RMAF 2013 - An Exhibitors perspective.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013 from an Exhibitors perspective.

See the steps and gyrations that a Manufacturer has to go through for a Audio show. This was from the Rocky Mountain Audio show, 2013, Show report.

A show, a show, lets do a show. Well not so fast, who will be having all the fun and what do I get out of a show? Here is a a documentary on the RMAF 2013, with how Merrill Audio does the preparations, the choices and details of the show.

9 months before the RMAF 2013, everyone was calling and asking if Merrill Audio would be at the show. That put some pressure to be there! Did the show organizers hire a team of telemarketeers to call Merrill Audio up to put the pressure on him? I highly doubt that but it is easy to make up conspiracy theories for those of you that like conspiracy theories.

6 months before the show was the New York Audio Show. Lets focus on that before the RMAF 2013. Now if shows were all we had to do, life would be easy. However there are existing orders to get out, vendors to negotiate, new products to develop, marketing, strategies to set up, people to meet and lunches to be had. Pondering all of this over a good cigar after the New York Audio show, the decision was to focus next on the Capital Audio Fest - that was in August.

3 months before RMAF, ok, we are going to RMAF 2013 but how shall we do this. Well perhaps Channel D will be fun to share room with. Over several hundred beers, plans and relationships are foumulated and it is decided - RMAF 2013, here we come.

Deciding what to display was easy. VERITAS, Pure Vinyl, SETA - wait we need speakers. Lets call a few Speaker guys and see what will work best. We will also have to try them out. Lets have some friends help us out also. After a lot of help and listening, we settle on speakers from Andrew Jones, Father of the TAD Speakers. Andrew will be loaning the fabulous Evolution One Speakers to us. Phew. That is settled.

Logistics - Airlines, hotel, Shipping, Components, Cables, power cords, signs, logos, advertising, people, timing, brochures, stands, tables, table cloths, lighting, absorbers, bass traps, plants - did we forget anything, oh yes, beer. No wait, how will we get the boxes open if the hammer and screwdriver is in the box? Ok, bring it with us in our carry on and get strip searched at the airport. The solution is to check in the luggage with the hammer and screwdriver. That works. Anything else we missed? Room scents (but not too strong), banners for the balcony, retractable banners, equipment stands, extension cords, long interconnects - and the list goes on and on and on. If 1 item is forgotten, it will take a good chunk of precious set up time to get a replacement. So good planning is important.

2 weeks before the show. The new Brochures don’t look good. There isn’t sufficient time to get the reprint before the crates are shipped off, so the reprint is shipped directly to the show.

1.5 weeks before the show. Time to take all show items to be crated with show partner Channel D at the their worldwide headquarters. Opps forgot the stands. Another long drive to do get that for the crates.

1 week before the show. The trucker to pick up the crates does not show up. WHATTTT!!! Many phone calls later by Channel D and 2 days later, the shipper sends another truck which shows up to get the crates. Now hope it gets to Denver on time!

2 days before the show. After checking and rechecking, the lists, I get on the plane to Denver. It is Wednesday and I plan to see a old friend and get ready for the mile high city.

1 Day - Thursday, before Show. There is a lot to do today and the weight of it wakes me up early. I pick up my partner, Rob Robinson and his wife at the airport, and hope all the crates are in the room when we get there. Even though expected we are surprised and relived that all the boxes are in the room. That was good news but the speakers are not there. Who needs speakers when the VERITAS Monoblocks are so good! Andrew Jones comes through rolling the speakers in large boxes to our room and set up begins at 12pm approximately on Thursday.

Unpacking all the boxes is fun, but trying to get everything placed in a very tight space is no fun. An to top it off - the plants for 2 rooms came in. It was a jungle in there, a tropical jungle with 4 palm trees.

The unpacking starts from 3 large crates, 8 boxes and 2 speakers totaling over 2,000 pounds of audio stuff. A sweaty 2 hours later, we have everything out of the crates and boxes but all over the place. The options for storing the crate is to have the shipping company store it or store it in the room. If the shipping company stores it, it will be a while before it comes back at packing time on Sunday. Onto the balcony goes the crates and all the other boxes.

Now that the crates are out, we can unpack the 200 pound speakers. How do you lift those speakers out of the box without spoiling their fabulous finish. Lets call Andrew Jones. He know, and he not only lends his strong mind but also his strong back. Beautiful speakers.

Slowly the setup begins, first by separating the items, then starting with the back of the room, each item is set up in the approximate positions. Cabling is installed, power cords are laid down, table cloths, bass traps, room treatments, banners, backdrops all set up. Now the detailed arrangements begin like a jigsaw puzzle. With everything in place, everything is plugged in and viola, music. Now for the fine tuning. How long does it take you to set up your audio room. Well it is now 4pm and we have to set up the room before 9am tomorrow when the press starts to roll in. The moving and shifting begins and by 6pm, the room sounds decent and for the most part the room is setup. Some cleaning but set up. This is the fastest the room was set up for the sound aspect . This was in partly due to the room treatments and partly due to the speakers, partly due to the great VERITAS Monoblocks and Channel D Pure Vinyl running through the clean Lynx Hilo DAC. Also included was the SETA D and the AMG turntable.

Now that the room was generally set up, we head to the Exhibitors get together, yes competitors meeting other competitors. After working the hand muscles, we now get to work our facial muscles. Besides, we were tried from all that lifting and shoving from 12pm to 6pm. Remember us technical people are not used to heavy lifting, so our arms are tired and not from flying.

After a few glasses of wine and out we went for a dinner with some other exhibitors from Germany. Time to let loose a bit. By 10pm, we were cooked and head to our beds.

Day of Show - Friday. RMAF 2013 show opens. Quickly we tidy up the room and put on our best smiles and best music on. Fortunately the system sounds excellent which we all get into with a nice selection of music tracks. We start impressing the visitors with the dynamics of the system, how clean the whole system sounds and also the detail and staging.. Chatting with visitors to the room is fun. Playing different pieces and answering many, many, many, many questions for the visitors keeps us busy and we lose track of time. Before you know it, 6pm rolls in, lunch is history but dinner is now an eager event for us. Andrew Jones (TAD), Steve Marsh (6 Moons), Mike Nicoletti (Lynx), Rob Robinson (Channel D), Claudia (Channel D) and myself (Merrill Audio). The restaurant is crowed, the meal is expensive and decent, a bit overpriced. Regardless, we enjoy and retire for another day.

2nd day of show - Saturday. RMAF 2013 arrives and we are a little slower. I am up early to respond to emails from the prior 2 days, get some other design work on the way, confirm meetings, check orders and production. The show opens and Friday repeats with more crowds.

The evening ends at 6pm after we have been on our feet for 2 full days so far. A foot massage would be good or perhaps some strong beer. We head out for dinner, tired of standing. We enjoy simple, very spicy Thai dinner that wakes us up sufficiently to engage in conversation of the days events. It is 10pm and we head to our respective beds.

3rd day of Show - Sunday. RMAF 2013. This is the closing day. I wake up early, visiting all the rooms I had promised to stop by the day before. It is early so a strong latte is in order as I head to the promised rooms, chatting with familiar faces along the way, I engaged in several conversations along the way. The show starts and the day is repeated until 4pm when the show closes. We have signed up for a 9pm Crate pickup. Hence we are under the gun to work very fast or we will miss this pickup. Having the first pickup means getting the boxes shipped first which means getting all the items back in about a week in our home office. Starting with the biggest items, we packed the TAD E1 speakers and rolled them to the TAD room where Andrew Jones was still listening to music. He was in no hurry and decided not to let this show end. We took a listen and then raced back to the bar. Ohhh yes, we needed a bottle of wine to help us pack. I stopped to talk to Patrick Dillion from HifiZine and his buddy. Well that took a while and I was then interrupted with a call from the room, asking me to get back there pronto. Slacker. The others miscalculated my contribution upon my return. Instead of just packing, I was also drinking the wine, so less wine for them. But I had a delicious dark chocolate, almond, cherry bar that was made in Boulder, CO which made up for the reduced wine.

8pm rolls around and the 3 crates are packed, 6 bass traps, 12 wall absorbers, tables and chairs all sent back and pictures back on the wall. We did it. Exhausted we walked out the room heading to dinner only to run in to Michael Fremmer in the lobby. At least the conversation was light hearted and he joined us for dinner at the local Thai restaurant after 30 minutes in the lobby. A few beers and a Pad Kee Mao later we all parted company. Rob Robinson and Michael Fremmer walked back to the hotel while I drove the lazier crowd back to the hotel.

Although the show had ended, this was not the end for us. Once back home we would have to unpack the bags, wait for the equipment to arrive, unpack the crates, catch up on emails, ramp up production, get orders shipping, finish the new designs and follow up with all the show conversations.
That will take another month at least to get back on schedule.

Till the RMAF 2014, I am home with a firm schedule. That is if it is not interrupted by AXPONA. Got to start planning for AXPONA. Does this spinning wheel ever end? It was a great time, wonderful friends and new people to meet. See you at RMAF 2014 or perhaps AXPONA.

Links with pictures.
Well written and spot on, these things are exhausting and expensive.

We are in the midst of preparing for THE Show in January.

Good listening,

I was at the show and had a wonderful time. I don't thinkus consumers realize how much work goes into it for vendors. Thanks for this explanation of what you guys go thru. Hope to see you next year
A greatful consumer
Thanks for your report. So it's not all beer and skittles?

I sympathize with anyone trying to run a small business these days. It is brutal.

Do you have evidence that the shows result in enough increased business to make doing the shows profitable?
Tomcy6, I liked your point and your question +1 from me
One has no idea of what is involved until doing a show. Although I have assisted some of my suppliers with setup for THE Show in Las Vegas, having a room at Axpona this year for my business was a first, and an exhausting one at that, even though much of the equipment was relatively small. Perhaps being a glutton for punishment, we will have a large room and big, heavy speakers at Axpona next year and started planning for it months ago. Fortunately it looks as though we'll have plenty of assistance, but it always falls on one person's shoulders in the end. That said, we're very stoked.
What if your point? That you work?
I spoke to Kevin Hayes of VAC and he said that RMAF generates no new business for them. He is thinking of the Munich show next year even though that would be a major hassle
I appreciate your long dissertation of the RMAF2013 setup & all the trials & tribulations that go with it but.......
dude, ALL (or atleast most) of us work just as hard in our respective jobs. you are not the only one. You chose this line of work & this is what it takes to get out there so that you can pedal your wares. In my line of work we have people wining & dining the end customer, flying out to partners to understand specs & next generation products, lots of video conf call with the external customer, sometimes a face-face with the senior VP explaining why we missed the market window & how that won't happen again (or we'll be unceremoniously fired & find ourselves striping the parking lot!), etc.
Each of us in our respective industry has to do what it takes to be out there so that consumers are aware of our respective product(s) & that our resp. products take the as large as possible of the consumer's mind-share.
in the end I have to go with Goldenear1948's comment - "what's your point? That you work"
Stop whining & get to work!
I hope the last post was a light hearted attempt at humor.

For me, I enjoyed reading what it takes to set up and participate in the shows. I didn't interpret it as whining but informative. And I like that manufacturers, reviewers and consumers all participate on Audiogon.

When a show comes somewhere close to the Los Angeles area, I will try to attend.


I agree with you. I did NOT get whining. Some people just like to interpret everything with a half-empty glass.

What I got was a tiny glimpse of what manufacturers have to go through to put on a show. I think they deserve more respect and more patience and understanding if they are not always operating at 100% cheerful capacity. They have already put on a heroic effort before the show starts and are not done when it ends. Putting on a show is energy draining especially if you have to deal with too many people who always have a half-empty glass.

FYI, Are you familiar with T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach? The next one is probably in June 2014. Check it out if you want a killer, local show.
Sounds like hard work but great fun. Better than working in a silent office all damn day.
T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach in June 2014? I am there.

Thanks Don s

UA100K, I guess I won't see you as I only go to CES.
Thank you every one for the wonderful comments and the get to work comments.

Each show is extremely enjoyable and the excitement of the show builds up sufficient adrenaline that you don't feel it till you get home. Even then it is a sigh of how much fun it was.

As always, there are new friends made, customers earned, and business exchanges. On of the best benefits of the show is renewing acquaintances, putting a face to online names and of course the side effect the business. I use to work in the corporate world and know what it is like out there. However I left the corporate world when I stopped enjoying it. This is what I now enjoy, along with all the hard, enjoyable work.

On the question of business. Show are mostly indirect business nowadays. It is relationship building and trust to be there at shows. Otherwise there is a lot less relationship with the customer. As slight as this would seem, it is important to have a relationship and to get feedback on product, service and competition, even perception, since this is one that is very difficult to manage in the short term. While business is not always paid off at the show it self, consistency does pay off as I know one of my partners who had, after 40 years in the business, a very large sale for the first time at the show. For some this is the main objective of the show. For others the objective is relationships and trust.

There used to be a lot fewer shows and easier to manage. I believe smart customers and vendors are now picking their shows. If there is too many window shippers and tire kickers, it is hard to tend to the real questions and relationships. Hence smaller shows or audio only shows are what I am focused on. Hence Jwm, while you are a true audiophile, I won't see you at CES, perhaps at Newport or Axpona.

My favorite encounter was a potential customer who lives in Hawaii, communicating with me 6 months prior, show up at RMAF and we get to meet. I went to University of Hawaii, hence the sentimental touch here.

Last point, this is just a fun piece I thought I would share. It really had no point other than to relate a summary of the activities for a view from the other side. Although there were several good questions raised from this.

As Steve Rocklin would say, Enjoy the Music!
I didn't decipher the Ops post as a 'my work is so painstakingly difficult and I work so many hours'. I think he was letting us know what it's like to be an exhibitor, hence the subject title.

Thanks for sharing. Sounds like fun.