NAD’s new product line of digital amplifiers ambitiously targeting both traditional audiophiles and “digital natives” [aka “Millennials” that only know portable, low-quality digital downloads of music] really got me to thinking about the challenges of getting the younger generation to invest in HiFi hardware equipment.
It’s more of a broader philosophical question that the industry has been mulling over for awhile now. As someone on the older edge of this generation, I wholeheartedly agree that if younger people are introduced to higher quality audio, then they will love it. Getting the introduction to happen is what may be difficult.
A conversation I had with my husband just the other day comes to mind. He was telling me about a free mp3 download he had done, and we noted that there were FLAC files of the recording available for just $10 (pretty cheap). I told him about how I worry that, as the music lovers we both are, someday we will regret not having FLAC files of the music we acquire. He was surprised, so I then made a broad proclamation that I’ve been sharing with everyone I talk to about music lately: without high-end audio equipment, I think FLAC files (and other HD digital audio formats) are a giant waste of hard drive space. He responded that he doesn’t recognize the difference in music file quality, and he doesn’t really know anything about great audio at all. It occurred to me that I felt the same way until I started working for Residential Systems and attending all sorts of great audio demos.
That being said, even if “digital natives” like me can easily learn to love great audio quality, getting them to spend their money on it is an entirely different story. We live in a pretty expensive world today where young people are saddled with college debt and hindered by stagnant wages. Statistics documenting this are widespread and pretty dismal. Larger economic concerns abound about how this generation is buying fewer cars and homes, and even wondering how we will afford retirement one day. So as much as I think many of my friends would absolutely be interested in spending money on audio equipment, it sits kind of low on their radar.
I hate to sound like such a pessimist because I’m really not. I don’t think it’s by any means too late for these generational economic trends to turn around. In that respect, 10 years down the road, I think there could be a real spike in high-end audio equipment sales from today’s Millennial generation. I think it’s really valuable for custom integrators to see younger people as their future customers, as my colleague John Sciacca recently wrote about here.
Ultimately, the industry could be doing more to introduce young people to better quality audio. Lenbrook has been at the forefront of such a movement with its i Fi Zone digital audio demo room concept—you can read about that here.
But there is a broader economic impediment to this industry’s ability to attract young dollars, and I believe that is a critical issue that individuals would be well advised to consider both in and outside of their business lives.