The Future of LSAF
As the founder of LSAF, many people approach me with comments about the direction of the Lonestar Audiofest. Most everyone likes the show, and enjoys its intimate laid-back posture. Some like the show just the way it is, and wouldn’t change a thing. Others would prefer the show to grow a little bit, and some people wish it would grow a lot. Of those that have come several years in a row, some make the observation that attendance waxes and wanes from year to year.
The Lonestar Audiofest has always been about audio and camaraderie with just a touch of commercialization. I modeled it largely from other groups that are self-governing and self-supporting. It was always intended to be informal and non-profit, so we do not have (or want) a budget for advertisement. We operate by word-of-mouth.
This is on purpose. We want the show to be cost-effective for small niche-market companies. We want the DIY experts here. They usually do not have large budgets, but they have lots of passion for their craft. This show gives companies like that a place to gather each year for face time with prospective customers and for photo opportunities. It opens them up to a wider audience.
We also like for the show to be informal and intimate. There is enough interest to keep each room filled, but not so much activity that people can’t visit with one another and have doors-shut quiet time to listen to each system. Attendees can actually have a one-on-one experience with the gear and with the designers. This aspect makes the show attractive to all audio companies, regardless of their marketing budget.
An informal show like this naturally grows and shrinks over time. I’ve seen this in other groups too. Sometimes groups start small but grow. Then a few years later, they shrink. A few more years pass and the size swells again.
The core members of a group are what center and stabilize it. We have a great central core at LSAF. The same dozen or so companies that started it return every year. One company may drop for a year for whatever reason and then be back the next year, but basically, the same dozen or so “founding” companies return every year.
We see a half-dozen to a dozen companies that are new each year, keeping it in-flux. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. Some of these new upstart companies return, others don’t. Some just don’t make it as a business. Some companies want different things from an audio show. Some try a different path or get sidetracked and then return several years later. When they do, they find the same core companies supporting LSAF.
There are many regular supporters of LSAF that have helped over the years. When I first moved the show from Tulsa to Dallas, some of the Texan regulars stepped up to help. Fred Thompson, Jim Rivers and Bob Spence formed a sort of “steering committee.” I did the negotiations with the hotel and maintained the website. We also had regular exhibitors, like John Busch, Bob Brines, Norman Tracy, Russ Gates and Duke LeJeune. There are others that slip my mind, but those formed the core group that are still with us to this day.
In recent years, we’ve seen new regulars that I consider to be part of the core. Most notably is Steven Solazzo, who has sort of taken the reins from me in many respect. He has begun to negotiate with the hotel, and does a lot of the website work now. He and I sort of “tag team” on the website and on the show support. We also have new regulars Pete Millett, David Thompson and Joshua Miles, among others. They are very active online, and they support the show both with regular attendance and by spreading the word.
Without a marketing department or even a budget for one, we’ve managed to have an advertisement in every April issue of AudioXpress since 2012. We’ve had show coverage in Positive Feedback, Dagogo and Enjoy the Music as well as on pretty much every audio discussion board on the internet. We’ve always managed to be noticed, and by the hits I’ve seen on AudioRoundTable.com, I can say with confidence that the online buzz is as loud as it is for the bigger shows. I’ve been to them and gotten the same online traffic footprint from LSAF. So even with the smaller laid-back show approach, the internet buzz is pretty hot. But even if it weren’t, we’re all here for one reason. We’re here because we love it.
To me, that’s what’s best about LSAF. It’s a sort of “stone soup group.” These core regular exhibitors will always be here, because they love to be here. It’s a passion for us all, a break from the high-pressure shows, a place to show-up and setup where people are there to enjoy the systems and the friends we’ve made.