01. June 2021 · Comments Off on Stu’s Views – HiFi Shows. Are You Going? · Categories: Comment, Hifi News, Hifi Shows, Views Of Stu · Tags:

The Future of HiFi Shows – A Short-Term Viewpoint.

I got a call out of the blue from a friend in the HiFi industry who is based in Hong Kong telling me that the Guangzhou AV Show lasted almost exactly 24 hours. He was of course referring to the show in the Chinese city located North West of Hong Kong that has a population of over fifteen million. To put that population into some kind of perspective, the UK has a population that is just shy of sixty-eight million. According to my source, the show was closed by the city’s authorities because 56 people at the show had been found to be infected with the Covid 19 virus. Exhibitors were said to be furious with the situation. To keep this into some kind of relation to the situation elsewhere, let’s not forget that China is several weeks, if not months, ahead of us with regards to this pandemic. And also, let’s also not forget that Guangzhou is massively more intensely populated than the United Kingdom.

However, this got me thinking about my thoughts around the shows that are planned for Summer and Autumn closer to home and in the US. Before I start this, and before I get accusations of being negative and downbeat, let me say from the get-go that no one loves a HiFi show more than I do. They represent an opportunity to get out into the real world, see friends and colleagues in the industry, and, perhaps one of my most favourite things of all, meeting our readers. Shows are the lifeblood of the industry in my opinion and they make for a hub where lots can be seen and achieved in a very short space of time and in one place. However, I am also a realist with regards to this pandemic!

The organisers of the show in Guangzhou must have had some inkling about the rise in the number of infections in the city, or I’m assuming they did, and yet they still went ahead with the show. I can understand this completely. All the planning, effort and money that goes into making a successful show happen are not insignificant, and the potential losses should a show be cancelled last minute are huge, both for the organisers and the exhibitors alike. And let’s not forget the audio fans that actually turn up on the day to attend the show. Understandably, there are a number of show organisers around the world that are being somewhat bullish in saying that their show will certainly go ahead (and to a degree I really do applaud this “can-do” attitude), but the reality of the situation is that we have reported on our Diary and news pages about shows being cancelled only to be told in no uncertain terms by the organisers that they have not been cancelled and they are definitely happening…and then a couple of days later the show cancels anyway. Confused? Yes, us too.

The situation with regards to imposed restrictions around Covid 19 is, to say the very least, fluid. I opened one of the daily newspapers I take this morning to read that scientists and advisors are suggesting that the lifting of all restrictions in the United Kingdom on the 21st June could be dangerous, and for several days now there have been audible whispers that this date will not be met. And what if it is met?

Yes, the UK has a great vaccination program but the overall efficacy of that vaccine has yet to be proved with regards to new strains of the virus and the (so-called) Indian variant is now taking hold in many parts of the country. Hopefully, the vaccine will be effective, but we are to a large degree swimming in unchartered waters in this regards. However, whatever my thoughts are on this there is going to be a relaxing of the rules over the summer period. People are likely to go on holiday, be that at home or abroad, and this will inevitably lead to an increase in cases of Covid – this is not me saying this, it is widely spoken about in the media as just being an unavoidable consequence of this opening up.

Several of the UK’s shows have cancelled or moved dates already – the North West Audio Show in Cheshire has moved the event to June 2022, for example, and abandoned any hopes of a show in 2021 completely. A few months ago it looked like Autumn dates may well be possible, but in my opinion, these dates are becoming more and more unlikely, though, as I said, I sincerely hope that I am wrong and they happen, are well attended and are great successes.

My main concern over these shows is that government policy may change very close to the actual date of the shows.

The cancellation of shows close to the dates has consequences on all involved. The exhibitors will have put no small effort into making sure that their latest products are ready and are displayed and demonstrated to their very best, and to do this they will have had to spend a good deal of money on promotional material, training, and actually getting the products and their people to the show. This can and usually is a chunk of money. On top of this is actually renting out the room from the show organisers. Joe public will have booked train tickets or organised other means of getting to the show, potentially staying over and perhaps taking time off work. The organisers will have had signposting, promotional material and a million other things in place. If the authorities call the events off at the last minute then all this effort and money is essentially for nought.

Everyone is between a rock and a hard place, of course, and everyone involved is itching to get to a show and feel like they are part of this wonderful community again. People that know me will be well aware that I usually have a bit of a “FFS, let’s just get this thing done!” attitude with regards to most things, but with regards to this unknown and unpredictable situation, I am urging a good degree of caution. I don’t say this lightly and I am well aware that it may not be a popular viewpoint for all the reasons I’ve touched on herein, but my thoughts are, (and I know these are in line with many other people that write about HiFi, attendees, and indeed exhibitors to shows) that we should look at this year as we looked at 2020 and that is as a write-off with regards to shows. I have a bit of a cavalier attitude towards most things, but even I am somewhat nervous about attending a show this year – and if I’m nervous then I’m sure that many, many more are equally (or more) nervous than I.

The obvious question is how long can we continue to put things on hold, and I’m afraid I just don’t have an answer to that question. What I do think is that the continued cycle of lockdown and opening up cannot continue, I also think that clear and definitive advice should be coming from the government so that show organisers, exhibitors, press and the public can make informed decisions about their short to medium term plans with regards to shows. I think my position is clear as to what should happen this year!

Another question that we are often asked is “Will you be going to show X if it happens?” and our response has been guarded, to say the least. Yes, we have booked accommodation for several shows, but being pretty certain that we will have to cancel and get a refund. Do I want to be sat on a plane with hundreds of people I don’t know? Do I want to be crammed inside a busy demonstration room with people I may or may not know? There are a hundred and one considerations to take into account.

So, to round this up, I just don’t know what to suggest is the long and the short of it. What I do know is a lot of folk are going to be mightily upset if shows get cancelled a day or so before the actual event is due to take place, let alone while the show is actually taking place. Likewise, a lot of people are going to be upset if shows are cancelled now without good reason – but then none of us has a crystal ball to see what is going to happen down the line – and that is the real crux of this situation. We are very much working with unknowns on so many levels.

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