AXPONA 2020 And The Coronavirus
As most of you reading this know, AXPONA 2020 had to be rescheduled during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. In early March they sent out an e-mail that said, "AXPONA has been rescheduled from April 17-19 to August 7-9, 2020 out of concern for the health and safety of all participants due to the growing coronavirus situation. This decision was made following an outpouring of feedback from the AXPONA community over the last 72 hours. The three most consistent themes we heard were, 1) fears of attending public events will increase in March and April, 2) AXPONA should still be held in 2020, and 3) reschedule later this year if possible." You can read their full letter and other communications on Enjoy the Music.com's AXPONA 2020 show report page.
Around this time, schools were closed; limits were set on how many people could gather, etc as worldwide death tolls rose. It was also becoming obvious that those within the higher age bracket were more susceptible to dying from this virus. As many of you may know, the average age of many exhibitors, and dare we add members of the press, tend to be within a higher age group and so that needed to be factored in. Without a doubt, AXPONA did the right thing by moving their show date from April to August in hopes that this virus would have subsided enough to successfully hold their event in Schaumburg Illinois.
Chart from Wirepoints' May 1 article using data from Illinois DoPH.
As time passed and death tolls started rolling in, there were doubts about the smart move of changing dates from April to August was a long enough waiting period. Was August 2020 too soon? Would attendance be down due to fear of spreading the Coronavirus in this time of social distancing? How Is one to social distance during a high-end audio event with elevators, smaller upper floor exhibit rooms, and other factors at play?
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Within their April 21 Open Letter To Joel Davis it also requested, "Even if you do not cancel, the fact that you simply cannot deliver the show as originally sold (in terms of attendance or coverage) means that all exhibitors should be offered the option of withdrawal and an immediate refund."
One of the bullet points from AXPONA said, "Our exhibit space contract language does not obligate JDE to pay refunds if the event is canceled due to circumstances beyond our control. The pandemic could not have hit JDE at a worse time. Virtually all deposit monies were spent on producing and marketing the April show, including salaries, overhead and other service providers. Due to the havoc wrecked upon AXPONA and our entire business, JDE is simply not in a position to pay out refunds."
"There are no easy decisions in this time," continued AXPONA's e-mail." JDE has let good people go and slashed salaries in order to stay afloat. We are deeply invested in and committed to this industry long-term. I hope you appreciate my candor even if you don't like what you hear and we hope you are willing to work with us as all industry stakeholders must do in hard times. Even though this is a time when we are required to be distant from each other I believe in the long run that this experience will bring us closer together."
With some questions from the industry still not answered within AXPONA's e-mail, including if exhibitor room deposits will roll over in full to 2021 without added expense, many hoped for the best. Some feared the worst. As of this writing, many questions are still out there seeking answers. There have been concerns about holding events during 2021 if no vaccine is created. As an industry that does tend to have many people within the upper age group, which does seem to suffer a higher death rate from the Coronavirus, fear of death is a legitimate concern. On May 1 (2020) Bloomberg posted an article titled Covid-19 Pandemic Likely to Last Two Years, Report Says. Within John Lauerman's Bloomberg article he writes, "The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and won't be controlled until about two-thirds of the world's population is immune, a group of experts said in a report." As much as I am sure all of us wishes this situation never happened, the realities are settling in for many around the world.
To date, there's been no Formula 1 / NASCAR racing this year, virtually all sports events have been canceled or postponed. Timepiece enthusiasts, for which Yours Truly is included within this category, watched in dismay as Baselworld seemed to implode. While AXPONA is a relatively new event, and we've been reporting on their shows since 2010 (back when Steven Davis was the promoter), Baselworld celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017.
I bring up Baselworld because many music enthusiasts are also aficionados in the art of mechanical timepieces. Baselworld is (was?) the world's most important annual timepiece event, which has been held for over 100 years(!). To make a long story short, Baselworld refused to refund 100% of the exhibitor's funds when their 2020 event was canceled. They offered to carry forward 85% of the amounts invested by exhibitors to their next edition, with the remaining 15% to partially cover their costs. Another option was that exhibitors receive 30% of their advance payments in cash, while 40% is carried forward to 2021, with the remaining 30% being used to cover their costs. What ensued shortly afterward was the departure of many major leading brands from Baselworld's future events including Rolex, Patek Philippe, and LVMH (to name a few). I am sure you realize these are major brands that decided to no longer support Baselworld.
As of this writing (May 2nd, 2020) we frankly do not know if, and how bad, the second wave of Coronavirus will play out. There's still no cure as ongoing research is being conducted in the hope of finding a cure. Financial website MarketWatch posted an article on April 29th titled U.S. deaths to COVID-19 exceed Vietnam War toll and it says, "Data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. has had 60,316 fatalities from the virus, more than the 58,220 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that lasted about 20 years." Let that sink in a bit, as this recent Coronavirus pandemic is only a few months old, while the Vietnam war lasted ~20 years!
There are still some unanswered questions concerning AXPONA, and only time will tell if their 2021 event will go as scheduled. From the many e-mails I've received from those within the high-end audio industry, it feels like stress levels are higher than pre-Coronavirus times. We also need to remember that many stores worldwide, and high-end audio manufacturers, are closed to keep their employees safe. Some audio manufacturers are opened-ish, with a reduction in employees.
As of this writing, RMAF and other events during the later part of 2020 are still a go, yet that could change. None of us know the future. Marjorie Baumert of RMAF sent the industry an e-mail on April 9th and said, "Of course, we still don't know what will happen as spring arrives and rolls on into summer, but we remain optimistic that RMAF will go on as planned in early October. Six months is a good bit of time, and lots can happen between now and then, so we hope you will hang in there, and join us in Denver in the fall. We have a contract with the Gaylord, so if they are open, RMAF is a go. But we are also committed to offering full refunds if for some reason RMAF does not happen. It's almost risk free, so start planning now for our October reunion! We can't wait to see you!" You can read RMAF's e-mail at this link.
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