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PSNEurope’s review of 2015 – part three: Show business

Was 2015 more than just another chapter in the unstoppable rise of Ulrich Bernhard Behringer? Jon Chapple thinks so

It’s easy to take the existence of our industry’s trade shows for granted – after all, as Benjamin Franklin once said: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes and Prolight + Sound taking place in Frankfurt every spring” – but this year saw both pro-audio perennials and ambitious upstarts make major announcements about their future, with the result that next year’s trade show calendar will look very different to 2015’s.

If you only attend one pro-audio trade show, it will likely be the daddy of them all, Prolight + Sound (and sister show Musikmesse), which this year welcomed no less than 108,000 guests from 146 countries to the Messe Frankfurt exhibition centre from 15 to 18 April. However, exhibitors and visitors were surprised to learn that the 2015 event was the show’s last hurrah in its current form: As of 2016 PL+S and Musikmesse will switch halls (PL+S moving from its existing home in Halls 8 and 9 to Halls 1, 3, 4 and 5 and the Congress Centre) and no longer run concurrently, with Prolight + Sound taking place from Tuesday 5 to Friday 8 April and Musikmesse from Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 April. Musikmesse will also open its doors to consumers on all four days.

“We are acting from a position of strength and want to expand Prolight + Sound hand in hand with the sector and for the sector,” explained Stephan Kurzawski, senior vice-president of Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH, at the time. “To this end, we need more space, which the eastern section of the exhibition centre offers.”

In total, the new Prolight + Sound will comprise six exhibition halls, two outdoor arenas, a new indoor arena and a larger area of outdoor exhibition space.

Also acting from a position of strength, no doubt, was Integrated Systems Events, organiser of Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), when it announced that the AV/SI-focussed show would move to a four-day format in 2016.

Launched in 2004 but experiencing phenomenal growth over the past few years (a 15 per cent growth in year-on-year visitor numbers is becoming common), ISE has in the same period taken great pains to entice visitors from the pro-audio world by boosting the number of audio sessions and seminars and signing up a host of new exhibitors: notable at the 2015 show (pictured), for example, were the ISE debuts of Apex, RCS and Chinese brand Frank Audio and a massively expanded Harman stand (following its acquisition of AV switching/control specialist AMX).

PRO, a sister show to DJ/electronic music production event BPM, seems to be finding its feet after a relatively slow start, with new dates (11–13 September) and a new location (Genting Arena) planned for next year.

While feedback from visitors has been largely positive since its launch in 2014 – PRO “promises to be exactly what the UK needs in terms of an annual audio technology showcase”, said Nexo marketing director Ginny Goudy last year – PRO has been largely overshadowed by the bigger, more established BPM, and it is hoped the upcoming move to the Genting Arena, elsewhere in the NEC, will increase football and reinvigorate the show.

“We understand that the industry is always changing, which is why our vision is for a fresh, exciting event that provides an experience-driven exhibition floor, an extensive learning programme and the opportunity to socialise and do business,” says Mark Walsh, the show’s director. “The move into the Genting Arena will ensure that PRO is even more dynamic and feature-rich in 2016, providing a show that gathers the industry together and continues to build the future.”

The troubled PLASA Show – which has struggled to placate its pro-audio visitors, many of whom feel the show is lacking in audio content, since its move from Earls Court to ExCeL in 2013 – was dealt another blow in October when it emerged that PLASA had taken steps to ameliorate a “crisis cash-flow problem” by reducing staff, putting its Eastbourne office up for sale and ceasing operations in the US.

However, PLASA event director Chris Toulmin remains confident that a move to Olympia for 2016 – and a renewed focus on attracting all-important audio manufacturers – will restore the show’s traditional status as a must-attend event come next October.