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From an Editor's Notebook:  Regarding AXPONA 2020 and THE Show Long Beach 2020

04-26-2020 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 108

We are living in strange and terrible times.

It is the Golden Age of Audio right now, but that Golden Age has been swallowed up by the COVID-19 pandemic so suddenly that it is hard to remember just a few months ago, when 2020 looked like it would be a very good year for fine audio. Unemployment was at record lows; travel to audio shows and interest in high-end audio in general looked strong. The main problem was likely that there were too many shows, and that picking and choosing among them was a challenging proposition.

But not anymore.

2020 will go down in history as "the audio show year that wasn't."

In the USA, COVID-19 cases stand at nearly a million, with about 55,000 deaths as of today (April 26, 2020). We're all familiar with the extraordinary measures that have been taken to resist the spread of the pandemic, and the massive hit that the US and world economies have taken over the past several months. This is a real crisis, unique in the unparalleled swiftness of its attack, and the terrible effects that it has had on a heavily globalized system of business and finance.

The results for high-end audio and its schedule of events has been calamitous.

Pretty much everything after the Florida Audio Expo is now either gone, or is in danger of going. Munich 2020 cancelled commendably early, with full refunds to the exhibitors. AXPONA 2020 has shifted ground from April to early August. THE Show in Long Beach hasn't said what it will be doing about its show during the first week of June. RMAF 2020 is keeping its early October slot open, but Marjorie Baumert has made it clear that if it has to be cancelled, there will be full refunds.

And so on.

And who knows how this will all sort out? Especially in the absence of effective leadership at the federal level. 

Right now, however, the main concern is about the high-end audio show that has become the largest in the US over the past few years:  AXPONA. Also of concern is THE Show Long Beach 2020.

Having shifted ground from April to August, JD Events…who runs this show…is still standing pat publicly on going on with the event during the first week of August. This is despite the fact that the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois have forbidden large events/gatherings of this size. Not to mention the very obvious dangers of trying to hold a large audio show composed mainly of older attendees who are at high risk of contracting, and perhaps dying of, COVID-19. Jamming O'Hare Airport with audiophiles (assuming that the airlines are flying)? Putting them into smaller hotel exhibition spaces over a span of 3-4 days so that they may experience the joys of close proximity? And then letting them scatter to the winds to share with others the blessings of a coronavirus?

Does anyone think that this is a good idea?

Recently, a group of audio exhibitors took the unprecedented step of sending an open letter to Joel Davis and JD Events, asking that he cancel AXPONA for 2020, and that he provide full refunds to those exhibitors who requested it. Given the enormous financial pressure that high-end businesses are suffering, with very serious lost cash flow, this is an understandable and very reasonable request.

At this point, however, JD Events is continuing to hold fast to the early August date for AXPONA. And it is also reportedly refusing to provide full refunds for its exhibitors, arguing that the funds should be mainly pushed ahead into next year, as a kind of prepayment on AXPONA 2021. This is neither wise nor far-sighted, and will most likely lead to a significant push-back from the fine audio community in future years, a thing that no one should be seeking.

I want to be quite clear about Positive Feedback's position on AXPONA 2020.

If JD Events holds AXPONA 2020 in early August, Positive Feedback will not be covering it. I will not be in attendance, nor will PF send any of its writers to Chicago (Dave and Carol Clark, who are partners and managing editors at PF, will also not be attending). No coverage of AXPONA 2020 will be published here at Positive Feedback.

We urge Joel Davis and JD Events to do the right thing, cancel the AXPONA 2020 show, and offer any AXPONA exhibitor who requests it a full refund on their prepayments for that event. This should be done without any penalty of placement or reservation for 2021. Those exhibitors who are amenable to having that balance paid forward for AXPONA 2021 can certainly request it, but it should not be mandatory. Let the exhibitors choose their option.

Likewise, we urge Maurice Jung and those involved with THE Show Long Beach 2020 to cancel their event along the lines stated immediately above.

This is an unprecedented statement on our part, but these are unique times, and require extraordinary actions to share the communal pain of this pandemic.

We all share a common passion for music and the possibilities of the audio arts. For the common good, Positive Feedback believes firmly that audio shows in the USA should follow the lead of the High End group in Munich, and the stated intent of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

So say I, and so should say all those who love high-end audio and its supporting events.

Let us hope for better days in 2021.

On behalf of the Positive Feedback editorial and review community,

Dr. David W. Robinson