An answer to one of audio’s ultimate questions:

An answer to one of audio's ultimate questions:

Just say yes to streaming music at your favorite hifi show. Seriously.

Sitting in the airport waiting for the flight home, I’ve just spent the most fun time ever at an audio show. The Florida Audio Expo was an absolute pleasure to attend. But you can read me gush about that tomorrow or Tuesday. For now, I have an issue, I’d like to see solved – pronto.

While it’s been fantastic that the folks at Qobuz have been “the official streaming partner” of all the year’s past audio shows, it’s worthless. You can’t stream audio at an audio show – ever. How messed up is that?

Though everyone is proudly playing vinyl and even reel to reel tape at the show, with excellent result, that isn’t helping those that know nothing about our world. I love analog in every delivery method possible – but I’m obsessed with audio. It’s all intriguing. But I’m not your customer at an audio show.

After 17 years now of listening to a lot of the same people ask the same question, “how do we bring new people into our world?” We have the answer with Tidal, Qobuz and ROON. But no one fucking uses it. I’ve only been to one room in the past year that could answer yes to the “Hey, are you streaming Tidal and Qobuz here, so I can pick some music I want to hear?” question. PS Audio at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was the only one doing it, and it’s no coincidence that they were packed to the gills. Everyone in that room was having a great time. Listening to their music.

I attend shows to interact with our readers and colleagues in the industry. I’m not terribly interested in sitting down to listen to gear at shows, because A: it’s probably in the review queue anyway and B: I don’t want to take the seat from the paying customers that want to get a listen and ask questions. It’s your show not mine.

Which brings us full circle. I think the most important way to bring people into the world of high end/high performance audio, whether you are selling a $2,500 system or a $250,000 system is to give the participants an “ah-ha” moment. To deliver an experience that is immersive enough to get them tapping their toes, digging the vibe, and asking questions. I think you’ll all agree with me that music is personal, so there’s no quicker way to get the “boring” light on my dashboard to illuminate, than to play music I’m not interested in. Again, forget about me, think about your potential customer. I guarantee they are thinking the same thing.

I strongly suggest ALL of my industry colleagues to consider this. People who have never really experienced great sound, who are listening to budget buds, phones, or powered speakers are going to be so blown away by streaming music on even a modest DAC that you’ll hook them. The key ingredient? Play THEIR music. I don’t care how much you don’t like hip hop, or whatever, get over it for five minutes. I’ve had to listen to “Keith Don’t Go” and all the other tracks we’ve all suffered through for years now. Wanna sell more hifi? Buck up. Play their music.

The only thing worse than waiting for someone in a demo room fumbling through their collection of 100 LPs to play a track I’m totally uninterested in, is the track I’m totally uninterested in. Again, I don’t care because I’m already drinking the Kool-Aid. It’s ok if you don’t have music to make me happy.

But your potential customers, that’s another story. I’ve been hearing the same thing exiting rooms now for 17 years:

“That guy’s music suuuuucked”
“I hate classical music”
“Jazz is boring”
“I think it sounded good, but it wasn’t music I like”

Not much has changed. I still heard way too much of that at this show, and this was the friendliest hifi show I’ve ever attended.

So, going forward, I’m begging you all to reconsider your position and make a streaming option available in your room for the uninitiated, so when you get the wide-eyed “wow, I’ve never seen/heard anything like this,” you can hand them the tablet and pick out a track or two that they know like the back of their hand.

I challenge every manufacturer and show presenter to find a way to make this happen. I guarantee this will bring more people into our world.