Two Shows for Southern California in 2017!

You read that correctly. 2017 will see the advent of two, potentially competing high-end audio shows, located just 35 miles and several congested freeways apart in Southern California. The first, the new Los Angeles Audio Show (LAAS), will take place June 2–4 in the Sheraton Gateway LAX, and is produced "in collaboration with the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society" (LAOCAS). The second, a continuation of T.H.E. Show Newport that was founded by the late Richard Beers and formerly supported by LAOCAS, will be held September 21–24 (September 21 reserved for press) in the Hilton Anaheim, near Disneyland.

Setting the Stage
The creation of two shows could prove to be both a major opportunity for industry and music lovers alike, and a major challenge for potential exhibitors whose finite resources and allegiances force them to choose sides. In order to understand what's going down, it will help to have at hand the cast of characters involved, as well as some history.

This year's T.H.E. Show Newport, which took place in nearby Irvine, opened less than six months after Beers' unexpected death. Initially, those closest to him, including Beverly Harbor, his companion of three decades, and Maurice Jung, who had worked with Richard and Richard's former partner, Mike Maloney, from 1998, kept Beers' death under wraps until legal details had been worked out and Richard's love, T.H.E. Show, was secure.

Once Harbor resolved to continue T.H.E. Show, as Beers would have wished, Jung assumed Beers' title of President, T.H.E. Show. Together with new Show Manager Marine Presson, whom Beers first met in 2013 when she was in charge of meeting planning at one of T.H.E. Shows former sites, the Atrium hotel, and Joseph Castellanos, who had worked in the show office alongside Beers since 2007, when T.H.E. Show was in Las Vegas, they moved T.H.E. Show forward.

Although Jung was a behind-the-scenes unknown to many, he explained by phone on September 19 that his company, Diamond Events Productions, has done catering, set-up and breakdown at Las Vegas trade shows for many years. "I've done this work for 35 years," Jung told me by phone a few days ago. "I'm experienced at running shows. At the last show, I financed everything until Richard's family got control of the bank accounts. I've also known Richard for 25 years. He was more of a brother than a friend."

According to Jung, Harbor remains the major holder of the Richard Beers Estate, which also includes a couple of cousins, a stepson, and friends. The estate is still in probate. Once matters are settled, Harbor will remain a majority stockholder in T.H.E. Show, with Jung receiving stock options.

Behind the scenes at this year's T.H.E Show, Presson grumbled to many that she would not continue working with T.H.E. Show in 2017 if someone else kept calling the shots. But on the surface, things seemed to go remarkably well for a team that could not even begin to pick up the pieces until financial matters had begun to be resolved. No one disputes that total attendance at T.H.E. Show 2016 topped 10,000.

One key factor in T.H.E Show's success in SoCal is that Bob Levi, founder, President, and CEO of LAOCAS, encouraged its initial expansion from Las Vegas to the West Coast, and put the society's resources behind the move. With Bob on board to attract the society's huge membership, T.H.E. Show 2016 exceeded all expectations and broke attendance records. Jung also credits "a different advertising model than before."

The New Los Angeles Audio Show
After T.H.E. Show 2016 had concluded, a private investment firm called Orion Group contacted Presson about working with them to form a new show. Presson then initiated contact with LAOCAS.

"There were three things that were important to the society," Levi told me by phone on September 19. "The LA show met those three criteria:

• A suitable hotel that would give us the ability to reach 15,000–20,000 visitors per event.
• Dates which were acceptable and appropriate.
• A show runner, as they say in Hollywood [show producer], that was experienced and acceptable to the society. Marine offered all three as appropriate for a great show, and we decided that we would back it with the resources and energy of the largest audio society in the world.

As for T.H.E. Show, Levi simply said, "We have not yet been contacted by T.H.E. Show in Anaheim."

On September 22, three days after speaking with Presson, Jung, and Levi, the long-awaited press release arrived from the new LAAS (Los Angeles Audio Show). Although the release pegs it as a Summer Show, "the new high-end audio and home theater show" will debut June 2017 "and every weekend each year following Memorial Day. The LAAS is presented in collaboration with the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society at the Sheraton Gateway LA with complimentary shuttle service from the Los Angeles International Airport."

The release explains that the Sheraton Gateway recently went through a $35,000,000 renovation to its guest rooms, lobby, and Club Lounge. An additional $3,500,000 was devoted to expanding its 38 meeting and function rooms, resulting in 50,000 square feet of event space, as well as 13 floors housing over 800 guest rooms. "Large, great-sounding rooms" in a spacious, comfortable venue, as well as luxury super cars are promised. Levi calls it "the perfect audio show in the perfect hotel, with the perfect producer."

Show hours have been announced as 10am–6pm each day, with discounted, early-bird tickets on sale November 25. Ticket prices include access to all demo rooms, booths, entertainment and seminars.

More Details
When I spoke with Presson on September 19, she told me that, even though she knew I would dislike doing so, it was necessary to submit questions via email. "There are several involved with the building of this show," she wrote in an email follow-up. "In order to prevent inaccuracies from circulating, any information released to the public should come from me personally after I've had a chance to review the answers with our investment group."

Below is what I submitted, and the responses I received the following morning. As is my custom, I've fine-tuned them grammatically.

How long have you been working with the Orion Group to plan the show?

Since the middle of August.

Have they had any prior experience with high-end audio or audio shows, or did they simply see how successful the 2016 Irvine show was, and desire to invest and make a profit?

Of course! As I understand it, they have upwards of 40 years of expertise in high-end audio and audio shows. What's really exciting is they're even talking to manufacturers that haven't exhibited in the US for several years with really incredible audio products, one of them being Gryphon out of Denmark. In fact, the LA Audio Show is planning on bringing many revered exotic brands that haven't been presented in the US either ever, or in a very long period of time and need to be here now!

Have contracts been sent out to potential exhibitors, or will yesterday's post on Positive Feedback and the expected press release be the first inkling many exhibitors and potential exhibitors will have?

Communication by the agents of The Orion Group have been taking place since the beginning of September with many key exhibitors. These communications were met with serious enthusiasm and requests for participation.

Have you discussed any innovations or new features for the show that you can give me a hint about at this time?

Yes. The Orion Group has put forward a plan that is significantly different from AXPONA, Capital Audiofest, CA Audio Show, New York Audio Show, RMAF, and T.H.E. Show Newport. The LA Audio Show will be announcing new strategic partnerships with other audio exhibit groups that will be a compelling part of the show. As we release new exciting features throughout the year leading up to the event, you will be informed.

Have rates etc. been set? Are they different than before?

There has not been a before but, yes, the LA Audio Show will offer very competitive rates relative to other shows in the US.

What can you tell me about the hotel that is special?

It's gorgeous and fresh. You'll be amazed! Key members of the LAOCAS and LAAS who believe this venue to be the premiere place for this kind of trade show will offer a tour exclusively for you and other members of the Press alike to review the facilities sometime this year.

When did you first contact Bob Levi and LAOCAS about participating and backing it rather than the other show?

The fundamental package was brought to Bob Levi at the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society earlier this month.

What can you say about why they and you chose to split from Maurice and Joseph, form your own show, take over the dates, and move it to LA?

Richard knew as early as the 2015 Show that by 2017, he would have to have a new venue, and had been discussing a new hotel like the Hyatt in Huntington Beach, CA. My contract with T.H.E. Show Newport terminated end of June 2016, at which time there was no new hotel or dates. So by the end of my term, there was no T.H.E. Show Newport that I was made aware of.

To be honest, the dates and venue were secured a couple weeks before I came on board, and certainly before inviting the LAOCAS into the event. It was believed there would be no conflict with other US consumer shows and as far as anyone knew, there was still no T.H.E. Show Newport. Literally the general opinion expressed by everyone was somebody or some company had to fill that void because T.H.E. Show Newport had gone dead silent with everyone. Now there is a show, the LAAS.

After extensive market research, The Orion Group determined Los Angeles as the best central location for such an event. Hence, the 'LA Audio Show'! After all, this is where it started in 2006 with Stereophile's Home Entertainment Show." [footnote 1]

Behind T.H.E. Show's Move to Anaheim
Jung explained that one of the reasons that he moved T.H.E. Show to the fall is that Munich moved its May show to a week later in 2017 [May 18–21], and anyone wishing to exhibit at both shows would have had great difficulty shipping their stuff to Irvine on time. "I didn't want to see the show hurt by doing that. And we couldn't move the dates later in that hotel."

In addition, a lot of exhibitors complained that once the June show is over, people go on vacation rather than buy. "They preferred a September date as long as it wasn't Labor Day. September 21–24 were the best dates available to us at this hotel, and we're going to be there for three years with an option of three more years, which most hotels don't do."

Finally, Jung says he could not expand into more rooms at the Hotel Irvine due to contractual issues. In addition, the hotel planned to away the outdoor Pavilion that had become central to the event. "This wasn't Richard's fault," he said. "It was the result of new management at that hotel. Richard had once considered moving the show to September, and decided to wait for a while."

Jung insisted that he was unaware that the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was scheduled for two weeks after T.H.E. Show until I raised the issue. Taken by surprise, he said, "It wasn't my intention to make T.H.E. Show two weeks before RMAF; it was the best date I could find in this hotel. In 2018, it will take place a week earlier."

During this year's T.H.E. Show, Jung invited 20 hotel managers to take a look to see if they could handle something that big that conceivably would get even larger. 80% didn't feel they could handle it, and most others had room size and meeting space issues. Only two hotels panned out, and one was the Hilton in Anaheim.

"It's right next to the Anaheim Convention Center, and handles conventions day in and day out," he said. "Shows are their bread and butter, and they understand the needs of exhibitors and audiophiles such as moving furniture. There's a FedEx shipping facility onsite, and 50–60 restaurants, CVS etc. 10 minutes away. Its right across from Disneyland, with tremendous parking facilities. We have use of overflow at convention center and Disneyland. There are also no airplanes flying overhead."

Jung pledged to work with his shipping company to ensure immediate shipping to RMAF in Denver in less than five days. "We're not here to hurt any other show. A lot of our vendors are going to show at both. We also overlap London which is at the same time."

Although, at press time, T.H.E Show hours are posted as lasting until 8pm on Friday and 7pm on Saturday, which will make for very long days, Jung said that may change. "A lot of vendors told us that a lot of people who want to come to the show on Friday first get off work at 5. That's why Rocky Mountain has extended its Friday hours. I want exhibitors to decide.

"We've had a good response to moving the show to September. We would have stayed in June if we thought it was a good time to hold the show. Our exhibitors are important to us, and without them, we are not successful."

Jung promised that letters to potential exhibitors would be sent out this week. As of press time, T.H.E. Show's website had not been updated.

"We're not working with LAOCAS, but not by our own volition," Jung said in summation. "Beverly was shocked when she heard about the split. The announcement from the other people is seriously disappointing—it seems like a real frontal assault to hurt T.H.E. Show that has been around for 17 years. But it is a free market and people can pick and choose as they will. I love competition. Business is business, and life must go on."

Footnote 1: While Stereophile's 2006 Home Entertainment Show was at the Sheraton Gateway LAX, this was actually the fourth show we had held at the Los Angeles airport, with prior versions taking place in 1992, 1995, and 1998.—John Atkinson

Masongsong's picture

I see this as a great opportunity for the audiophile, but is going to be a big issue for exhibitors.

LA and OC are within a close enough proximity to make one or the other or even both.

Exhibitors, especially those on the East Coast, are going to have to choose and this will be the decision I think for most. Maybe the CA or West Coast folks can make both. Both shows need to price accordingly to be competitive given the obvious conflict for the ones paying to support it if either are to thrive rather than just survive.

Anton's picture

Thank you for that wonderful review of the situation.

It certainly seems that a sequence of sticky wickets is being set in motion!

dennisdavis's picture

Unbelievable bollocks. One show on top of Munich and the other on top of RMAF. Pass.

Anton's picture

It certainly is a "dynamic" market for shows!

I root for shows to succeed, so it's a bit melancholy in this story to think of competing LA shows, both run by great folks, with likely a "two shows enter, one show leaves" scenario, with (perhaps) RMAF suffering, as well.

If I were a manufacturer, it would be especially tumultuous.

Allen Fant's picture

Excellent- guys.

(2) shows are always better than (1). Thanks for sharing!

AllanMarcus's picture

I'd be interested in hearing from vendors on all these shows

CES: Jan
CanJam New York: Feb
CanJam SoCal: April
LoneStar Audiofest: April
Axpona: April
LA Audio Show: June
Capital Audiofest: July
CEDIA Expo: Sept
T.H.E. Show Newport: Sept
New York Audio Show: Nov

California Audio Show: [dead?]

Not to mention all the non-USA based shows.

obviously there is a lot of demand for these shows since there are so few brink and mortar places to hear good equipment, especially internet only brands. This show schedules seems brutal for vendors.

That said, THE show might be in trouble. A vendor might opt for the less stressful LA Show and RMAF rather than three shows and the stress of back to back shows.

rt66indierock's picture

The 2017 event is in November.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

After reading the comments below, I am deleting my former post and revising my show schedule list. Not even he who covers a number of these shows per year and writes previews for most of them can keep up with all the scheduling changes.

Here is a list of all the current North American shows plus Munich:
CES: Jan
CanJam New York: Feb
Montreal Salon Audio // Audio Fest: March
CanJam SoCal: April
LoneStar Audiofest: April
Axpona: April
Munich: May
LA Audio Show: June
Vancouver Audio Show (small): end June
CEDIA Expo: Sept
T.H.E. Show Newport: Sept
RMAF / Canjam: Oct
TAVES: End of Oct
Capital Audiofest: First weekend in November
New York Audio Show: Nov in 2016, TBD in 2017 and beyond
Chill Out Show: Dec (that's a joke)

rt66indierock's picture

If we are talking about a New York show with 36 rooms who cares? And a show date in the DC area in the summer is poorly timed for both weather and it is a slow time in the sales cycle.

And the amount of shows in your post may mean companies will have to rethink their marketing budgets for 2017. It is why RMAF 2016 will be fun.

Chrisy's picture

FYI - in 2017, Capital Audiofest will be moving its dates to November 3-5, and CAF will be in November for the following 2 years - all at the Twinbrook Hilton in Rockville MD. I don't have 2017 information on the New York Audio Show for 2017 yet but since Capital Audiofest has moved to early November, the Chester Group WILL be looking at other non-competing dates for NYC.

Chrisy's picture

Jason - CAF is already booked for November 3-5 2017 and will be in November for the next 3 years. Chester Group is going to look at other non-competing dates for 2017.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I pass along this comment from a dedicated audiophile who is having trouble posting it himself:
"Sheraton Gateway @ $209 a night (cheapest), $13 Wi-Fi a day, $26 breakfast buffet, $17 a day parking. High-end!"
I would hasten to add, however, that there will undoubtedly be special discounted rates for show goers. How much of a discount remains to be seen. The daily internet charge is always the one that gets me.

Trace's picture

is $189 according to available info. Kinda makes me want to get 2 rooms.

bornie's picture

glad to see logistically, airport to hotel sponsoring, that it makes some sense. Denver to the Marriott Tech Center for RMAF is a million miles away. The Newport Show, a jaunt from John Wayne. Hopefully hotel rates will be friendly for out-of-towners.

rt66indierock's picture

This is going to make RMAF 2016 even more fun. There are a lot of people with some explaining to do after Newport. In addition to completing some market analysis that started at Newport and followed me back to the valley of the sun.

jmsent's picture

..see this as anything other than a blatant, public power struggle between two factions who have now split off into their own basically identical ventures? Who benefits from this? Exhibitors? What do they get except the knowledge that whatever side they choose, they are taking a gamble with their own money and could be making the wrong choice. And don't for a minute believe that many exhibitors will attend both. These things are bloody expensive, and their plate is already so ridiculously overfilled with shows, that another an area already well covered..will be about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.

The attendees? They get to pay for two shows to see pretty much the same things they used to be able to see at one the year before. And, I don't know much about Anaheim, but I'm quite familiar with the Century Blvd area near LAX. The hotel may be fine, but that area is not very friendly for anyone arriving by car or trying to get anywhere on foot. So the hotel will be it. My impression of THE SHOW in Irvine was that it was friendly, laid back, and reasonably affordable. Hard to imagine an 800 room premium hotel right down the block from LAX being anything close to that description. I predict that this scenario will last a year, maybe two at best. In the mean time, neither one will be anywhere near as good as what they are trying to replace, and it will take years for the single LA show that emerges to again regain the good will and participation they already had in Irvine.

Anton's picture

Does anyone recall which hotel Stereophile used for it's LAX show?

Anaheim does seem to have a leg up as far as a destination. Maybe more families will come and the civilians can hit Disney while the audiophile in the family nerds around the show!

I am already planning to bring my spouse and at least one kid so they can do that and I will get some evenings at Trader Sam's tiki bar!

rt66indierock's picture

I'll take Billy's at the Beach.

Anton's picture

Billy's has better food and drinks - no comparison!

Billy's mai tai is an authentic pleasure!

But, I can't easily walk there in Anaheim!

I love tiki bars!

(I am also partial to the Tonga Hut.)

Cheers! If you hit THE Show, we'll buy you a drink!

rt66indierock's picture

And then I'll buy you one if I go. However I pay attention to audio shows and audio press only when I need to gather information. After RMAF 2016 I may have all the information I need for the next decade.

Ktracho's picture

I vote for moving one of the shows to the San Francisco area, closer to where I live.

rt66indierock's picture

I can confidently state nobody cares in that part of the country.

Bill Leebens's picture

...if folks kvetch about the cost of rooms in the LA area, SF-area prices would make their heads explode.

rt66indierock's picture

Bill, I don't see the big deal, a nice four star like The Marker or Club Quarters is only a couple hundred dollars a night.

At RMAF 2016 there will be a couple of affordable systems on display that cost nearly $6,000. I would want hear them and compare other components before I made an expense of that size. That means going to at least one show.