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Mix Blog Studio: Virtually There

The 2020 virtual AES Show begins this week and runs through the month of October; Mike Levine took a peek inside to see what possibilities the new event format has to offer.

I’ve been attending NAMM and AES shows for, well, let’s just say “many years.” During the early to mid-2000s, when the Internet was starting to have a significant impact on the economy, trade shows were among the businesses that felt the pinch. Companies no longer had to rely on an event to introduce products; they could do it from their websites.

As a result, some major manufacturers dropped out of NAMM to save the massive expense of renting booth space, shipping products to the show, and flying and housing a crew of people. Due to these defections, some folks in the gear industry wondered about the future of in-person music trade shows. By that time, Summer NAMM had shrunk precipitously, and AES sponsorship and attendance were on the decline.

I remember thinking back then about the possibility of online tradeshows replacing the live ones. I pictured a virtual trade show where you would move an avatar on your computer screen around a simulated show floor and click on a manufacturer’s logo for admittance to its “booth.” There you could check out the new gear, even demo it in some cases, and ask questions of a company representative if you wanted via video chat.

Between then and now, things improved to some degree for in-person shows, particularly Winter NAMM, and I didn’t hear any more talk about online-only shows. But then came Covid-19.

Read more Mix Blog Studio: The No-Flow Zone.

With the pandemic in full swing, AES decided to switch its 2020 convention to an online affair, over the course of a full month. Winter NAMM, scheduled for mid-January 2021 and after some initial hesitance, followed suit.

As I write this, AES has just started. All of its presentations, workshops and symposiums—including the full technical program—are being delivered online.

From October 19-23, the AES Showcase will be in full swing. It will offer attendees the opportunity to check out new products—the equivalent of walking the trade show floor.

Some of the Showcase pages are up already. Right now, some companies have videos ready to roll, as well as product and contact information.

You don’t have to be registered to check out the pages, although registrants get access to more information. If you want to see what they’re like, here’s one for Focusrite and here’s one for Genelec.

I also noticed a difference in the amount of content on the Showcase pages of Platinum Partners (which Focusrite, Genelec and a few others are), and Gold and Silver Partners, for which there are quite a few companies listed. What the distinctions will be during the actual showcase week isn’t clear.

What is clear is that there will be a lot more happening on the Showcase pages, including live chat, product launches and demonstrations, and more.

While it doesn’t have virtual aisles and virtual booths like I had once imagined, it does sound like it could be pretty cool and offer excellent access to the manufacturers. I’m curious to see what the experience will be like.

One of the silver linings of the show being online is that you can attend without traveling to New York. Because of that, many people who’ve never been to an AES convention now have an opportunity.

Register for the Showcase at the AES Show website. It’s free if you’re an AES member. If you’re not, it’s only $25. If you want to register for the full show, you can find links for that on the same page.