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From an Editor's Notebook:  An update on the Petition to JD Events/AXPONA 2020

04-29-2020 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 109

Ye Olde Editor:  a portrait (Photograph by John Robinson)

Last week PF published an "Open Letter to Joel Davis of JD Events/AXPONA 2020" in our Industry News section. It included some 20 supporting signatures from those protesting JD Events' unwillingness to give exhibitors either the option of cancelling their reservation and receiving a full refund, or of a partial refund and a roll-ahead of the balance for AXPONA 2021. Given the current pandemic, and the unlikelihood of AXPONA 2020 being a meaningful show under the current circumstances, this was viewed by very many in the industry as a foolish and heavy-handed response on the part of JD Events. This is especially since so many companies need those funds to help offset their losses of business during these very troubled times.

We thought that the approach used for the cancellation of Munich 2020, and the stance that Marjorie Baumert has taken with respect to RMAF 2020…both either providing or promising to provide full refunds in the case of show cancellation due to the pandemic…was the only wise and humane position to take.

But this is apparently either unpalatable, or possibly impossible, for JD Events and AXPONA. Perhaps they have already paid the Schaumburg and associated hotels for the event, and have no recourse that they have been able to find yet. That would be a nightmare scenario. Only the complete cessation of the pandemic and a return to fully normal business could possibly retrieve that situation, and I don't know anyone who thinks this to be very likely at all.

Even if this is so, however, and if it means that JD Events proposes to balance the loss of the show on the backs of exhibitors…either show up or forfeit your pre-paid payment…then we'll be seeing a slow-motion train wreck in 4K high-definition. The consequences for the future of AXPONA as an audio show, heretofore the biggest audiophile event in the USA, would be horrific. I leave it to your fertile imaginations to speculate on what a major exhibitor boycott of AXPONA next year would produce.

"No more AXPONA," I would say…and that's a pretty safe bet.

(Drawing by Dan Zimmerman)

Regardless, the ongoing contretemps between exhibitors and JD Events, and the self-evident inadvisability of a major audio show occurring in Chicago during the pandemic in early August of 2020, led Positive Feedback to issue its unprecedented statement of non-coverage for AXPONA 2020. We also included THE Show Long Beach 2020, since that event obviously could not go forward in the first week of June. (Since then, THE Show has announced that it will be changing the date of that show, but I haven't seen any specific new date announced yet.)

As a follow-up to our recently published statement about refusing to cover AXPONA 2020 and THE Show 2020 during the current pandemic, and the initial list of exhibitors who have announced their demand for the option of a full refund for that event, I've received an update from Luke Manley of VTL. The list of supporters for the open letter is now up over 80.

And it's a helluva list of names.

To bring our readers up to date, I've re-published the text of the original open letter, together with the updated list of supporters below.

As we receive updates to this list, I'll be sharing them with you here.

We'll keep you posted.

Quoted text follows:

Dear Joel,

Hi-Fi Shows have long been an important and familiar part of the audio landscape, as important to manufacturers and magazines as they are to consumers. But the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly altered that landscape out of all recognition.

Large segments of the US (and World) population are enduring limitations on travel and social interaction. Governments and city administrations are banning audiences from sports and cultural events, with many major festivals and conferences that were scheduled between now and the end of the year already choosing to cancel. Public willingness to travel or attend live events is dramatically reduced, and the health risks of doing so are well documented.

Unfortunately the conclusion is as inescapable as it is serious. With no widespread testing or vaccine in sight, there will be no quick return to normal. According to economics experts, the economy is nowhere near re- opening, and we are all looking down the gun barrel of a recession.

The postponement of AXPONA from April to August this year partially recognizes this reality, but we do not believe it truly reflects the gravity of the situation faced by your exhibitors. Any suggestion that the industry want and broadly support the idea of a show in August is also wide of the mark.

Far from supporting your exhibitors, clinging to the prospect of holding AXPONA in August is actually making their situation worse. Facing the almost total loss of at least three-months' revenue, the resultant drain on available cash and the additional costs of re-starting supply and production, many companies are facing a critical cash-flow crisis.

Even once business re-starts, consumer confidence is likely to be cripplingly low, directly impacting revenue for the rest of the year. The risks of social interaction and communication, as well as the substantial additional costs, make attending any show in an effort to stimulate sales a very real threat to both exhibitor and business health.

Visitors (and please remember that many audiophiles are in the most vulnerable demographic groups) will have similar health concerns, especially as regards the risks of travelling to and attending such an event, with the small rooms and crowded nature. Press will be similarly inhibited, and the prospects of a positive visitor experience, decent levels of attendance, or coverage are clearly minimal.

The whole world is facing a health and economic crisis – and the audio industry is no different. Supporting the industry that AXPONA serves means helping hard-pressed companies by cancelling the show and releasing the money they paid in advance for an event that will not now happen.

Under the circumstances we feel that it is no longer reasonable or responsible for JD Events to try to use the promise of a postponed AXPONA show to withhold exhibitors' (in many cases desperately needed) funds, and we urge you to follow the lead of other events and announce the cancellation of the show immediately.

Even if you do not cancel, the fact that you simply cannot deliver the show as originally sold (in terms of attendance or coverage) means that all exhibitors should be offered the option of withdrawal and an immediate refund.

We are confident that this would be as widely welcomed as it would be appreciated, a genuinely positive step towards preserving your exhibitors and the possibility of next year's event.

Yours Sincerely,

[Current list as of 4/26/2020 of signatories to Open Letter to Joel Davis (original signatories in bold):]

Jim White, Aesthetix

Daniele Coen and Paola Arduini, Alsyvox Audio

Peter Wellikoff, Andover Audio

Cristian Anelli, Aqua Hi Fi

Ralph Karsten, Atmasphere

Mark Cohen, Audeze

Frank Van Alstine, Audio by Van Alstine

Dave Gordon, Audio Research

William E. Low, The Quest Group (dba AudioQuest and Golden Ear)

Ron Hoering, Auranas

John-Paul Lizars, Aurender USA

Conrad Mas, Avid

Jolanta Conti, Basis Audio

Zoltan Bay, Bays Audio

Bob Visintainer, Rhapsody Audio

Elliot Goldman, Bending Wave USA

Kurt Denke, Blue Jeans Cable

Jay Rein, BlueBird Music

Florian Cossy, CH Precision

Rob Robinson, Channel D

Irv Gross, Constellation Audio

Lou Hinkley, Daedalus

Andy Regan, Dan Clark Audio

Vinh Vu, Ginko Audio

David Kasab, David Michael Audio

Greg Hovsepian, DH Labs

Don Better, Don Better Audio

Scot Markwell, Elite AV Distribution

Jacky Dai, ESD Acoustic

Jean-Pascal Panchard, Stenheim

Sandy Gross, Golden Ear

Sebastian Schmidt, Goya Acoustics

Alvin Lloyd, Grand Prix Audio

Chris Sommovigo, High Fidelity

Paul Manos, High Fidelity Services

Amelia Santos, Nuno Vitorino, Innuos

Jeff Rowland, Jeff Rowland Design Group

George Vatchnadze, Kyomi Audio

Brian Tucker, Lateral Audio Stands

Adam Johnson, Brian Kane, Madisound

Peter Mackay, Magico

EveAnna Manley, Manley Labs

Jeremy Bryan, MBL North America

Mike McGary, McGary Audio

Merrill Wettasinghe, Merrill Audio

Dan Wright, Modwright

Drew Baird, Moon Audio

Leland Leard, Music Hall

Carl and Marilyn Marchisotto, Nola

Dave Cope, Old Forge Marketing

Philip O'Hanlon, On A Higher Note

Ulrik Madsen, Organic Audio

Andreas Koch, Playback Designs

Steven Norber, PranaFidelity

Paul McGowan, PS Audio

Ze'ev Schlik, Pure Audio Project

John Stratton, Pure Fidelity

Dave Thomson, Raven Audio

Roger Gibboni, Rogers High Fidelity

Chris Seymour, Seymor Screen Excellence

Caelin Gabriel, Grant Samuelsen, Shunyata Research

Donna Bodinet, Christan Griego, Sota Turntables

Mark Gurvey, Source Systems

Clayton Shaw, Spacial Audio Lab

Charlie Schnyder, Stereo Haven

Paul Wakeen, Stillpoints

Ron Sutherland, Sutherland Engineering

Tony Crocker, Swan Song Audio

Dan Eakins, SweetVinyl

Stephen Daniels, The Sound Organization

Konnie Chuang, Tien Audio

Jim Leveille, Tri-Art Audio

Francisco Jileta, Eliseo Vega, Troy Audio

Kevin Deal, Upscale Audio

Richard Vandersteen, Vandersteen Audio

Njoo Hoo Kong, Venture BVBA

Todd Sutherland, Vivid Audio

Ray Leung, Von Gaylord Audio

Inès Adler, VOXATIV

Mat Weisfeld, VPI Industries

Luke Manley, Bea Lam, VTL

Daniel Weiss, Weiss Engineering Ltd

Jeff Wells, Wells Audio

Lily Luo, XLO International

David Komatz, Dick Diamond, Kerry St James, YG Acoustics