listening experience to realize their superiority. Perhaps we could develop the traveling audio salesperson? Load up the EV with a TT, Tube Amp, and some killer headphones and head for the suburbs...EXCEPT...
    ...who's going to let you in the house? (LOL).
    Strange times and stranger possibilities.
  16. Berner

    Berner Member

    Pittsburgh, PA
    --The lockdown was supposed to flatten the curve--which has happened. Moving the goalposts (extending lockdowns) are not being done for scientific reasons. As far as I know, areas that have opened up are doing fine.
    --The US has a strong antiauthoritarian streak(see protests in Michigan and Los Angeles). A coworker recently returned from florida--people weren't wearing masks.
    Wasn't there recent data which showed that a large number of people who contracted the virus had been locked down. I don't know whether that means that contracted it from someone they live with, or through the ventilation system.

    I'm a physician and know too much not to take this seriously, but I and a large number of people will take whatever precautions we deem appropriate and go on with life.
  17. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Well-Known Member

    Believe the study you are referring to was Cuomo's NY figures that showed a rather high % of deaths in rural NY were from people who had been locked down. This worried him a great deal, of course.
    The countries that appear to have done well in controlling the pandemic are those that have tested greatly, checked for contacts and followed through with 14-day rests, and quarantined at a level the US is probably not going to allow.
    What bothers me is the clear manipulation of the Chinese infection and death data. Their curve didn't flatten -- it immediately dropped to zero. We all know that cannot happen and the likely probability is that the figures are being made up and there continues to be substantial activity there that is being hidden. If so, it is hard to make predictions because the accurate data is not available.
    BTW, new cases in the US apppear to be starting another move upwards -- a dangerous sign.

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