An Interview with TAVES Show President Suave Kajko

TAVES Show partners Simon Au and Suave Kajko

TAVES 2014 is two weeks away, and this week Wall Of Sound caught up with show organizer Suave Kajko, by phone. We thought our readers would be interested in his view of the local audio scene and of course, the upcoming Toronto show, now in its’ fourth year of operation.

WoS: Suave, thanks for making time for this.

SK: Thanks very much Noam, we really appreciate your coverage and interest in TAVES.

WoS: This is your “crazy time” of year. Just how busy are you with only two weeks until the start of TAVES?

SK: It’s funny – despite a ton of planning for an entire year, there are a million little things that can only come together in the last 30 days or so before the show. It’s not intentional, this is the nature of putting on a show of this scale. There are lots of components that just can’t be done or planned until almost the last minute – things like where to position booths and displays. And this year we’ve introduced a number of new areas to the show, and along with each of them comes a new set of logistical challenges. It’s an incredibly busy time..and that is understating it.

WoS: I can only imagine. So TAVES is at the Sheraton Centre this year…what should showgoers expect?

SK: We’re very excited about the move to the Sheraton this year; and it’s primarily because the show has grown…and we’ve outgrown the space we were in at the King Eddy. And with the introduction of these new facets, the Sheraton was the obvious choice since it can accommodate our space needs. One big advantage is very easy access for vehicles to get in, and as the show evolves over the next few years, we expect that to be one of the growth areas – being able to display and showcase the integration of audio and other technologies in the latest generation of vehicles. Of course, the layout will be quite different: we’re occupying four floors of the hotel, so folks who came to past TAVES will, I imagine, be excited to explore the new venue. And certainly, we are hoping to attract plenty of new or first-time attendees this year as well.

Focal Audio at TAVES (photo credit: Taveshow.com)

Focal Audio at TAVES (photo credit: Taveshow.com)

WoS: How pleased are you with the results since bringing back the Toronto show from extinction?

SK: I can’t really comment or make comparisons between TAVES and the former Toronto show, which died out about 15 years ago, just as I was coming along and setting up Canada Hifi. My understanding is that the previous show was strictly an audio show, whereas TAVES, even from its’ early days, was intended to be more of a consumer electronics show. Even though the vast majority of our exhibitors are from the audio world, over the past three years we’ve been able to attract a number of technology companies, video companies, and of course, some product categories that didn’t even exist back in the 90’s. So – I’m very pleased with the way things have been going for TAVES. The passion from the industry side has been there since day 1; our base of exhibitors have been very happy to see the return of an annual show, and to not only “connect the industry with itself”, but with the large and enthusiastic consumer base that we have here in the Toronto area.

WoS: Very interesting. What percentage of the exhibits, say by floor space, are still traditional high-end audio?

SK: I’d have to go do some math to give you an exact percentage, but it’s still very high – I’d say 80-85%. We’re making steady progress into the newer areas, or generally into other consumer electronics, but when you look at the suites for example, three of the four hotel floors are fully audio related. So we have both. Those audio floors have the feel and look of what you’d expect at a traditional audio show, and then in addition, we have the main show floor, which will showcase some of the grander audio systems, some home theater systems, as well as the newer elements that are now coming into TAVES, like a new technologies area, digital photography, an exclusive headphones section, and visual arts feature areas like this year’s Jolt Art Gallery.

WoS: Are there other world-class shows that you’ve tried to model, or aspire to match in some way(s)?

SK: Since the outset, we’ve really tried to put our own ‘spin’ on the show, and introduce things that would make it unique, compared to other shows. Of course, both Simon and I have attended many shows in the last ten years, and tried to pick up bits and pieces of what we saw was working well. But we’ve really been developing our own vision for the show, and this year we think you’ll really start to see a lot of evidence of that. If there’s one show you could say we aspire to be like, I think it would be the CES – in terms of its’ broad appeal and diversity of exhibits. Over the next 3-5 years, we’d like to see TAVES become known as sort of a “CES North”.

Toronto's Sheraton Centre hotel

Toronto’s Sheraton Centre hotel

WoS: Toronto might have to build some bigger hotels! (laughing)

SK: You’re right about that. It’s been a very big challenge for us. We outgrew the King Edward quickly, and now The Sheraton is the best, or maybe the only, place we have for this type of show. Once we outgrow the Sheraton, I don’t know where we’d need to move to. But as they say, that’s a good kind of problem to have. 🙂

WoS: Yes, for sure. So, what were your goals for Taves 2014?

SK: Primarily our goal this year was to make headway into these new consumer electronics categories that the show hasn’t featured before. The underlying goal behind that goal, is really for TAVES to appeal to a somewhat younger and more diverse audience. So to that end we’re introducing a digital photography section (with its’ own seminars); we’re introducing a new technology section, which I’m especially excited about – this will feature a lot of ‘prototype’ sort of products, a lot of products that originally started as Kickstarter or Indiegogo projects, and really just a lot of “wild ideas”, that came to be from the minds of innovative thinkers. Stuff that major industry players may have never brought forward, but that have become possible through crowdfunding and so on. To share a few examples, this year we’ll see displays like the Oculus Rift – a virtual reality headset; Tesla Motors’ electric cars will be here; we have a company that will demonstrate a “mind control headband” for controlling a tablet or smartphone; and Montreal-based Moon Media will be here to show their holographic marketing tools. Out of the ordinary, stuff you might only have seen reported about online or in the media, TAVES attendees will have the chance to see and touch some of these things for themselves now. The other goal we had was to bring a bit more culture into the show, and attract a more diverse group of showgoers. So this year we have the Jolt Art Gallery – it’s a visual arts component where attendees, as they walk through the hallways between exhibitors, will be treated to displays by local artists. We expect to have 100-120 pieces of art on display.

WoS: Amazing. But back to audio. 🙂  As audiophiles, we do worry that our breed could die out someday. Are there other things you envision doing to attract a younger demographic into the audiophile scene?

SK: I think that’s exactly what we’re trying to do – for example, for the first time we’ll have a dedicated headphones and portable audio section, and that will likely be a congregating area for people who use smartphones and tablets as their digital music source. And just adjacent to that, we’ll have Sonic Boom, Toronto’s largest record store (and my favourite). They’re a big retailer in vinyl, CD’s, and even Blu-ray and DVD’s. It’s exciting because their selection is very diverse, so whereas in the past we’ve had some music retailers catering more to audiophile tastes, a player like Sonic Boom brings a much larger catalog of music, in all genres, to appeal to more people of all backgrounds. We’ve been doing some cross-promotions with Sonic Boom to ensure that they also use both their online and physical presence to distribute show tickets.

WoS: That’s definitely exciting! Are there some encouraging signs that you’re seeing in the Canadian audio scene?

SK: We could start with the show itself. The level of excitement we’re seeing from the manufacturers, distributors and retailers is extremely encouraging. We’ve had great success in signing up exhibitors, and it indicates that they’re doing good business. TAVES now represents over 300 brands in the market (again, the large majority being in the audio realm). With my Canada Hifi hat on, I can say that we’ve been seeing more marketing interest on the publication side as well. So I think overall, it is an industry that’s continuing to grow, at least in some areas. Particularly in terms of the array of new products on the digital audio side, since that whole area has been evolving so fast. Over the last 3-4 years, we’re seeing some of these products now in their second and third versions, continuing to improve – and becoming more affordable at the same time. In that sense we’re really seeing the effects of trickle down technology now. It’s great because there are so many people who really enjoy music, but don’t have five figures to spend on an audio system, or just aren’t inclined to do that. So I think that especially in the digital content area, there’s a lot of opportunity for our industry to grow. Smartphones, tablets, and the internet in general have really been transforming the way we store and deliver back the music experience. And the same thing applies to the digital video side of it.

WoS: Absolutely true. Suave, thanks again for your time, we really appreciate it.

SK: Thank you, Noam!

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TAVES 2014 (Toronto Audio Video & Electronics Show, official website taveshow.com) runs from October 31st through November 2nd, at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. Below is the official press release for the show. Wall Of Sound will be roving the exhibits at TAVES; this year we’ll mainly be listening to interesting audio gear, connecting with exhibitors, and taking notes and photos for our readers to enjoy.

Save $4 Off TAVES Admission

Wall of Sound readers can get a discount of $4 off TAVES admission for the show, this code is limited to the first 100 tickets and will expire on Oct. 28th, so best to act on it now. To obtain the $4 discount off a 1-day or 3-day ticket, please enter the code wos14 at taveshow.com/purchase-taves-tickets. To enter the code, click the ‘Enter promotional code’ link, just above the green ‘Order Now’ button on the ticket page. The discount is valid only for 1-day and 3-day adult tickets.

We hope to see you all at the show!


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