AXPONA Cancellation – Interview with Joel

axpona canceled
axpona canceled

As you probably know AXPONA has been cancelled entirely for 2020. Originally it was rescheduled with hope that come August we would be past all of the risks of Covid-19. As time went along it looked less and less promising that this would be the case, so came the decision to cancel. I read a lot of comments on the web as well as a couple of articles about this. No one was happy about this, though clearly out of the control of anyone. I saw quite a few negative comments about JDE, the company that puts on AXPONA. They did not refund exhibitors for the the year which lead a lot of people to hold disdain towards the show. I reached out to Joel (owner of JDE) to see what they had to say. I also reached out to a few of the exhibitors to hear how they have been effected by the Cancellation of this show as well as others and Covid in general. I have not heard anything from any of the exhibitors that I reached out to, however I will update the story if we eventually do. I wanted to avoid a one sided story but as of now that is all we have. If you are an exhibitor please reach out to us to talk, we prefer it be private as we are not out to disgrace anyone’s name or business. We are solely interested in bringing the news to our readers.

With out further ado, here is what Joel has had to say.

Tell us a little history about yourself and AXPONA and how that came to be to help everyone with understanding the background.

I have been in the tradeshow business since 1986 producing in-person events in dozens and dozens of different industries over the last 34 years. I spent my first 10 years with Reed Exhibitions who was the largest organizer in the world at that time. I spun off on my own in 2002 to start JD Events as a small boutique event organizer looking for niche markets that the larger organizers would typically shy away from. Steve Davis was referred to me by a large organizer in 2013. He was looking for a professional firm with the resources to take AXPONA to the next level but it was too small to get the attention of the larger organizers. I was intrigued by the audio show business. I attended RMAF and enjoyed the experience of walking from room to room listening to my favorite music on mind blowing sound systems. I went to Munich High End and thought why can’t we build something like this in North America. We acquired the show from Steve and produced our first AXPONA in 2014 with the vision of investing for several years in order to create a high end audio show like Munich in the middle of this continent.

When did the decision to full cancel the event really become the clear decision to make?

When we postponed to August on March 9 there was still reason to believe that the show could still be held. Over 90% of exhibitors supported the move at that time. With each passing week there were growing concerns. By late April, while some exhibitors were still pleading with us to stay the course, there was a groundswell of opinion that we should cancel the August event asap. So on April 30th, out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of all participants with more than 3 months remaining till the August event, we announced that the 2020 show would not be held. 

I saw there was some back lash on the vender side about payment. I have done events and I understand a lot of money made goes right into event costs, Will venders get any money back, or discounts for the following year in 2021?

Unfortunately JDE has been decimated by the impact of this pandemic on our small business. AXPONA couldn’t have been hit at a worse time just 1 month prior to the April event, but all of our 2020 shows have been severely damaged. We had no cash reserves when this virus hit. We now have no revenue for the foreseeable future. All we have is staff expenses and bills to pay which is not sustainable without income. So unfortunately that means we are incapable of offering cash refunds to 2020 exhibitors. We have offered to make everyone whole with a payment rollover plan over the next 3 shows equal to a 50% credit in 2021, a 25% credit in 2022 and a 25% credit in 2023. And we have promised there will be no rate increases over those 3 years.

Has JD events been able to recoup any of the funds they have paid out for the event?

No. We have not been able to recoup any monies spent and we still have obligations to vendors and contractors who performed work for us on AXPONA 2020.

Have any brands expressed they may not be interested in coming back for 2021 (no names needed)

Some exhibitors are understandably upset about not receiving a refund. I can’t blame them. They are hurting too. Our payment rollover plan has received support from over 80% of exhibitors with 60% of responses in so far. 20% have expressed disappointment and have said they will not or may not participate in 2021. Our hope is that some of that sentiment may change prior to the next event.

Are sponsors of the show, exhibiting any hesitation as well?

Same as above.

What are your thoughts on audio shows in the near future, with cancellations all over the globe and the economic hit in our industry, do you think 2021 will bring bigger shows due to the lack of them this year or smaller due to the revenue issues stemming from 2020.

I think that once people feel safe travelling and attending audio shows they will be excited to do so again. But I also believe that this pandemic will leave a lot of companies and individuals much worse off financially and so, whenever large gatherings are allowed to happen again, tradeshows in almost every business sector will likely be down.

If there was one thing you would like to say to everyone to help them understand the situation that has occurred what would it be?

We are sorry about not being able to pay refunds. We have spent 7 years building good relationships with our customers so it pains us beyond words to suddenly find ourselves in this position. This is not just about AXPONA’s P&L as a stand-alone show. JDE is a small shop that had 4 shows scheduled in 2020 in Chicago, New York City, LA and London. Four of the hardest hit areas in the world. Most likely none of the 4 shows will happen this year. We are devastated but still determined to find a way to get through this. Our rollover plan is the only viable path forward for AXPONA.

If JD Events had the funds would you return money in part or full, to the exhibitors regardless of what contracts may say?

Absolutely! Nothing would give us more pleasure and nothing would make our customers happier. If we were in a position to do so it would be the smartest thing we could do.

What is a ball park price to put on a show like AXPONA?

I’m not sure I understand the question. What would the value be if we were to sell AXPONA right now? There’s no easy way to answer that with no 2020 show and the unpredictable future we are looking at. My guess would be that it’s worth somewhere between zero and not much. Of course they say beauty is always in the eye of the beholder but I don’t imagine anyone will be courting us in this environment.

We want to thank Joel for taking the time to talk with us about what has happened with AXPONA this year in the wake of Covid-19. We are looking forward to next year and hope everything goes much better for both Joel and the exhibitors. This year has been a hard economic hit on a lot of individuals and in tern companies. We have seen some companies do awesome stuff such as VPI making hand sanitizer and face masks.

Stay safe everyone

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