“We wanted to create a really modern show – one that mixed up a traditional exhibition floor with performances and showcases and learning sessions.” What to expect at this year’s BPM show…
Celebrating its first decade as the UK’s leading music tech show, BPM takes place on Sunday 11th and Monday 12th of September at Birmingham NEC.
To find out more, we spoke to event director Mark Walsh about how BPM fits into the music tech landscape.
Attack: Can you tell us why BPM was set up in the first place? What did you want to offer people back then?
Mark Walsh: We set up BPM 10 years ago as there was just nothing for DJs. A show called Plasa in London had shifted its focus to large-scale sound and lighting and there was an opening for a dedicated DJ event. We wanted to create a really modern show – one that mixed up a traditional exhibition floor with performances and showcases and learning sessions.
How has that changed over the years? The music tech world’s a very different place now. What do you think BPM offers DJs and musicians in 2016?
BPM has continuously evolved. It started as purely DJ, then we added in some electronic music production and since then we have had a load of sound and lighting brands join us too.
A couple of years ago we split out the sound and lighting section to allow the DJ and production side of things to maintain its focus. 2016 sees our new redefined DJ and studio section in a new space. We have kept the core values but added in an outdoor performance stage, three learning areas with sessions and seminars, and a new feel to the exhibition floor with a more hands-on approach.
How do you think the growth of the internet has changed what you do? Now that new product announcements are spread round the blogs and forums within minutes of their release, have you had to respond to that?
Times have changed for sure. However, like anything, there are a core group of people – be it hobbyist or pro – that just love the industry and scene. BPM has always been more than just about the tech. It’s about the people. Whilst the internet has changed the way products are launched, you still can’t beat getting hands-on, trying and comparing things for yourself.
It’s our job as organisers to keep on delivering experiences that can’t be delivered online and give visitors a reason to annually haul ass to Birmingham.
So many music shops have closed over the last decade that there aren’t many places left for musicians to go and try out instruments or DJs to check out new technology. How has the changing face of retail affected BPM?
The retail landscape is practically unrecognisable in 10 years and we still have some more major retail shifts to come. Brands are noticeably taking more hold over their brands and marketing, with many ready to flick a switch to go direct – they’re are all hanging on to see who goes first!
The nice thing about BPM is that for a couple of days we are the biggest showroom in the land, you can touch, feel and engage with the brands directly.
We have always worked closely with retailers to offer some great bargains at the show too. Many of the show prices can’t be published as they are one-off show deals.
What do you think the future holds for BPM? If we look a few years down the line, do you think you’ll still be running a single annual event or might we see additions to the BPM calendar?
BPM is a tough little cookie. We started it as we plunged in to recession and the scene has evolved so fast over the last 10 years. As a company we have had to be agile and go with the times. We are only a small team, and privately owned, so we have the ability to be instantly reactive to industry shifts and market challenges.
We have looked at doing some spin-off events, catering for a specific niche, however there is something about a large-scale national event that can’t be achieved with smaller low-key events. It just simply isn’t financially viable to bring in the talent and the production, which means the aspirational and entertainment level isn’t as great.
We plan to continue to be reactive, listen to our audience, and the industry, and deliver the best playground for DJs and producers.
BPM takes place Sunday 11th and Monday 12th of September at Birmingham NEC. Head here for more info.