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How to make news friends in the hifi biz.

After last week's depressing look at The Old Ways—plural just like today's to indicate isolated examples not absolutes—it seemed fitting to look at the other side. What could be new ways to reach out to consumers and make new friends in an invisible home-based hobby that relies on exposure? Park your shiny new ride on the curb. You needn't even drive it to make a statement of some sort. Power up your new shiny hifi toy however and nobody knows about it. Reading magazines like ours relies on pre-existing interest. And just how are you supposed to be interested in fine hifi if you had no clue about anything outside your sphere of familiarity that was worth knowing about because it just might transform your experience and enrich your life?

Light Harmonic make a super-expensive D/A converter called the DaVinci. After the success of AudioQuest's tiny very inexpensive Dragonfly USB DAC on a stick, our DaVincians felt they could offer something like it but better. The combo of small, cheap and good relies on volume. Read significant upfront capital investment—aka risk without guaranty—or crowd funding. Light Harmonic embarked on the latter. Shazam, they hit their target figure in 10.5 hours and closed the drive at ten times that in order pledges. What's more, the interaction with an enthusiastic clearly appreciative audience generated feedback on features and more which pooled into the product concept to make it better before it ever shipped.

Shocked by their own success but not frozen into a pillar of salt, Light Harmonic figured that any good deed surely deserved an encore. So they followed up with another crowd-funding project, this time on Indiegogo not Kickstarter. Needing $38.000 to make their projections meet and the new project a go with essentially 2 months to get there, pledged funding had crossed the make-it line in 4.5 hours and kicked in at a colossal $313.566 at half time. Another 26 days to go. Tick tack, tick tack. Mind you, not all such efforts cash out. Hawaii-based Jim Hagerman's UFO turntable clamp/strobe had asked for $22.500 and only made $3.248. That vanished from sight like a true unidentified flying object. To insure that plenty of people knew of Geek's Second Coming, Light Harmonic not only issued the usual free press releases to the media but invested money in short-term adverts with numerous web-based publications. This drove more traffic at their Indiegogo page. Once again the concept of direct interactions with an intended audience netted invaluable feedback which changed cosmetics and spawned new options and models.

Curiously enough, company liaison Bill Leebens confided that their trek to the crowd funding well hadn't gone over too well with traditional hifi companies looking on from the sidelines. Their implied gist of negativity is perhaps best quantified by "if you gotta beg for money from total strangers, you guys must be in real trouble". Some people just don't get it. They live with their heads buried in last century's sand. Meanwhile Light Harmonic take advantage of new tools to attack the perennial problem of all mature markets: too much product, too few takers. Clearly it's time to look beyond the existing audience for a bigger new one. And here was one lovely example on just how to go about that. Out with the old ways, in with the new. Can I say "I beg ya"? Hell yes!

This becomes particularly apt when you consider that their 2-month campaign asking for $38'000 ended well above 1 million. The final figure was a mindboggling $1'174'075. Ashen-faced naysayers...