After pondering how to respond to a hot topic, “is the car show scene dead” I had to decide how I should respond, I mean we are primarily a website driven to promoting car shows and auto events through-out the nation. As most of what I am going to say is and/or probably already exists in some context/form of a response in a forum thread, social media post, or comment to a blog but, I wanted to share my own personal experiences and help bring a different point of view to the topic and to add some experiences and reasons why I think the car show scene is dying or not.
When we say “car show” we are referring to an organized automobile event that is a judged competition between vehicles / builders. There are requirements to enter your ride into a car show which usually requires custom modifications, but there are stock classes that usually tailor towards classics. There are so many variables when it comes to the “car show” topic. Different genres (hot rods, imports, trucks, motorcycles), locations, styles, preferences, etc. Since we are primarily based on the East Coast, I can give you a pretty good perspective of what’s going on here from what I see. However, we do follow the scene pretty extensively by TALKING to folks who are in other regions. Notice I said “talk”, where we get first-hand information and DO NOT rely on social media or the internet to get our information; I feel that is important to mention.
With the amount of modified rides that are out there, I do not feel the car show scene is dead or to say it is dying. I feel it is on a “break” and is desperately waiting for someone to wrap their big ol’ arms around it and bring it back together like it used to be in the past; a close-knit group of enthusiasts who enjoyed hanging out with each other and there was always a mutual respect for someone’s build.
THE FACTS – The Boring Stuff
For most of us (within my age range) 12-20 years ago is a good time-frame to say when we all got involved or were at least interested in modifying cars and attending car shows. With that said, take a look at the economy and what it has done since then and now (1993-2015). The unemployment rate back then was actually slightly higher in 1993 (average 7.0%) compared to what it is currently in 2015 (average 5.8%). Granted, we are only half-way through 2015 and of course this does not take into account the 2008 through 2013 economical crash / housing bubble that screwed all of us. People are now just getting back on their feet or are still working towards getting on their feet. No money for car parts, car show registration, lodging, gas, food, etc. Taking a look at gas prices, in 1994 the average price was $1.078 compared to now $3.437 (2014 stats, but still accurate). It is obvious to say the previous statistics have contributed to the lack of attendance at car shows, but I think there is a much deeper formula we need to look at. I’m by no means an economical expert, but I can tell you I had more spending money back then compared to now.
The larger shows predominantly had a major influence on the industry and has essentially led us to where we are today. Back in the day, without a blink of an eye, we would pay $40 bucks general admission to get into a show. Let’s face it, the entertainment back then was no different from today; however, the competition field was much broader and the convention centers were overflowing with custom rides. So to pay $40+ and walk around to see some cool cars for a few hours and catch-up with fellow enthusiasts was all good. That is of course from a spectator stand-point.
From a competitor stand-point, the motivation was to earn the respect of others and knowing you had a bad ass ride by proving yourself and your cars build by attending the most reputable shows around. We did what it took to get our rides to a show. Shows could get away and charge whatever they wanted back then. People would do anything to be a part of the scene and they could afford to do so. Remember, gas prices were down and everyone was working and life was good! The judging back then was just as horrible as it is today, but not as many people complained. Why?! Because they all wanted to be a part of the movement and if you complained you were the outcast. Today more and more enthusiasts are taking their hard earned dollars and they want to treat themselves (with their families in tow) and head out to a car show. Only now people are seeing the low-quality produced shows and they are more willing to speak up and the methods now-a-days to speak up are more available to do so.
The difference between then and now is social media! Social media allows for us to have a first person point-of-view. Forums no longer dictate our thoughts or have an influence on our feelings. We all remember the keyboard commandos back then who bullied their way through the forums. It’s no different today, but we have more control of who we include in our circle and who can view our posts; we can throw down the BAN hammer (block people) and not have to wait for an admin. We post whatever we like on our social media pages / walls and voice our opinions and no one can stop us.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Businesses / companies would pop-up left and right in the past in an attempt to take advantage of the enthusiasts. They always had a car-salesman feel to them, a “get rich quick scheme.” Sponsorship websites, wheel websites, shops, you name it. They all felt they could make some fast money, because everyone has money to just throw out the window, right?! WRONG! Now with the power of the internet it is easy to see what’s going on and find out who is who. More and more businesses and individuals are being put on blast; which has now caused an uneasy feeling within the scene and causes people to be on alert, raise up their defenses and it is causing event producers, promoters, and businesses to have to earn the trust back from the enthusiast, and rightfully so.
“Why should I give you my hard earned money for you to reap the benefits? What is your event doing that is good for the industry?”
Manufacturers, Corporations, Sponsors, Advertisers, Small Businesses and Competitors. With everyone struggling, the shows decided to fold and call it quits. With some of the major shows and businesses filing for bankruptcy; leaving the above mentioned high and dry, tons of money lost and never able to be regained causing small companies to go out of business and leaving mid-sized to larger businesses with an uneasy feeling and a sour taste in their mouths when it came to car shows and events.
THE HYPE – MY EXPERIENCE
The promoters of car shows / meets would talk a good game when it comes to pushing their event: The entertainment is, “top-notch”, “we will take care of you” and you hear the same thing over and over again only to be left disappointed. At the end of the day an enthusiast does not mind spending the money, but there needs to be some return of investment in there somewhere. The entertainment and the feeling they are not just another statistic for the shows media kit for the following year. Some people do not understand the prep, time, and money that goes into preparing a car for a show, not to mention the thousands of dollars you have already invested in building a show car.
For many, attending a car show is like a mini vacation for them and their families. The money they were going to spend to go down to the beach is used to travel to a show, get a hotel, gas, food, registration and sometimes electric in the convention center (to power your in-car-entertainment). The trip needs to be worth it!
SENSE OF JUDGEMENT
Social media has completely destroyed everything possible in today’s society; even though I mentioned above it does have its positive affects, with the positive comes the negative! Not just the automotive scene, but everything! It’s an addiction, people are always on their phones and always need to know the latest and greatest so they can be the first to post something or tell their friends. Social media has also destroyed a person’s sense of judgement and perception. Let me explain…
Back in the day you would hit up the local car meet or show, you would observe what’s going on around you, by listening to conversations, seeing what’s going on first-hand which would ultimately allow you to make a judgement with very little outside influence. Now don’t get me wrong, there are always people and their opinions, but there was less bullshitting people because, they can see it with their own eyes and not from a filtered view from their couch. Whether it was a well-built car, a bad ass car show or the quality work of a well-built car from a specific shop.
Lets drop a scenario on you:
Fast forward to today, you have Billy-Jean who opened up the “Baddest Custom Shop” in the world, they are authorized dealers for everything and they can install, tune, or do whatever you need in-house. Billy-Jean has a ton of Facebook followers, he always gets likes on his posts, he is the baddest builder on the planet. There’s always people sharing his posts of the “cool builds” he has done. But little do people know, Billy-Jean is working out of his parent’s garage, his business is not registered and he watches YouTube DIY videos to learn how to do installs. But yet you met him at a garage, that looked like a legit business only to find out it was his friends shop. His supposed “builds” are other shop’s work he was passing off as his own.
On the flip-side you have businesses who are legit and have skilled Technicians. However, they couldn’t hit a deadline if it was staring them in the face. Let’s be honest, shops do not make their money off of doing custom builds, I don’t care who you are. Unless you have a specific product or a trade no one else has or can do, you are not going to be able to maintain and pay your bills by doing full custom builds. So guess what, those projects get pushed to the side and the deadline drags out and before you know it you are on year number two waiting for that car to come out. By now you are over budget and don’t have a car.
All of the above may seem exaggerated, but I can assure you it has happened to many people and for most, they just accept it. Sadly it has pushed several people out of the scene and unfortunately that is becoming the norm.
SKILL VERSUS HOURLY RATES
Experience comes a long way with anything you do in today’s world. Your experience is what drives your salary these days. If you don’t have the experience to back up your skill, you are not going to be worth as much as the guy who has 20-30 years within a trade.
What we face today is someone who claims they have the experience, but cannot back it up and they are charging top dollar. That’s like someone claiming to be a “Systems Engineer” because they “run” their home network.
“Cool dude, you connected your Xfinity router/modem up, you are now a SE.”
It’s the same concept, people are getting screwed left and right because they believe they are taking their car to a skilled shop with years of experience and find out the quality is not up to par. You are left with money out of the window and you have to come up with a ton more money to fix the issues. People are constantly preaching, “you get what you pay for.” The car guy takes his car to a shop, pays top dollar thinking he is getting a quality job done, only to be disappointed.
What the hell does any of this have to do with the car show scene dying? The economy, social media, and non-skilled/experienced businesses are what’s killing the scene. Without quality builders these days we are left with the stance scene…Stuffing large expensive rims under little Honda’s.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
What can we do to make a better car show scene?!
Continue to voice our opinions and offer solutions and constructive criticism to the show producers. Posting on social media and saying, “yo, this show sucks!” is not going to help. What sucked about the show? What can be done to improve the show?
If it is a show you truly believe in, continue to support it and offer up some solutions and share your experiences. On the flip, if the show is continuously horrible, stop supporting that show. DO NOT give them your money anymore. Car Shows used to be able to dictate the scene. They can charge outrageous amounts for general admission and bend over the car competitors because people would pay it. That was then, this is now.
Some of the businesses and car shows are relying on 20 year old media kits to promote their events today. Well cool, in 2002 you had over 20,000 spectators and 1000 cars registered, the scene back then was affordable and that was during the Fast and Furious era. TIMES HAVE CHANGED. My mantra has always been, “If you take care of the car people, everything else will follow.” Do not charge outrageous registration prices, offer deals on hotels and restaurants for the weekend and take care of the car people. If you bring in bad ass cars, people will follow!
Keeping the same tone above, events need to accommodate the smaller businesses. The negotiated rates for setting up booths need to be fair. If you are bringing in a car dealership and you have Mary-Anne selling bracelets, those rates should not compare. It’s the same with smaller / local shows. If you solicit businesses for donations and contributions, be sure to put together a proposal package. A hand written proposal on a napkin with some rates scribbled down is not going to cut it. You are charging $400 to put my name on a shirt and a flyer? Why?! How many flyers are you printing? What areas are you marketing the flyers? What is your target audience? You need to put together a sponsorship package and build the trust into the community and convince them that their $400 is going to be well spent and worth it for them.
Keep in mind this is just my perspective, things I have witnessed and have experienced with my own eyes. Ultimately the scene has changed, we all know that, but we can continue to make it better and continue to enjoy ourselves.