Cites COVID-19 & Economic Hardship
In an “Open letter to Joel Davis of JD Events,” a group of 20 prominent personalities in the high-end specialty audio industry – who are also contracted exhibitors – call on the producer of AXPONA to cancel the event. AXPONA had already been previously rescheduled by its production company from the originally planned April 17-19 dates…to August 7-9, due to the expanding COVID-19 pandemic.
Now some exhibitors are publicly calling upon the show’s producer to fully cancel the event for 2020 altogether, as COVID-19 – and the economic damage it’s causing – continues to be a major issue.
See why exhibitors want AXPONA canceled…
Audio Expo North America (AXPONA) from JD Events is a popular show serving the specialty audio community that draws a wide cross-section of the industry including consumers, trade, and media. Offering a wide mix of display booths, listening rooms, seminars, music experiences and more – many in the industry consider AXPONA an important event and look forward to it every year.
Normally taking place in the Spring, AXPONA announced on March 9th in a letter to exhibitors and on their Facebook page, that they were rescheduling the event to a new Summer time frame on August 7-9 at the same Renaissance Hotel in Schaumberg, IL. No doubt, the show’s promoter hoped (rather over-optimistically I think) that the COVID-19 pandemic would be less of an issue by then.
Shifted from April to August
“AXPONA has been rescheduled from April 17-19 to August 7-9, 2020 out of concern for the health and safety of all participants due to the growing coronavirus situation. This decision was made following an outpouring of feedback from the AXPONA community over the last 72 hours.”Joel A. Davis, Founder & CEO, JD Events in March 9 letter to exhibitors regarding AXPONA
Of course, we all know now that from this point in March on, COVID-19 continued to really pick up steam. Just a couple of weeks later in March, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had determined that COVID-19 was a major global pandemic. As Strata-gee and others have reported, almost all trade shows and public gatherings were then systematically canceled at that point.
So the hoped-for relief for JD Events of rescheduling AXPONA to August seems as though it should have been a fleeting feeling – as the growth of COVID-19 has only increased the fear and the number of Stay-at-Home orders from more and more states across the country.
Group of Unhappy Exhibitors; JD Events Not Responsive
Still, there is no further announcement from JD Events about AXPONA as of the time of this writing. We’ve learned that a large number of exhibitors, apparently frustrated by the lack of communication and relative indecision from JD Events, have banded together to issue a call for the official canceling of the event.
[NOTE: Strata-gee reached out to Joel A. Davis of JD Events but did not receive a response by the time this story was posted.]
Luke Manley of VTL, an exhibitor at the event, in casual conversations with several industry colleagues quickly discovered two key points. First, they were all exhibitors at AXPONA. Second, they all felt as he did, that JD Events was not responsive to their expressed concerns about the event going forward. These facts served to light a fuse under Manley.
“I found AXPONA has not been very not forthcoming about this whole thing, and I decided to take a leadership position in writing an open letter to them for what I believe is for the greater good of the industry. The points in the letter came into focus as a result of numerous conversations with fellow exhibitors who expressed serious concerns over the health and safety issues that doing a show this year entails, as well as the currently unrealistic financial burden that it places on us. There are more than enough signatories of listed exhibitors to make the strong case that this postponement is not what exhibitors need now. The questions raised by the letter are valid and need to be answered.”Luke Manley of VTL, Main organizer of the 20 exhibitors who signed the open letter
An Auspicious List of Exhibitors Who Signed the Letter
In a telephone interview, Manley told me that he realized early on that the only way to have an impact is by organizing – “But organizing audio guys can be a bit like herding cats,” Manley said with a chuckle. But in short order he had a consensus with fully 19 other exhibitors who had determined that under existing circumstances, this event should not go forward in 2020. Furthermore, Manley told me that he is confident that this is a majority opinion – although he couldn’t prove that.
- Jolanta Conti, Basis Audio
- Florian Cossy, CH Precision
- Don Better, Don Better Audio
- Sandy Gross, GoldenEar
- Jeff Rowland, Jeff Rowland Group
- EveAnna Manley, Manley Labs
- Paul McGowan, PS Audio
- Charlie Schnyder, Stereo Haven
- William E. Low, The Quest Group-AudioQuest/GoldenEar
- David Komatz, Dick Diamond, Kerry St. James, YG Acoustics
- Elliot Goldman, Bending Wave USA
- Irv Gross, Constellation Audio*
- Scot Markwell, Elite AV Distribution
- Alvin Lloyd, Grand Prix Audio
- Peter Mackay, Magico
- Leland Leard, Music Hall
- Jean-Pascal Panchard, Stenheim
- Luke Manley & Bea Lam, VTL
- Todd Sutherland, Vivid Audio
- Lily Luo**, XLO Intl
Two Justifications for the Need to Cancel AXPONA
The fairly long and well-written letter starts by saying, “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.”
The letter largely offers two justifications for why this group collectively believes that the AXPONA event must be canceled. First, there is the heightened health risks of fielding a mass-attended event like this during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Second, there is a dramatic and negative impact on exhibitor finances, now that the country has fallen into a major recession.
#1 – Holding AXPONA Represents an Unacceptable Health Risk
The first argument the exhibitors make is the added risk to the health of attendees and exhibitors of a large public event such as AXPONA because of COVID-19. If JD Events was worried about safety in March (as they say in their March 9 letter), they should be MORE worried about it in August, the thinking goes.
“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…
“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.”“Open letter to Joel Davis of JD Events” with 20 signatories
#2 – Exhibitors are Now Facing a Devastating Economy
The second argument these exhibitors make is that COVID-19 has plunged the United States (and the world for that matter) into a devastating recession – and the impact of that is rewriting the financial calculus of participation for exhibitors. None of them could have even imagined the change in the economy at the time they originally signed up to participate in AXPONA.
“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 this 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 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.”“Open letter to Joel Davis of JD Events”
Calling AXPONA’s Rescheduling Letter into Question
At points throughout the letter, counter-points were offered in response to JD Events March 9 announcement of the rescheduling of the event to August. In that letter, Joel Davis said, “The three most consistent themes we heard [from conversations with exhibitors] were, 1) fears of attending public events will increase in March and April, 2) AXPONA should still be held in 2020, and 3) reschedule later this year if possible.”
But this letter from exhibitors calls some of those points into question. Saying at one point, “Any suggestion that the industry want and broadly support the idea of a show in August is also wide of the mark.”
Neither ‘Reasonable’ Nor ‘Responsible’ to Hold Deposits
The exhibitors’ letter wraps up its arguments saying, “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.”
VTL’s Manley said the solution for JD Events is simple – they should follow the lead of the Munich High-End Show. Munich, he told me, offered exhibitors the choice of applying their deposit from this year to same event next year (with incentives attached, such as juicy discounts)…OR…the option to receive a refund. He tells me that those exhibitors who opted for refunds had their money within 14-days.
Still Waiting for JD Events to Respond
In any event, Manley said this group letter was officially sent to JD Events on Monday, April 20, 2020. As of this writing, he has yet to receive any response – not even so much as an acknowledgment of its receipt.
See the entire “Open letter to Joel Davis of JD Events” at this link…
AXPONA’s original letter rescheduling the Expo from April to August can be found here…
Learn more on AXPONA at www.axpona.com.
* April 26, 2010 – (corrected typo) Changed lower case “c” to capital “C”
** April 26, 2020 – (corrected typo) Changed “Lou” to “Luo”