What a difference a show makes - or further thoughts on the British Music Fair '86.
So that's the British Music Fair over for another year. I won't bore you with the details because I'd only be repeating the information relayed in our BMF Report (it starts on page 21). If you made it down to Olympia at some point during the show's six-day duration, you'll remember it as a busy, worklike show with an enthusiastic atmosphere and the occasional flash of good music.
There can be no question that the BMF is A Very Good Thing Indeed for the British music industry. It's a unique opportunity for manufacturers and distributors to show off their wares to the two most important groups of people in the business — those who sell musical instruments (the first three days), and those who play them (the next three).
Both groups benefit hugely from being able to see almost all the gear there is under one roof, in conditions that are reasonably conducive to doing business, and only marginally less so to making preliminary judgements about whether Product X is the one for them.
This year, the BMF was better organised, better supported, and more widely advertised than it had been in 1985. And it paid off: aside from a couple of dissenting murmurs during the trade days, no exhibitor I spoke to complained that attendance at the show had resulted in anything less than a big boost in interest and confidence. Not surprising, really, when you consider thousands of musicians passed through Olympia's doors, and that despite a relative lack of really new equipment, there was still plenty for them to drool over, play, program, and start thinking about taking out a bank-loan for.
From behind the Music Maker Publications stand (which sold more than a thousand magazines while the public were in, incidentally), it was obvious there was a proportion of hangers-on, kids, and peripheral visitors who'd strayed too far from the adjacent Saudi Arabian Experience show. But even among these, there were people who may have been sufficiently impressed by what they saw to consider taking up playing music as a new interest, no matter how much exhibitors moan about them.
So, the British Music Fair has established itself as the annual music industry event in the UK. It's successful, influential, and even quite fun to be involved with.
But where do we go from here? The BMF may have attained a position of great importance on a national level, but its international status is still light years away from that enjoyed by the Frankfurt Musikmesse, or either of the two American NAMM shows.
There's no real reason why this should be. These things take time, of course, but consider that the BMF is already the envy of those ultra-important shows in a number of respects. It's the only event that allows both dealers and musicians an equal amount of time to attend, without either group getting in the way of the other. It's the show at which demonstrations and concerts are presented in the most professional - and musically interesting way. And it's the only show that takes place in the capital city of the nation that still sets the musical trends for the rest of the world to follow, and thus has more musical influence than any Frankfurt, Chicago, Tokyo or Anaheim.
But there are a few obstacles that stand between the BMF and world stardom.
First, it's a little on the small side. Obviously it's not going to get much bigger without more exhibitors taking stand space and more people coming through the doors, but there's no doubt the BMF feels cramped alongside the Musikmesse and NAMM; maybe a bit more aisle space would help here.
Second, and despite the new-found unity that saw keyboard, piano and music publishing exhibitors take space at Olympia for the first time, there are still some silly restrictions on the people who can exhibit at the BMF. E-mu and Sequential, for example, were told they couldn't take part in the show proper because they do not have British registered companies, and thus had to show off their new gear in nearby (or in E-mu's case not quite so nearby) hotels. Similarly, Rod Argent's Keyboards were barred from entry because they have a retail store in addition to being equipment distributors.
This situation is really rather bizarre: there's nothing any of the above companies are doing to damage the British music industry, and their attendance at the show could only have benefitted retailers and musicians alike.
If the Musikmesse organisers insisted that all exhibitors had German-registered companies, few people outside the country would make the trip to Frankfurt at all.
But third, and perhaps more significant than either of the above points, the food at Olympia has got to get better. After BMF '86, I can't look at another sausage roll.
Editorial by Dan Goldstein
Next article in this issue:
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!