Guest Post: Ed Lester- Video Killed The Car Audio Star, Or Did It?

Video killed the car audio star, or did it?

Greetings audio enthusiasts, many of those reading this may have attended a car audio show at least once in their life. For my inaugural blog post, I wish to reminisce and muse about the characteristics of car audio shows and what they mean to the current state of our industry. Some of the old school guys would argue that car audio shows have been in a steady decline of quality and popularity for the past few years. I do understand the reason behind this assessment, though I would disagree and state that car audio popularity and demand for shows is actually on the rise and I can explain why.

As of 2015, I have been participating in car audio shows for 20 years. I have lived through the so called “Golden Era” of car audio shows in the late 90s and early 2000s. Some of these shows were massive productions with over 200 car audio competitors. Competitiveness has died down since then, but not just in car audio, in the general mentality of new generations of people. This has caused a shift in the dynamic of shows. The shows that the old schoolers once knew are no longer possible. Car audio enthusiasts used to have a drive to be the best, and would spend gobs of money and time to prove their worth. Industry giants would also feel this drive to win and would support top competitors while competing against rival manufacturers themselves. The win at any cost mentality is what put many of the top manufacturers at the top, but nowadays that mentality is not revered or even accepted as it once was.

The new generation of car audio enthusiasts get their initial exposure to the hobby in a completely different manner than enthusiasts back in the day. Initially, car audio events were mirrored off of existing types of car shows. Drag racing events, custom car shows, even NASCAR supplied a template from which the golden era shows were planned. Those formats began to lose their appeal when competitiveness began to change, and when visual media became more accessible to the general public. With the advent of YouTube, a custom car audio installer could now show off their projects to thousands of viewers right from their own driveway instead of spending tons of money on traveling to shows. Another appealing factor is that the gatekeepers of traditional media have disappeared. Traditionally, custom car audio installers would fight to get exposure in a car audio print magazine. It required politics and money to get seen. In the modern era it only takes a camera and an internet connection.

The relative ease of exposure, and lower cost to get in the game has changed the way the game is played; it also makes it so more players can now participate. Car audio shows are no longer about showing up to prove who the best builder is. Shows are more about the social aspect of the hobby. Enthusiasts may spend a lot of time in virtual car shows while watching show footage on YouTube. I keep this in mind when I produce a video from a show for my channel. This behavior allows enthusiasts to build a relationship with peers from around the world. While most of the enthusiasts in these networks will never meet each other, many have been known to travel great distances to attend the same event and meet each other in person, take a listen to each other’s installs, and have a shared experience in car audio.

The car audio scene has changed drastically over the past few years. The mentality is more about socializing and friendship than ever before. Car audio show formatters have been slow to recognize and adapt to this change. Focus remains primarily on competition when the main focus should be more about showing and demoing an install to a friend. This global, virtual network of car audio enthusiasts is many times larger than the show scene of the 90s and 2000s. Enthusiasts are eager to attend shows more and more. Attendance at meets that showcase the ability to demo without getting kicked out is at an all-time high and enthusiasts are demanding more. Rewards for competition are no longer worth the effort and expense that it takes to attend large shows, but the rewards for having fun and showing off for friends have become priceless to car audio enthusiasts who are involved in the car audio world for the simple thrill that it brings to them.

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