Noel Lee: Audio Deserves a Fair Shake at Retail
Monster Cable Head Monster Noel Lee is a musician and an audiophile, and he’d like to see that spirit engendered and nurtured in the retail salespeople who sell his products.
“The audio initiative just announced by the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association), the Great Audio Experience, is fantastic,” he told Custom Retailer in early November, just after that latest salvo in the war against declining high-end audio sales was announced.
CEA’s effort to educate consumers about quality audio’s merits enlists popular rock group 3 Doors Down, who are featured artists in Lee’s Monster Music High Definition Surround recordings series, and also includes a relaunch of the www.greataudio.com Web site.
Beyond reaching out to consumers, however, the program must engage retail salespeople as well. “I certainly hope retailers embrace it,” said Lee. “If the industry continues to gravitate toward MP3 and HTIB (home theater in a box) as the definitive way to get audio, that’s bad. When people talk about adding audio, they think HTIB, and that trend comes from a distorted perspective.
“The problem is not the consumer, but being able to get the retail community to embrace high-end audio and use it in demos. The industry has been disappointingly slow to adopt the idea that we can pool all factions together for surround-sound demos as part of the retail experience. The music merchant is not part of the hardware side, usually, and bringing both together on the floor is a huge challenge. It’s a cart-and-horse situation.”
The Monster Music label is currently selling through around 700 outlets now, with 300 of that number being A/V specialists, says Lee. “Experiencing these recordings can knock the socks off consumers,” he says. “But if they see them, where do you go from there? The retailer needs to properly demo and highlight them, not necessarily to sell disks but as a way to draw customers and sell bigger speakers, more powerful subwoofers and amps and better cabling.”
Lee is optimistic about another CEA initiative that will be realized at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show: the moving of high-end audio from the far-flung Alexis Park Hotel into the Venetian Hotel, smack in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. “It will add visibility to audio for key retailers looking to differentiate their businesses,” he says. “It puts those products in the limelight.”