It was almost inevitable that numbers would be down at this year’s PLASA, but the show was a success despite the financial climate, says Paddy Baker.
Despite a turnout that was 14% lower than last year, PLASA09 fielded a strong array of attractions across its four days at Earls Court.
While the impact of the economic downturn was evident in a number of areas – including the reduced floor area, wider aisles and lack of stand signage – there was widespread satisfaction among exhibitors with the quality of visitors. XLNT Advanced Technologies’ commercial director, Marc van der Wel, said: “We found that visitors were very serious, and very interested in our new products – it was very worthwhile.” Fabiano Besio from LDR commented: “We had good feedback and we are now following up all the requests and contacts. The PLASA show continues to exceed my expectations and proved once again it is the entertainment industry’s leading trade show.”
These views were echoed by Lionel Garraud, sales director of French lantern and followspot manufacturer Robert Juliat, who commented: “Although the turnout may have been lower than previous years – which is to be expected in the current climate – we noticed a marked improvement in the quality of visitors who came to discuss serious projects. Several new dealers will be appointed as a result of meetings at PLASA.”
It wasn’t just a talking shop, however: some exhibitors made impressive sales, while others reported that they were expecting significant business from the show. German lighting company GLP sold more than 300 units of its newly launched Impression 120RZ (Zoom). Meanwhile Ian Cullen, marketing director of Sound Technology, said: “We saw a huge number of key people from the commercial audio and live sound sectors and there’s potential for some very large-scale projects off the back of it. Many of the enquiries were from consultants and integrators and theatre sound designers in particular.”
The show continued to be a launch pad for new technologies, many of them on display in the PLASA Innovation Gallery. Lighting trends included the continued growth of LED lighting, with companies such as ETC and GLP demonstrating equipment that mimicked the colour spectrum of traditional tungsten lighting. There were also innovations from various exhibitors in moving lights, lighting control and distribution, show control and visualisation.
For the third consecutive year, the Gottelier award, which recognises product developers who have helped to push the boundaries of event production, presentation and installation technology, went to a figure from the world of pro audio.
The nine nominees were drawn from across the worlds of audio and lighting. The 2009 winner was Alex Cooper, head of design at Midas/ Klark Teknik – in recognition of his work developing numerous Midas consoles since joining the company 30 years ago.
Midas/Klark Teknik also announced that it has joined forces with AuviTran, ZP Engineering and Lynx Studio Technology to form the AES50 Trade Association, with the aim of promoting the further adoption of the AES50 protocol.
Meanwhile, other audio console manufacturers were pursuing a ‘small is beautiful’ trend. DiGiCo announced the SD8-24, a smaller-footprint version of the SD8 console under 1m in width, but with the same features, functionality and number of inputs and outputs. Slightly wider, at 1,200mm, is Soundcraft’s Si1 – the third member of its award-winning Si range, designed for space-restricted venues. Roland, for its part, announced the RSS by Roland M-380 digital mixing console. This is a 48-channel console that repackages all the features of the award-winning M-400 V-Mixer into a compact rackmount footprint.
By contrast, Yamaha didn’t launch a new console, but instead was promoting the theme of connectivity, and its range of interface solutions that allow its digital audio products to dovetail into virtually any audio system. Making its European tradeshow debut was the Audinate Dante-MY-16-AUD interface card, which is distributed exclusively by Yamaha.
PLASA is as well known for the after-hours events as for the exhibition and seminar sessions, and this year was no exception. IE’s unofficial prize for the best venue must go to Allen & Heath, which held a party marking its 40th anniversary on the 40th floor of The Gherkin in the City of London – providing spectacular 360¡ views of the capital. Special guest was the company’s original MD, Neil Hauser, who ran Allen & Heath from its inception in 1969 until 1988.
Another notable social event was hosted by Shure Distribution, which hosted an evening of music in memory of MD Dennis Harburn, who passed away in March of this year. Top of the bill was Hamish Stuart, former lead singer and guitarist/bassist with Scottish soul-funk legends Average White Band, who played a blistering set with his band.
So, as the dust settles around Earls Court for another year, what’s the verdict on PLASA? Around 80% of the companies on the show floor were regular PLASA exhibitors, with the rest either showing for the first time or returning after a break.
That certainly indicates both a loyal customer base and the ability to attract new business. However, it’s not yet clear how successful the show has been in extending itself away from its traditional entertainment base into new areas – such as fixed installation. In addition, some exhibitors expressed dissatisfaction with the cost and bureaucracy associated with coming to the show, compared with mainland European events such as Prolight+Sound – and were also rankled by the lack of any recessionary concessions from the organisers. So while we can rate 2009’s PLASA show as a significant success, particularly in these straitened times, its long-term fortunes are by no means certain.