Why I Quit The Absolute Sound

Last March (2012), I went to the emergency room at the local hospital for what I thought would be routine checkup. I found, when I got there, that I was in the middle of having a heart attack! Without pain, or any symptoms, I would never have known I was at death’s door had I not gone in for that minor and unrelated ailment.

In a few days, I was on the operating table, chest cut open, and a vein taken from my leg to replace the one that was jammed up. Several days later, I was out of the hospital bed and walking outside the hospital down a covered walkway, bathed in the warm, early Spring air. . . Lost in thought, realizing I had, by sheer luck, survived what might have killed me, I also realized that I had lost control of the magazine I had created.

Ironically, I had sold the magazine to save it, from my ineptitude in business manipulations, to someone accomplished in such matters and someone whom I presumed I could trust to put the love of music ahead of the love of considerable profits. In return, I was to put out a first class magazine that continued to define the art of high fidelity.

I was told I would still be in complete editorial control. But I was not. I had been replaced by those who had turned my magazine into something I would not subscribe to. I was still aboard, as a figurehead, an icon, but little more. The Absolute Sound was no longer what I had dreamed it would be: A magazine about the love of music and the highway to an appreciation of the real thing. But the highways, the audio equipment, had become more important then the real thing, and had become an end in themselves. I had also been promised complete control over TAS content, but that was not what it had become under the new “administration”. I did not want my vision compromised. It was and is.

But that can be attributed to my background as a child of those who worked in advertising. My mother was the first advertising media director in a southern ad agency and she held in the highest respect those publications, especially The New Yorker, that would not compromise its editorial policies or principles for increases in ad revenues. She knew, all too well, how quickly other publications did. It’s not, she would say, advertising that corrupts (“it makes a good many Publications possible”), but the lust for ads over content. I knew there was a strong correlation between editorial quality and advertisers who valued such a platform.

Understand I have nothing against TAS. But it no longer seems to adhere to the principles for which I founded it: Namely, to promote music as the goal of all audio equipment. The audio gear is a highway that can lead to the music, not an end in and of itself. I also have nothing against advertising per se, just against its use in exchange for favorable reviews. And one thing as controlling editor for TAS, I had always refused to do, was arrange swaps of reviews for advertising. As far as I’m concerned, the advertiser can pay for space to advertise his products alongside my copy, but there can be no connection.

So, walking away from the hospital, I realized that by surviving death itself, I had now the courage, earned it, or call it heroism if you will, to quit the magazine, leave behind all of the benefits that working for a corporation could bestow.

And so, I quit, then and there. But I only quit a publication that was no longer mine. I had then, and still do not now, any intention of resigning. I believe that I have to be of service to music itself and that is now and ever to be a lifetime task.

I believed then, as now, that the music needed me, but not, perhaps, as much as the other way around.

~ HP

Harry Pearson (HP) founded The Absolute Sound magazine in 1971 and ran the publication for the next 35 years. One of the most influential audio reviewers of all time, HP continues to redefine the state of audio reproduction.

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