Simplification, costs of manufacturing locally, and being green
The problems of perception and value
That old dead horse: the high cost of HiFi
...And a chance to win a $1000 pair of Epos speakers!
In Part 1 I focused on the goals of Mike Garner's site, LocalHiFiShop.com and his online marketing tips. In Part 2, I want to delve a little deeper into how these goals translate into also being green. Obviously buying local is green because it reduces shipping pollution, ensures that employees are treated fairly, and that local environmental protections are adhered to. Below are some questions that address the impact of these goals.
Again, Mr. Garner was a treasure-trove of good advice. His site, is too, by the way. I signed up only recently and I’ve already learned several things about marketing my own site that I had completely overlooked. At the end of this post, I also include a link to his contest for a brand new set of speakers. So here we go for part 2 of the interview...
Q. Mr. Garner, Hi-Fi is often more about simplifying things, such as the notion of sound quality over features. Likewise, Hi-Fi has a growing interest in getting back to basics, such as analog, and smaller, such as headphones. This could be seen in contrast to complicated techy stuff like SEO and grand online marketing strategies. How do you bridge that gap when talking to people in audio?
A. Most business owners are painfully aware of the internet, marketing and their need to employ both in the right way to grow their business. With LHFS, I give businesses tools and information to help them help themselves at least in the online world. If they are too busy to handle it themselves, I can help them with their SEO and online marketing campaigns, but that then involves me as a consultant.
Q. There is a growing concern that manufacturers put profits over sound quality. This is reflected by moving manufacturing to countries with lower standards to cut costs. Buying local, is great but it also raises costs, which impedes growth. What can/should be done to level the playing field so that local businesses can compete?
A. I think that customers are becoming wise to the pitfalls of buying inexpensive, commoditized gear that has limited or no representation after the sale. They are becoming more conscious of the benefits of buying local through the food they eat, and the services they use. They are willing to pay a premium if they like the local dealer, and that dealer provides a genuine service before, during and after the sale. I have experienced this first hand.
I agree that it does seem that we as audiophiles and the industry have lost our way a bit in terms of chasing technology and bling over the magic of the experience that listening to music can be. We need to find our center once again..
Q. Environmentally-friendly design in consumer electronics usually boils down to emphasizing low energy consumption. Other topics that receive less media attention are the sourcing of rare materials, toxicity, industrial waste, and labor issues in the factories. These can have a real impact on product quality as well, although that isn’t always something the manufacturers know. Do you have any suggestions on how Local Hi-Fi Shop could help inform people about these other issues?
A. Sure, you can help our readers become aware of the manufacturers who are making efforts to build more energy efficient and people/earth friendly products. It's something I think many will embrace once they are made aware.
Q. People in the Hi-Fi industry seem to live by the mantra that “if the rest of the world could just hear the improvement that…”. I’m worried that this notion isn’t enough to bring more people to Hi-Fi; and it certainly seems to me that this hasn’t done much good so far. What more can be done to bring new people to Hi-Fi?
A. Talking about it certainly isn't enough, I agree.
Think about how you became an audiophile. For me it was experiencing music reproduced on a decent audio system that wouldn't even be considered high end. For me, I was about 12 and it was a JVC Super A integrated amp, a Technics turntable and Electro Voice home loudspeakers. The music was Magic Man by Heart. I was blown away by how clear the sound was. I had to have more. That was my start.
SHARING the experience is key, and it is something we ALL must do, especially since there are fewer audio stores today to give such demos than there were in my younger days. Audiophiles, Audio societies, local manufacturers etc. we all have a responsibility to share what makes us feel so good about listening to music.
Q. Larger and heavier speakers, cables, amps, etc., are traditionally considered to have a bigger and better sound. That said, the current trend is to make products that are smaller, leaner and more agile, and the Hi-Fi industry is caught in the middle. What technologies do you see that can bridge that gap?
A. I'm not sure that is the trend. I frequently see ever more expensive, technologically dependent, and extravagant audio gear being made. There is a handful of what I call craft manufacturers who aren't aiming for their products to become status symbols, but rather producing really good sounding gear with a limited budget in mind. Zu and Blumenstein Audio come to mind as having this ethos.
As far as technologies that can and are bridging the gap, class D amplification has come a long way in sound quality. It is very energy efficient, and can sound really good with the right system.
Q. Much of Hi-Fi is expensive, some of it extremely so, with diminishing returns as the price rises. This limits the number of potential buyers, but increases the rewards for the manufacturer or vendor that wins the sale. As such, this then creates greater demand for higher priced Hi-Fi and the cycle feeds itself. As ostentatious living is becoming less and less acceptable, how can Hi-Fi adapt?
A. It's funny you say that, one of my friends recently posted a blog on this very subject, and had some very insightful comments. He is young and the industry should be listening to voices like his. I think By meeting non audiophiles where they are at, being positive and supportive, and being able to offer a good demo will go a long way towards growing this hobby. Remember, it is the experience that gives one the bug to become more discerning about sound quality. Not dialogue, or pretty pictures of expensive gear. Also remember that some people simply won't connect, and that's okay too.
Well I hope this was informative. Of course, there is much more useful information on Mr. Garner’s LocalHiFiShop site. Yes, there are many sites that offer SEO and marketing advice, but they are seldom industry specific. LocalHiFiShop is tailored specifically for the HiFi community, and that's definitely a plus. And if that wasn't enough of an incentive, here's one more: Mr. Garner is giving away a great pair of Epos Elan 10 speakers, valued at $1000. The more you contribute to the site, the more chances you have, heck you even get an entry just for signing in the first time.