The Hub: News, events, gossip: Come the REVOLUTION

Okay: we're at the point where virtually everyone in the audio industry knows that we're not in Kansas any more, or at least not in the boom years of the '70's. Those golden olden days in audio (at least as remembered by the gray-headed boomers so often seen in the biz) saw a stereo in every dorm room and in most family rooms. Now we see iPods and computers.

In our last entry of The Hub, we looked at some of the ways in which audio manufacturers are reaching out to new and burgeoning markets; in this entry we'll take a look at some steps that can be made to reach the 'Pod and 'puter generation, right here in the good ol' US of A. Granted, it might not be like old times...but give it a chance. It could turn out to be even better.

We modestly propose a few nontraditional marketing programs to take Hi-Fi to the people. Some of them, anyway.

COLLEGE TOURS: Back at the dawn of time when BSR turntables were as common in dorm rooms as..umm...HOTPLATES, mainstream audio companies like Kenwood and Pioneer sent traveling roadshows to college campuses. Could it work today?
Why not? Here's the plan, in a nutshell:

Two people drive a truck from campus to campus, and set up 3-4 room exhibits in Student Union buildings, in association with a local dealer(s). The truck would carry only iPod/streaming-related PORTABLE products. The local dealer would exhibit some larger, stationary gear. Room One would have only headphones, of a wide variety and price ranges. Room Two would have iPod docks, boomboxes, dacs, amps, small active speakers, etc. Room Three would have a shrine to audiophilism: Analog, tubes, horns, planars, etc.

There are three goals associated with this model: 1) Give the next generation of consumers a free sample of this addictive drug:good sound. That's all we have to do. Surely, 1/100 or 1/200 will get addicted with their first hit. Sure, it sounds cynical--but mothing works like demos. 2) Sell some products to the students or faculty - not only for some cash flow, but for planting seeds on that campus, so that their friends see the cool new stuff. 3) Enroll student entrepreneurs as 'affiliates', to sell products to their friends for a commission.

The tours would be funded by the manufacturers whose products will be displayed. We would need a large headphone maker as a major sponsor (Sennheiser? Monster?), then associate sponsors with their iPod gear and/or headphone amps (B&W, Klipsch, Schiit,Focal?), and perhaps a few small sponsors with tweaked dac's, small tube amps, etc.

Our next plan is a shameless example of piggy-backing on not just a successful company, but a successful brand. Hey, nothin' succeeds like success, right?

RIDING APPLE'S COAT-TAILS: Consider the typical Apple user. He/she sacrifices software choices, and pays a lot more for the hardware, purely for the sake of a better user experience. From the outset they are pre-disposed to becoming audiophiles, since that is EXACTLY the same behavior exhibited by us audio addicts.

Apple has captured the high-end segment of computing, and an Apple store is where we will find the most-concentrated numbers of consumers with a taste for a 'better' experience. The fiendishly-simple business model: Rent retail space as close as possible to existing Apple Stores (directly across the hall/street ideally).

Use the front display to attract Apple users with Apple-based audio /video systems. Inside the store, have a variety of combinations of computer/iPod related audio gear. Save one room for the audio shrine: a purpose-designed room with analog, tubes, horns, acoustical treatment, the whole kit-n-kaboodle. Try to get each walk-in person to plug their iPod into 3 or 4 things: headphones, a small iPod system, and definitely, the Big Rig.

Secondly, rent warehouse space close to the store. A large variety of high-end audio products are stored, which would be provided by various manufacturers seeking exposure in a market where they have no dealers. Audiophiles could arrange for home auditions of products, which they would pick up at the warehouse/store, and return there (or not). Well-qualified audiophiles could also arrange for an audition in the store's listening room if in-home audition is too difficult.

Walk-in Apple users who show signs of possible addiction would be directed toward products which best fit their budget and tastes, and a system of that type could be set up in the listening room, for a later appointment where we educate them on how to listen. Apple makes in-store appointments for tutorials to serious users, so again the Apple Store visitor is already exposed to such concepts.

There are three goals associated with this model: 1) Each location would attract high-end-leaning consumers from the mass market, and expose to them to the best possible performance for each price point, starting at prices low enough to encourage spontaneous purchases. 2) Each location would provide an audition-site to audiophiles and manufacturers who are without dealers. 3) Multiple locations with a branded indentity would become associated with Apple, their philosophy, and their psychology. Apple consumers would more easily equate/desire better sound.

You, out there: whether you'e in the business or outside it, you undoubtedly have ideas at least as good as these. Probably better, really; we've lost brain cells along with our hearing. Why not share your ideas? Again: let's keep it positive and constructive, please.

Click on "post your comments" in order to allow us to marvel at your wisdom!

Mechans is right, show kids a hi tech looking thin white panel speaker and they will have to have it. Oh wait, Magnepan already did that decades ago but it has not panned out quite like that. Now, if you slap an Apple logo on a white 1.7 with aluminum trim and set that in the middle of an Apple store I don't think they would be able to keep them in stock. If a company like that starts to believe they can make money in stereo playback it will ignite the entire industry.
With the design and low cost manufacturing capability of a company like Apple they could easily make a fortune selling speakers and integrated amps. It is really the next step in the evolution of the ipod, from earbuds to ipod docks to two channel hifi.
Mac: Think we lost the thread, there.

Nil: I think a Peachtree iDecco with Amphion Ion speakers would already look like it came from Apple, and handily outperform anything they're likely to build.I frank;y don't see panel speakers fitting in with the look.

Bwp: I don't see Apple in the amp business, sorry. Wireless powered speakers, maybe, but it would have to be something more cuting-edge than just an integrated.

Thanks for the contributions!
Are we talking about high end audio ? College kids ? ...
The plan may work for an inexpensive brand in the Harmann portfolio, but good luck selling real audio systems to college kids.
Apple would smell blood and just do it themselves like they always have. They will integrate an "audiophile" system into their computer and convince the devotees that anything else is utterly ridiculous and a waste of money. I am sorry but my opinion is that once the companies with REAL money like Apple start to want a piece of our market, they will do it better for less money and deal the death knell to the midstream of the high end market. Only the super exotic will survive.
I agree with Hotrodaudio.
Hi end audio began as a hobby and became a business. The transition was fairly smooth because the scale remained pretty small. Anyone (like Bose) who ventures into the mainstream will, of necessity, leave the hobby realm and be seen by audiophiles as a sellout. You really can't have it both ways.
Truth be told, the pro audio realm offers most of what you need for better prices. The high end has gone beyond boutique and into fantasy. There is no longer any possibility of justifying the prices charged for what is offered as State of the Art.
The reason Apple doesn't take over our industry is simple - not enough people care enough to make it a market worthy of pursuit.

Currently high end audio is experiencing what is euphemistically called a market correction. It isn't really a problem. We had too many pretenders and has beens hanging around muddying the waters. Over the next few years, many of them will fall away. Unfortunately, many of us will too.
to paraphase someone .......... audio was a hobby became a business and is now a racket.