Hi everyone, Steph Beckett here as your stand-in recap host (just for this session today). I was lucky enough to get to watch today’s audio session of LAVNCH EMEA — and I get to tell you about everything I learned.
I’ll preface this by saying I care a lot about the audio realm — I have a background in radio broadcasting and I’ve spent longer than I care to admit fixing an audio session in Adobe Audition. But be that as it may, I am still learning a lot about the pro audio market because it truly is like no other. It filters into so many verticals — and while the market was at a constant climb, COVID-19 hit it just like it hit nearly everything else.
I’m here to offer some relief, though, as this panel of industry experts had a generally sunny outlook on what the future holds.
This session was hosted by James Kirby of Futuresource Consulting. He began the session by offering some general insights about what the market has looked like in the past and what it looks like right now. As we can see, the pro audio market is mainly split among these general categories (loudspeakers are still the biggest chunk).
I mentioned above that pro audio filters into multiple ProAV verticals — those are below on the right-hand side. And as you can see on the left, this market is known for making $$$ because — surprise! — people care about audio when it comes to overall experience. But there is an elephant in the room right now, according to Kirby (and he is 100% correct), and that elephant is COVID-19. How is the pandemic affecting these verticals and what can we expect in the future?
At the bottom left of the picture below, you can see a graph of revenue. Yes, pro audio is seeing a dip in 2020 with many other parts of our industry, but as we move into the next couple of years where we are ~hopefully~ allowed out of captivity, audio is going to pick back up and swing back into being better than it was before.
The vertical that has taken the biggest hit is obviously the rental and staging side of things. As our regular communal summer events just aren’t happening, the rental market is pivoting to try and support virtual live events as best as it can, but this is not the same as the plethora of concerts and events there usually are this time of year. Be that as it may, Kirby says there is a positive outlook — and that most consumers will gladly flock back to these events by the time COVID runs its course.
STOP: Panel Time
The main portion of the audio session consisted of a panel featuring the following: James Kirby, Joe Andrulis of Biamp, Julian Carro of Audinate, Guillaume Le Nost of L-Acoustics Ltd. and Ben Spurgeon of Audiologic. Most of the panel had a different outlook on the market and uses different audio standards to ensure success — so it was sure to be a useful conversation.
Le Nost began the discussion by talking about the landscape — pre-COVID. Artists were having to rely less on album sales and more on touring — that alone is a big drive for quality event audio. Carro echoed this, “One of the driving factors for the demand is the fact that now, for several years, we can take away a decent audio experience without spending the money for hi-fi centric. You can obtain high-quality audio and video from many different devices. If I can experience a concert/album at high-quality I’m going to demand something as good as that or better with my experience.”
“Audio plays a huge influence in the way we experience an event, how our attention is directed and how deeply immersed we are.” – Joe Andrulis of @Biamp during the Audio Session on #ProAV Day of #LAVNCHEMEA. 💜#AVtweeps #AVisLIFE pic.twitter.com/ExLXEUNWRe
— rAVe [PUBS] (@rAVePubs) September 2, 2020
Kirby posed another question to the panelists: Is audio still influencing events in this way? Is there still opportunity out there — or have we hit a stalemate?
- Spurgeon: “People are becoming less tolerant with poor quality of audio.” He mentioned that concerts with poor audio have started to make headlines in recent years, as people’s expectations have grown tremendously.
- Andrulis: “As the environment changes, it’s not a static setup anymore … Experience stays not just designed at a high-quality level but maintained at a high-quality level.” In other words, consumers are expecting excellence.
But, where is this going in terms of DSP?
“DSP vendors are probably always going to be best at that so many unique products out there at the moment, we definitely haven’t seen the last of the DSP part,” Kirby said. “Becoming part of different products, there is opportunity there on the hardware side —thinking of a tandem situation.”
Luckily, I have video footage that lets Spurgeon answer that one himself.
— rAVe [PUBS] (@rAVePubs) September 2, 2020
Before I close up with this quick guide to the pro audio session of today’s LAVNCH EMEA, I want to take a second and discuss some of the audience questions.
- The ClearOne/Shure saga. Yes, we’ve kept our eye on this at rAVe. While the panel was hesitant to discuss specifics, the panel agreed that competition keeps the market moving forward. In fact, other companies are coming out with ceiling tile microphones too! Hey, Yamaha. We see you.
- There was also a brief discussion of the different audio standards available and the shift from using analog — Spurgeon mentioned that you don’t have to spot mic each person in a conference room (or any other type of room) anymore. Dante also, obviously came up — as some panelists realized its use in commercial installs. (It opened up opportunities in terms of distance covered, capacity each cable can transmit, etc.) And basically they agreed that analog technology has its uses — but it becomes difficult when trying to equip a huge stadium with all that.
- Final hot topic: COVID. What will this look like in the future? The panelists, once again, agreed that there will be plenty of opportunities to migrate to socially distanced events — maybe even with performers spread out. Le Nost said, “The demand for quality will still be there whether on-site or remote.” They also all agreed that verticals other than rental are starting to be hit by the fact that audio is extremely important — particularly in the education sector (which Spurgeon mentioned had previously been quite the battle) as schools realize that audio is completely necessary in forming a Hybrid or HyFlex classroom experience.
I’ll say that the most important point I took away from all this was that audio really is king. People are more forgiving for crappy visuals than they are audio — and I totally agree. Comparatively speaking, it’s not as expensive to gain access to quality audio solutions and equipment, and as consumers continue to buy those high-end products, expectations for excellence will continue to be higher.
The rental and staging sector will continue to see some hits, but people are generally looking forward to getting back into the swing of live events post-COVID (so much so that the market will likely spike in the next year or two).
Finally — there’s no perfect audio technology solution. Like all the other standards in our industry, different ones work better for different things. While many #AVtweeps want just one standard for each ProAV problem, it just doesn’t look like it will be that way. Instead, it’s best to look at the situation and project you’re specifying and taking that into account before selecting which way to go. Oh, and competition keeps the industry moving forward.
If you missed the Audio Session on ProAV Collaborative Day today and want to rewatch it, you can still register. AVIXA CTS-RU credit is not available by registering to view the archives, but you’ll surely want to tune in to see what you missed. Register to view the LAVNCH EMEA archives, and let us know your favorite moments of this session on social media!