And there you have it.
Long before I wrote for Stereophile, I seriously lobbied LA and JA about having a Stereophile Show in Boston MA. The reasons in favor seemed self-evident. In addition to being close to Harvard and MIT (cradles of scientific acoustics in the US) and the home of more audio companies of the Golden Era than one could shake a stick at, there were the BSO and Symphony Hall, a great orchestra and one of the three greatest concert halls in the world. Zillions of hotel rooms, easy rail access to Phila and NYC, and great restaurants. As well as the oldest audio society in the country.
The put it to me plainly. A show is a million-dollar crap shoot. Any number of factors can mean failure. The only factor that can backstop against all the possible red ink is the number of local dealers who are willing to sign contracts for lots of space and send in good checks.
Anyone who has been to a NYC show must have noticed the numer of multi-room suites Andy Singer has taken. I have seen a strong presence from Innovative. If there are others I have forgotten, I apologize.
Bottom line: where are the early checks from the local dealers? Not the, we will see how the buzz develops and see if you have any leftover rooms at half price.
Whether the local dealers work out some deal with the brands they exhibit is immaterial. As the case happens, in Boston there is only one large multi-line high end dealer, not six or seven. There are other smaller dealers, but a promise to take one 10 x 14 room can't support a show.
I'd love there to be a show in Boston. But there is no profit and only huge risk in changing show venues for the sake of change.
Stereophile has been doing this for a while. The only places that seem to be able to support a show reliably are NYC, LA, and SF, with Chicago a relatively safe bet.
I wish Boston could be on that list, but it ain't, and my bitching won't change it.
Speaking only for myself,
I mean, all the manufacturers are already here, just fly in the consumers and start the party, part II!
(Note to self: Feed mayonnaise to tuna fish...)
I forgot to mention the factor that even though Boston is less than 300 miles from NYC, that is just far enough for the New York dealers to think twice about all the costs showing in Boston has that showing in NYC won't. Such as hotel rooms for their employees, thousands of dollars right there.
For whatever reason or no reason, many manufacturers seem to take the position "We do CES, local dealers should do the consumer shows." As long as that is the prevailing attitude, a consumer show will stand or fall on whether there are enough local dealers signing contracts and sending in checks that the financial risks are bearable.
Of course I wish that there was going to be a Show in Chicago in 2008. But from a business perspective, I can't argue with the logic that taking a brief Sabbatical has almost no downside for the new owners--it is not as though potential exhibitors or attendees are going to be so angry they will boycott.
I have been racking my brains to come up with a business model for cheap, quick and dirty regional shows, and it doesn't work that I can see. As in, all audio dealers and companies in New England having a one-day show in Framingham.
But the fixed costs of freight, personnel transportation, etc. are sufficiently large that cutting back on days is a false economy. If you hold it on Friday, you miss the people who can't take a personal day off work. Sat, some people will stay away. Sun, the same. So you need all three days, plus setup and knockdown. And then, is there a critical mass of audiophiles in New England who will come and buy rather than kick tires and socialize? That answer seems to be "NO!", based on subscription numbers. And such a small regional show will not have the budget to spend money on mainstream media to attract non-audiophiles.
I'll go to a one-day pro audio trade show because it is free and my expectations are modest. But if people want to charge money, there has to be the collateral panels and concerts and seminars to make it worthwhile to people.
Which means a big national once a year show in one of three or four major-metro areas.
None of this, by the way, stops a marketing-savvy local dealer from holding manufacturer special events at his own store, or even asking Stereophile writers to come by and talk and demo some stuff. The macro stuff works and the micro stuff works, the in-between stuff does not seem to.
You could probably find big meeting rooms at this place.
And a 3 1/2 hour trip on the Acela, 4 by Interstate. And the midtown-to-midtown Limoliner is only &69!
I can think of three broad-range dealers here and several smaller dealer/distributors. And a new one: Bostonhighend.com. Not to neglect Springfield, Northhampton, and even Providence RI. Also there are large manufacturer/distributors, and isn't Steinway still owned by a Boston consortium? (Has anyone thought of a combined instruments Show? Expose ourselves to actual musicians, as it were? Boston has numerous instrument-makers.)
And here's a promise: If a show ever comes to Boston, I'll put on my long-threatened public demonstration of right sound from early acoustic discs through the peak-78s era. Surprises and astonishment galore!
And I am used to going all the way on US 95 N, which I gather is less efficient.
Who is the high end dealer in Providence? Not Bruce K., he first moved to Cranston and then closed up.
And I don't consider Stereo Discount Center to be high end.
So, please enlighten me.
I am certainly no expert, but it seems to me that this is all about expectations. If you put on a show the size of H.E., then I presume that you need the large foot traffic and mega-dealers footing the bill to make the show successful.
I've never been to the Rocky Mountain affair, but it seems to me that it started as an opportunity for smaller manufacturers, those which receive limited exposure through the media, have limited dealer networks, and/or are very new companies, an opportunity to show their wares. When that show first began, there seemed to be limited interest from the major players. Sort of like "Build it and they will come" with an addendum "if enough people fill the stadium."
Fast forward to 2007, and it appears that even with the limited foot traffic at Rocky Mountain, as compared with H.E., more mainstrean manufacturers now apparently considered Rocky Mountain a worthwhile investment of their time and resources to attend. I doubt the good folks who put on Rocky Mountain are loosing money. And given the increasing number of manufacturers which attend, they do not appear to be loosing money either.
So it seems to this inexperienced rube that there are ways to put on a show without loosing money, albeit on a smaller scale, keeping costs down. On the other hand, if the "owners" demand that the show generate a certain income, well, depending what income they demand, maybe that expectation creates a limitation with holding a show outside N.Y.C or L.A, otherwise known as the centers of the universe.
But it appears to me that organizers of the Rocky Mountain shindig have shown, if nothing else, that a successful audio show can be had outside N.Y.C. or L.A. I am not sure what part of that simple equasion is changed simply by changing the organizing party, unless that different organizing party has different expectations. There is a book in there somewhere.
...well that was not exactly what the Gekko character said but business goals often have a tendency to to shine the cold light of day on many a romantic notion. Or maybe I should quote Thomas Paine in case you feel slightly offended being associated with what essentially was a capitalistic moron :-)
"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense"
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