Sounds Expo 2006

Sounds Expo, the UK’s music tech show, took place last weekend…right in between the industry’s two major trade shows, NAMM and Musikmesse, which are always jam packed with new product announcements. Unlike those events, Sounds Expo is an end user’s show, meaning there are not normally any product announcements there, making  it a monumental feat of bad timing, as everything due to be announced at Musikmesse in Frankfurt is still under wraps and everything announced at NAMM is already yesterday’s news. So while it provided  a good opportunity to check out NAMM products that have yet to hit the shops, waiting three weeks and holding the event after Frankfurt would have been to everyone’s benefit.

Nevertheless, all of the UK’s major distributors were present, headed up by Arbiter who were demoing the latest software from Native Instruments, Steinberg, Celemony and Arturia…all hooked up to CME’s cool new keyboards; and SCV who, as well as showcasing Sony software, Universal Audio Hardware and the pretty impressive Axon AX100 Mk II pitch to MIDI converter, had a whole room devoted to Genlec’s excellent 8000 series monitors. Major manufacturers such as Roland, Line 6, Apple, Yamaha, Digidesign and M Audio were also out in force,  as were Emu, who were showing their killer product, the yet to be released Emulator X2.

However, despite being an end user’s show, the only major retailer present was Digital Village and despite being billed as a show for ‘musicians, producers, engineers & DJs’…or, as the exhibition catalogue would have it “DJ’s” (note to the organisers, employ a sub editor!), the only manufacturer to be seen with any DJ kit was Ecler, who were showcasing their wicked Nuo mixers…on the stand adjacent to Allen & Heath…who bizarrely weren’t showing any of their equally excellent DJ products, instead choosing to showcase their high end digital mixing desks…which if you can  afford to buy, you can also afford the price of a ticket to Frankfurt, so I think perhaps both the organisers and some of the exhibitors were a little confused about exactly who their audience are.

The strongest point of the show had to be the programme of free seminars, workshops and talks, which were well worth the price of admission alone. Upstairs in the main theatre, these packed events  included top producer Steve Levine talking about his favourite company Yamaha and a panel of BBC Radio One DJs discussing how to take it to the next level, whilst downstairs, The Sound on Sound crew were holding workshops on recording vocals, convolution reverb, recording guitar and Q&A sessions. But the highlight for me was the ‘How To Set Up As An Independent Label’ talk by none other than Drum ‘n’ Bass head, Simon ‘Bassline’ Smith, who had some very sound advice for those present.

So in conclusion, a good show, that was well attended, worth the price of admission and which is certainly worth checking out next year…by which time hopefully the organisers will have worked out who their target audience are and changed the timing of the event.

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