I write very few actual rants in this space or in TONEAudio‘s publishers letter for good reason: I want this to be fun. I’ve always felt that the minute we bring our personal baggage into the editorial, it really stops being fun. I don’t care if audio writers from across the pond disagree on how to set up a turntable or how to rip digital audio files. Really, I don’t. And I care way less about it when they make it a personal bitchfest. BORING. I’d much rather talk about anything but audio at that point.
But the one tired subject that does push me over the edge is the constant waste of bandwidth on articles dealing with the future of the hifi industry. I’ve spent a lot of time on an airplane over the last ten years, going to trade shows, visiting factories and talking to both dealers and end users about this stuff, tirelessly. Music and hifi has been the major obsession in my life since about age 13, so you’d think I’ve got at least a bit of a handle on it, right? Well, kind of.
However, as much as those of us in the audio press would like to think we are all so plugged in, we really aren’t and here’s why: our filter is too small. Way too small. It’s simple math. There are 317 million people in the United States alone, and as of the other day, TONEAudio is read in 129 countries, so how can we possibly know what everyone is thinking, doing, or purchasing. Really?
I get it. It makes for great Google numbers to print “the sky is falling” editorial copy about how the industry is dying, or no one listens to music anymore, or there is no good music, etc., etc., etc. This ends up being terribly inaccurate at best and self-serving at the worst.
First thing I remember from news writing 101, was “never assume anything.” Considering that many of us know 50 – 100 people and maybe have a peripheral reach of a thousand people, how can we possibly make these broad, grandiose speeches, declaring the rise or fall of anything? I know I can’t, and I won’t. My data is way too skewed.
Most of my friends are music and hifi fanatics (like minds, eh?) so any data I would cull from them would be useless to the readership at large. I can’t believe how many people I know that own six figure hifi systems and own thousands, if not tens of thousands of albums, so it would be equally easy to think it’s all ducky going forward from where I sit.
Having visited more than my share of manufacturers that are somehow, in spite of all this death-speak, managing to ship every box they can build, I’ve reached the conclusion that someone has to be buying this stuff. And with new manufacturers like Sonos, Peachtree and others having similar success stories, I fail to accept that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. But then, that’s not terribly compelling copy, is it?
My challenge to my colleagues for 2014? How about some insightful commentary, instead of just going for the low hanging fruit. Remember, almost all of you were right there proclaiming (with equal certainty) the death of analog twenty years ago.