Hifi Pig US Correspondent David Blumenstein will be attending and covering AXPONA 2017, which takes place 21st to 23rd April at The Westin O’Hare, Rosemont, Illinois, but before catching his plane he takes the time to interview Steve Davis and Liz Miller of AXPONA.
I’m attending my very first AXPONA. It’s been eons since I attended a HiFi show. Last one was sometime back in New York City. As I’m going to be covering the show for Hifi Pig, I wanted to get a better understanding for where the show has been, where it is now and where it is headed.
To get myself grounded I posed a number of questions to a couple of AXPONA executives: Steve Davis (SD), Director of Sales and Industry Relations, Liz Miller (LM) Event Director. For purposes of attribution I shall be using their initials. The DB asking the questions would be me: David Blumenstein, US Correspondent for Hifi Pig.
DB: With the decreasing number of HiFi shows across the country, the larger remaining ones seem to be carving out a niche for themselves, a particular identity. What is AXPONA’s identity? What make AXPONA different? Stand out from the others?
SD: What makes AXPONA unique from all the other local and regional audio shows in the US is that AXPONA attracts a truly national audience with more than 45% of the attendees traveling from outside of Illinois. AXPONA is also now the largest AUDIO SHOW IN North America as it features 140 listening rooms and over 500 exhibiting companies and brands. AXPONA is the only high end audio show in North America that is professionally organized by a full service trade show production company offering the highest possible level of customer service to attendees and exhibitors. And lastly, as the Founder of AXPONA I bring 40 years of experience as an industry professional, as an exhibitor, a high end audio retailer, distributor and consultant. My goal, after founding the show in 2009 during the Great Recession, was to keep the retail business for High End Audio alive and offer as much support as possible during the worst of times.
DB: What view does AXPONA’s founder hold of the hifi industry, specifically in the Midwest United States? Apart from Chicago being a travel hub (O’Hare) was there a particular reason for the show’s geographic location?
SD: The original Audio Show was founded in Chicago. It began as a small audio only show and then returned after a few years as CES. Many of us from the industry had great experiences when CES would do the summer show in Chicago. It also is a fantastic music town, with one of the world’s great symphony orchestras and a great history of Jazz and Blues. Also as you mention it is an international hub easily accessed from anywhere in the world. So when we moved AXPONA to Chicago permanently in 2013 it was with this history in mind and with the goal of establishing Chicago once again as the home of North America’s most important HiFi show.
DB: Where does AXPONA see itself in 3 years? What future does 2020 hold for the HiFi industry? Are there applicable trends from the number, type and breadth of exhibitors at AXPONA? Is there an attrition rate? or just the opposite?
SD: The three main trends we are seeing are an increase in participation from international brands, growth in ear gear products and personal audio exhibitors and an increase in participation from retailers who are looking to showcase a wider variety of brands and products. Our vision is for AXPONA to develop into the North American equivalent of High End Munich in the coming years. This is why we are moving to a larger and more modern hotel with a convention center attached for future expansion in 2018. We expect the new venue to allow for significant growth with international exhibitors and to help attract more North American distributors to use AXPONA as their destination for national sales meetings and conferences.
DB: If the Vinyl renaissance is indeed bringing with it a younger HiFi audience, how is AXPONA: tracking this phenomenon?
LM: The resurgence of vinyl and turntables certainly has had an impact on AXPONA attracting a younger audience who are also buying turntables, styluses, cartridges and other associated products along with LPs. Younger music lovers also enthusiastically attend our Ear Gear Expo area to experience headphones and other emerging high resolution technologies. More of these products are shown each year at AXPONA and are quite affordable for the younger music lover.
DB: Is AXPONA seeing year over year changes in the attendee demographics?
SD: Yes it is. In part it is due to the work by JD Events to discover the newer audiences and act upon bringing them to the show.
LM:We ask our ticket buyers to tell us their ages if they would like to. Therefore we have seen the number of ticket buyers under the age of 35 grow each year. Our ticket numbers don’t tell the whole story though, as a parent can attend with a child, a grandparent will bring a grandchild, or entire families attend together. Anecdotally, we’ve seen the number of younger audio fans at the show grow every year
DB: Is AXPONA catering to this new audience?
LM: We have concerts and a scavenger hunt and encourage exhibitors to display entry-level products. We want to have a wide variety of product offerings and experiences so there is something for everyone at AXPONA
DB: is this above being reflected at all in its choice of seminar topics? are there tracks focused on them?
SD: Yes the seminars are a product of what is being asked for by the attendees. If you take a look at the Seminar page on our site you will see everything from personal audio to room acoustics and even how to build a phono cartridge. The programs are very well designed and moderated for the easiest to understand and most meaningful presentations possible.
DB: What are the exhibitors/vendors looking to get out of the show? Has this changed with the times?
SD: In my experience vendors exhibit for two primary purposes. One is to develop new customers and to make sales and the other is to generate positive press coverage of their products in the marketplace. First, the way this show was designed from the beginning was to promote sales between vendors and consumers. We promote manufacturer to dealer and dealer to end user sales as a part of the overall plan. Secondly, we are constantly developing strong relationships with the audio industry press and the main stream media outlets in order to bring as much press coverage to the show as possible for our exhibitors.
DB: Much like the new segments of the HiFi industry being covered in the trade media, are these segments being represented at AXPONA to the same degree?
SD: I believe you are referring to vinyl and personal Audio. We have a dedicated Ear Gear Expo within AXPONA that is growing every year. It has doubled in size over the past few years and it appears there is no end in sight. As for Vinyl many of the top producers of records are displaying at AXPONA. The marketplace harbors thousands of samples of the best recordings and the best people to help you make your selection so the answer is definitely a big Yes!
After posing these questions I am more jazzed than ever to attend AXPONA. It would appear that the folks running the show are well prepared to meet the needs and wants of the present AND the future, which now leaves it to me to convey the news, announcement and excitement directly to you, the Hifi Pig reader