Interview with Michael Biwer, Group Show Director „Entertainment, Media & Creative Industries“, Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH

Are you ready to master it? With only four weeks to go until Prolight + Sound 2017 takes place at Messe Frankfurt, Germany, from 4 to 7 April 2017, and Musikmesse from 5 to 8 April 2017, ZioGiorgio asked Michael Biwer, Group Show Director of “Entertainment, Media & Creative Industries“, Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH for some predictions on the show.

Michael Biwer

Michael Biwer, Group Show Director for “Entertainment, Media & Creative Industries“, Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH Prolight + Sound 2016 has been another huge success. What were the final numbers of the 2016 edition in terms of exhibitors and visitors, and what are the numbers of exhibitor registrations you have already received for the upcoming Prolight + Sound 2017?

Michael Biwer: Prolight + Sound 2016 was characterised by the huge number of innovations from the companies represented, as well as by the high quality of the visitors and the level of international participation. Altogether 940 exhibitors, as well as 45,000 visitors, attended the event. In 2017, Prolight + Sound will again be covering an extensive range of issues and sectors, and will be presenting the new products from key players in all contributory segments of the events industry. Moreover, we are delighted about various companies increasing their stand size this year, and we also welcome a number of new exhibitors to the fair. Therefore, we are on a positive trajectory and will announce the exact exhibitor numbers at the time of the show. What is the idea behind the slogan you’ve chosen for Prolight + Sound 2017, “Let’s master it”?

Michael Biwer: The slogan reflects both an enthusiasm for technology and a willingness to meet challenges in a pro-active manner. It embodies the perfectionism of all the players in the sector and their commitment to creating the perfect event. At the same time, it awakens a sense of community in an industry, where the various different trades work together to perform joint tasks with all the precision of a clockwork mechanism. Will the “new” exhibition halls allocation remain the same in comparison to 2016? What about the opening hours?

Michael Biwer: After the extensive changes to the hall layouts and allocation of stands in the previous year, Prolight + Sound will, this year, be increasingly setting store by continuity. Prolight + Sound is divided into a number of areas including Audio + Sound (Hall 3.1), Audio + Multimedia (Hall 4.1), Light + Stage (Hall 3.0), Light + Multimedia (Hall 4.0), Light + Entertainment (Hall 5.0), together with Education + Associations (Forum.0). One thing that we are doing for 2017 is to improve the signage and signposting throughout the Exhibition Centre, so that visitors can quickly find those exhibitors that are of particular relevance to them in all the halls. In addition, we are animating the Agora, the central square in the Exhibition Centre Grounds with the Live Sound Arena. Here, PA systems will be demonstrated in open-air conditions.

Prolight + Sound is taking place from 4 to 7 April, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. That means that it will retain the same sequence of days as the previous year. By shifting Musikmesse to the period from Wednesday to Friday, 5 to 8 April, we are creating an overlap of three days, which is slightly different from the 2016 arrangement, and we are thus strengthening the synergies that exist between the two events. What can we expect from Prolight + Sound 2017? What are the innovations?

Michael Biwer: One of the innovations for 2017 is the inclusion of a new dedicated area in Hall 4.1, which will help to demonstrate, to sector professionals and musicians alike, the concept of the ‘Silent Stage’. Visitors can experience here first hand, how this stage set-up, which relies heavily on the minimisation of instrumental volume that occurs on stage, can help enhance the sound and the performance of musical acts.

Of course, all the latest technological trends, that are currently causing a stir in the sector, will also be on display this year. Digital network technology deserves a special mention here, particularly in relation to audio and broadcast. It makes it possible to broadcast high-resolution signals via a multitude of channels and over great distances with extremely limited delay. In the field of lighting, progress with LED technology also brings with it several advantages: including, indeed, a broader colour spectrum, more flexible light mixing, greater energy efficiency and longer life-cycles. Other drivers of sales include 3D projection mapping, as well as innovations relating to digital signage – from high-resolution 8K UHD products with touch interactivity to transparent screens. All these trends and much more will be available for visitors to see first-hand at Prolight + Sound. Are you working on anything special regarding the Prolight + Sound seminars program?

Michael Biwer: This year, too, there is to be an extensive seminar programme, with more than 60 lectures by well-known and distinguished speakers. The lectures will cover all areas of event technology and are addressed both to newcomers to the sector and to long-standing experts in the field. Many of the talks will be given in English and, as a result, will address an international audience. At the same time, with the Eventplaza Conference, Prolight + Sound is once again providing a series of seminars for specialists in the field of event management and marketing.

A particular highlight of the lectures on offer is the keynote talk to be given by British set designer Nicoline Refsing. She has been – and continues to be – involved in the staging of some world-famous shows – amongst her achievements are the Brit Awards, several Cirque-du-Soleil shows, as well as the opening ceremony of Disneyland Hong Kong.  She achieved particular acclaim through her work as Creative Director of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. In her lecture, she will explain how she and her team brought the Eurovision stage to life and will reveal some of the creative processes involved in the staging of large-scale events.
A great crisis in the MI-industry and some organisational failures reflected heavily on the last edition of Musikmesse. This led to the non-presence of many leading brands. What are the projections for the 2017 edition regarding the key-players, and how are the numbers regarding exhibitor registrations generally?

Michael Biwer: Various companies in the musical instrument sector decided last year not to be represented by a stand at the show. Instead, they came along first to see for themselves and to convince themselves of the advantages of the developments to the concept of the trade fair that we had instituted. Moreover, at the end of the day, the increasing tendencies towards consolidation in the sector had their effect on Musikmesse.  Against this background, we are delighted that a number of major brands are coming back to Musikmesse this year. They include Ibanez, Tama, Meinl Cymbals, Sonor, Remo, Buffet Crampon and others. Here, too, we shall have the final figures available at the show.  Please tell us about the new concept of Musikmesse 2017, and what the novelties are in comparison to 2016?

Michael Biwer: One of the significant innovations is that we are carrying on the format of the ‘Drum Camp’ that was successfully launched last year and creating a similar format for guitars as well. So, in 2017, there is to be a ‘Guitar Camp’ in Hall 11.0, providing a new magnet for everyone with a particular interest in guitars. At the heart of both camps is the ‘Sweat, Blood and Tears Box’: a soundproofed cabin created with the latest modern event technology, in which world-famous artists can be seen giving exclusive performances. Visitors will be able to get as close here to these stage greats in the worlds of percussion and guitar as they would on the front row of a concert. They include Herman Li (Dragonforce), Jeff Waters (Annihilator), Jen Majura (Evanescence), Karl Brazil (Robbie Williams) and Chris Coleman (Chaka Khan). All the artists will be appearing with their original tour equipment and will be available for autographs. Added to this are the Drum College and the Guitar College, where some of the stars from the camps will give daily workshops and master classes, as well as the Drum Academy and the Guitar Academy, in which exhibitors can present and demonstrate their products.

For fans of both modern and traditional wind-band music, there is also a new hot spot. Every day, the ‘Beck’s Wood and Brass Stage’ will present appearances by top-flight wind and brass ensembles performing in their respective genres. New, too, is the Sound & Recording Lounge. Here visitors can chat to international music producers, engineers and artists, take part in practical workshops and presentations and extend their networks. Over and above this, the exhibitors will be presenting some of their most exciting new products here. When we met at the beginning of December you told us that you were studying special acoustical treatments to improve the noise pollution situation inside the Musikmesse halls. At this point, can you tell us anything more specific?

Michael Biwer: Regarding noise pollution, we have implemented a whole raft of measures. As a result, in some of the halls, the product groups will be acoustically separated. That applies to Hall 11.0, where the guitar and bass section will be separated from the drums and percussion area, as well as to Hall 9.0, with a separation between the keyboard instruments and the recording area. In addition, we shall make available some soundproof cabins in Halls 8.0 and 9.0 for people to try out the instruments. Electronically amplified instruments will be able to be played in Hall 11 during the first 30 minutes of every hour – in the remaining 30 minutes, the focus will be on business discussions. As last year, Hall 11.1 (Business Area & Full-range Companies) will be accessible exclusively to trade visitors and any demonstrations of instruments will be allowed only through headphones.

We are also relying on the considerateness of the exhibitors and will make this suitably clear to companies in the guidelines. In cases of serious infringements, say where people grossly exceed the permitted sound levels, we shall take appropriate measures in the interests of the other exhibitors, as well as of the visitors. The aim is to keep the quality of business dealings at a suitably high level and thus to underpin the status of Musikmesse as the major trading platform for the musical instrument sector in Europe.


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