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New Directions for an Industry Under Attack

09-06-2015 | By Dave Clark |

After 32 years of operating high-end shops in the North Bay Area in N.Cal., and a professional music career that has seen Craig Allison share bills with John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles among others, Craig has a message for our audio specialty industry and the public at large. Our passion/activity, which saw a mainstream position in American living rooms for decades, has now been classified as 'ivory tower,' 'lunatic fringe' while meantime more music is 'on' than ever in history with less folks reaping the real & significant rewards that are actually available from a high-quality listening experience.

If audio specialty dealers and products are going to be viable after the boomers are gone, new markets must be developed or else. This attracting women, who buy more music than any other U.S. demographic, and the increasingly affluent millennials. But without a major re-positioning that shows our activity as current and relevant, the entropy now evident will continue.

Since opening Lavish Hi-Fi 4 years ago, and now having just opened a big, beautiful store in Santa Rosa, I have spent countless hours discussing my thoughts with many, many industry colleagues. (They all agree that my idea is by far the best and most relevant that anyone has conceived.)

In the simplest of terms, moving from processed sound to low distortion sound reproduction is 100% analogous to moving from processed food to organic, as the public has finally figured out why this is desirable.

I have done extensive research and taken in much accurate information on the wellness benefits of our activity, all 100% medically confirmed. The 'aha moment' of relaxation that we  all experience after a period of sole activity listening is in fact, your mind and body's actual response, as follows: Cortisol level, a major stress hormone, drops by as much as double figures in your blood. Blood pressure, a key health signpost, also goes down, and the ever-racing mind, (the by-product of constant connectivity) slows and calms down. This is why we've been coming back for more all these years. Along with the immense amount of musical pleasure we receive, these non-pharmaceutical wellness benefits are needed more than ever to deal with the flood of news we receive every day, far more than our 'just like the caveman' sensory apparatus  was made to handle. As a result, a great deal of dis-ease and stress has built up, very different than any experienced in any other area.

(The fact that the news business long ago discovered that bad news sells best seems to go right past most folks' awareness.)

So… knowing that women are in charge today, and that they largely control the health regimen for their families, it is determined that women must not only be brought into the hi-fi circle, but that they must be given a far better reason to do so. Hi-Fi music listening needs to be presented two new ways across the board if this is to happen. First, they must be fully educated as to the deeper, more significant rewards available from low-distortion music listening and shown as a logical part of a modern, wellness-oriented lifestyle that raises their music enjoyment up the level of the rest of their lifestyle. The simplest way is the direct analogy to organic food, " Much more pleasure, much better for you." Hi-Fi music listening needs to be positioned as "the organic food of music enjoyment." (It is also scientifically confirmed that the package of benefits is not attained with lo-fi sound, the brain has to process too much.) Only clean sound gets it done.

The other major wellness-related point to be conferred to women is also more than 100% true. 'Real listening,' or playing an instrument, stimulates a part of the brain to develop that no other stimuli can, i.e., there is no substitute, and children are recommended to be exposed as early as possible. Were I a focused parent today, knowing my child is going out into a very challenging world, I would unquestionably desire them to have every advantage possible, most critically the sharpest mental blade that can be developed. Only one way to achieve that…

Tuesday September 15th, a historic event will occur at the newly opened, big, beautiful Lavish Hi-Fi store in Santa Rosa. That evening, an event organizer will bring in a sizeable group of female entrepreneurs, movers and shakers in Sonoma County business, for an evening in a high-end stereo store. I will be speaking on the above topics and of course playing some music that should have the desired result. Do tell Carol that she is not only cordially invited, but that I know she will be there in spirit. I will also inform the group as to the large number of women who either own, operate or are highly placed in audio specialty companies and how highly valued they are.

Dave, I will retire in 2.5 years, and like so many (disappointing) boomer principals of audio specialty manufacturers to whom I have expressed these concerns and positive direction, I could choose to only care about todays' and tomorrows' orders. But I want to leave a legacy beyond selling a thousand stereos and playing a million miles of blues that leaves this industry in better shape.

I want to see this tradition continue, and that a far wider cross-section of the public finds a reason to get involved. Hell, they already like/love music, we just need to stop talking hi-fi jive and give.

It will be very interesting to see how the group responds. By that evening we will have hung a framed poster that shows a big, uncovered pregnant belly with a pair of headphones attached for internal benefit.

I could and do go on and on w/ this. I deeply appreciate your interest and extension of opportunity to communicate on a topic of mutual concern. Dave, "Somethings' got to give." The old hi-fi routines are not going to matter to any of the newer potential markets. My basic professional stance these days is, "Find out how to get much more from music." For the next 2.5 years, this is the goal I've set, and the folks at www.savethestereo.com adopted my platform when they wrote their plan of action after months of determinations.

I will send you a report on how the evening goes, but preaching the wellness benefits and the organic food analogy will be main themes and tools this old boy will use for the balance of my career.

Very Best,

Craig Allison