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INTERVIEW: Musikmesse's Stephan Kurzawski reflects on the new-look show

Daniel Gumble
INTERVIEW: Musikmesse's Stephan Kurzawski reflects on the new-look show

Earlier this month, Musikmesse implemented its controversial ‘new concept’, which saw a number of major changes made to the traditional show format – namely that it would be open to the public for the full duration. However, a dedicated trade hall and a number of business-led features appear to have won over some of the doubters. So what did the organisers make of the new-look Musikmesse? And how has the international MI community responded to the changes. Daniel Gumble spoke to Stephan Kurzawski, senior vice president, Messe Frankfurt, to find out…

Daniel Gumble: Initial response to the ‘new concept’ appears to be largely positive. How did you view the first year with the new format?

Stephan Kurzawski: “The developments of recent months and years have been challenging. In view of this, we are pleased with the results of Musikmesse 2016. It was important for participants to see the conceptual changes in action – so they could draw their own conclusions. Much of what we introduced this year was well received; in some places we will have to do some fine tuning. The bottom line is, however, that we have now set the right course for the future success of the fair.”

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DG: Many trade visitors welcomed the business hall this year. Will you be adding any new trade elements next year?

SK: “The vast majority of trade visitors were satisfied with the fair and said they had achieved their goals. The exclusive ‘Business meets Business’ Hall (11.1) enabled them to hold productive business discussions in a peaceful atmosphere – and proved popular with both exhibitors and visitors. The echo from the new range of information events was positive and we will continue to invest in the subject of professional development and education.

“We are also very gratified that around 1,500 international retailers registered for the Musikmesse Insider VIP programme.“


DG: Some visitors have said that the later opening hours seemed unnecessary – that the final couple of hours of the show each day were a little quiet. Would you consider moving the opening hours back to their original times?

SK: “We changed the opening hours on the basis of the results of our visitor polls. Naturally, there are opinions for and against whenever changes are made, but you have to test them to see whether they are a good idea or not – and that’s what we did this year. Now, we will review the feedback from the sector carefully and make any adjustments that seem necessary.

“In other words, it could well be the case that we change the hours of opening of next year’s Musikmesse. At all events, we will endeavour to satisfy as many participants as possible.”


DG: Did you encounter any issues with exhibitors showing products that crossed over both Prolight + Sound and Musikmesse? And, if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

SK: A great majority of exhibitors welcomed the shift of Prolight + Sound to four work days, particularly given that many professional users of event technology are busy on weekends.

“In the case of a fair as big and heterogeneous as Prolight + Sound, it is only natural that many people will have different interests. Thus, we also received critical opinions from exhibitors who were not completely satisfied with the degree of interaction between Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound.

“We understand this and will work with the sector to find a solution. Our aim is to take the best possible account of individual interest at the same time as maintaining the synergistic effects of the two fairs.”


DG: There were a couple of high profile absentees this year, such as Fender and Gibson, along with a few acoustic guitar brands. Do you think the positive response to this year’s show will help convince those who were sceptical of the changes to return in 2017?

SK: “Whether or not to take part in a fair is an individual corporate decision that we cannot influence – we can only prepare the optimum presentation environment and create incentives for all relevant target groups to come to the fair. This year, we worked very hard to achieve this, and we will continue to do so in the future because the companies appreciated our efforts.

“Accordingly, we are very pleased to have already heard from many companies that they are planning to take part in 2017 after having seen the new concept in action this year.”


DG: Overall attendance was slightly up on 2016. Are you able to offer a breakdown of how many visitors were consumers and how many were B2B visitors?

SK: “We do not have the exact figures for this yet. However, the majority of exhibitors with whom we spoke during the fair said they were pleased with the business they had been able to do with retailers and, in particular, the number of new international contacts made.”


DG: What did the attendance figures reveal about the state of the industry? Are there signs of growth for the MI sector?

SK: “It all depends on the market you are looking at. In the German case, we know that sales have started rising again following the ups and downs of the past years. However, given the heterogeneous developments in Europe and the rest of the world, it is not possible to simply apply the optimism prevailing in Germany to other markets.

“Generally speaking, the conventional trade must continue to fight for its share of the market in this digital age. From the good echo to our professional-development programme, we see that the international trade is very interested in exploiting the opportunities offered by digitalisation for its own business model.”


DG: How is the MI sector performing in comparison with the pro audio market?

SK: “The international event sector has been characterised by continuous increases in turnover in recent years – and with it the pro audio industry. Thanks to technical advances, new driving forces are coming into play, e.g., 3D audio and digital audio networks, which bode well for the coming years.

“In contrast, the musical instrument industry is more dependent on the individual market and social trends, which makes evaluating the international business situation and predicting future developments much more difficult. But there is one good piece of news: according to our polls, an increasing number of Musikmesse trade visitors and exhibitors rate the current economic situation in the sector as being satisfactory to good.”


DG: Can you confirm any details about next year’s show just yet?

SK: “At the moment, we are analysing the results and the echo from the sector to Musikmesse 2016. When this process is complete, we will discuss various issues with representatives of the sector and announce further details then. What we can say at present is that we will continue our VIP retailer programme and also intensify our services for trade visitors at the fair in 2017. Additionally, following this year’s successful première, there will also be a Musikmesse Festival with a multi-faceted programme on the occasion of next year’s fair.”

Tags: musikmesse , interview , Interviews , Musikmesse 2016 , Stephan Kurzawski

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