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REPORT: Pro audio leaders respond to ISE relocation

Following the announcement that the annual ISE show will be relocating from its current home at the Amsterdam RAI to Barcelona in 2021, PSNEurope caught up with some of the biggest names in the professional audio market to get their take on what the move could mean for the biz...

Along spell of speculation was put to bed back in July, when it was finally revealed that ISE would be relocating from its home of the past 12 years at the Amsterdam RAI to Barcelona’s Gran Via, part of the Fira de Barcelona complex, in 2021 (February 2-5). Over the past couple of years, rumours had started to circulate as to whether or not the rapidly expanding show had indeed outgrown its base in the Netherlands, although exactly where a show of such vast scale would be able to relocate was the subject of much conjecture.

When the news broke that a new home had finally been settled on, the reaction was generally positive, with ISE managing director Mike Blackman highlighting the benefits a more expansive setting would offer visitors and exhibitors alike.

“The RAI and Amsterdam have provided a fantastic location, been great partners and contributed to the success of the show,” he said. “But, demand from exhibitors, and the continued increase in the numbers of attendees, showed us that limited floor space was in danger of putting a brake on the show’s development. In spite of all our best efforts this was not an issue we felt could be solved by staying at the RAI Amsterdam.

“We conducted extensive research and visited many exhibition centres before making this decision. By announcing our move to one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious convention complexes, we can now continue to focus on creating a unique experience for everyone and confidently plan for long-term development. We will ensure that the remaining two editions of ISE at the RAI Amsterdam are the best in its illustrious history and a fitting way to bring our 14-year relationship with the venue and city to a close.”

 The new venue certainly offers plenty of space for
ISE to grow into. The Fira de Barcelona complex has
two exhibition venues and hosts 140 international trade shows each year, featuring over 30,000 exhibitors and attracting over two million attendees. In total it has over 400,000 sqm of floor space and 14 halls. But what do the exhibitors and visitors make of the move? PSNEurope caught up with some of them to find out… 

Stephan Greiner, chief sales officer, d&b audiotechnik

ISE has been an increasingly important show for d&b
in Europe, with many installers and rental companies seeing it as a key show for investigating new products and technologies. For several years it’s been a particularly busy event for us, on the exhibition floor
and in the d&b demo lounge with product listening and learning sessions open to everyone. We see ISE as a core element to drive our installation integration strategy forward. It’s been a great way for visitors to get to know d&b a little better in a relaxed and easy atmosphere
and we’ll be looking to keep that buzz alive in Spain. Ultimately, the move to Barcelona will mean a fresh face for visitors as well as new opportunities for d&b and our European subsidiaries. Like Amsterdam it’s a major city so we’re confident the transition will be straightforward, and at the very least a good deal warmer. 

Peter Claussen, COO, Sennheiser

Sennheiser is very happy to see ISE, one of our key tradeshows, grow further. Year after year, we have welcomed more and more visitors to our stand, and have been happy to see new customer groups making their way to Amsterdam. The attraction of the show will grow further with the move to Fira de Barcelona, which roughly offers four times as much space as RAI and has a proven track record as host to the GSMA Mobile World Congress. We are very much looking forward to introducing our business communication portfolio to the additional market segments that will be attracted to ISE once it can grow freely, and of course to continuing the fruitful exchange and good talks we have always had with our integration customers.

Some may argue that Amsterdam is more central as a location, and perhaps we will see increased logistics efforts overall. However, this will be outweighed by the opportunities for growth offered by Barcelona. Another issue might be the political situation regarding the Catalan independent movement, but seeing the support of Barcelona for its tradeshows, I am positive that ISE in Barcelona will be a resounding success.

The success of ISE has certainly had an impact on tradeshows that address the same industries, with many manufacturers shifting budgets to ISE. But there are also pro audio shows that address different user groups, such as IBC and NAMM, and their success is not impaired at all by ISE becoming so successful. The opportunity for close interaction with customers, spanning industries from entertainment and music to broadcast and content creation to system integration and business communications is key to Sennheiser. 

Anne Berggrein, VP marketing, DPA Microphones

We have seen ISE grow from a pure AV exhibition addressing mainly the installation and event business to one that now covers many other pro audio segments and is therefore attracting all the big audio players in the industry. We have had ISE on the radar for many years and have exhibited there for some years now – and with good results. Next year we will more than double the area we exhibit on as we see a growing audience interested in our product offerings and our professional audio expertise.

ISE has become one of the most important exhibitions in Europe, and the growth in the number of exhibitors and visitors is fantastic, especially at a time when people find so much of their information on the internet. Being able to see and hear the various brands in real life in one place gives you a much better basis for evaluating gear and deciding on which products are best for the job. And it also proves that personal relationships and contact is still a key factor when doing business.

Moving ISE to Barcelona is an interesting step. It will definitely attract more people from Southern Europe, which is a growing market for us and where we believe we have even more potential with our microphone solutions. But it is a shame it won’t happen until 2021 – and it’s also worth remembering that Barcelona can also be pretty cold in February!

Having said that, I look forward to getting more people to try the DPA experience in Barcelona in the future. With IBC in Amsterdam and ISE in Barcelona we should have Europe nicely covered. 

Chris Merrick, director, marketing global systems, Shure

Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) has consistently served as an important exhibition for Shure. For us, it has been a really great place to introduce new products and services in the market and give our clients and partners the opportunity to experience our latest solutions in person. The show’s rapid growth is a testament to the overall health of the industry – something Shure is also experiencing. It was only a matter of time until the event outgrew the current venue in Amsterdam, which in the grand scheme of things is actually quite a wonderful problem to have. 

More recently, ISE has expanded from a channel event to a large-scale production with a significant platform in reaching end-customers and decision makers from corporations, government and education. Although Amsterdam is a great place to visit, we are looking forward to moving to a venue that can not only accommodate our growing product portfolio needs but the needs of exhibitors and attendees alike.

We appreciate and support the decision to make the move to Barcelona, one we see as a natural evolution for ISE to accommodate the show’s future development. Other prominent shows, like Mobile World Congress, moved to Barcelona at a time when its respective industry also experienced exceptional growth. There is no doubt it’s an exciting time to be part of the systems and AV Industry. While we will miss Amsterdam, we look forward to exhibiting at the new venue in Barcelona in 2021. 

John McMahon, vice president of solutions and strategy, Meyer Sound

Meyer Sound has participated at ISE since the outset and has seen first-hand the steady growth it has experienced over the past 10 years. Barcelona offers a larger venue to accommodate the growth of ISE, which has become the ‘go-to’ show for AV in Europe and other key markets across the globe.

Like Amsterdam, Barcelona is a major international hub making it easy logistically – although perhaps better weather! Amsterdam served the industry well but the expansion over the years simply required more space. For instance, Meyer Sound found booking demo space in Amsterdam to be challenging, so we look forward to greater flexibility in what we can showcase at ISE. This show has become instrumental to our business and it’s where our customers go to network and discover what’s new across many sectors of the industry. As one of the first shows in the calendar year, we kick off ISE with a dealer and distributor meeting and the central location of Barcelona should allow us to draw attendance from many of our major markets. 

Tobias Weich, sales and marketing manager, Yamaha Music Europe

We are pleased about the decision to hold the fair in Barcelona from 2021. Like Amsterdam, Barcelona is an international business location with an excellent infrastructure. Moreover, it is a charming city with its own flair and thus the perfect place to meet with existing and future business contacts. We are therefore looking forward to the relocation in 2021, but are no less excited about the last two editions in Amsterdam in 2019 and 2020.

Tom Back, co-founder, Alcons Audio

It was obvious that the RAI couldn’t keep up with the show’s rapid growth, the set-up and strike logistics were becoming very difficult. However, as our ‘home turf’, Amsterdam was the best option for us, both for our own booth as well as for being a technical partner of the show. Barcelona will be a big change for us, although we already have an international convention and show there in June (CineEurope). The city is nice, even besides the appeal of la Rambla, and the weather in Spain around February could be a plus. I can understand international visitors preferring the special ‘intimate’ atmosphere of Amsterdam (being a Dutch company, we may be biased here!), but I guess each place will have its pros and cons. The bottom line is that the RAI simply wasn’t an option any more.

Ann Andrews, co-founder, Funktion-One

If ISE is still in a similar position in 2021, you would presume that the move to Barcelona will be a successful one. Three years is a long time in business, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out. For Funktion- One, Prolight + Sound is currently our main European tradeshow of the year. We also exhibited at NAMM for the first time in January and found that to be very worthwhile. The current situation at ISE, with it being at capacity in Amsterdam, means that if we did decide to exhibit there we wouldn’t be able to. The move to Barcelona should, at least, give us the option of exhibiting at ISE 2021, but we’ll need to weigh things up. With the current scheduling, exhibiting at both NAMM and ISE means doing two shows in different continents less than two weeks apart, which is something we’d need to look at. 

Francesco Fanicchi, brand and communication director, Powersoft

Rumours on this change of location have been circulating amongst industry players for the last couple of years, so it is good to know where ISE will be hosted from 2021. The Amsterdam RAI has been an amazing venue for ISE and it undoubtedly contributed to the continuous success and growth of the show. However, the limited floor space and expansion challenges meant that the RAI couldn’t meet the demand from the show organiser as well as exhibitors, which eventually led the ISE organisation to adopt a rather debatable stand booking system. With the aim to best cater for the exhibitors while delivering a high level of service and real value to the show visitors, I believe ISE has made the right decision, and this will have a positive impact on maintaining, if not boosting, the growth of the AV industry. Gran Via Barcelona is undoubtedly one of Europe’s largest convention centres, and from
a manufacturer point of view, being able to exhibit in a venue that can evolve and grow at the same rate as the AV industry, means that companies can better plan their strategy in the long term. 

Joe Pham, CEO and president, QSC

Amsterdam was a great location and helped QSC reach out to our most important clients in the EMEA region, which in turn aided in our growth in that region. As QSC continues to focus on the EMEA region and the industry diversifies with more and more IT and end users visiting ISE, the move to Barcelona provides the additional space we need to showcase even more holistic offerings to these new customers as well as our channel partners. We are very excited about ISE’s decisions to relocate and look forward to the opportunities to connect with new customers. 

Lars-Olof Janflod, senior advisory officer, Genelec

Genelec has exhibited at ISE since 2004. We have, so to speak seen it all, from the tiny little show in Geneva with 4,000 visitors to todays 80,000+ beast. As part of ISE ́s Advisory group I have been involved in the discussions leading to the decision to move. It’s not been an easy one as Amsterdam is a great city to be in for trade shows – a good location in Europe with a international airport that most airlines fly in and out of etc. The list of benefits with Amsterdam is long. The drawbacks, unfortunatley, are hard to overcome. The RAI is what it is and has limited capacity, and everyone who has been there during an ISE or IBC show can clearly see that it has its limitations. Add to that the lacking hotel capacity, leading to silly increasing room costs, and it becomes a nightmare for a growing exhibition that already (a) needs to say no to new exhibitors and (b) has to say no to current exhibitors’ need for more space. It’s a delicate balance that finally has taken its toll.

For us as exhibitors the RAI has been an easy place to come to, mainly because we have been there so many times that we know the place inside out. In this respect the move is a disruption that, to a certain extent, throws us out of our comfort zone and will require some extra work in the beginning.

Fira Barcelona is a huge modern exhibition and conference centre that’s been built to accommodate a large number of visitors and is as far from the patchwork RAI as one can get. I also think that being in Spain will open the show up to new visitors that have not travelled to Amsterdam. With change, new doors will open, and this move will see a lot of new doors opening, of that I am sure. 

Joan Amate, vice president and chief technical officer, Amate Audio

At Amate Audio we are delighted to welcome a major pro audio show back to Barcelona, after the good old days of Sonimag. That was a Barcelona-based trade show that served the pro audio market back in the ‘80s and I remember the first time Amate Audio ever participated in a trade show was at Sonimag back in 1987. The idea of returning to the Barcelona Fira after all that time is a huge mix of emotions for us. It’s been a pleasure to be in Amsterdam during the past few years but it has been evident for a while that the continued massive growth of the show demands bigger grounds. I can only congratulate the organisers for choosing Barcelona. We hope that the new location will meet everyone’s expectations. 

Adrian Hogg, European sales manager, Focusrite Pro

For the last few years it has quite been evident to many exhibiting manufacturers that the popularity and rapid expansion of the ISE show has led to issues at the current location. We’ve seen additional temporary halls springing up at the RAI to try to accommodate the growth and, of course, the availability of any additional floor space within the regular halls has been at a premium. Although Barcelona is not as centrally located within Europe, I have greeted the news positively as I feel that the larger floor space of Gran Via and the vibrant atmosphere of the city will allow the show to continue to grow and allow more variety for attendees of ISE, whilst allowing manufacturers to show themselves at their very best.

Dom Harter, managing director, Martin Audio

We’re happy to see the move to Barcelona. It’s become increasingly clear that the restrictions of the Amsterdam RAI and the efforts to overcome space with temporary constructions have actually impacted negatively on the flow and organisation of the show. The available space and facilities of the Fira de Barcelona exhibition complex, as well as Barcelona as a destination, is sure to have a positive impact on attracting visitors and ensuring better opportunity for manufacturers. Let’s just hope the organisers don’t get greedy and start charging even more to be present as a result, since the show is already on the verge of being too expensive for a reasonable return. Still, a bit of sunshine in February will be nice.