The Cultivation of Users

The A&V Festa 2004 will be held this year from September 22 to 25 at Minatomirai in Yokohama. Access to the site has become very convenient with the opening of the Minatomirai Line, and in view of these advantageous conditions, expectations are running high. This year our long-sought wish for free admission has been realized, so we hope that the range of visitors will broaden. I am looking forward to the event very much.

I have called for free admission in this column on previous occasions. Admission to the festa’s predecessor, the Audio Fair, was free at first, and it enjoyed a golden age. But then it was decided that admission fees should be charged. One of the reasons for this move was the rather arrogant opinion that “kids are noisy,” and admission fees were slapped on children as well. Those kids are now in their thirties, which means that they are the core of today’s audiovisual market.

I carried out a survey at the time and found that the admission fees plus eating expenses plus transport expenses placed a considerable burden on the visitor. The industry itself created a situation in which even if people wanted to go to the Audio Fair, they could not afford it. And I would go as far as to say that this developed into the argument that the fair itself was useless. Moreover, despite the fact that we are now living in a borderless age, the Japan Audio Society before we knew it transformed into a closed village community and fell into a complete state of blockage, as a result of which the event itself was cancelled in 2002. It resumed in 2003 as the A&V Festa, which turned out to be a success.

Let us think for a moment about this question of free admission. Some people have expressed the shallow view that free admission is a handicap in terms of financial affairs and revenue, but look at the well-known events around us that have been successful, like the International Audio Show, the Hi-End Show Tokyo, and the Vacuum Tube Audio Fair. They all have free admission.

Furthermore, the revenue of around 8 million yen from admission fees is actually almost completely offset by the related expenses that are required for such jobs as ticket design, printing, delivery, gates for the collection of admission fees and checking of tickets, personnel costs for part-time staff and security guards, and so on. Indeed, the cost of admission fees might well be greater than the revenue. Management that thinks only of revenue cannot survive and, when one considers the management environment in the last few years, is quite impossible.

What is the true meaning of free admission? We must firmly understand this significance and make it a universal concept over the next decade.

The chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (JAMA) recently announced that from this year admission to the Tokyo Motor Show would be free for children up to and including senior high school students. The main reasons, he said, were the need to respond to the declining birthrate and cultivate users.

In contrast, some related persons might wonder why the A&V Festa has made admission free for everyone, but the dimension is entirely different. The society’s event went as far as having to be cancelled. For a company, that would be the same as going bankrupt. The most important thing now is to attract as many people to the event as possible and to give visitors the opportunity to see, listen, and touch the A&V equipment on display. The cultivation of users who have a firm understanding of our industry is more important than anything else and is the real meaning behind free admission.

Our industry only exists because of the users. It is important to stage a lively event that attracts people of all generations, providing children with big dreams and adults with dreams, relaxation, and nostalgia. In this sense, we must devote the utmost effort to developing this concept of the cultivation of users and put it into practice in a planned manner over the next decade. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that whether or not we take advantage of free admission depends on our approach to this concept.