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Fair's Fair

Editor's views.

E&MM staff on the Music Maker Publications stand at the recent British Music Fair. From left to right: Terry Day, Dan Goldstein, Stuart Catterson, Linda Catterson, Ian Gilby, Trish McGrath, Dennis Hill.

Not a million miles away from this leader, you'll find the E&MM guide to last month's British Music Fair in London, traditionally the UK music industry's showcase for the new season to come. Like most show reports, it lists most of the significant new products that were on display, and also gives a few clues as to the general trends the various manufacturers' displays showed evidence of.

What it doesn't tell you is what the show's attendance figures were like or, indeed, why the BMF is Britain's only annual musical instrument festival: or why it's open to the trade only, not to the general public. The truth is, like almost every trade show over the last few years, August's BMF saw a Sunday in which almost every dealer in the land journeyed down to London to look at what was new, and three subsequent weekdays when very little business was done by anybody, anywhere. The reasons for that situation occurring are pretty obvious - all the music shops are closed on Sundays but they all open again the following Monday - so why do the show's organisers, the Association of Music Industries, persist in closing the BMF's doors to all but members of the music trade?

Well, the reasons for that are mainly historical and not worth going into detail about here, but suffice to say that the AMI is a trade-only body that doesn't want to be involved in running anything other than a trade-only fair.

And in a sense, of course, they're right. The British Music Fair is never going to be the ideal venue for members of the public to cast their eyes over the latest musical goodies. The distances between the hotels are too great for most musicians for one thing, and for another, because so many of the younger manufacturers/importers aren't members of the AMI, the show no longer covers such a comprehensive slice of the market as it used to.

What's needed instead is a completely separate, independently-organised event, open to all sections of the industry and, of course, Joe Public. 'But', I hear you cry, 'all that's been tried before, and it's never worked.'

Perhaps not. But that hasn't stopped at least one organisation from making preliminary arrangements for a big trade-and-public show (possibly at the Olympia exhibition complex in London) and trying to gauge industry reaction to their proposals before this year's BMF - the planned all-comers fair wouldn't take place until August 1985!

Although that plan may succeed, large, centralised exhibitions in one hall do pose problems in themselves. The most obvious one is soundproofing, or rather the lack of it. As anyone who's been to the Frankfurt Musikmesse will testify, lots of exhibitors all grouped together under one large, echoey roof do not make for an environment that's particularly conducive to the objective evaluation of new music hardware. True, keyboard players can wear headphones, but guitarists and drummers generally can't, and in any case, how much bass end can you get out of the cans supplied at most big demonstrations?

The other major problem is simply that of geography, or how to give as many musicians from as many different parts of the country a chance to see and try out all the latest gear. The usual solution to this is to hold one big fair in London (see above), but how many musicians are going to travel down from Scotland to hear a couple of completely meaningless keyboard demonstrations, especially when they can read about all the new products two weeks later in E&MM or a similar publication?

Not too many, methinks.

E&MM's ideal solution would be to have lots of local shows dotted around the country, at which the local playing community would have ample time and space to evaluate new hardware, without having to travel hundreds of miles or having to be a member of some sort of trade organisation.

Whatever the final outcome, and it may well prove that a combination of the above possibilities will solve the needs of both the trade and the musicians, we remain convinced that music shows, of whatever kind and at whatever level, remain a worthwhile endeavour for all sections of the industry.

After all, no dealer - no matter how comprehensive his stock or how efficient his display - is ever able to demonstrate all the currently available hardware, in ideal surroundings, 100% of the time.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Sep 1984


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