BPM|Pro organiser Mark Walsh shares his predictions for this weekend’s show

The DJ/pro audio expo takes place in Birmingham on 22-23 October
By Daniel Gumble ,

BPM|Pro comes to Birmingham's Genting Arena this weekend (Sunday 22-Monday 23 October)

It’s hard to believe that BPM celebrates its tenth birthday this year. The annual DJ expo, which launched back in 2007 specifically for the electronic music and DJ market, has undergone numerous overhauls and facelifts over the past few years, giving it the feel of a new show when it arrives every September, as opposed to one that has been a staple on the UK pro audio events calendar for the past decade.

The moment when things really started to change for BPM can be traced back to 2014, when the new PRO event was added to the mix as a conjoined, yet separate entity, with a core focus on the professional audio and lighting industry. The following year, BPM and PRO followed the same template, sharing a venue yet serving two different audiences.

Then, in 2016, both BPM and PRO parted ways with their traditional home at the Birmingham NEC to take residence in the city’s Genting Arena as one united show under the BPM|PRO banner. It is this format that the show will stick to this year, as it bids to carve out asteady and consistent identity.

According to Mark Walsh, CEO of event organiser Marked Events, BPM|PRO may finally have found its ideal format.

“The layout of the space really works with us on this one, the Forum Live will house the core DJ brands, features and Learn zones specific to it, with the Arena taking centre stage for the sound and lighting brands,” Walsh tells PSNEurope. “Add in some clever lighting (or lack thereof in some instances) and the flow between works really well, as well as being suitable for the brands within.

“It does have its challenges, especially when you’re trying to make sure there is something for everyone to see and to surpass expectations as we have always endeavoured to do… but with our features, education sessions and, not to mention the amazing effort our brands put in each year, I think the mix works really well.

I also don’t think that any one visitor, or exhibitor for that matter, comes for any one thing anymore… they have a wide range of interests and, in the brands’ case, target audiences, and the show really ticks a lot of these boxes for them.”

According to Walsh, last year’s BPM|PRO garnered positive responses from across the pro audio industry, with both exhibitors and attendees praising the PRO element’s offering. He is, however, also conscious that there are still refinements and improvements that could help stretch the reach of the show further still.

CEO of BPM|Pro event organiser Marked Events, Mark Walsh

“Last year in general was a really positive year… the new space worked amazingly well for our pro audio brands, and the visitor profile widened again on the previous year,” Walsh explains. “Of course, there are areas that we need to work on and tweaks to be made to our offerings to make this event work even more for them… but we have always had such a strong audio presence at the show, and we are certainly here to learn and listen to what they want to achieve and how this can

be done.”

While the format remains untouched, the 2017 edition of the show is not entirely without change. A number of features will take on a new look this time around in a move to offer exhibitors more bang for their buck and a more cohesive experience for visitors. 

He explains: “The PA Experience will become a more brand-led feature instead of our usual shoot off style, allowing the brands to be able to show the systems they want to show, instead of what fits into our ‘categories’. They will also gain more control over the music and be able to showcase their brand a lot better. Then our Pro Audio Demo moves outside - something we have been asked to do for a couple of years - and which will give it a completely different feel and sound of course.

“In addition to our already hugely popular FX stage and Arena, we will also be demonstrating some Timecode integration of sound/lighting and video on the show floor. “On the DJ side of things, we have an amazing new Portable Turntable Zone and are holding the world premiere of the European Portable Turntable conference, which is obviously really exciting, and a completely new element for this year.

“Brand support is vital for us to make sure we have a consistent offering so those visitors know what to expect each year when they walk through our doors. Even if that expectation is to find something new and interesting” 

A key concern for any trade show at present is the highly competitive nature of the pro audio events space. Since around the same time that BPM spawned PRO, the sands have well and truly shifted when it comes to business expos of this kind. Frankfurt’s once rocksteady Prolight + Sound and Musikmesse shows have faced mounting criticism for severe format changes and an apparently dwindling trade audience, while Amsterdam gatherings, such as ISE and this month’s IBC, have soared in popularity among exhibitors and visitors. Winter NAMM, meanwhile, continues to bask in its status as the must-attend outing for many in the global audio market.  

So what is BPM|PRO doing to ensure it remains competitive and offers the business something it can’t already get elsewhere? “Aside from having quite a consistent sound offering year-on-year, both on the show floor and in our features, I think, because we tend to think outside the box when it comes to trade shows, we can offer something a bit different to the usual scene,” Walsh says. “So, if brands tend to have something they want to do, and it doesn’t fit into the normal format… we’d like to think we’d be the first call, we are always open to new ideas of how to showcase product.” He continues: “Changes to shows both national and international have been huge… the reasons brands use them for, and why they don’t anymore, have been something that, while throwing up challenges for us, have been interesting to see in terms of how the industry is evolving… it certainly is never dull.”

As for the immediate future, there appears to be little doubt in Walsh’s mind that the forecast is bright for both segments of the BPM|PRO show. Though challenges are inevitable, he insists that with each twist and turn in the industry’s evolution, there will always be opportunities to capitalise upon. “Just getting a clear message out there and making sure the event is firmly down in people’s minds as a year-on-year must visit is a challenge to a certain extent,” Walsh concludes. “Brand support is vital for us to make sure we have a consistent offering so those visitors know what to expect each year when they walk through our doors. Even if that expectation is to find something new and interesting.

“The space we are in lends itself to so much to that - we are quite literally in a venue that is purpose-built for the type of products that are on display and we are not governed by the sq/m which is really exciting… the possibilities are endless.”