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139th AES Takes Manhattan

The questions kept coming up over and over around the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City during Halloween weekend: Does the AES Convention seem a little more packed than usual?

NEW YORK, NYThe questions kept coming up over and over around the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City during Halloween weekend: Does the AES Convention seem a little more packed than usual? Maybe there’s more exhibitors? How about more attendees? Well, it was both. This year’s convention didn’t just feel bigger—it was bigger.

While the annual AES Convention is always a four-day event, kicking off on a Thursday, the exhibition floor, packed with manufacturers presenting their latest and greatest products, doesn’t open until the second day of the show. That, in turn, helped spur attendance, with the final convention total just shy of 18,500.

Attendees burst onto the exhibit floor each day of the AES Convention in New York. “Advance registration this year has been intriguing, to the point where we’ve been looking at the numbers every day to see if we’d set a record yet,” said Bob Moses, AES executive director on the second day of the convention. “As of the close of Thursday night, we were at 17,081 so we bested 17,000.” As a result, before the exhibit floor even opened—which went on to draw walk-in attendees throughout the weekend—this year’s pre-registration was higher than all of the registration combined for last year’s Los Angeles convention (15,403).

“We’re approaching record levels,” confirmed Moses. “It’s all up—exhibitor counts are up; they’re taking smaller booths but there’s more of them, and there’s also more manufacturers participating as sponsors than ever before.”

Day One of the AES Convention, packed as it was with workshops, panels and opening ceremonies, was low-key but insightful, but there’s no denying it—every year, the convention kicks into high gear once the exhibition floor opens on Day Two. The excitement level in the Javits ramped up fast on Friday as attendees burst on to the floor at 10 a.m., eager to see the latest gear, catch up with friends in the industry, make feature requests for their favorite piece of audio equipment or any number of other pursuits. The AES Convention offers access to the movers and shakers of the audio industry like no other event—and the crowds started taking advantage of that as fast as possible.

And all that went according to plan, said convention co-chair Paul Gallo: “It’s a great place to learn—to take your talents and grow and develop them as a successful person in the industry. Attending AES is a great career opportunity for many people, and I’m pleased to see that they’re having more young people take a look at a career in such a growth industry.”

At the same time, however, there were plenty of seasoned professionals, checking out gear and networking. Looking out across the show floor, Moses offered, “This show is about our community, and people get excited about what we do when we get together. When you come to the AES Convention, you experience a shared passion for audio; not everyone shares that, so we get together and geek out. Out there, people are hugging, high-fiving, and that’s what it’s all about—the mojo.”

There was lots of excitement on the show floor, but that wasn’t the only location, as the Convention served up plenty to take in, from allstar Platinum Producer, Engineer and Mastering Engineer panels, to Tech Tours that took attendees everywhere around town from the Empire State Building to behind the scenes at Late Night with Seth Meyers. Author Howard Massey and producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie) were among the panelists at The Great British Recording Studios panel, and producer Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon, Alice Cooper) regaled the audience with wild tales of recording decadent rock legends. And for a taste of what the future might hold, From The Ether was an offsite event that brought together performers located in New York, Toronto, Montreal, California, Norway, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Ireland who performed together via internet, with all audio and video mixed locally at each site to create the experience of a complete orchestra.

With most of the recording industry having moved into smaller facilities and live sound professionals perpetually on the move by necessity, there’s less interaction between professionals these days; online forums and social media help, but they are no replacement for experiencing and learning in person. “You have to be good at what you do,” said Gallo. “That’s why you have to come to an AES convention and network and learn from others. You may be good enough, but are you as good as you can get? Don’t just be ‘good enough.’ AES is the place to make that happen for yourself.”

If you missed it, or were there and just couldn’t get enough, sit tight until next year, when the AES Convention returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center, September 28 through October 1, 2016.