UPDATE: Now a Much Larger Group of AXPONA Exhibitors are Calling for Its Cancellation

AXPONA crowd

Strata-gee reported last week that a group of 20 exhibitors had written an open letter to petition Joel Davis of JD Events – the producer of the AXPONA high-end audio show – calling for the cancellation of that event. The exhibitors making that call included some of the more prominent names in the specialty audio community – and their argument for a cancellation was well-articulated in their petition.

Now, several dozen more exhibitors have joined that original group to also call for its cancellation.

See the expanding list of exhibitors calling for AXPONA to be canceled…

When I first learned of this story last week, a couple of elements really jumped out at me. First, the petition itself was extremely well written and made a logical and seemingly solid case for why it made sense to cancel AXPONA for 2020. This show, a top annual event in the specialty audio segment, had already been rescheduled from April to August due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 continuing, cancellation makes sense.

The second element that caught my attention was the actual names on that list of exhibitors. They are all well-known, but a couple of them I know personally, and they are not the type of people who would frivolously join in some random gambit just for the fun of it. In my experience, they would only join such an effort after careful, sober, and thoughtful consideration.

Key Points of the Letter of Petition

In their petition, the original group of 20 exhibitors argued two key reasons why it made sense to simply cancel AXPONA for 2020. As we said last week:

“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.”

Group of 20 Prominent Exhibitors Call on Producer of AXPONA to Cancel Event
Live concert at a past AXPONA
Music is a big part of AXPONA with live concert performances [Click to enlarge]

You can read the entire petition letter here…

Original Petitioners

Here then is the list of the original 21 folks representing 20 companies/exhibitors that first signed that open letter to JD Events:

  • 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

Striking a Nerve

Strata-gee’s story on this AXPONA petition posted last week was the top story of the week (and of the SYNCH newsletter, as well). It has also gone on to become one of the top stories of the month, and is still drawing strong daily page views.

In an email this weekend, the key organizer of the petition, Luke Manley, said he was “…very appreciative of the reach of Strata-gee in this.” He shared that since Strata-gee’s story ran, many more people have come forward asking that their names be added to that petition. Clearly, Luke’s letter has touched a nerve…

More Come Forward to Sign the Petition

Another 63 people representing 56 companies – for a total of 76 AXPONA exhibitors – are now signatories of the petition to JD Events. These new signatories are:

  • Jim White, Aesthetix
  • Daniele Coen & Paola Arduini, Alsyvax Audio
  • Peter Wellikoff, Andover Audio
  • Cristian Anelli, Aqua Hi Fi
  • Ralph Karsten, Atmasphere
  • Frank Van Alstine, Audio by Van Alstine
  • Dave Gordon, Audio Research
  • John-Paul Lizars, Aurender USA
  • Conrad Mas, Avid
  • Zoltan Bay, Bays Audio
  • Bob Visintainer, Rhapsody Audio
  • Kurt Denke, Blue Jeans Cable
  • Jay Rein, BlueBird Music
  • Rob Robinson, Channel D
  • Lou Hinkley, Daedalus
  • Andy Regan, Dan Clark Audio
  • Vinh Vu, Ginko Audio
  • David Kasab, David Michael Audio
  • Greg Hovsepian, DH Labs
  • Sebastian Schmidt, Goya Acoustics
  • Paul Manos, High Fidelity Services
  • Amelia Santos, Nuno Vitorino, Innuos
  • George Vatchnadze, Kyomi Audio
  • Brian Tucker, Lateral Audio Stands
  • Adam Johnson, Brian Kane, Madisound
  • Jeremy Bryan, MBL North America
  • Mike McGary, McGary Audio
  • Merrill Wettasinghe, Merrill Audio
  • Dan Wright, Modwright
  • Drew Baird, Moon Audio
  • Carl & 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
  • Ze’ev Schlik, Pure Audio Project
  • John Stratton, Pure Fidelity
  • Dave Thomson, Raven Audio
  • Roger Gibboni, Rogers High Fidelity
  • Chris Seymour, Seymour Screen Excellence
  • Caelin Gabriel, Grant Samuelsen, Shunyata Research
  • Donna Bodinet, Christan Griego, Sota Turntables
  • Mark Gurvey, Source Systems
  • Clayton Shaw, Spacial Audio Lab
  • Paul Wakeen, Stillpoints
  • Tony Crocker, Swan Song Audio
  • Dan Eakins, SweetVinyl
  • Stephen Daniels, The Sound Organization
  • Francisco Jileta, Eliseo Vega, Troy Audio
  • Kevin Deal, Upscale Audio
  • Richard Vandersteen, Vandersteen Audio
  • Njoo Hoo Kong, Venture BVBA
  • Inés Adler, VOXATIV
  • Mat Weisfeld, VPI Industries
  • Daniel Weiss, Weiss Engineering Ltd
  • Jeff Wells, Wells Audio

List of Petitioners Gets Longer, Still No Response Received

It is hard to imagine that JD Events can ignore a petition of such magnitude. The AXPONA website lists a total of 386 exhibitors, so this petition accounts for nearly 20% of all exhibitors. Manley told me that so far, he has only had one negative response from other exhibitors with whom he’s communicated. He believes more will ultimately join the petition.

AXPONA headphones display

As of now, Joel Davis has yet to respond to the group. However, interestingly, he has written a letter about the situation to another website, the well-respected Enjoy the Music which is run by Steven Rochlin. Rochlin reported on the group of exhibitors’ petition and sent a message to Davis with some additional questions, which was not originally responded to.

Davis Responds to Enjoy the Music

Then late last week, Rochlin received an email from Davis that was a form of a response. In this response, Davis said with a touch of defiance, “I don’t think it is necessary for me to be immediately reactive to a petition letter. Nor does it make sense to provide answers to a few select questions to be published without the opportunity to elaborate on the full context of the current situation…which is complicated and changes daily”

Then sounding a little defensive, Davis’s letter wants us to “appreciate how much blood, sweat and tears [that] go into producing AXPONA from the JDE team.” He adds, “…our event management company is being totally devastated by the bans on large gatherings and we are fighting for our own survival.”

No solution is offered by Davis but he wraps up by saying, “we will continue to do the best we can to support the audio industry…”

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

Comments

UPDATE: Now a Much Larger Group of AXPONA Exhibitors are Calling for Its Cancellation — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Ted,
    As of today, the exhibitor count requesting cancellation is 87 and climbing daily. I expect it to hit 100 shortly. While I appreciate Joel’s frustration, in all due respect, everyone is going through very challenging times. None of us ever expected to be fighting for our survival no less the health and safety of our families and staff. It’s naive to assume we can continue functioning as normal. It’s far too dangerous to have an event like this while the pandemic is still spreading.
    Best,
    Peter

  2. April 30, 2020

    Dear AXPONA Community;

    It is with heartfelt disappointment but concern for the health and safety of all AXPONA participants that we announce today the official cancellation of AXPONA 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. We thank everyone who had committed to making the 2020 event into what would have been the largest and most attended AXPONA in history. Although there remains over three months until our August dates, we do not feel 100% confident that we can provide a safe environment for all of our customers and press to network and do business in Schaumburg by that date.

    We are reaching out directly to exhibitors, sponsors and attendees this morning with further details. These are enormously challenging times for everyone’s personal and business lives but let us stay strong, caring and united. The industry will come through this together and it will be a better and safer world on the other side. We look forward to hosting a celebratory AXPONA for the ages when we all meet again in 2021.

    Sincerely,

    Joel A. Davis
    Founder & CEO
    JD Events

  3. JDE appears to be in contravention of their contract, which clearly provides for refund after their decision to cancel, and not rollover of a “portion” of payments made (payments were made in full in January 2020 and will have been held for more than 15 months by April 2021).

    We are currently at over 100 exhibitors in the group now, and we intend to continue to organize to work as a group to convince JDE that their best option is to make us whole.

    Any registered Axpona exhibitor who wants to join the group should email me directly at lmanley@vtl.com so that we can keep interested exhibitors informed of how we can all work together to achieve this goal.

    Luke Manley, VTL

  4. JD Events Letter to Exhibitors and Sponsors posted on Stereophile

    Dear AXPONA Exhibitors and Sponsors;

    We at AXPONA wish you all the very best during these COVID-19 disrupted times. We care most about the health and safety of you and your loved ones. So many businesses are hurting, the future is unpredictable, opinions are mixed and emotions on all sides are strong. Ultimately we must err on the side of caution and the concern for human safety so it is with a heavy heart for us to announce that AXPONA 2020 has been cancelled.

    We know everyone is hurting right now. Many businesses in many industries are being hammered by the impact of this pandemic. JDE in particular is facing a financial calamity due to the disastrous impact on tradeshows. So I need to be transparent with you about the current position of JD Events and AXPONA:

    JDE does not carry business interruption insurance that covers communicable diseases. In fact I am not aware of any US organizers that do. So our losses are not covered.
    We are not a public company, owned by a venture fund, a large media firm or a trade association with deep pockets. We are a small privately held business, operating shows in two other industries which, like AXPONA, are both in peril. Like many of you we are applying for the PPP and disaster relief loans available through the SBA for a temporary lifeline as well as pursuing all other avenues of raising capital.
    High end audio shows are not highly profitable. To do them right they are cost and manpower intensive undertakings. That is why you have never seen a large tradeshow organizer invest in building a show to serve the needs of this industry. JDE however chose to invest boldly in the outlier idea of building a world-class event comparable to Munich in North America.
    We made large investments in multi-platform attendee marketing campaigns, signed a long-term commitment to make the Schaumburg venue AXPONA’s permanent home, hired professional and passionate full-time event management staff, developed and deployed customer satisfaction programs, and so much more that goes on behind the scenes at JDE, all designed to create the best possible customer experience and ROI environment for our exhibitors. We have not yet come close to recouping those investments
    Our exhibit space contract language does not obligate JDE to pay refunds if the event is cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control. The pandemic could not have hit JDE at a worse time. Virtually all deposit monies were spent on producing and marketing the April show, including salaries, overhead and other service providers. Due to the havoc wrecked upon AXPONA and our entire business, JDE is simply not in a position to pay out refunds.

    I know everyone would like specific answers now but we need some time to fully assess the current damage to JDE and to pursue additional sources of funding to help us bridge the gap to 2021 and beyond. Over the next several weeks we will be devising a plan for all 2020 exhibitors to rebook their same space, advertising and sponsorship positions in the 2021 event by rolling a portion of their 2020 deposits forward. The amount that we can offer to roll forward will depend on our ability to strengthen our financial position in the weeks to come.

    There are no easy decisions in this time. JDE has let good people go and slashed salaries in order to stay afloat. We are deeply invested in and committed to this industry long-term. I hope you appreciate my candor even if you don’t like what you hear and we hope you are willing to work with us as all industry stakeholders must do in hard times. Even though this is a time when we are required to be distant from each other I believe in the long run that this experience will bring us closer together.

    On a positive note, we are excited by the response to the “AXPONA Livestream” event on what would’ve been our April 17 opening day. We plan to conduct more virtual events in the coming months to keep the community connected and to provide value at no charge to our exhibitors during this down time.

    It remains our pleasure to serve this great industry. Thank you all for your understanding and your support.

    Sincerely,

    Joel A. Davis
    Founder & CEO
    JD Events

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