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The Key to Finding a New Generation of AV Enthusiasts Is Positive Life Experiences

by Jerry Del Colliano June 10, 2022
Positive Life Experiences

Positive Life Experiences

There is nothing that the world of specialty audio/video needs more than some new blood. The audiophile hobby was created by, built by, designed by, bought by, and is still controlled by Baby Boomers, who are getting well into their 70s. Home theater enthusiasts grew in numbers a few decades ago with the consumer rise of technologies like VHS and Dolby 5.1 surround sound. With that said, it has been more than a generation since we’ve had a meaningful influx of new enthusiasts, despite a steep curve in growth when it comes to consumer electronics technology innovation.

There are many reasons why there has not been enough new blood in specialty AV in the last 20 years. AV technologies are often complicated, off-putting and sometimes downright snobby. Women typically love movies and music, but none of the other goofier parts of the hobby, thus they make up only the tiniest fraction of the enthusiast market. The elders who run the audiophile print and establishment consumer electronics magazines simply cannot resist promoting older, lower-resolution technologies, despite meaningful advancements in AV technology including HD streaming of audio, multi-channel surround sound, streaming 4K movies, cheap-bright-thin 4K/8K TVs, and so much more. They want to talk about vinyl (remember, half the dynamics of a mere CD – not an HD file, which is even better … and plenty of that “warmth,” aka sheer physical distortion). There are so many more reasons. Lack of enthusiasm from AV enthusiasts for unlimited streaming music at $15 per month. The antisocial nature of sitting in a dark room searching for your own personal audiophile genius, instead of interacting with others.

 5.5-Costco

BIG Box Stores Lost that Customer Service Experience

The biggest factor for why there aren’t more AV enthusiasts is that people who could “join the club” simply don’t know about the hobby’s benefits. With all due respect to Costco, Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon, they don’t offer much of a “wow” experience in their retail/wholesale/online domains. You simply need to know what AV equipment that you want, and then buy them as if they were not that different than a 32-pack of Cottonelle toilet paper, or a four-pound box of Cheerios. There’s nothing “special” about that audiophile or home theater experience whatsoever. Let’s not let Best Buy off the hook, either. As the only remaining national “big box” electronics retailer, they offer a wide-reaching retail experience led by undertrained and underpaid staff, who will quickly ignore you (introverted Millennials – many of them), before they ask you to check your phone to do your research. Salesmanship is dead at Best Buy, unless you slither away from the blue shirts to the black shirts in the Apple section, as the Apple folk are actual Apple employees (likewise, the people at the Android kiosk actually will help you find a phone). It is an easy contrast to see, albeit a sad one for somebody like me, who remembers the day of showing people something a little better in AV retail. You would be shocked how many times that those people circled back and made the upgrade, but that premise is predicated on the idea that they ever got exposed to the products and experience.

Don’t worry – there is hope.

I have been playing golf since I was eight years old. At this point, I have been blessed to play 73 of the Golf Magazine U.S. Top 100 courses (19 of the Top 20), which has been a hard project to finish during COVID, but one I look forward to finishing off in the summers to come. One of the trips that all golfers worldwide should make is to Pebble Beach, south of Monterey, California. The 17 Mile Drive/Carmel area might be as beautiful as anywhere in the world, and Pebble Beach gives every golf hacker with enough Benjamins in his or her pocket a chance to play a truly epic oceanside, championship-level course. There are other courses to play up there (skip Spanish Bay if you are asking me, but that is a good place to stay at the resort), including Top 100 Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, which has two 18-hole courses (note: MPCC is private, so your pro or you might need to call a local member as a contact).

5-LOneCypress

Pasatiempo just to the north in Santa Cruz, which was Allister Mackenzie’s (designer of Cypress Point, Augusta National, The Valley Club of Montecito and other famous, classic designs) home course, and is a hidden gem if there ever was one in golf. Cypress Point is perhaps the most beautiful course on the parkland property (or on the planet Earth) but it is ultra-exclusive. Unless you know a member and they call in an unaccompanied round for you, this one might just be seen from street.

 1-Pebble-Lexus

At the Pebble Beach lodge, they have a co-marketing arrangement with Lexus that is an amazing perk if you and your significant other go to Carmel for vacation. They have a fleet of very nicely-appointed Lexus cars parked out front of their resort, which you can borrow, like an e-bike at a hippie hotel. The valets make it happen for you, and you don’t need a Hertz or Avis rental agreement to go see Lone Cypress, tour 17 Mile Drive or go to a quaint lunch in downtown Carmel. You can wave to Dirty Harry if you see him as I think he likes Lexi (or is it Lexuses?) … It is all a lot of fun.

3-RolwxClock

Tying the sights, smells and emotions of a world-class golf trip and luxury vacation to your automotive brand loyalty is simply genius, and Lexus isn’t the only uber-luxury brand in on the game. Rolex is another player at Pebble, as well as nearly every other truly famous golf course. Somewhere near the first tee, where tee times might follow a clock, is a tall Rolex outdoor timepiece. While you are on the first tee at Riviera, Pebble Beach, Seminole or Shinnecock in the Hamptons, you will be reminded that Rolex is synonymous with the experience that you are about to have, and that is a good one. Yes, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, and many others wear Rolex, thus if you want to be a champion, you might want to be part of their club. This is all associative marketing, and it is very effective. While I am a Mercedes Benz and Patek Philippe man myself, to this day I have very positive thoughts towards the brands Lexus, Rolex, and Pebble Beach. Those brands won the battle with me in my 30s and, as I spend more as an older man on luxury goods, they own that part of my spending consciousness.

2-SpanishBay

Could Specialty Audio Be Marketed Like This?

Could specialty audio and the audiophile markets “borrow” this genius marketing move? They sure as hell can. Imagine finding out that in the lobby of a resort like Spanish Bay (cool place to stay at Pebble, in terms of a hotel with great restaurants, experiences, view etc.) had a music room, where a full audiophile system was neatly (don’t scare off the wives) installed, calibrated, and outfitted with comfy seats for people to listen to music that maybe could be for sale, too? The audio gear sure is for sale, and could easily be partnered with a local dealer, if for a peak few months at a resort, you could do outreach to people who can afford $1,000 a night for a hotel, $550 per round of golf, and beyond. These are the clients we need in order to make enthusiasts, people who didn’t know that you can lower your blood pressure by listening to Miles Davis for 15 minutes after work. People who may never have experienced high-end audio, like those who go to regional shows, local dealers, and who read every AV website out there.

Beyond hotels, there are other locations that could find targeted yet well-heeled clients. Country clubs, swanky office buildings, FBOs (private jet airports/terminals), schools, the right restaurants, and far beyond.

One of the biggest problems in audio is that the stagnant enthusiast demographic buys quality used AV equipment over and over, thus making the high-end consumer electronics business be a slowly growing part of the overall CE space. Imagine an influx of 5,000 to 10,000 new clients in the United States, who started out with up-market but reasonably-priced AV or audiophile systems, but who are loaded with the memories of that Holiday trip to Fifth Avenue or a swanky stay in Beverly Hills or that once-in-a-lifetime Pebble Beach trip and how audio and video ties in? These people would have a relationship with a top dealer. They will have tasted the finest in audio in a memorable location. They might want more. And “more” (gear, performance, perceived upgrade buzz, etc.) is what drives both the hobby and the business of specialty audio/video.

It is time to think more out of the box. “Flooring” gear can be expensive in terms of financing. Rent is always expensive at one level or another. Traditional audio salons tend to be messy places that are off-putting retail experiences for women and people with interior design sensibilities. It is time to get way more creative. There are more and more people getting filthy rich. 9/11 was when many of them flew private or the first time, and many haven’t seen a traditional airport terminal since. COVID has forced a whole new group of wealthy people to private aviation, and the result is that jet charter and fractional jet ownership companies have run out of planes. Can you imagine running out of stereo tube preamps? That’s a vision that the next generation of AV enthiasists should embrace with everything that they’ve got.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Verdinut posts on July 04, 2022 22:09
HackMan55, post: 1563729, member: 96019
I believe the two biggest barriers to young people being introduced to home audio are money and exposure. I'm not sure many people, regardless of age, know just how much better their sound can be.

I didn't get into it until later in life, when I was about forty. Other than a few friends who were into car audio, I never knew anyone who put much time or effort into audio and had never been exposed to any quality systems. I was content with a sound bar, blissfully ignorant of what I was missing out on.

After I got a job installing satellite, I was working at an install for some rich old farmer. He was more than happy showing off his home theater room and his sound system blew me away. I had never seen or heard anything like it. That night I set about learning what I could to improve the audio in my home.

Now I knew I wouldn't be able to have the same quality set up he had with his expensive and custom gear. But I knew I'd at least be able to make a significant improvement on what I did have.

My employer gave us bonus points for various things that could be used towards different products and services. I had accrued plenty with no real idea of what to use them on. I used them to get all my initial gear, methodically building a 5.1 system. It wasn't (and isn't) high quality stuff but was still a huge improvement over that sound bar. Not only that, but I really enjoyed learning about it. Not knowing anyone I could ask questions to and not being around actual sound systems was a hindrance, but reading and researching and looking around for deals is still a blast.

If I hadn't been routed that job at that guys house, I'd probably have never known what I was missing. And if I didn't have those award points to get my initial gear, I'd have probably gotten overwhelmed by the cost of putting a decent system together.

I've added a few things here and there to that original 5.1 set up (currently running 9.2) but for the most part am still using the same stuff. My home theater system sucks compared to 99% of the people in these forums (why I rarely post, lol)….but is better than 99% of the people I meet in real life. That, along with the fun of learning about it and putting it together, makes it worth the time, attention, and cost the hobby requires.

Sorry for turning a post into a novel.

Yes, you put the nail on some of the main reasons, exposure and money. In my post No. 32 above, my idea of a joint venture between a car dealer and a specialized Hi-Fi and AV equipment store, was to allow exposition to good audio reproduction, since most of the new generations don't even know how can a good Hi-Fi or home theater system system perform, but they buy cars. Most of them have not even assisted to a live acoustic concert. That's quite different from listening to compressed mp3 sound tracks and so on.

As you surely know, for a store to be successful in business, it has to be well located in a community or a city. Exposition is of prime importance. It's unfortunate and the risk that high fidelity sound reproduction at home disappear with the years really exists.
HackMan55 posts on July 04, 2022 21:40
I believe the two biggest barriers to young people being introduced to home audio are money and exposure. I'm not sure many people, regardless of age, know just how much better their sound can be.

I didn't get into it until later in life, when I was about forty. Other than a few friends who were into car audio, I never knew anyone who put much time or effort into audio and had never been exposed to any quality systems. I was content with a sound bar, blissfully ignorant of what I was missing out on.

After I got a job installing satellite, I was working at an install for some rich old farmer. He was more than happy showing off his home theater room and his sound system blew me away. I had never seen or heard anything like it. That night I set about learning what I could to improve the audio in my home.

Now I knew I wouldn't be able to have the same quality set up he had with his expensive and custom gear. But I knew I'd at least be able to make a significant improvement on what I did have.

My employer gave us bonus points for various things that could be used towards different products and services. I had accrued plenty with no real idea of what to use them on. I used them to get all my initial gear, methodically building a 5.1 system. It wasn't (and isn't) high quality stuff but was still a huge improvement over that sound bar. Not only that, but I really enjoyed learning about it. Not knowing anyone I could ask questions to and not being around actual sound systems was a hindrance, but reading and researching and looking around for deals is still a blast.

If I hadn't been routed that job at that guys house, I'd probably have never known what I was missing. And if I didn't have those award points to get my initial gear, I'd have probably gotten overwhelmed by the cost of putting a decent system together.

I've added a few things here and there to that original 5.1 set up (currently running 9.2) but for the most part am still using the same stuff. My home theater system sucks compared to 99% of the people in these forums (why I rarely post, lol)….but is better than 99% of the people I meet in real life. That, along with the fun of learning about it and putting it together, makes it worth the time, attention, and cost the hobby requires.

Sorry for turning a post into a novel.
Teetertotter? posts on July 01, 2022 14:04
AV equipment is a luxury item and can the middle class afford these days?? Then you have the wires to hide or contend with in a NORMAL home/apartment. Speakers to be mounted or not or find best positioning…etc. So called, Hi-FI stores, are the thing of the past. Best Buy sells what the consumer wants most….TV's….Laptops,,,,,etc. Then as someone mentioned, is there a rep that knows anything or try and find one. lol The AV market has not been a huge market for years. What is HT to the public today, as a whole?

When Staz came out in the early 90's with DD, that is when I purchased my first AVR and 4 speakers…..WOW…Big time. Rear speaker wiring was routed via basement joists and up through the rear stud wall. The speakers were from Radio Shack and the AVR from a local Hi-Fi/Communications store. I can't remember where I read about a HT set-up.

Anyway, There is probably only 3% of the Adult population interested in HT. Big TV and sound bar these days. Low Budget. My wife can care less with my basement HT set-up. As long as she has her 55" with no sound bar…….she is happy in the living room. lol We are now in our 3rd smaller ranch home, retired , since 2008.
jeffca posts on June 20, 2022 17:23
Dude, I think you are tripping… and not in a good way.

If you are thinking that the industry is going to start making equipment that costs around $10K per unit and get young enthusiasts to buy it, you have lost your mind.

Some of the best audio gear on the planet is quite reasonably priced. That is what the audio press should be promoting… high ROI equipment rather stuff that costs a lot.
Golfx posts on June 17, 2022 10:25
There isn’t a single source for leadership to recruit new audio enthusiasts. Perhaps industry at large could form a recruitment committee made up and resourced by a combination of media, large online dealers, music sources, CODEC licensers, equipment manufacturers with one simple driving goal of recruiting new souls. Initiatives could be simple jargon free beginners guides—written and YouTube. With edited agreed upon beginners guides all saying the same thing our hobby may be less intimidating. Advertising initiatives to the young crowd about the sound advantage of using better equipment. Short pertinent spots on “the” current social media of choice. Again, an organized inclusive leadership source could leverage different perspectives and potential income streams. We don’t have that now. We seem driven by Dolby and then resulting new AV toys and music to sell. Why not organize “all” of it to just simply recruit new audio enthusiasts and then it may create a high tide that will lift all boats.
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