November 2001

The End of the Road

This year's Audio Expo closed its doors having attracted only about 130,000 visitors. This time the number of participating manufacturers was also small, and the mood was as though the Audio Expo had reached the end of the road. In particular, when they saw a variety of distinguished service awards being handed out at the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony, many people seemed aware that an age had come to an end.

Times are changing rapidly. The expo and the Japan Audio Society that run it so conservatively, like an extension of the lively fairs of the 1980s, have been left behind by the passing of time. It is probably impossible to expect much support from users any longer.

So, what should we do? Unfortunately, I do not have an answer. As long as we stick to an expo carrying the name of audio and with its contents, it is likely to shrink in scale. The addition of various "band aids" as a kind of emergency measure will have little impact on attracting people to the expo.

I believe that the current conditions were brought about by the JAS's basic philosophy. There seems to be a gap that is hard to fill between what the users think and what the JAS and the Audio Expo do.

What is wrong? In a nutshell, the problem is how they view their customers. The JAS's perception of customers is limited to those who are in front of their eyes right now. Over the last decade there has been absolutely no awareness that children are going to grow up and then support the audio industry.

Looking at the present situation, I recalled that I had written about the JAS in this very column 15 years ago. Then I was furious about the mistake they had made in deciding to charge an entrance fee to high-school students. With reference to an Aesopsユ fable I wrote that they would feel the blow and eventually face their day of reckoning. The tale tells the story of an old man who lived in a house with a big garden. While he was having a nap one day, children got into the garden and ran around, making a big commotion. The old man told them that noise was bad for the garden, and then he blocked up the hole in the wall through which the children had entered. Now the old man was able to nap in a silent garden. But he gradually felt worse and worse, and the plants and trees in the garden also lost their vigor. As he was asking himself why, the old man realized that it was due to the children's absence. So he opened up the hole in the wall again. The children came rushing back in and started to play, the garden sprang life again, and the old man felt better.

What I emphasized here was that charging entrance fees from children who are our future was like blocking up the wall. I complained, saying that we were all children before. From my research at that time, it became clear that the decision was taken to regulate their entrance because a lot of children were coming to the expo. It was a decision that did not take the passing of time into consideration.

The ability to make children dream is one of the beauties of audio and music. The things that make us dream do not fade even when we become adults. And not only that. When we become adults, we are imperceptibly drawn back to the world of our youth.

It is probably no exaggeration to say that, given the law of cause and effect, the present situation has arisen because right from the start neither the JAS nor its fairs or expos took either the users or the passing of time into consideration. Giving children something to dream about, that is also what time is about. If it does not start from that point and move forward determinedly, the Audio Expo is not going to prosper. The absence of users destroys everything. We must bring the conservative status quo to an end.