ISE 2023: trade fair numbers and an interview with Mike Blackman

We close the wonderful experience of ISE Barcelona with some numbers about the fair and an interesting interview with Mike Blackman, who shared with us his summary of the 2023 edition and some ISE 2024 previews.

Opening of the 2023 edition of ISE Barcelona

Let’s start with the numbers: the official ISE communiqué mentions 58,107 unique attendees from 155 countries, with record-breaking attendance at the city’s hotels, bars and entertainment venues, and with exhibitors registering an unprecedented turnout at the stands of what has been described as the biggest edition ever.
The first day of the fair set the pace for the week, with the highest number of visitors ever recorded in the history of ISE, who visited the record 56,870 square metre area in the six exhibition halls and the Audio Demo Rooms, where iconic French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre presented his latest album. The trend continued for the rest of the week, with a final total of 58,107 admissions and 133,606 accesses to the exhibition area.

King Felipe VI of Spain on his official visit to ISE

The first day set the tone for the event with a visit from King Felipe VI of Spain plus a large delegation of local dignitaries. The King toured the pavilions, stopping at some of the stands to get a small taste of the technology on display and – according to Mr Blackman – was very interested and in some ways knowledgeable.

Keynote di BK Johannessen

The three keynotes held during the fair were also very successful. On the opening day, BK Johannessen of Epic Games emphasised how technology trends in the games industry are taking audio-visual innovation to new levels of creativity by using the expertise of cutting-edge gaming and film projects to engage and entertain audiences.

Mike Blackman & BK Johannessen

One of the oldest and best known competitions in international sailing, the America’s Cup, provided the backdrop for Stephen Nuttall‘s keynote on the second day of the show. As the regatta’s head of television, Stephen talked about his first-hand experience, unique technical challenges and spectacular results. His perspective provided a perfect glimpse of the 2024 event to be held in Barcelona.

On Thursday 2 February, Fran Chuan of InnoQuotient gave the lecture “How innovative is the AV industry?” presenting the results of ISE’s Innovation Culture 2023 survey, using the proprietary InnoQuotient tool.

For a few years now, during the last day of ISE, we have the opportunity to interview Mike Blackman for a warm assessment of the current edition and some anticipations about the future of ISE. I won’t ask you about numbers and business, this time I just want to understand your feelings, the emotional side of this experience.

Mike Blackman: Well, this has been a fantastic success. We are achieving numbers that we’ve always wished for. The exhibitors are happy, they’re talking about not just numbers – likewise you are doing – but quality. Despite the price hikes that airline flights have experienced in recent months, the public has flocked to Barcelona with enthusiasm. This can only mean that the quality we’ve had so far has been very high indeed, which is really good, and for the next edition the prospects are certainly bright. We like the diversification of events that the fair offers, such as the LLUM BCN tour and the three big opening keynotes. Tell us how you were able to relate this to the city and the people of Barcelona.

Mike Blackman: You know, art is part of technology as well. You’ve seen more and more creative artists. You’ve seen that we were doing the mapping. We’ve had people like Bart Kresa, we’ve had last year Refik Anadol. So, we intentionally bring people who use technology to create art and entertainment, because we do see that as part of our business. Likewise, when I look at what ISE is, I think it would need to remain a business to business exhibition. But we are in a city where we make an impact, there are many people to whom we say “hey we’re in your city, we’re here, but don’t come in”. So, it’s nice to actually be able to say to those people “We don’t want you inside the exhibition, but we’ll do this for you”. In this sense, to support the LLUM Festival we do a mapping for example. All these are side activities that go on in the city they are our way of giving back. Now, tell us about the feedback of the King Felipe VI…

Mike Blackman: Firstly, he’s really nice. But more importantly for us is that he’s interested. Well, I was amazed of his level of knowledge. Of course he gets a briefing about all the exhibitors he’s visiting; but walking through the halls with him and the moment he sees other companies hearing him starting to say what he knows about those companies, giving an impression of what they’ve been doing, well I said to myself he does now, and it is all out of his personal interest, yes, that’s real interest.
I’d already heard of his interest in technology, but when you see how much he’s keen on what interesting has in our industry and how much knowledge he has about it, well that’s very encouraging.

Mike Blackman during the media briefing Can you give us a spoiler about the next edition?

Mike Blackman: Next year ISE will be held from 30th of January to 2nd February, always here in Barcelona. You’ll see more about virtual studios, virtual content creation production, and also lighting and staging in a big way: we’ll move all that into Hall 1. As you know, the lighting companies have special requests: they want to do lasers, they want to do stages, and since this is not compatible with the other exhibitors, we came up to the conclusion that they need their own location. So, we’ll be able to do that in 2024 when you’ll see all of that in Hall 1. You’ll also see content creation being moved into Hall 4. In other words we’re expanding the size of the show. We’ll also have more of the pro audio in Hall 8, hosting all their demo rooms. All these situations are growing with us.

ISE returns to Barcelona from Tuesday 30 January to Friday 2 February 2024.

Walter Lutzu
LightSoundJournal Team

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