Ever since RMAF proved that a consumer Hi-Fi show was a viable entity we've seen a rapid expansion in the number of US consumer audio shows. Obviously there's a point where there can be too many. The question is, "Have we already passed that point?"
Obviously Hi-Fi shows are always good for the local economy. Ever visit the Denver Tech Center Ramada when RMAF isn't happening? You could roll a dozen bowling balls down the hallways of the main lobby and you still wouldn't hit a soul. Without RMAF it's dead, Jim. Obviously every major metropolitan area would like to have its own consumer audio show...
But why are consumer shows good for manufacturers and dealers? A consumer show serves a different purpose than the yearly CES or Munich trade shows. A consumer show offers manufacturers the opportunity to demonstrate products to actual consumers. For a marketing-savvy company, a consumer show supplies more concrete feedback about how potential customers are reacting to a product than any focus group or expert consultant. Ever notice how the best audio companies have all their top people at RMAF? They realize that the information gained from interacting directly with their customers is what keeps them innovative.
Consumer shows are also vital for smaller, younger companies to gain a foothold in the marketplace. Where else can they find customers and attract press notice? Even Internet-only sales companies have discovered that shows like RMAF or CAN JAM connects them with audiophiles in a way that forums and user groups can't.
Most audiophiles I've talked to enjoy attending a show. Getting to hear gear not available from local dealers makes a consumer trade show an almost necessary part of buying any high-end audio gear since no dealer carries everything a thorough buyer needs to hear. But how many shows does even the most avid audiophile want or need to attend every year?
Which brings us to the BIG PROBLEM - how many consumer shows are too many shows? Every show costs an exhibitor a large chunk of change. And there's more than the show expenses for a manufacturer to consider. A three-day show requires at least five days of salary for each employee's time at the show. And time at the show means time lost from other projects and duties. How much employee-time can a manufacturer spare for consumer shows? Too many shows can have a negative impact on the bottom line.
What usually happens when someone develops a new successful business model is that competitors flood into the marketplace, the marketplace becomes over-saturated during a boom, and finally we have the inevitable bust. Right now we're seeing the beginning of a boom. Axpona as well as other commercial entities are trying their hands at the consumer audio show thing. How many can US consumers and audio companies support? I'm afraid the only way we're going to find out is when the first, and then the second show goes belly-up.
Some kind of organizing governing body for consumer audio trade shows might prevent this boom and bust cycle, but the chances of such an organization forming are just about nil. Until then all we can do is wait for the press release about a show getting canceled due to lack of interest...