It’s the time of year for saving money!
“Youth is wasted on the young.” Those immortal words by George Bernard Shaw might not be ascribed to audiophiles directly, but the sentiment does, to a certain extent, ring true. How many of us have said some version of “if I knew then what I know now!” These days, anyone I hear making such comments are, for the most part, talking about days and likely years gone by – high school, sports, personal fitness and, of course, girls. Sometime in the future, youth of today will be making similar comments and looking back with fondness on the “glory days of 2019.”
In our little corner of the world, most of us have spoken out in support of bringing young people of today into the glories we all know as the audiophile hobby. The art of finely reproduced music. Music better than some type of cell phone with things stuck in one’s ears – perish the thought.
It stands to reason that in order for our hobby to prosper and thrive, and by the way, continue to provide income for those whose business it is to make and / or sell a product, new customers are a literal lifeblood. Without new customers, fruit withers on the vine.
With so much high performance attention and focus aimed towards Millennials, Gen X-ers, and whatever “term du jour” is euphemistically bandied about today, it stands to reason older audiophiles who have been in the game for generations are looked upon with a certain measure of discord. They are, quite possibly, not given their due because it is felt they will no longer be a continuing, vibrant customer.
Is that especially fair?
I look at my own situation and wonder why it is anyone who sees fit to ignore those of us in our 50’s and 60’s are inclined to do so? If I were building equipment, or I was an audio dealer, I would have a marketing plan aimed specifically at older audiophiles in addition to whatever I was doing to entice twenty-five-year olds. I would have equipment that is hopefully what an older listener will like and enjoy. It could have any number of attributes – styling, features, simplicity of use, and dare I even write the words, cost? Yes, cost. Because for many “older” audiophiles, writing the check is far simpler than it will be for the average 20 something struggling to pay the rent and keep gasoline in a battered-up car.
Now it stands to reason not all older audiophiles will be easily able, or perhaps even interested in spending untold sums of money on a stereo. But some will. Many have the financial wherewithal to write that five figure check for a, you name it – speaker, amp, DAC, cable or power cord. There are, I have to imagine, a disproportionate number of audiophiles in their fifties, or older, who are able to invest in a six-figure audio system than there are twenty something year olds capable of doing the same. I can’t really speak for any manufacturers, but I’d rather have something for these “older” buyers that puts some Jing in the bank. Then of course there is that other intangible requirement – knowledge. Older audiophiles have had years of time to learn the hobby, and likewise offer their wisdom to younger enthusiasts.
We can talk at length about how an older person’s hearing begins to suffer, especially at the extreme ranges of human hearing. We can babble on forever how these older guys don’t do this or can’t do that. And whatever amount of truth there is in the supposition that older audiophiles are happy with that 1970’s system, I would posit that for every older guy not buying there are one or two that are. In fact, I have spoken with a few dealers that all tell me the most expensive equipment they sell is sold to older adults, many of whom are longstanding customers. Many of whom are making changes to their systems on an ongoing basis.
It would be a foolish statement or sentiment to ignore the younger buyer. Doing so is absurdly ignorant. It is also not a smart move to disregard trying to bring young people into the audiophile hobby. It is furthermore disingenuous to assume all young people cannot afford luxury expenditures. Such stereotypes are as misguided as saying all older people are never going to buy anything new. That said, just as sure the sun rises in the morning, older audiophiles will eventually run their course in the audio arts. Ours is a hobby that passes along to each successive generation and the young buyer of today will eventually be the older buyer of tomorrow. And it makes perfect sense that making the attempt to capture a twenty somethings attention now will hopefully mean they will be a customer and a practitioner of audiophilia for many years to come.
I also think it unwise to forget or ignore the “older” sect of high performance devotees. Ask yourself this question – if you were an audio dealer in need of making a sale today, and a pimple faced kid walked in wearing jeans with holes in the knees just before that salt and pepper haired, distinguished looking gentleman came in, which one would YOU think had the better likelihood of actually buying something? Stereotyping? Perhaps. Still, I think it a valid question.
Youth might be wasted on the young but don’t forget older folks. Most have paid the price, literally. Many are able to pay the price, today. And you can’t go wrong there.
Every time someone brings the age subject to the table I tell the next story.
During an Lisbon AudioShow I tried to get some brochures from the showroom, for most part I just didn’t want to burden the “sellers” at the space, so I asked for brochures and talked with the ones who actually had more to say to me than “here, you can have this”.
During one of my “visits” and after waiting about 15 to 20 min for a seller to finish talking with someone, I got tired of waiting and having seen everything near that showroom, I politely interrupted his one sided talk.
Oh man, the seller lashed at me to the point the person who he was talking to was actually surprised with him, I removed myself from the scene after saying I was sorry. I just wanted a brochure, not getting a bash from a seller who called me rude for politely interrupting his one sided conversation.
I’m sure that if I was older he wouldn’t talk to me like that, but I was in my twenties and I was at the time probably one of the youngest persons in the show. My then girlfriend (now wife) was really supportive and said the guy was a jackass anyway.
I’m now almost in my forties and to this day I dislike the brand the guy was selling/representing because it brings me bad memories of something that should be fun. I’m sure the guy doesn’t remember this moment at all, I was just another person in the crowd, but I won’t forget it.
This hobby is ever evolving and almost 20 years have passed and the older I get the more income I have to spend on it. Sellers/representatives of a brand should keep in mind that audiophiles are shaped from their young age just like a bonsai. Cut in the wrong parts and you can lose a enthusiast, cut in a masterful way and they shall not forget your brand.
I think every audiophile is important, be it young or old, the old ones have the added importance of having to guide the newbies in the hobby. Without them many high-end brands would have died long ago, and when our time comes to be an elder we should support the brands we can afford/love, so the young blood can one day also reach to those brands and repeat the cycle.
My son has my old Maggie 12s, an NAD Monitor preamp and a Conrad Johnson solid state amp. He also has a couple of Nuforce iDACs and an MAudio Profire.
His hobby is music. He has guitars, keyboard, basses, etc, etc…
His hearing is awesome. And he records his own band.
When he comes to my house, we’ll play music and he has a very keen ear. Better than mine since he understand the music, and how it is made, much better than me.
So, what is the problem then?
I believe the hobby itself is reaching a point of maturation. The one thing that’s different in everyone is their hearing and that changes over time…as well as musical taste. What also isn’t mentioned is the adoption of new hobbies. Elder’s aren’t a bad thing, but at times we can’t see the new trend in hobbies or hobbies for a particular region.
I used to wonder why there were few to no audio boutiques in the South (with the exception of Atlanta, J’Ville, Miami and Tampa). Well, I found out why – they have different hobbies that are quite expensive as well!!! Boating – expensive hobby, hunting or targeting – can be very expensive. A friend I introduced to audio was well on his way in the hobby and was stopped cold by another hobby…the range. He bought in a year over $10K in range equipment and still going, he doesn’t have that invested in his HT/2 channel system!!!! What’s worse yet, he introduced me as well…and being the geek that I am….I’m attracted to the unusual, sometimes every time I let it rip at the range…that’s a dollar going 25 yards…seeing that if you do that over 200 times – that’s $200 in just a hour!!!!! Then there’s the upgrades and mods…..if we think being an audiophile is expensive ……wow……! The same things we geek out about (imaging, soundstage, bass response), other hobbies like the one I mention has its own as well (take up, reset, recoil etc).
Young people are attracted by these other hobbies as well as part of life experiences. What we should do is make space for their experiences and help them to enjoy the experiences of the Elder statesman as well…let’s not be pushy but let them discover for themselves. There’s room for the youth at the table – when they come to eat, feel free to make suggestions of what may taste good – but let them sample the food themselves (if you get my analogy). They’ll keep coming back as their taste buds change – and if they get full, be satisfied. I think I may have finally gotten full myself after 35 years in this hobby….and now I’m developing a taste for a different food.
There is an audio show coming up in Tampa…I lost the information but its free and happening in a few months.
Most Baby Boomer audiophiles have bought the system they plan to be buried with. While the ones still upgrading their system are worth at least 10 millennials, in potential sales, there aren’t enough to sustain the industry. The main problem plaguing industry, regarding younger audiophiles, is they still use the Harry Pearson style, wine connoisseur, approach to audio. Many Gen X’ers and millennials specifically find it disingenuous at best, and elitest at worst. Hi-fi hasn’t been a status symbol in over 30 years, yet the industry continues to pretend as such, turning away future customers. Music was the great medium for Boomers, Gen X’ers used movies, and matured with Home Theater, and Millennials are born gamers. Where does the Audio Video industry fit in that paradigm?
I’ve been trying to buy something audio-related for my nieces and nephews for birthdays and Christmas. So far, it seems to be working. For example, I just bought one of my nieces a pair of very durable headphones, with cat ears on the headband, in her favorite color from Amazon Prime for only $12.99. They actually sound pretty good, and they even have an 85db limiter to protect her hearing. Hopefully I have created a future audiophile, or at the very least helped her gain a greater appreciation for music.