Canada’s sophisticated French-speaking metropolis Montreal is about to be descended upon by the masses of high fidelity, and this time we’ll be there to cover it.
I’ll be heading to Salon Audio Montreal on Thursday morning, and while the weather forecast calls for some chilly temperatures, I’m looking forward to a warm reception with a number of good friends who will be attendance. Former show stalwart David Cope will be there, as will cellist Vincent Bélanger for the launch of Audio Note Music with his new album Pure Cello. Industry legend, and Audio Note top man Peter Qvortrup will also be making a rare North American appearance. Vancouver friends Edward Ku, and Jeffrey Tseng from Element Acoustics are going, Wynn Wong from Wynn Audio in southern Ontario will also be in attendance along with David Chan, and Lawrence Lock from DVL Audio.
Show organizer Sarah Tremblay – who helped to step in and rescue the show last year when the Chester Group suddenly cancelled it – very kindly responded to me with answers to some questions regarding Salon Audio Montreal. Keep checking back throughout the week, and into the weekend as I will be posting from the floors of the show.
RA: The Salon Audio de Montreal Audio Fest used to be known as the Salon Son & Image for a number of years, but after initially being cancelled by The Chester Group just weeks before the 2016 show last March, you, and a few others stepped in to rescue the show out of seemingly nowhere. Can you explain to me what happened at that time, and how you became involved in turning the show into such a success last year?
ST: “When I was notified that the show was cancelled 10 days before its expected start, I contacted Michel Plante the other ex-show’s owner who was at a meeting in Germany with Daniel Jacques – the owner of Plurison – and they both decided immediately that they would do the show regardless as they were already heavily invested to prepare it, and they were confident that at least a few hundred music lovers, and audiophiles would show up. When Michel told me that, I asked if I could participate as well as I have my own distribution company present, since I had already planned an awesome room with live music, and everyone was booked to play. But of course, within a day the phone started ringing. All the exhibitors were asking me what was happening with Chester Group, and I was telling them that Plurison, and I will be at the show anyway, and one after the other they asked if they could join us. It took me few hours to make a deal with the hotel, but then we were in business. So both Michel, and I worked 20 hours-a-day that week but we ended up signing on 65 exhibitors in less than 10 days.”
RA: For those not familiar with the Canadian, and the Montreal audiophile scene in particular, can you talk about this community, and the support you’ve received since taking responsibility for the show?
ST: “The challenge was to spread the news that the show was still going to happen while all media outlets were announcing that the show was cancelled. This required a very powerful machine to overcome the first wave of bad news. Without asking anyone, people from the community started to share our message on audio, and music forums, and on all social media. Everyone was fighting for us to explain that yes the Chester show has been cancelled, but yes there will be a show. We even had a student at University that offered to build a us website. It was unreal, so many people helped to make this happen as well as all the specialized audiophile media.”
RA: Last year, you brought everything together for the Salon Audio de Montreal in an incredibly short time period. For 2017 you had a normalized lead-time to prepare, can you discuss what will be different this year compared to last?
ST: “The show is now a non-profit organization, so we want to keep the cost down for the exhibitors, and also keep the admission free, The budget for staff is not very high, so I started to work for the show in January, which stretched the lead time a bit. I can tell you that the show will be better organized with more signage, a show magazine with the list of exhibitors, and a map of the floor plan. For 2017 we have 30 per cent more exhibitors, but I think it is important to mention that the organizers have no influence on the manufacturers, distributors and retailers who to come to exhibit. Unfortunately many claim they don’t have the necessary budget or resources to do shows, so please do not blame us if a product you would love to see, and hear is not there: call the manufacturer and express your disappointment.”
RA: What are some of the highlights in 2017 for show attendees to be aware of now that we are less than two weeks out from opening day? we will have a Record Fair, a real Recording Studio will be build and while professional artist will be recorded the sound engineers will describe to the public what they are doing.
ST: “A lot of new products will be on display of course, plus we will have a full-blown Record Fair, a real Recording Studio will be built, and while professional artists are recording, the sound engineers will describe to the public how the process takes shape We will sell tickets for Door Prizes being offered by generous sponsors too. We will be hosting two album launches: Bélanger & Bisson, Conversations, and Pure Cello by Vincent Bélanger. We can almost guarantee to our visitors that they won’t hear any Diana Krall at all has we have a rule that her music is forbidden at our show, LOL.”
RA: In your opinion how critical is it to ensure that audio shows remain viable, and healthy in today’s audiophile marketplace? What role do you see audio shows taking moving forward, and is there anything in particular that sets the Montreal show apart from other Canadian hifi-industry/consumer electronics shows like TAVES, and the Vancouver Audio Show?
ST: “Our show is unique in the world. We care a lot about people, and this transcends into the general feeling everyone has, who then transfers that energy to each other. I don’t think you will find this level of camaraderie between industry members anywhere else. We host a lot of parties to facilitate networking, and it’s not uncommon for these to go until sunrise. All our employees at the show are dedicated to make sure visitors will feel like part of a family. The show has been held in the same hotel for many, many years, so our exhibitors know how to get the best sound in their room, and which equipment will fit the best, so visitors can experience great sound throughout the venues. We take our responsibility very seriously, and as an international show we have to make sure we show the best about our town, our province, and our country. We want to make sure everyone leaves Montreal with the impression that the French community in Canada are great hosts, and we want them to come back to visit us.”