Musikmesse’s Michael Biwer on how the show is evolving and what to expect this year

As I’m sure you’re aware, Musikmesse 2018 is just around the corner. In the lead up to this year’s MI trade fair in Frankfurt, its organisers, Messe Frankfurt, have been steadily releasing a stream of announcements about what to expect this year, including an array of events, exhibition areas and talks that are brand new for 2018.

We caught up with Michael Biwer, Group Show Director of the ‘Entertainment, Media & Creative Industries’ Business Unit of Messe Frankfurt, to find out what both trade and consumer visitors can expect at this year’s show, and why 2018’s fair is no-to-be-missed:

The Guitar and Drum Camps were a big hit last year, how will they be expanding this year?

Once again, we’ll have exclusive performances by eight top drummers and guitarists every day – with original tour equipment and the opportunity to get more up-close than at any concert. The line-up this year includes Ash Soan (Adele), Karl Brazil (Robbie Williams), Gary Wallis (formerly Pink Floyd), Jeff Waters (Annihilator), Jen Majura (Evanescence) and Mattias “IA” Eklundh (Freak Kitchen).

This year we are significantly expanding the workshop programme around the Camp. There will be workshops every hour with Camp artists and other instrument coaches focusing on playing technique and creating the optimum drum and guitar sound.

What can guitarists expect to get out of the new Amp World area and the ‘World of Vintage Guitars’?

In the new Amp World, guitarists can create their ultimate stack at the touch of a button. Amps and cabinets from 16 major brands, including Blackstar, Engl, Hughes & Kettner, Orange, Peavey and Randall, are interconnected via a switching system. This allows visitors to easily test a wide variety of head/cab combinations with no loss of audio quality.

The exhibition “The World of Vintage Guitars” showcases historic Fender guitars from 1950-1964 as well as highlights from the Fender Custom Shop. Visitors can also experience original guitars from music legends such as Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other stars. Another attraction is the “Rate your Guitar” area to which visitors can bring along their vintage guitars and have them valued by experts and also receive information about protected types of wood.

What can visitors look forward to from the new MerchDays meeting place and how does this fit into the trade fair?

At MerchDays, which take place on 12th and 13th April during Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound for the first time, visitors have the opportunity to find out about the latest trends in the merchandising sector – from textiles, electronics and lifestyle products to finishing, logistics and eCommerce. The focus here is on trade visitors from the music and event industries. This adds a further link in the value creation chain to the content of our two fairs.

You are also promising more performances this year with the introduction of showcases in cooperation with international music-promotion initiatives. How important are the performance elements of the fair?

Almost everyone in the MI industry is passionate about music in their private lives. In addition to the business side of the fair, Musikmesse should also be fun. A further aim is to open up active music-making to the public with events such as the Musikmesse Festival, which takes place in over 30 locations throughout the city and in the evenings at the exhibition centre. The entire industry benefits from these activities.

As part of our collaboration with international music promotion initiatives, there will be showcase evenings for up-and-coming musicians from countries such as Luxembourg, Ireland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Lithuania in the Maritim Hotel right beside the exhibition centre. In this way, we can create the ideal setting for networking events away from the hustle and bustle of the fair – and give companies in the industry the opportunity to network with artists and key industry players in relevant markets, for example, regarding endorsement deals and brand promotion.

How has the reaction been from the industry to the more non-trade elements of the fair such as the performances and consumer ticketing?

For many companies in the industry, Musikmesse is not only important as a trading venue, but also as a marketing platform on which to attract musicians to their products. This doesn’t work if we exclude amateur or prospective musicians. That’s why we have also created attractive offerings for these target groups.

For us as organisers, it is important to keep our ears open to what the industry is saying when it comes to finding the optimum balance between addressing trade visitors and the general public. This is one of the reasons why we have returned this year to a differentiation between trade visitor days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning and general public days on Friday afternoon and Saturday.

With an increase in consumer-related events and presumably non-trade visitors, how can the trade ensure they’re still able to get the most out of business meetings and networking?

It is up to us as organiser – and to each individual exhibitor – to ensure a business-friendly atmosphere in the halls. For this reason, we have taken extensive measures to reduce noise levels – for example, by acoustically insulating individual product areas in the halls and by clearly notifying exhibitors of the maximum permitted noise levels at their stands.

It goes without saying that there are also opportunities for retailers to create the ideal conditions for ensuring a successful trade fair visit. For example, they can participate in our Business Matchmaking Program by filling out an online form detailing their business interests. On the basis of this information, the Matchmaking Team makes suggestions for suitable contacts.

What are some of the biggest draws for MI and audio retailers to attend Musikmesse this year?

Firstly, nowhere else in Europe will retailers find such a large number of manufacturers and industry professionals from the musical instrument, equipment and event technology sectors. In addition, Musikmesse is also extremely important as a platform for inspiration. The Business Academy, for instance, is being held again this year. It offers a professional development and training programme specially tailored to the MI sector with high-calibre lectures on current topics such as CITES, the new EU data protection directives and digitisation in the retail trade.

In addition, MI dealers can also sign up for this year’s “Musikmesse Insider” benefit package. Registered participants receive free admission to the fair and other exclusive services, including vouchers for snacks and drinks, guided tours of selected exhibitors and a free cloakroom service.

What can attendees expect to learn from this year’s conference programme?

Successful trade fair platforms not only reflect the status quo in their particular industry, they also give visitors a decisive knowledge edge. There will be well over 100 lectures and seminars at Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound – some of which will give important basic insights, while others will look at the future of the industry.

In terms of brands wanting to exhibit, what sectors have you seen the biggest increase in since last year?

There are renowned new exhibitors and returnees in all product segments – for example, we are particularly pleased that the premium brands DW, Gretsch, Paiste and Remo are represented in the drum section. In addition, GEWA music will use Musikmesse in Frankfurt as the platform for a digital drum world premiere, on which the company has been working in close cooperation with DW Drums for the past three years.

With the return of the Piano Salon Europe, numerous top piano makers that were not represented last year will be exhibiting at Musikmesse 2018. They include Fazioli, Grotrian-Steinweg, Seiler, Steingräber & Söhne, Wilhelm Schimmel and many others.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest show news in MI Focus’ dedicated Musikmesse news section.

About Laura Barnes 286 Articles
Founder/Publisher of UK musical instrument industry publication MI Focus.