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Publisher's blog: Robin Shute takes his comfortable shoes to Frankfurt

Thursday, 09 April 2009

Musikmesse in Frankfurt prides itself on being the world’s greatest music trade fair. The annual extravaganza, this year held from April 1–4, demands both mental and physical stamina – and a comfortable pair of shoes – such is its vast scale. My legs are still aching.

This year was different. Sure, the event’s sheer size remains awe-inspiring, but visitor numbers seemed down in the stringed instrument hall and booth numbers reported to be south by 5% across the show.

In spite of all this doom and gloom, the overall atmosphere was positive. Exhibitors such as Thomastik-Infeld and Pirastro reported full diaries and good orders so, while visitor volume was down, the quality was up. On the back of this, overall trading conditions appear to be positive.

There were some obvious gaps in the violin hall, though I am proud to report that The Strad’s stand was not one of them. At the same time there was a definite sense that the standard of stands had increased. The regulars were there in all their glory – Thomastik-Infeld, Pirastro, Heinrich Gill et al, but there were fewer exhibitors promoting low-cost instruments and accessories.

A number of our clients reported in advance of the show that they were going to attend, but not take a booth this time. This was probably driven by the pain being felt by the US economy, which may also have deterred Chinese companies.

At the same time, footfall in the violin hall was distinctly lower than in previous years, although the crush to get into the fair at opening time was just as pronounced as last year. Perhaps they were all racing to get to the guitar and drum halls, always a popular draw for the majority of the crowd.

Maybe I’m expecting too much, and the Gibson or Fender stands are always going to wow the crowds. But give me the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the violin hall any day. It’s always a pleasure to have an informal chat with people like double bass guru David Gage and Daniel Yeh of Otto Musica. And I’d rather listen to a cello being played than the latest axe hero.

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