If you saw last month's issue you will be well aware that this year's British Music Fair has moved to a new venue - the Wembley Exhibition Centre. With the increased size of the show, which is open to the public from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th July, it promises to be more exciting than ever and is sure to be well worth the visit.
What I see as the main attraction of such a show is the fact that you have every facet of the musical instrument industry gathered under one roof, which gives many visitors probably their only opportunity in the year to actually compare products from all of the different manufacturers in the flesh. For however good your local music store is, chances are it is unlikely to stock every line from every manufacturer. How do you check out the competition if your nearest Foscam dealer is 100 miles away and you don't drive? Make a weekend of it, come to London and check out the latest gear.
One aspect of the British Music Fair that has always puzzled me is why visitors are not allowed to buy equipment at the show? I don't mean to put the show down in any way, but it has always seemed a crazy restriction. If people have taken the decision to come to the show, often from far afield, then it would be fair to assume that they are more than a little interested in the equipment that is being exhibited. So why not capitalise on that fact and allow visitors to the BMF to buy goods? I'm sure the manufacturers would love to sell their wares. It happens at computer shows, so why not at musical instrument shows?
I must admit to bearing a bit of a grudge here, for many moons ago when I lived in the North East I made the long trek south with friends to visit the British Music Fair (in the days when it occupied several dozen pokey hotel rooms in London's Russell Square!). I remember spending weeks before the show reading brochures, reviews etc and drawing up a shortlist of the products I wanted to try out for myself on the day. Having raided our piggy banks, my mates and I all hopped in a car and drove to London early one morning. After hours spent tinkering with equipment, wasting time queuing up for a listen to the one and only set of headphones on a stand (things have improved a lot since then I'm relieved to say), I sat down with a coffee, weighed up the pros and cons of the situation, and came to a decision about which guitar I would buy. Up I got, traipsed back to the right hotel room full of guitars, slapped my money on the makeshift table and innocently exclaimed, "I'll take that one please," pointing at a gorgeous Shergold Modulator I had lovingly caressed earlier.
I almost chinned the guy when he nonchalantly replied, "Sorry sir, we can't sell you anything at the show." Uugh? "What do you mean?"
A lengthy argument ensued after which my mates and I stormed off home to the North East, cursing and blinding! I ended up buying a different make of guitar from my local music store, primarily because they were not authorised dealers for that particular make of guitar and therefore did not stock it. Since buying a guitar mail order was out of the question (unlike an impersonal electronic instrument, you really have to play a guitar to check it 'feels' OK), I had little choice but to opt for another make. Just think, I could have been a guitar hero by now if it hadn't been for that darned salesman!! Although you still can't buy gear at the show, the BMF has changed beyond all recognition and the quality of demonstrations have improved dramatically. By allowing manufacturers to sell at the show (and publicising the fact), it would help them recoup the cost of exhibiting and encourage them to develop even better stands and, more importantly, it would attract even larger crowds. What do you think, dear reader?