Future of this hobby?

I took some time off work, and I read the Jan edition of Stereophile cover to cover today. In the Letters to Editor section people were writing in about what will happen to this hobby as the target audience ages and the younger generation doesn't jump on board. I am 28, and I fear that the concern is definitely real. My friends, fiance, and people my age are in love with their Ipods. That is great that they are into listening to music in whatever manner they choose. My friends and fiance all agree that my stereo sounds good but also feel that stereos bought at discount retail stores fill the same need and have no interest in spending the extra cash.

Also, I went to a couple of Chicago Audio Society meetings to see if I could make some friends that shared my interest. I felt a little out of place though when I was the only person in the 20-30 demographic out of a population of forty people. Further, there may have been one or two people in their late 30s and probably half of the people were over 50.

The only conclusion I can reach on this subject is that lesser products are meeting the needs of people my age, and I don't forsee the younger generations waking up one day and deciding to sell the MP3 players so that they can buy high-end turntables. In 20-30 years as much of the current audiophile population ages and some move into assisted living or other arrangements where these elaborate and space consuming set-ups are no longer wanted or needed, the few remaining young people that actually care will be able to take ownership of kick-ass systems at steep discounts. I along with any kids that I have will have our cash ready in anticipation of that day.
I'm afraid Mechans makes much sense -- even though I hope the future obeys to Sugar's predictions...

There's a significant shift in the "reason why" behind hi-end buying decision. Before it was "better sound". Better sound doesn't seem to justify a purchase anymore...
After all, much of sound creation, storage, & reproduction, is digital. From digital unto digital: difficult to tell what is "bad" or "better"... I mean, now you can easily process a recording to sound "good" on an average set-up or target the I-pod's spectrum & tailor the recording for that...

Also, many people look at audio-visual -- rather than just "blind" audio...

Maybe, if hi-end becomes a "lifestyle" purchase there may be a resurgence.
Even better, sugarbrie is right & I'm being pessimistic.
There are still some younger people who are into the hobby. It's just rather expensive to get into. I am 26 and got my college roomie Bcos17, who is 25, into the hobby.

I do think, however, that there is a movement toward smaller setups and gear that serves dual purposes. The younger generation did not grop up on viynl for the most part. They grew up with CDs and DVDs so I don't think it's any big surprise that the industry has moved more in that direction.

I think most young people are fairly ignorant as to what good sound really is. Many think loud equals good. Many are rather impatient too (instant gratification generation) and are unwilling to take the time to figure out what combinations of equipment are good, how to set the speakers up properly, and set the room up correctly to maximize the sound.

Regardless, listen to the recording quality of many of the "top 40" hits and I think it's easy to understand why many younger people would have no interest in investing in better gear.
I am one of those 40 somethings that you guys are writing about. I would gladly purchase space in one of your audiophile assisted care facilities, providing I can still hear from the Alice Cooper shows I still go to.

Both of my boys have systems worth triple the amount of my first one. I am going to take this as a warning to make sure they don't fall away from this hobby.

Thanks for the wakeup call to arms.
As I am often of a contrarian perspective, so too is the case here...

Despite all of the angst and hand wringing in this hobby, I feel that high end audio is well positioned for some substantial growth in the next 25 years. Also, I agree with a lot of what Sugarbrie has to say. Beyond which, there are some additional factors I feel come in to play:
1) Size. I realize this issue keeps coming up, but has anyone seen the reaction to LG's debut of the 102" plasma at CES. It's utter lust by most. No one complains of the size of televisions, in fact, we all know that big is better when we talk tvs. People will put up with a stereo in the living room. What's more, when their thirst for a serious tv becomes quenched, the next thing on the shopping list is going to be an audio system capable of playing on the same field as their glitzy new tv.

2) Status. There has certainly never been a shortage of nose in the air dealers willing to sneer at what we currently own while pointing us ever higher up on the totem pole. But, the mistake the high end has made for a very long time is that their target audience has been audiophiles. They have always preached to the converted. Now that magazines like The Robb Report are beginning to delve into the waters of audio, the products we lust after will begin to be exposed to an infinitely wider audience. How difficult would it be to convince people that big speakers should be as prized as big tvs??? It's marketing, people need to be told that they want and NEED big speakers.

3) Price. Following #2. A non - issue. No, let me restate that, it's a benefit to be exclusively priced. How many people think it's just grand to have a $10K watch on their wrist? Loads!!! My wife wears a Rolex, and to be quite honest, it tells time no better than my daughter's Timex. In fact, it's actually been worse over the years! We've had to send the darned thing back twice. But, that pride of ownership is there in spades. Like fine watches, wine, cognac, cigars, cars, firearms, shoes, clothes, jewelry, and furniture, high end audio is a marketable commodity. Again, blame the manufacturers for lousy marketing of the product...

4) The ascendancy of Asia. Particularly China. Music reproduction is taken far more seriously per capita in these cultures. As the wealth of countries like China continues to grow at an exponential rate, the sales of high end audio gear will follow suit in these places. It already has begun gaining traction. Does anyone think that all of what the Asian based companies is being sold to North Americans and Western Europeans? Again, blame it on the stupidity of the companies based in North America and Western Europe, but they risk not marketing in Asia (and, also Eastern Europe & Russia) at their own peril - not that I believe them wise enough to know better anyhow (see #2 & #3). Those who keep harping on the sweatshop conditions and oppression in China refuse to see that the standard of living is being ratcheted up faster than any society in the history of this world. These people are buying televisions, cell phones, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, jewelry, cars, wines, AND stereo equipment.

In the end, my advice is to sit back, and enjoy the music. From my perspective, high end audio is not about to die, it's on the verge of an explosion in growth.
To paraphrase Bob from Minnesota
Something is happenin' and you don't know what it is
No one can accurately predict the future, but it's very clear that things are changing. Don't let the profusion of tremendous quality products fool you. It's very common for the best products to be produced at the end of an industry cycle. They'll always be a few craftsmen/fanatics out there producing great quality products.

I admire Sugarbrie's optimism, but Audi/VW is in serious financial trouble, Mercedes had to buy Chrysler to diversify and that hasn't gone very well and if Ford hadn't bought Jaguar, they would have died a decade ago. BMW is doing quite well, but audiophile companies that market themselves in similar ways as BMW (Wilson, Martin-Logan, Krell, etc.) generate a very polarizing response in the audiophile world. There a strong strain running through the audiophile world that wants to keep this hobby small and elite. Clearly,
There's no success like failure
And failure's no success at all