SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The economy may still be down, but spirits were up at the recent 129th AES Convention in San Francisco. The annual U.S. exhibition and conference attracted over 14,000 attendees this year, fewer than past years but up from 2009, a demonstration that, as popular as social media might be, there’s no substitute for real-world interaction.
“You can’t possibly connect to a person via computer the way you can in person, shaking a hand, talking to them,” commented Christopher Plunkett, AES deputy director, convention management, to PSN’s Clive Young during the conclave. “You can’t beat face-to-face interaction.”
In recent years, the AES has embraced social media to interact with its existing membership, which currently numbers just over 14,000, and to attract new members. As the AES president-elect, Jim Kaiser, observed, “There is still this one-on-one, faceto- face communication that, at least until we have that mind-meld going, everyone will take advantage of when they have the opportunity.”
But for those unable to attend every convention, social media does allow AES members to remain constantly engaged. “One of the things that I’m hoping to be able to help accomplish is to continue that interactive side of it on the year-round basis that social media allows,” said Kaiser of his coming year at the helm of the organization.
“We have conventions at different, specific times—you can be at some, you may not be able to be at others. But there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of all those things in whatever interactive way is possible. And that’s really where the whole process seems to be making that possible.”
Kaiser, director of technology at Nashville mastering facility MasterMix and an adjunct teacher at Nashville’s Belmont University, is hoping to instill in new members the excitement he felt when he joined the AES in 1983 as a student in New York and attended his first convention: “I recognized that I had to keep to going.”
He recalled the first time that he became aware of SACD was at an AES Convention. “[Ocean Way Recording studio owner] Allen Sides had a very good demonstration with a lot of very high-end recordings. He set up the room so they sounded really fantastic. You could sit there and audition them. But there’s no way that, interactively, social media, as great as it is, can give you that experience. Or give you the opportunity to ask Allen questions and communicate directly. That’s the experience that I would hope students, the ones that are coming in for the very first time, can experience.”
Kaiser revealed that he became involved in the organization in the larger sense in 2000 when he was elected a vice president, a position that is part of the Board of Governors, of the Central Region U.S. and Canada, which includes Nashville, where he was a member of the local section committee since the early 1990s. For the last four years, he has been involved with the AES Technical Council, an organizing body for the technical committees.
As an educator, Kaiser believes that education is at the core of the AES. “It’s not a trade organization, or a rights organization, it’s an educational organization,” he asserted.
AES Conventions can truly add to a person’s knowledge, according to his or her interests, he continued. “You can pick and choose. You take this subject, this subject and this subject, or follow one track. And in four days, you really have seen a broad or very specific view of what’s going on in the world, or another world.”
As a result, the organization offers each member a unique experience, he said. “There are lots of ways that the AES is something different to every person. There are 14,000-plus different versions of what the AES is.”
There’s always a lot to see and hear at conventions, of course. “You can come to a convention for 10 years in succession and miss 80 percent of what is actually going on without even realizing it.”
One of the effects of the economic downturn has been to provide a reminder of what each aspect of the AES’ activities brings to the whole, according to Kaiser. Thankfully, the future looks good for the organization. “For the past several years, the people in the organization have really been aware of that and have taken steps to be the most cost-efficient with anything that’s going on,” he explains. “The economic news for the group is that we’re not in the uncomfortable position that we might have been in if we hadn’t prepared for that. We’re starting to see good positive indications of the way things are going.”
The 131st AES Convention is slated for October 20-23, 2011 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.
Audio Engineering Society