Awards ceremonies are big business, every industry has them and there are even awards ceremonies for the awards industry (bonkers I know - I was there at one of these events and it was quite bizarre).

And we love them in the hi-fi industry, just like every other. It’s satisfying to be acknowledged for your accomplishments by your peers; it makes all the hard work feel worthwhile and you feel a real sense of pride when your name is called out to come and collect your trophy. But does anyone else really care that you’ve won the “most carefully positioned loudspeakers in a domestic environment” award? No, of course they don’t, but sensible awards like “best sounding speakers” no doubt do carry some weight with the hi-fi buying public. That’s why magazines such as Which?, or programmes like The Gadget Show, or sites such as Trip Advisor, have a bearing on people’s buying habits. They guide the uninformed, or unsure, as to which purchasing decision to make.

But it’s not only the recipients who are keen to receive awards and who benefit from them. The giver of the award is also a beneficiary, as the giving of an award implies some kind of authority, knowledge or status. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that hands out the Oscars, is a faceless body made up of supposed luminaries of the movie industry, but who can actually name them? However, it is held in high esteem because it is the body responsible for the Oscars and, their power ensures the financial and reputational success that goes with winning one of the prized statues. The same could be said of Bafta, the Mercury Music Prize, the British Travel Awards etc. – the list goes on and on.

Perhaps a slightly more sinister view is that the giver of the awards wants, in some way, to influence the market and drive it in a particular direction. Sceptical and maybe a little too suspicious for our industry, but for some others, who knows? Maybe awards can be seen as a way of diverting attention away from other achievements that the donor would rather were forgotten? For example, the Nobel prizes, in particular the Peace Prize, were founded by the man who invented TNT – not necessarily something for which he wanted to be remembered and not wholly associated with peace! That’s maybe an extreme example, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to wonder whether some underhand dealings are neatly covered up by a glossy awards ceremony.

OK, enough of the cynicism. Let’s get back to the hi-fi industry and our awards. We have a good number of awards handed out by magazines and reviewers that help customers identify products that stand out from the crowd. And when different publications award the same product with a “best of” prize, it’s a real confidence booster for the potential purchaser and that’s great for the customer and the brand concerned.

Clarity, as the industry’s trade association, is all in favour of awards that help people with their hi-fi purchasing. We also feel it’s really important that companies are recognised and rewarded for the efforts they put in to their appearance at shows, as these are some of the most important interactions between brands and their potential customers. That’s why we run the “Best of Show” awards at the Bristol Show and The Indulgence Show (and have previously done the same at the National Audio Show). Getting a prize for the “best XYZ product” is very important, but to be singled out for public recognition by your peers for the effort you’ve made at a show is something different. This, we feel, shows confidence in the brand from within the industry that consumers take note of.

The Bristol Show is nearly upon us again and our team of anonymous, but well-respected judges, drawn from across different parts of our industry, are gearing up to start their task. There are five categories of award – “Best Sounding Hi-Fi Demonstration”; “Best Home Cinema Room”; “Best Display”; “Best Innovation” and “Best of Show”. Each judge is given a section of the show to visit, and by visiting every room or stand in that area they can select one exhibitor that they feel is potentially worthy of winning in each category. This gives us a shortlist of five companies in each category and the second stage of judging sees each judge given the shortlist for one category. They visit each of the shortlisted rooms and decide which one they believe to be the worthy winner. We believe this to be the fairest and most democratic way of allocating the award. They are then presented at a short ceremony on the Friday evening, open to all exhibitors and the media, so the winners can proudly display their certificates throughout the rest of the show.

There’s one other award that is given out at the Friday night event, and that is the “Clarity Honorary Fellowship Award”, presented to an individual who has made a real mark on the industry. Each Clarity board director may propose a name to the board that they feel is worthy of consideration, and these are then debated and discussed to ensure a consensus. The winner receives their award in recognition of their “Outstanding Contribution to the British Hi-Fi Industry”. So far, this award has been won by John Dawson, Paul Messenger, Eric Kingdon and Paul Stephenson. Who will win in 2018? You’ll have to join us at the Bristol Show on Friday 23rdFebruary to find out…