Patterns in the chaos. That’s what you find yourself searching for at a trade show the size of Musikmesse.
Like Benoit Mandelbrot (Google him) you try and find the smaller patterns and trends within the bigger, more confused picture. That, and headache tablets.
Everyone looks to trade shows as a barometer for the health of the market. But whilst you can look at the overall visitor numbers as a rule, for every exhibitor bemoaning the footfall, you will find someone else telling you they had their best show ever.
So maybe that’s the underlying pattern – variation. There are plenty of firms out there that are thriving, others working hard to survive and of course, there are those not doing quite so well. And their MusikMesse experience will vary accordingly.
Suppliers are having to work just as hard and just as imaginatively as retailers to continue in business.
The feedback from many of the key suppliers at the show echoed this. Jonathan Ellery, director at Marshall said: “For us the show was very slow, we had comments from people coming on the stand saying that they could move around the show a lot easier because the walkways were quiet.
"Our stand Wednesday and Thursday were very quiet, Friday had more people, but not like normal. Saturday for us was better, but again not as normal. One reference point for us is merchandise sales, being our 50th we expected it to be good but it was considerably down on previous years.”
But if you listen to Tim Walter, MD of Roland UK, he says: “We saw a lot of dealers, in fact it was our busiest Frankfurt for many years. I think as attendance for NAMM was down, more people came to this show. The new Jupiter 50 and iPhone Wireless Connect technology were definite hits and although things are still very tough out there, the year has started positively for many of our dealers.”
Tascam sales and marketing manager, Neil Wells echoes this: “It is fair to say that we managed to see most of the larger UK dealers at the event, so in this regard the show went well for Tascam. The show did appear to be slightly down on footfall, but the quality was good.”
Or Tanglewood’s UK MD Tony Flatt, buoyant over the firm’s collaboration with Manuel Rodriguez to design a laminated top Concert Classical and a solid top Concert Classical for Tanglewood, he says the firm had its busiest ever Musikmesse. Likewise JHS MD, Dennis Drumm, who said it was the firm’s most successful ever.
“At both booths, our export sales and promo staff were fully occupied with existing and new customers, writing business, and expanding our markets,”
Despite this, the official figures show a dip in attendance of more than 6,000 compared to the year before.
“Foot traffic was noticeably down, however, Saturday felt as busy as usual,” added Drumm. “From a UK dealer perspective, our usual strategic meetings took place productively, I wouldn’t say that the show was awash with folks from the UK.”
Graeme Mathieson, general manager of Fender GBI, believes the days of big numbers of UK visitors are over: “From a European standpoint it was OK for us. From our point of view we’re definitely a European company and we saw lots of German retailers as you would expect, and Scandanavians. But not a great deal of UK dealers. And I wouldn’t expect that to return. It’s an expensive show to do.”
From a product point of view there was still plenty to see and lots that hadn’t already been seen at NAMM.
From Fender there was upgraded version of its American Standard series guitars and basses with new versions of the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass.They feature Fender Custom Shop pickups, as well as other distinctive new design touches.
Roland’s hour-long press conference saw it add 17 new products on top of the 20 it introduced at NAMM.
This included new mid-range TD-15K and TD-15KV V-Tour electronic drum kits with SuperNATURAL sounds and Behaviour Modelling first used on the TD-30 kit. They feature 100 onboard kits and 50 presets.
A new version of the Jupiter 80 synth with new multi-effects and the addition of the new, more lightweight, Jupiter 50 boosted its keyboard range. The BK-5 OR backing keyboard retains all the characteristics and features of the recently announced BK-5 and adds newly created sounds and rhythms.
The firm’s new range of guitar amps were among its most noticeable announcments – the 100-watt GA 112 and the 200-watt GA 212. Both are based around Progressive Amp Modelling with the latest COSM amp model onboard. They also feature two volume controls, three tone controls, presence and reverb, the Smart Channel memorises the latest position of knobs in all four channels without programming or saving and LED knobs show the current position of the knobs in any channel.
Elsewhere in amps Ashdown unveiled new bass heads, combos, cabs and pedals. The Tonal Emphasis 500 head and combo feature a 12-band EQ, conventional jack input, plus a balanced XLR input for an uncompromised low impedance connection between instrument and amplifier.
It expanded the MiBass range with the new 21kg MiBass 550 115, 16.2kg 220 110, 20.1 kg 220 208 and 17.8 kg 220 112 combo models. The Mi10” and Mi12” MiCabs produce 250 Watts 4ohms and 250 Watts 8ohms respectively.
Every All Access amp has now been up rated – 20 Watts for the After 8, 40 Watts for the Perfect 10 and 100 Watts for the Five 15.
New features have also been added, including a tube-emulated Gain drive. A Master control is also new, which controls the master output of the amp. A Mix control has been added, which allows the user to set the Backing Track level.
The Electric Blue line now comes under the title of EB Lite, with a new upgraded 220-Watt power section. Lighter wood has also been used for the construction, allowing Ashdown to cut the weight by 6kgs. The manufacturer has also announced the ABM-1000 and ABM-2000 models – more powerful, lighter versions of the original Ashdown Bass Magnifier.
Albion Amplification, created by Steve Grindrod and distributed by IAG, unveiled the GulfStream range of 15 and 30-Watt valve heads, combos and cabs.
The series consists of six models – GS15C (15W 1x12” combo); GS15H (15W head); GLS112 (1x12” cabinet); GS30C (30W 2x12” combo); GS30H (30W head) and GLS410 (4x10” cabinet) – with more due to follow in the near future.
The first three models feature Preamp Gain, Voicing Switch, Gain Switch, Channel Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble EQ, Tremolo Depth, Tremolo Speed, Reverb Depth, Presence and Output Level controls, a Reverb and Tremolo footswitch jack (footswitch supplied), as well as output jacks with an eight and 16 Ohm impedance switch.
Blackstar showcased the ID Series, a new range of programmable amps with the True Valve Power feature, which allows the user to custom design their own sound, store it and then use that sound in a live setting.
It offers six different power valve responses – EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6L6 and KT88. When it is selected, it delivers all the characteristics of a valve amp and the acoustic power output of an equivalent valve power amp.
The range consists of the ID:60TVP and ID:260TVP combos, ID:60TVP-H and ID:100TVP heads and ID:412 cabinet.
Laney unveiled a new signature model for Tony Iommi, the Black Sabbath guitarist who has been synonymous with the brand for nearly four decades.
The TI100 represents a leap forward from Iommi’s original signature model, the GH100TI, which was introduced almost 20 years ago. It produces 100 Watts RMS and features a 4 x 6L6 output section, twin channels, footswitch variable Pre-Boost on each channel, three-band EQ, as well as Volume, Enhance and Presence controls. The amplifier is also equipped with Iommi’s trademark livery and glows red when played.
Moving away from amplification, Yamaha revealed the EZ-220 keyboard, along with the E3 Controller and Piano Diary Apps.
The EZ-220 is designed around Yamaha’s Lighted Keyboard, which guides players to the correct notes and offers wireless connectivity to Yamaha’s free Page Turner app for iPad. It also has an onboard library of 100 preset songs and a digital score function, which lets learners practice music of all styles and genres.
The firm also launched the NU1, an affordable new digital piano featuring the action used on the company’s upright acoustic pianos and sounds derived from the CFX concert grand.
It’s aimed at serious pianists, institutions on a budget and “anyone who demands performance, affordability and practicality in equal measure.”
Casio showed off its XW synth duo, which were also shown at NAMM. The XW-P1 is a 61 key performance synthesizer with Casio’s (HPSS) Hybrid Processing Sound Source. Providing virtual analog monophonic leads and basses, drawbar organs, complex layers, stereo pianos, drums among other things.
The XW-G1 groove synthesizer is designed for the DJ and club performer, providing an interactive step sequencer and a sample looper for digitally capturing performance patterns and external instruments. It also launched three new digital piano models – the Privia PX-135, Privia PX-735 and CDP-120.
Out of keys and into drums, Marshall’s Natal drum brand launched a custom shop facility to produce bespoke kits and hardware finishes.
UK Custom Shop will manufacture custom wraps and logo heads as well as producing hardware finishes.
One-off vinyl logo heads have been created for Natal artists such as Darrin Mooney (Primal Scream), Matt Goom (Quireboys) and Dhani Mansworth (The Treatment). UK Custom Shop has also developed new hardware and fitting finishes: Aged Bronze, Matte Black and Brushed Nickel.
Elsewhere, four new Vintage and Laka by Vintage electric ukuleles were added to the John Hornby Skewes line-up, along with several new SpongeBob SquarePants instruments.
The Vintage VUKE1 is a nylon-strung soprano model with eastern poplar body, set maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, plastic nut, 15 frets, piezo pickup, Volume and Tone controls, open geared machine heads and Gloss Sunburst finish.
Laka by Vintage VUV2 is a steel-strung concert ukulele with basswood body, maple bolt-on neck, ebony nut, 18 frets, single coil and piezo pickups.
The VUVS6 and VUV100 nylon-strung concert instruments feature mahogany bodies, set mahogany necks, ebony nut, piezo pickups, Volume and Tone controls and diecast-covered machine heads. The VUVS6 includes an acacia top and Satin Transparent Red finish, while the VUV100 comes with a Satin Sunburst finish.
New additions to the SpongeBob SquarePants line start with the SBG78 7/8 size electric guitar outfit. The guitar has a full sized neck and it comes with a Micro Blaster amp, carry bag, strap, cable, pick and tutorial DVD.
The SBG34 is a 3/4 size outfit with a built-in speaker and you also get a strap, pick, and DVD. The SBG01 Junior Guitar Outfit comprises a nylon-string guitar, bag,
strap, pitch pipe, spare strings, pick and instructions.
The SBUP2 Pineapple Ukulele Outfit consists of a nylon-strung wooden uke with geared machines, bag, pitch pipe, plectrum, the SBUK1 includes a classic shaped model and the SBUV3 features a Flying V shaped instrument.
As the new distributor for Carlsbro, JHS is handling the firm’s foray into the electronic drum market.
The ADD501 features highly responsive pads, a dual zoned crash and snare, rides with choke, as well as toms, a hi-hat and bass pads with pedals. The accompanying Commander 300 Sound Module includes 627 percussion voices, 40 preset kits, ten user configurable kits and 40 demo songs.
Hohner, distributed by Sutherland in the UK, showed off its Essential Roots guitars, based on the small body guitars made popular by the great blues players of the 1920s and ‘30s.
It has extended the series with four acoustic/electric models featuring a preamp/pickup system. The choices are: ER2-M0E, the solid top and back all mahogany “0” body short-scale acoustic/electric, the ER2-MDE, a full scale dreadnought and the ER2-S00SBE with a solid spruce top, and solid mahogany back in a vintage sunburst finish. Additionally, there is the ER1-S0SBE with small “0” body and satin sunburst finish.
TC Electronic has revealed a new bass combo and guitar pedal, as well as a new addition to its TonePrint library from Guns n Roses bassist Duff McKagan.
According to the company, the new BG250 ultra-light combo is the first amp in history that lets users choose and replace on-board effects repeatedly using TonePrint.
TC Electronic’s SCF Chorus effect comes with it, but many more can be downloaded from the company’s website. Completing TC Electronic’s new compact overdrive and distortion effects pedal line was the Spark Booster.
The true bypass unit offers 26 dB of boost for enhancing existing sounds and highlighting solo or rhythm parts. An active EQ consisting of a Bass and Treble knob provides precise tonal shaping, as well as extended lows and added top-end sparkle. A Gain knob allows for the addition of saturation and compression and a Mid-boost switch adds clarity.
The new Duff McKagan TonePrint – Duff Chorus – utilises the Corona Chorus pedal’s Tri-Chorus setting and the effect is actually made up of multiple chorus types that slowly modulate to add sparkle and shimmer.
Among the many companies celebrating a landmark anniversary this year, Audio-Technica marked its big 5-0 with a stand party and introduced a variety of new microphones.
Among them are the new ATM510 and ATM610a dynamic handheld mics. The hypercardioid ATM610a – the premier Artist Series dynamic vocal microphone – is tuned for clear, detailed vocal reproduction, while its newly designed internal shock mount and tight pickup pattern reduces handling noise and promotes isolation of the sound source.
The ATM510 cardioid dynamic mic also benefits from a new shock mount design for low handling noise. Designed to be used on stringed instruments, the AT2031 cardioid condenser microphone is now available in paired sets – the AT2031P.
It offers an extended frequency response with a slight lift in higher frequencies for detailed response and its high SPL capability and low self-noise ensure a wide dynamic range well suited to studio and live situations.
And of course, there was plenty more product to be talked about. Software-based advances are putting a huge range of possibilities in the hands of guitarists, keyboardists and drummers. But you can only scratch the surface at such a huge show.
Shows are never about pure numbers and whilst there may have been the perception that there were quieter aisles, plenty of exhibitors enjoyed a good Frankfurt. There can be little doubt that it is still a hugely important deal for suppliers and retailers alike.
Whispers about quiet aisles shouldn’t be too much of a worry for a show that is so well established and has been on a continuous upward curve for a number of years. Similar feedback next year, however, might raise some eyebrows, but even the biggest shows can’t grow every year.