It is no secret that a few years ago I tried to put on a next-level, luxury-based audio and home theater show in Los Angeles. I did extensive market research. I hired the “Grandfather of all trade shows” as a consultant, and I carefully researched where to locate such a show. It took me over six months (including four months of contract negotiations) to come up with the perfect venue, who will go unnamed because of a legal settlement.
It was almost exactly two hours from Santa Barbara to the north, Palm Springs to the east, and San Diego to the south. It was a mere five-minute shuttle or taxi ride from LAX, thus bringing in the day tripper AV enthusiasts from San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas, and Phoenix on low-cost, one-hour flights to add to the 22,000,000 residents of Southern California. We had experiences booked like a roof-top, invite-only party with 360-degree views of the ocean, Hollywood, and everything in between, with Robby Krieger’s Doors’ cover band, automotive experiences with almost a dozen high-end cars, Bel Air Circuit 4K “day and date” movies and so, much more.
Needless to say, the show was going to be something different than the traditional audiophile shows that cater to 58-year-old dudes who don’t wash their hair often enough and look for opportunities like audiophile shows to wear their worn-out Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts. Respectfully, we were going for a different demographic. We were going for AV enthusiasts without question, but we were also going for Silicon Beach players from the hundreds of nearby companies that could nearly walk to my venue. Companies like Apple, EA Sports, Rockstar Games, Google, You Tube, Fox, and dozens upon dozens more.
But the place where we got the most traction was an idea I am willing to share with the audiophile shows that are popping up all over the country and growing in existing locations. The best concept that I cooked up was outreach to younger people. Generation Z. College kids. Whatever you want to call them. I like to call them, “the future.”
I had one of the largest AV companies on the planet Earth willing to pay to bus in music, movie, business, theater, art, and/or engineering students from USC–which was signed on to be a partner in the event. Loyola Marymount was almost walking distance from this hotel venue, and they were in for the same package. More than one of the Clairmont, California colleges called me as asked if they could get a “group rate” on tickets. “No, you can’t, but you can come for free and allow my clients to buy you lunch, teach specific classes, show your kids high-tech experiences like they’ve never seen before.” The professors were over-the-moon at this concept. And what college kid doesn’t like free food, awesome technology, and a joyride around Marina Del Rey in a $100,000 Range Rover listening to music via a Meridian sound system in HD? That would be… none.
The fact of the matter is: I got the rug pulled out from under me with the venue, and despite about four months of my full and most enthusiastic efforts, I just couldn’t find another one. Sadly, my consultant died during that period, which took some but by no means all of the wind out of my sales. The other hotels nearby all had fatal flaws. Some were union hotels (my clients said no way to unions). Some had $40-plus-per-day parking. Others simply wanted above retail prices for rooms and other fees that would make one hotel room for an exhibitor at our show cost more than $10,000. That would be a small room, and that’s pretty expensive compared to other shows in lesser cities and in lesser hotels. Forget Beverly Hills and Century City. Even Downtown Los Angeles, which has gotten a lot cooler in recent years, wasn’t an option. It took me a while to realize that the issues with my show weren’t easily fixed, and to be honest, it was a pretty bitter pill to swallow, but it was starting to hurt my main business at HomeTheaterReview.com and AudiophileReview.com, so I finally moved on.
With all of the new and growing shows in North America and the void caused by CES’s lackluster handling of the audiophile market, there is a huge opportunity out there that these shows need to take advantage of. Ladies and gentlemen, please stop pandering to the same old fogeys that the audiophile business always does. You must embrace a younger audience. Find sponsors who will work with and accommodate youth at your shows. Many of these shows embrace headphones (albeit mostly wired ones–move on, folks, as everything is wireless now) and often have Bluetooth speakers there too. Come up with ways to show audio and video experiences that are both affordable and have a high “wow factor.” Make a kid find the room in his or her budget for specialty audio gear that would otherwise be spent on their next phone.