The organizers of the Montreal Audio Fest are bringing their popular event for audio enthusiasts to Toronto with their first-ever Toronto audiofest, which will take place over the weekend of October 19-21, 2018. We talked with organizer Michel Plante to find out more about the decision to launch a show in the city.
"The industry has been asking us to organize a show in Toronto for quite some time," Plante tells WiFi HiFi, noting that industry members describe themselves as orphans, with no place to go to help continue to grow their business. Following the success of the Montreal event earlier this year, Plante, alongside his business partner Sarah Tremblay and new associate Benjamin Scarcelli (owner of the by-appointment-only showroom Audio Basics and online vinyl importer/seller), decided it was time. "We had a lot of dealers from Toronto coming to Montreal," Plante says, "and they started to request that we create the same kind of atmosphere in Toronto."
The hope is that this show can become an annual venue where the industry gets together to educate a new generation of customers about better audio experiences.
What and Where?
Similar to the Montreal Audio Fest, the Toronto audiofest will focus on "better audio," featuring systems and products that range from $2,000 up to $200,000, and move beyond the basic soundbar.
"We need to show the Lamborghini," says Plante, "but if we want to make business on the show floor, we need to show affordable systems as well." Thus, exhibitors showcasing expensive systems will be asked to demo an affordable alternative that runs for under $5,000 as well.
The show will take place at the Luxury Westin Airport in Toronto's West end, close to Toronto Pearson Airport. The decision was made given the quality of the venue, ease of accessibility, and affordable parking compared to downtown Toronto. "The rooms," adds Plante," are also not rectangular, which is a benefit for the quality of sound."
That said, while the show is planned for the same location over the next few years, Plante and the team aren't ruling out a potential move to downtown Toronto in the future.
Who is Participating?
More than 30 companies, including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, have already signed on the participate in the inaugural event, but the goal is to have a total of about 70 participating exhibitors, the same as in Montreal, all of which will be focused strictly on audio.
The list already includes companies like Yamaha, Totem Acoustic, Plurison, AudioQuest, Motet, and Audio Group (Grado), as well as independent retailers based locally in Toronto and surrounding areas, as well as outside of Ontario.
"We don't need to be big like the Chicago show or the Denver show," he says. "If we want to keep the spirit, we know the level we have to be. We have to be attractive, we have to be tasteful, flavourful, colourful."
Exhibitors will be spread throughout 19 ballroom areas, combined with 20 kiosks with tables, and 40 rooms that will have been emptied of their furniture to become private salons to present various systems. Since the event is non-profit, with Plante, Tremblay, and Scarcelli only taking necessary salaries, the buy-in for exhibitors won't be astronomical, opening the doors for smaller mom-and-pops to participate in the show. Those with bigger budgets, meanwhile, can spend on it beautifying their demo rooms. "We want them to dress the rooms properly," says Plante, "to represent the quality of product that they will be showing."
Who Will It Target?
The event will be completely open to the public, with a focus on attracting attendees between the ages of 30 and 40, including women and families. The idea, says Plante, is to reach, in addition to long-time audiophiles, people who are music fans, but not yet audio fans.
"Our normal customers are getting older than we would like," he jokes. "Yet the audiophiles are not growing as fast as we would like."
The show will be presented and promoted as a shopping mall atmosphere; Plante likens it to the Auto Show, where customers might attend knowing they want to buy a new car, but go there to see many brands under one roof before they visit a dealership or shop and make a final decision.
In total, Plante hopes the show will attract 5,000 visitors, through the help of various media visibility partnerships, including magazines and local radio stations, along with word-of-mouth.
What are the Highlights?
Many of the most popular aspects of the Montreal Audio Fest will be carried over to the Toronto event, including live music throughout each day of the show, featuring acoustic instruments and no microphones. "It's rare that you get to sit a few feet away from someone playing a harp or cello," says Plante, "and it's a very good way to train your ear. So we will have about 20 concerts over the weekend."
Additionally, there will be a record fair where attendees can browse and find rare records; educational seminars; a recording studio; and an exhibit that Plante describes as being the craziest home theatre ever. "It has rarely ever been done," he enthuses, "and surely not in Canada." Stay tuned for more details.
At an after-hours wine pairing event, which show-goers can pay extra to attend, sommeliers will present expensive wine in various rooms and associate the taste with the music. "When we did this in Montreal," says Plante, "people were so blown away by the experience, so we want to repeat it in Toronto."
Catering to families, there will also be a music school where kids can learn about all the different tones of chord and brass instruments. "This will show families that they are welcome to come with their kids," says Plante.
How to Attend
Those interested can register to attend for free at torontoaudiofest.org prior to October 19. While registration will be mandatory since the show will be using an app instead of programs, visitors will also be able to register on-site using iPads. But having data ahead of time will help organizers tailor the show accordingly to who will be coming. Exhibitors, for example, can prepare their playlists to what attendees want.
"If everyone says they like classical and all of the exhibitors are playing Pink Floyd," jokes Plante, "we won't have a connection. So we need to know a little bit more about our demographic."
Gearing Up for the Event
There's long been a need for a successful show that can bring the entire Canadian industry together in one place. For several years now, the Montreal Audio Fest has managed to achieve this, as have other dealer, distributor, or buying group-organized local events. The Toronto audiofest has the opportunity to do this on a much larger scale, in a city that is chocked-full of great providers of audio products, including manufacturers, retailers, and distributors.
"The audio industry is run by experienced people," says Plante. "They know what they need, and we can't impose on them a model that they are not comfortable with. CES was very important," he says, "but now [exhibitors have] decided to go elsewhere, like Munich."
"The industry wants a show in a conventional way," says Plante, "and it's the same recipe that has worked very well worldwide for over 30 years. Our industry is a bit selfish. They do not necessarily like to share their space with others that can de-value their products."
In the end, the mission for Toronto audiofest is to bring together exhibitors with visitors, and make sure there's chemistry between them. Plante wants audio enthusiasts to go home with a dream in mind about acquiring certain pieces of equipment, and become ambassadors in his communities for the industry. And that likewise, the industry becomes energized by seeing thousands of people who are excited about what they do, and go back to their stores excited knowing that there is a future for what they are doing.
At the end of the day, the show has a responsibility, Plante concludes. "We are there to stimulate the industry, and we have to make sure that everyone is boosted with positive energy, and wants to push to make their stores better, or to become better distributors."
The Montreal Audio Fest took place in March, and later this year, the organizers will launch the first-ever Toronto audiofest in the Ontario city.