How To Get Young People To Become Audiophiles

There was a recent article on this topic at Home Theater Review.

I know, not exactly a haven for audiophiles but I think the article represents the views of a lot of people on the periphery of the industry.

First, there are some weird perspectives presented in the referenced article:

1. The article centers around the successful marketing of some reportedly lo-fiedlity headphones by a company with more marketing clout than all of the high-end audio universe put together (Monster Cable). This is not relevant to our industry. We are HIGH fidelity

2. Similarly, the article completely misses the point of vinyl [it sounds more like real music, and despite the lack of convenience, it is growing in popularity among the young – i.e. these are people who are willing to put in a little extra effort in order to have better sounding music… aka actual *audiophiles*].

3. “Historically, audiophiles have been quirky, non-showering, live-in-the-basement-of-your-Mom’s-house guys”? Funny, about 90% of our audiophile friends have a degree and own their own homes.

So the articles is really about how hifi is really a cult of losers and that our industry should give up fidelity and and put all our efforts into building and marketing cheap garbage to teenagers.

O…..kay. But I can think of several multinationals in the U.K. and Japan [not to mention China] already doing this. They know all about low-skilled cheap labor and modern social network marketing – not our business to do with the highly skilled engineering of the best audio reproduction equipment in the world.

So, let’s return to high-end audio.

In a large part, what all these articles are REALLY about is When, If Ever, and How Will HiFis Become a Big Fad Again (like it was in the 60s)? as people look over at how successful iPods and Facebook and Twitter and tablets…have been.

I think we can all agree that the younger generations really like music.

But, on the other hand, when has a generation NOT liked music?

And yet, all these generations come and go and, in the U.S. anyway, the number of audiophiles is more or less… what? Flat? Declining? Growing along with the 1% or so growth in population?

I would guess the latter, that we are slowly growing.


The *behavior* of audiophiles is changing.

Anybody notice the sudden lack of stores selling CDs? Anybody notice the sudden lack of stores… of all kinds? [Boulder now has mostly Yoga studios, bicycle shops and a ton of restaurants whose half-life is about 6 months. And a LOT of empty retail space].

There are, of course, other changes… all of which make audiophiles a little bit harder to track [or at least different from just counting the number of retail stores or subscribers to Stereophile].

But,… if we really want our ranks to swell with the coming-of-age generation… well, if our ranks swell with people playing systems that do not sound like music.. then what is the point? This would not be high-end audio. Fi in HiFi stands for *fidelity*. So lets ignore lo-fidelity solutions [please].

Wireless is fine, as are tablet-based music servers, as long as people realize that you are actually sacrificing fidelity at various places in the chain. Why people think their $1000 wireless speakers or $100 USB DACs would ever sound as good as 5th generation $10K speakers or state-of-the-art $5K DACs is beyond understanding. But if we can stay in the Fact-based Universe for just a little bit, one can indeed build a Convenience-Oriented System, as opposed to a Performance-Oriented System, that sounds reasonably enjoyable.

So what.

The youth of today are addicted to always be seeing what their friends are doing. This has nothing to do with unsightly cables or the convenience of not having to get up off the couch and everything to do with social pressures associated with being young.

So adding some kind of social component to hifi systems might work. For example, what if each song you play is posted on your Facebook wall, along with a photo of the cool system you are hearing it on?