Ah, trade shows. Exciting the first time, familiar the next time, and then the only reason you really go anymore is to see your friends. I’ve only been attending these for about a decade, but I’ve seen more than enough to understand why our friend Mojaxx makes that incredibly enthusiastic face up there.
Trade shows are getting boring. Or rather, social media has made them boring, with organizers and exhibitors both failing at reinventing themselves in order to retain the appeal of their events. Yes, it’s still great to get your hands on brand-new equipment if this is your only opportunity to do so – and yes, you can catch some world-class performers up close, doing pretty awesome things. That part is definitely still cool.
At the same time, however, there are no unexpected announcements anymore, so there’s no sweet anticipation and no jaw-dropping surprises, unless you accidentally stumble upon some obscure invention that hasn’t yet made the rounds online way ahead of the event. That observation is not limited to Musikmesse — I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw something genuinely new in the DJ industry drop at a show without being previously announced. Two years ago at BPM, the team reviewed Reloop’s fader caps under the influence out of sheer despair (best work we ever did according to some — Ed), because these were literally the only new thing we didn’t know about in advance. Is Beerworx gonna be a thing? Not sure, but I certainly prefer to be in a good mood when I enjoy a couple cold ones – and this development is depressing.
Anyway – Musikmesse holds a special place in my memories because it’s where I played my very first showcases. I’ve seen it in all its glory, but this year, it’s been more like the sad half of those “before / after crystal meth” pictures. What were they thinking? The DJ and production stuff has always shared an area because it’s kind of related, but you didn’t have to hike for 30 minutes away from the main show area to reach it (FACT — one year I hiked 13 miles around the Messe halls — Ed), and it certainly didn’t seem that cramped. This year, the DJ gear was in hall 9.1 rather than 5.1 — lower ceilings, worse lighting, overall looking more like the humble beginnings of Dancefair than something you’d see at Musikmesse. This is a little unfair towards Dancefair though, as that show offers some added value through daily workshops and lectures, as well as a huge networking opportunity for aspiring producers (although it’s mostly limited to the Dutch flavour of EDM, which I honestly can’t stand, but hey). In that regard, Musikmesse – a much bigger show – is lagging behind.
There is no innovation, no appeal anymore. I understand that even major brands are shaving off expenses by reducing their stand sizes, but this is a reaction to dwindling excitement and dropping numbers. Both Messe and the exhibitors seem not to understand that their downward spirals are intertwined… and that the visitors should be the absolute last to suffer for it.
Then there’s the idea of making every day open to the public. I’m by no means elitist about this, but you’d understand the frustration if you ever worked an expo stand yourself. Public days at trade shows are the equivalent of breaking into a zoo and opening all the cages simultaneously… after not feeding the animals for a couple of days. I’m not even kidding, it’s literally that bad. Granted, turning every day into public day guarantees some sort of constant attendance throughout the show, and that’s certainly better than having only one public day that feels like fighting off a swarm of locusts that rip and tear through anything that isn’t bolted down (again: not kidding) — but there should still be one day dedicated to press, and press alone, so we can do our job properly.
Then again, why would we bother when everyone and their mom announces everything prior to the doors even opening? Dear industry – this approach to marketing is stupid. You want genuine engagement, don’t you? You want discussion, speculation, anticipation and excitement to grow organically. Guess what: we want the same thing. We are here to help you with that, but we can’t and won’t bother trying for much longer if you keep messing things up for us.
SOME CONTEXT FROM THE EDITOR
When we started going to shows back in 2003, it was considerably cheaper and there was genuinely too much to see on launch day. We were able to go about our business relatively unhindered and report back on all the cool shiny that at that point you hadn’t seen before. And we excelled in this area, largely because of the lack of competition, but frankly because we’re bloody good at it.
But social media changed everything. Being first became a pointless game — you simply cannot beat the casual Twitter or Instagram user that captures a surreptitious pre-show snap here and there essentially fulfilling the craving for new shiny info. So it became a game of quality, thankfully something we’re also bloody good at.
But then the industry decided that first day announcements were a thing of the past and now blow their collective wads days and weeks before the show. I totally understand this as the announcement is controlled, and the first thing the reader sees is the manufacturer’s message rather than the rushed rambling from the on-the-floor reporter backed up with still drunk video demos.
This however means that come trade show day 1, there is nothing new to see, thus making the increasingly expensive trip to the shows completely redundant. I recently did some analysis of traffic over the years around trade show time. There used to be a definite peak on the first day (like 3-4x normal traffic), and this has on occasion brought the site to its knees. But now there is more of a bump that starts a week before and steadily tails off.
Further digging into the stats shows that the initial PR posting (i.e. before the show) gets all the traffic, leaving the stories from the floor garnering residual interest. Why? Because by the time we get to the show it’s old news. And I like to think that we’re smart enough to have offered all the insight at PR time anyway, which does rather render attending the shows from a gear perspective totally pointless.
So what’s left? Well just the people really. And as much as I love this aspect, it’s a somewhat expensive trip for a pint and a hot dog, and it’s money that can be spent on valuable content or invested in the business. And it’s fair to say that I’ve never come back from a show after numerous meetings better off than when I set off.
Due to three dismal years at Musikmesse, I made the decision not to go for the first time in 13 years. Judging from feedback I was entirely justified, saving an estimated £800. And when the team is posse large for BPM, that’s £3-4K right there, a sum of money that we could do some seriously great content with. On that note, BPM is undergoing an overhaul, but we have yet to see what’s happening with it. We’ve been involved in some capacity for the last 10 years, and do hope that it can come up with something to buck the downward trend of others.
And it’s not just our costs, it’s those of the companies that feel pressured or obliged to appear too. No matter what size the company is, every square foot of stand space, design and build, travel costs, hotels, meals, wages, and promotional stuff comes off the bottom line. And given the size of some of these stands and the number of actual people that they reach, that’s a lot of money at least 3 times a year and probably more. For example, it’s enough to hire some extra support staff, and some of these companies would be much better putting their money into keeping their reputation solid with the people who buy their gear, and not outdoing each other with show floor real estate fights.
What I’m saying is this — if there was unique content that we could get from the shows that added value and was of genuine benefit to the DJWORX community, we’d do it. But dropping several thousand each year on old news aka free PR is not a smart use of our limited resources. I’d rather get the team together at HQ for a few days and get some brilliant collective content out.
Echoing Ray’s words, trade shows are now boring and have rendered themselves non-essential from a media perspective. There are smarter and more inventive ways to get high quality content under the noses of the DJWORX community and we’d love to make that happen. But as they stand, we don’t feel that trade shows are the best way for us personally, and don’t figure greatly in our future plans.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you get anything more from the few extra additional words and images that we post from trade shows? Or would you rather we spent the time and money on creating more reviews and unique content?