Water Buffalos 21st Century Style
Numerous articles have been published on how to maintain and keep this glorious hobby of ours alive. One of the main points to many of these debates has been that a younger generation must “catch the bug,” and be introduced to the hobby in order for it to survive. When looking at the way people consume music on a daily basis, a sense of dismay has been noted, because the iPod generation simply has no desire to sit down and seriously listen to music anymore. I am not taking any side here, but I recently realized that as long as people are listening to music, we have a chance to share this hobby and help it survive. What can bridge this gap between the new and the old? For me, it has been the convergence of technology that can bring people together.
As a kid watching the Flintstones, I always wanted to be a part of the Water Buffalos. I think it would have been neat hanging out with Fred and Barney. Their relationship was always rock-solid no matter what situation came their way. Even an alien from space could not break them up. This fellowship is what I have seen firsthand through local gatherings of audio enthusiasts. Now, there is obviously nothing new to club meetings, but the way they can be organized has drastically changed. What I see as the survival of the industry the use of social media in creating a welcoming atmosphere for the uninitiated who love to listen to music, but do not necessarily know the benefits of high quality music reproduction. The meeting that I am talking about starts out with a search on the internet. A person wanting to purchase headphones, for example, looks for reviews on various headsets, looking for price, quality etc., and stumbles onto something like www.head-fi.org. The site is dedicated to all things headphones, and brings together people from all walks of life. The use of message boards and forums to express a number of opinions, suggestions, and tips can be highly engaging, especially to a generation wanting to belong to something. This online get together just happens, and bonds between members are created. Thus, a person who did not have any real knowledge about a quality product gets free and helpful advice from a community that really cares.
There is a happy side effect to all this, the question of the budding audiophile that does not have the means to purchase the top of line products, or is some years away from purchasing their first serious piece of hardware. Enter the online community who by its very nature keeps that person hooked, and at the same time gives them the education they need to make the informed choice. Moreover, what if that person is still not ready to pull the trigger and invest their hard earned dollar?
Cue the exciting part! The sub forums of many of these audio sites have regional sections dedicated to local meetings of its members. This is where the light bulb finally lit up for me, because in one of these meetings I realized that this could be a way for our hobby to survive in the 21st century. Someone can become a member, walk in to one of these meetings, and try out some of the gear they would not have access to regularly. Although meeting conditions are not always optimal, the gathering of like-minded people brings about a camaraderie and almost safe haven to talk and share an interest in the passion for music. What better way for potential audio enthusiasts to become a part of this hobby? Additionally these meetings also expose members to new music genres that they would not necessarily have listened to. The push for technology should therefore not entirely be filled with fear and dread, because we can take advantage of new ways of connecting to people who might be afraid to dip there toe in audio waters.
So far I have been talking about those potential new members to the hobby, but what about those grizzled veterans who are trying to get back into audio after a number of years? These same gatherings can also help rejuvenate knowledge and passion, especially given the new ways that music is being played from even ten years ago. How many of us, from time to time, have suffered from audio stagnation, where our system simply does not seem right? At times we worry about the gear more than the music. The connection with other people who enjoy the hobby as well can get us motivated to come back to the fold, and realize what is missing. A new combination, a tweak, or just listening to our system again comes from a good conversation. Listening from different prospective yields a willingness to challenge ourselves to be more attentive, enjoy what we have, and possibly what we may want in the future. Everyone benefits.
In the end, we can grasp the audio revolution characterized by such devices such as the "iDevice," and let people know that there are many ways to enjoy a satisfying sound with all the incredible products that have recently come to market. So when I am asked what is the best way to get into audio? Or if someone has taken some time off, I usually say that a quick internet search can get them started in the right direction. Finding community in this day and age may be difficult if you do not know where to look. Supporting the arts and keeping this great hobby of ours going is simply a mouse click away.
We all secretly want to join the Water Buffalo club… yabba dabba doo.