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PLASA 2018: ‘The most vibrant in recent history’

The PLASA show took place from September 16-18 at London Olympia, boasting a second consecutive year of growth on the audio exhibitor front. Sahar Nazir spoke to MD Peter Heath to get his take on the upsurge of audio exhibitors this year...

The 2018 PLASA show, which took place in September, saw audio exhibitor numbers on the rise for a second consecutive year, with managing director Peter Heath describing the show to PSNEurope as “the busiest and most vibrant in recent history”.

PLASA’s resurgence was evident once again this year, with a significant rise in visitors and exhibitors – compared to last year, visitor numbers increased by four per cent to 7,271. Pro audio in particular made a comeback this year, with the number of exhibitors rising by 17 per cent following its 23 per cent increase in 2017.

Not only were exhibitor numbers on the rise, but satisfaction levels were also very high, which, Heath said, has consequently “resulted in one of the show’s strongest re-books in a decade. We’re just a couple of weeks on and stand space confirmed for 2019 is already at 70 per cent of the total stands booked for 2018.”

Heath is enthusiastic about PLASA’s evolution since he took up the reins two years ago, as he looks to continue building on its recent renaissance. “I’m pleased to report that both visitor and exhibitor numbers increased, but not only that, walking around the show, a high quality of networking was evident, with many exhibitors taking orders directly on the show floor. We’ve had incredible feedback from visitors and exhibitors across the board.”

Notably, L-Acoustics made its return to the exhibition floor after 10 years away, to spend quality time with partners and potential clients. The company’s regional manager for UK and Ireland, Paul McMullan, said: “We felt an increase in the quality of the exchanges that we had with PLASA visitors this year, both at the booth and in the different panels in which we participated.”

Commenting on L-Acoustics’ return to the show as exhibitors, Heath added: “The fact that audio exhibitors increased by 17 per cent this year could speak for itself. Alongside longstanding and trusted audio exhibitors such as Bose, Yamaha and SSE Audio, we welcomed back L-Acoustics whose L-ISA system wowed visitors and the PLASA Award judges who commended them on their technological advancements.”

The show certainly made an impression on visitors with its exhibits, including an interactive L-Acoustics booth, as well as Yamaha displaying a Japanese garden theme, including a blossom tree complete with a rain feature. Yamaha notably capitalised on the exposure offered by Instagram and other forms of social media.

Yamaha’s marketing manager for the UK and Ireland, Chris Irvine says the company took somewhat of a risk with its approach to exhibiting at this year’s show. He elaborates: “This year we took something of a gamble by focusing less on displaying a lot of product and concentrating more on making the stand eye-catching and memorable. Our Japanese garden theme was a talking point throughout the show, with people continually taking photos of it.”

The PM5D digital console was a central focus on Yamaha’s display, alongside the latest RIVAGE PM7 system, and “encouraged a lot of sound engineers – both old and new – to come and have a chat.” Irvine elaborates: “All-in-all we felt it was a very positive show and the gamble more than paid off.” He continues: “Last year’s show was more successful for us than we anticipated and this year built on that, with more stand visitors and a very positive atmosphere throughout all three days.”

This year’s PLASA also offered a wide range of seminars and panel sessions, featuring some of the most influential figures from the world of pro audio and AV. Heath commented: “In the dedicated Audio & AV Seminar Theatre, widely respected and pioneering professionals took to the stage. Britannia Row presented no less than four seminars addressing system design for the future, and immersive audio, and led a track-by- track live mix demonstration which garnered a rapturous reaction from a full house: Furthermore, the SoundGirls made their first outing at PLASA with a discussion on new tech bridging the gap between artist and audience.

“Developments in live audio are rapidly growing and it has been exciting to see so many market leaders at PLASA demonstrating what this sector is capable of,” Heath concluded.

PLASA returns to London Olympia from September, 15-17, 2019.