For years, I’ve been seeing and hearing about the impending doom of audiophilia and the whole “good sound” hobby. In the early 1960s, it was: (OMG!) Transistors are coming! They’ll destroy music and our hobby forever! In 1982, it was CDs that were going to do it;, and most recently, it seems to be (take your pick) either ipods or MP3s that will usher in the end.
Thus far, none of the apparently endless stream of jeremiads for our hobby seems to have been correct: Tubes and LPs, instead of going away, are, in fact, enjoying a renaissance and many of the other things we’ve worried about have proven to be no lasting problem. There is one thing, though, that could very well portend not just the demise of some single medium or technology, but our entire hobby: We’re getting older, and at least here in the United States, it doesn’t look like young people are coming along in droves to play with us or to take our place.
Questions about how to attract new people to our hobby regularly appear in print and on the internet and the answers run the full gamut from simply exposing young people to good equipment, good music, and good recordings, all the way to trying to change their tastes or interests or trying to change our own.
Everybody always talks about a new way to bring in new people, but I have a different suggestion: How about a new guy?
You already know the guy I’m thinking of: It’s Bob Levi. If you’re on FaceBook, you probably see his picture every day, as he works tirelessly to support one audiophile cause or another.
Bob is a friendly and ebullient fireball of a man; a dynamo of boundless energy and constant achievement. That achievement brought him to the pinnacle of business success as President of Turner Broadcasting, and when he retired from that spot and moved to California to enjoy his leisure; maybe do a little consulting to the movie industry; and finally to be able to fully devote himself to his lifelong love of music and sound, his history and habit of achievement followed him and led him to a whole new string of successes – many of them now directly related to spreading the audiophile word.
When Bob first came to California and joined a little HiFi club, it was pretty much the same as any other club of its kind, anywhere in the country: It had nineteen members; had hovered around that size for years; and (like our hobby in general) gave every indication of either staying stuck the way it was or eventually declining as its members died off or lost interest.
Bob is now President of that club; it’s now known as the “Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society”(“LAOCAS”), and now, instead of nineteen members, it’s the world’s largest organization of its kind, has some fourteen hundred members, and is still growing. By the end of the upcoming Newport Audio Show (T.H.E. Show Newport), Bob says he expects that the Society’s membership will have passed fifteen hundred and that two thousand is not far off.
It’s not just LAOCAS that has felt Bob’s magic touch: The Show, itself, which is co-sponsored by the Society is in large part Bob’s brainchild and, like the Society, it’s growing at a phenomenal rate: With greater attendance than the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in just its first year, Bob says that this year the Newport Show is expected to pass the ten thousand mark and that his goal, for coming years, is for it to become one of the world’s leading High-End Shows, comparable to Munich, and even outdrawing the audio aspects of CES.
The secret of Bob’s success in bringing people together to enjoy our hobby is simple: He recognizes that, to a “newbie” or to someone still not hooked at all, sound and music aren’t the “be all and end all” that they are to committed audiophiles; they’re just part of a complete lifestyle, and it’s that whole lifestyle that Bob uses as bait. Instead of just music or equipment on display or under discussion, the Show and every meeting of LAOCAS is a lifestyle event, with the emphasis on “event”. Society meetings always offer great conversation, a complimentary meal, and the opportunity to win audiophile recordings and genuine High End audio equipment for the purchase of a one-dollar raffle ticket. The Show adds the full panoply of the affluent lifestyle, with fine wines, the very best cigars, classic and exotic cars, and great live entertainment joining the equipment and audiophile recordings as part of the draw.
Obviously Bob Levi knows how to bring in the crowds – to his club; to the Show it co-sponsors; and to our hobby.
Maybe I was wrong when I said that instead of a “way”, we need a guy. Maybe we need a whole bunch of guys. Think what a bunch of Bob Levi clones could accomplish! A new audiophile re-birth wouldn’t surprise me at all.