Though the weather was dismal (nonstop rain, very windy, and hovering in the 40s and low 50s the whole weekend – thanks for the head cold, Toronto!) and numerous road closings (two major marathons in the metro area) gummed up traffic significantly, there was a decent amount of activity and generally positive attitudes were on display at the 2011 Music Industries Association of Canada/Pro Audio and Lighting (MIAC/PAL) Trade Show.
Most we spoke with estimated that the gathering, held May 15-16, was smaller than 2010, but officially reported numbers indicate a 2 percent increase in dealer and industry representative attendance, with roughly 2,900 showing up to this year’s MIAC/PAL Show. Additionally, there were some previously absent “big names” who exhibited in Toronto in 2011 and the overall vibe was lively and optimistic. Topics of discussion centered (of course) on the still-struggling (though improving) global economy, U.S./Canadian trade relations, and how the newly elected Conservative majority Canadian government might affect both of those areas.
Voices from the Show Floor
“It was great to see Fender back in the show and I’m sure that created a positive buzz among the dealers.
“I always have a difficult time gauging attendance from year to year. Our sales reps were busy early on Sunday and were kept busy until about the last hour and a half of the Monday, so we were pleased.
“The attitude was upbeat, which was a continuation of the upbeat mood of Winter NAMM, so the positive vibe seems to have some legs.
“2010 was a slight improvement over 2009 and so far 2011 is ahead of 2010, so we are trending in the right direction. I believe the weakness of the U.S. dollar will contribute to a slower than hoped for recovery, but we are on our way back.
“With the recent election of a majority Conservative government in Canada, I think we can see trade relations with the US continuing to improve. The Canadian business community is essentially conservative and the stability of four years of majority rule (the conservatives ruled with a minority government the last four years) will be seen as a positive. Trade relations with the U.S. have always been quite good, but Canada/U.S. relations and border security are high on the new government’s list.”
“The show was smaller than last year, but has been very productive for C.F.M. [MIAC] is a small event in a very productive market for C.F.M. We have established relationships in Canada and exhibit to support those relationships. Business started slow at the beginning of 2011, but appears to be correcting. We’re looking forward to a good year.”
C.F. Martin Guitars
“It [MIAC] was pretty small this year, many distributors were missing – SF marketing, TASCAM, Wescan Music. And there weren’t many smaller or new distributors.
“The economy seems to be picking up some momentum here in Canada, but it seems very fragile as disposable income for the luxuries of high end audio, musical instruments, and music lessons continues to be eroded by decreasing disposable income due to higher taxes, record high indebtedness of Canadian families, and soaring gas and fuel costs. Furthermore, one has a sense that with the record high debt of both the U.S.A. and several European countries, that a crash and recession/depression might hit at any time. Just look at the debt clock of U.S.A. and many other countries… it all seems completely unsustainable.
“My comment on trade relations between the United States and Canada would be that we really do not have free trade. Many Canadian list prices still are well above the American list prices. I think that some distributors play on this. This is a total disadvantage to Canadian retailers who dare to compete in the Global marketplace.”
Darkhorse Musical Productions, Inc.
“Although attendance has not been stellar, I still feel it is important to support our Distributor (Erikson Audio) and their dealers at this show. It is extremely beneficial to meet with all of their retailers and installers, and to keep them up to speed on all current products and happenings. I receive more and more inquiries each year on our Installed Sound products like the SpectraPulse UWB wireless system, Engineered Sound podium and boundary mics, as well as overall Wireless systems and components.
“This year’s show was similar to last year in terms of attendance, and the new venue in downtown is better than being at the airport’s International Center. I’ve been to Winter NAMM in Anaheim and Breakforth in Edmonton so far this year. The Winter NAMM Show is always the most attended show, by both manufacturers and dealers. Breakforth is an end-user show geared towards the church market, and brings awareness to our brand and offerings overall. I would place MIAC as #2 so far this year.
“Due to the number of inquiries for boardroom installs and conference room settings, we expect our SpectraPulse UWB wireless system to take off along with our ATCS-60 wireless Infrared Conference system in the months to come.
“As the value of the dollar has become more stable between U.S. and Canada, we should continue to see more consistent street pricing. This should help our Canadian dealers to have more competitive pricing when their customers search online.”
“I was somewhat surprised to see Fender on hand, but pleasantly surprised. It’s nice to see another large manufacturer presence, as it adds viability to the show. The only other trade show I attend is the Winter NAMM Show, so it wouldn’t be fair to compare MIAC to [Winter NAMM]. I thought attendance was down a bit this year – we were still busy, just not as busy.
“Our new products; the GS Mini and our Double Cutaway Solidbody Guitars, are picking up steam. Overall, Taylor continues to do well in Canada, and I don’t expect that to change. A strong Canadian dollar has really allowed dealers to ‘buy strong’ from American manufacturers, which is good for everyone’s business.”
“There did appear to be a decline in the number of exhibitors and, in speaking to some of those who were there, one of the main reasons seemed to be the idea that Canadian dealers seem to be very cautious about spending money at the [MIAC] show. As a result, some exhibitors just could not instantly justify the investment.
“That said, we left the show feeling pretty optimistic on several key areas and that just might be as a result of the changing nature of the show and it’s perhaps more focused attendance. From our perspective, it seemed that many of the dealers who were in attendance had more of an opportunity to spend time with us and therefore were able to learn about our brands on a more one-on-one basis for future follow-up. Of course we did also do our best to open up few new dealers while at the show as well. Speaking for Saga, we were certainly glad to be at the 2011 MIAC and to be able to support all Canadian dealers and distributors in any way that we can.
“Though the past few years were difficult for most in the industry, we have seen and experienced some interesting positive trends in several different sales channels and brand categories. This allows us to be optimistic as we move forward. For example, in addition to our long existing distribution network focus as a company in Canada, business with Canadian retailers and online entities continue to grow. Another exciting trend is that this year, more than in previous years, we have noticed a significant increase in ukulele interest, as well as our mandolins and banjos, too.”
“I thought that the show was good, but seemed a bit smaller than last year. Our booth was steady both days, whereas last year the second day was a bit slower than the first. I think that sales will be good this year since people are showing a lot of interest in our products. I can’t comment on sales trends since I don’t get to see the forecasts or any other numbers.
“I think that a ‘Public Day’ would be good for the show. This would allow us to educate the public directly about our products and answer any questions the end consumer may have. They need information to make choices and sometimes the dealer can’t give it to them. Just a thought there…”
A Few Words with MIAC Executive Director Barbara Cole
MMR: Can you talk about the organization’s genesis?
Barbara Cole: The founding members of MIAC launched the Association some 40 years ago as a result of a small group manufacturers and distributors renting hotel space and staging their own exhibit displays. At the time it made sense to form an Association and host the industry’s trade show.
MMR: How has MIAC evolved in the past four decades?
BC: Over the years the Association has been faced with many challenges and weathered many storms, including the decline of its cash reserve and several failed initiatives. However, the Association has endured the test of time through the unwavering support of its members and the commitment of its Board of Directors. In the fall of 2006, MIAC moved its daily operations from the outsourced service model after some 35 years to a staff managed model. It is evident that MIAC’s Board of Directors is not content to preserve the status quo, but recognizes that change and adaptation must be constant.
MMR: How is MIAC aiming to serve and work with the Canadian MI community in the present day?
BC: Now operating in the 21st century with a modest equity, its own headquarters, and a small and efficient staff that is entrepreneurial and reactive, the desire is for MIAC to be a member service Association rather than a trade show producer.
MMR: Any special events or initiatives on tap in 2011 to mark the 40th anniversary?
BC: We decided to celebrate our 40th Anniversary by hosting two first class receptions, including the launch of the MEA Awards Program, and to offer our members a robust conference program.
MMR: How do you feel the 2011 Show compares with last year’s?
BC: The show was smaller than in 2010 in terms of exhibitor space, but the quality and quantity of attendees, especially in such challenging times, was unprecedented
MMR: Thoughts on U.S./Canada trade relations, especially as it pertains to MI?
BC: The trade relationship between the United States and Canada is the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the staggering volume of bilateral trade – the equivalent of $1.5 billion a day in goods – as well as in people-to-people contact. About 300,000 people cross the shared border every day. The United States accounts for roughly 76% of exports and 65% of imports.
Although Canadian music products companies are performing extremely well, the United States remains the largest North American producer of musical instruments while China is the largest source of imports.
MMR: Thoughts on the Canadian economy? Any predictions or expectations for the coming months?
BC: Canadian consumers appear to be reining in spending after a post-recession spree that saw some Canadians rack up high levels of debt, prompting warnings from government and bank officials against people spending beyond their means. It is expected that Canadian retailers will face a tough year as they struggle to convince cash-strapped customers to spend on anything other than staples amid rising food and gas prices while also fending off competition from an influx of U.S. retail giants.