Sometime in the fall of 2019, I booked and even prepaid my first class air fare to Chicago in anticipation of an April AXPONA event. Little did I know then Coronavirus would beset our nation and the entire world. When AXPONA announced they would postpone the show until August, I contacted American Airlines who cheerfully and happily rescheduled my flight. I was also able to change the dates of my hotel and rental car booking. For whatever reason, these different dates yielded different, and really surprisingly, better fares and rates. I would up saving myself just under $200.00.
Once I rescheduled everything, I basically forgot about AXPONA planning instead to renew my interest in the summer. Little did I know then Coronavirus would grow to become a global pandemic and have the calamitous effect on society and business as it ultimately has.
As I write this in mid April, life has yet returned to normal. My home State of North Carolina will likely not be back in full operation until sometime in late May, maybe even early June. I have been telling myself the very second a restaurant opens, I'll be first in line for a seat - being as "starved" as I am to get out of the house for some measure of social interaction.
Many of my friends, however, are more circumspect. They have not bought into the notion that it will be safe to go out in public until much later in the year. While they also admit our country needs to return to work, that the economy needs to be revitalized, that we need, desperately even want to return to some facet of normalcy, they don't really have an idea on how best to do so.
Small businesses have been decimated. Cataclysmically so. From the ownership and management down to the lowliest employee, small business has been irrevocably impacted by this crisis. The very restaurants where I enjoy dining may not have a wait staff to employ once things do open back up - if the restaurant even has the funding to open at all.
If we project that many of our high-end audio manufacturers are small businesses, in what way does this affect their participation in audio shows for the remainder of the year?
There is, again as of this writing, a growing pressure on the organizers of AXPONA to cancel this year's show. Many of the companies who plan to host rooms and participate in the show are facing an enormous financial and medical strain.
Being in a show is horribly expensive. While the show on a public basis lasts Friday, Saturday and Sunday, manufacturers and dealers are there for far longer. It takes time to set up the room, get everything right, host the show for three days, tear it down, pack it up, and ship it back. Between hotel expenses, travel expenses, and the cost to have support staff on hand to help and assist, shows are a financial burden. However, they have become perhaps the best way for many companies to introduce their products to the buying public.
Where then is the best and most proficient use of funds? Get the business back open and hopefully begin to restart manufacturing? Or use some part of, maybe even the predominance of whatever liquid capital is available and attend an audio show - the obvious goal being an effort to spearhead new business?
Financial issues aside, can anyone, definitively and absolutely attest there will be no danger of contracting this disease while exposed to so many people in multiple small hotel rooms? How might "social distancing" be accommodated and still have enough spectators to make the show worthwhile?
How willing will the general public be to attend an audio show where they will be forced into a close proximity with a large number of strangers, with no idea of a potential exposure to this insidious virus?
One notion being bandied about is to have an audio show done online. Why not, many musicians have been doing free concerts online. There have been church services online, and shopping of all types of products.
Myself and about ten friends have been doing a Friday night virtual cocktail hour for several weeks now. About the only interaction many of us have at all is virtual, why then would a virtual audio show not work?
Well, sonically, for one, that is a waste of time, at least for me. An iPad or computer will never replace hearing a world class, even a budget system in person. I also really enjoy seeing friends I will arguably only see at an audio show. I enjoy getting away for a weekend. To me, an audio show is more than sitting in a hotel room listening to a stereo. It is the whole experience I enjoy. How on Earth is a virtual substitute going to equal that? Answer, it won't.
We are, and for the last time, as I write this, living in uncertain times. We simply do not have an inkling of a notion what the future holds or when life will return to normal.
We don't even know what normal will look like. Will we become a society wearing masks and gloves anytime we leave the house? Will sports arenas be forever limited to half capacity in order to comply with some measure of social distancing guidelines? Will audio shows become virtual in an effort to keep everyone safe? Or will the other side of Coronavirus look like our lives did back in the latter part of 2019?
I for one will attend AXPONA if it is held. Or maybe at the last second, I'll be talked out of, or talk myself out of attending. Right now, my crystal ball is cloudy. I just do not know what is going to happen. Like everyone else, I'll just have to wait and see how things turn out.