Show Report: 2012 MIAC and PAL Show
Toronto put out the red carpet earlier this spring to once again host the annual MIAC/PAL Show, the trade show of the Music Industries Association of Canada. It was the 41st conference put on by the organization and included over 80 manufacturer and distributor exhibitors, along with an enthusiastic crowd of retailers and visitors.
The show has contracted in recent years and has again moved from its bustling downtown location to the International Centre in the outskirts of the city. MIAC executive director Barbara Cole reported an official attendee count of just under 2,400 once the numbers were in after the show. That’s a decrease of 22 percent from last year’s numbers (about 2,900), and the drop was felt throughout the showroom floor as dry spells lingered and pesky, empty booth spaces spotted some aisles. However, those who made the trip didn’t seem to have many regrets.
“The show seems a bit light,” said Steven Schmidt of Casio on the trade show floor. “But when the groups come by, they have been spending time with us. In that way, it’s better to have more quality time with every customer. They seem to be interested in our products specifically, rather than just passing by.”
Exhibitors from all over Canada and the United States were in attendance – from D’Addario and C.F. Martin and Co. to newcomers like Doyle Audio Engineering and IsoAcoustics – as dealers roamed the trade show floor, demonstration rooms, and break-out session ballrooms.
As usual, two concepts that were on everyone’s mind this year were economy and technology. Though no one has invented an app that literally prints money, there were still plenty of new uses on display for both mobile devices and social media tools. Exhibitors in the PAL Show in particular showcased items like Thorvin Electronics’ RoomTouch for iPad, which enables users an interface to control a whole room’s AV equipment. Smithson Martin also showed off a touchscreen interface for AV professionals, ready for use by DJs, lighting designers, video editors and more. Meanwhile, dealers of all stripes checked in on seminars instructing business owners in new methods of social media marketing and the importance of maintaining strong networks on their premises.
The show also marked the second annual MIAC Excellence Awards, which were presented on Sunday night in a ballroom at the convention center. Steve’s Music won the Dealer of the Year Award, while Godin Guitars won 2012’s Manufacturer of the Year Award. JAM Industries grabbed the remaining three – Distributor of the Year, Service to Industry in Co-Chairman Edward Shenker, and Sales Rep of the Year in Dan Kano.
At the association’s meeting, MIAC chairman Dale Kroke announced plans to explore options for supplementary meetings throughout the year designed as regional industry meet-ups or seminars similar to those of the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD). An initial event this fall in Calgary is, in fact, already in its planning stages. “The association is at a bit of a crossroads,” he told the gathered members. “We are seeing, at this time, business models changing and markets changing, and the association has to move and change with it.”
Saga Musical Instruments
San Francisco, Calif.
This was one of the best MIAC shows we have attended in years. Canadian retailers showed increased interest in our products, especially Blueridge Guitars and the new Burns electric guitars. As a result, our business was better than ever.
I also have to give compliments to the show management, who went “above and beyond” to help make all the exhibitors feel welcome. Since the number of exhibitors and attendees to the MIAC show was declining in past years, both show management and Canadian Music Industry leaders are doing what it takes to keep MIAC alive.
From October of 2008 thru the end of 2011, Canadian dealers seemed to be more conservative with their spending habits and seemed less likely to take risks. That picture appeared to change at 2012’s Winter NAMM with strong attendance of Canadian dealers to our booth that translated to a significant increase in sales over last year. That same feeling of excitement was clearly evident at this year’s MIAC show.
One of the things that we have noticed and are studying closely is the increased prevalence of web based methods to market products. Whether digital versions of publications, banner ads or even Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, each method seems to allow companies like ourselves to have the means to provide an incredible amount of targeted information to just the right market.
One of the most exciting projects we are working on, and that will set the foundation for a strong, effective multi-media approach is a new website design that will be released in the late spring.
Hal Leonard Corp.
We really enjoyed the added traffic from combining PAL with MIAC. Hal Leonard offers a lot of materials for the audio marketplace so it was a benefit to us and a convenience for retailers. Since we have a really diverse product mix, our sales are pretty interesting and diverse. We find musical instruction products are steadfast, but there’s a slight twist in how consumers want that educational product formatted. They want more enhancements like book/DVD or a multi-purpose CD-rom packaged with books. There are also new audiences looking for entry level recording product, and we absolutely publish for this trend also.
I think we will see a lot of retailers take pro-active approaches to their businesses that involve more integrated brick and mortar retail space with their Internet presence. Up until now, we’ve seen dealers advertise their stores on their web pages, but not too much vice versa. In-store digital downloads continue to increase (as do online downloads), but interestingly enough, hard copies of books (particularly those packaged with ancillary items like I mentioned above) are on the rise again. This shows us that end consumers like finding everything they were looking for in one convenient place with great information to boot.
It is a different country and we are sensitive to that. HL has created numerous avenues to make shipping into Canada less expensive and as easy as possible. We have very quick turnaround services and we’ve always offered Canadian specific terms/programs to assist our north of the border retailers with the ability to maximize on the strengths (or weaknesses) of the Canadian marketplace. There’s also an additional cool and unique aspect about Canada: I think Canadians take their music instruction more seriously than Americans. The varied schools of music offer a nationwide approach to evaluating students’ achievement. And it is fantastic to see the evolution that’s taking place within these conservatories’ philosophies. By offering more jazz and popular music to the educational process, teachers are making a stronger connection with students. There’s the benefit of time tested instruction, coupled with new musical styles – more students stay involved in music. You put that great educational base into a blender with the culturally rich and diverse musical heritages all across Canada and you cannot go wrong. You have the Celtic influences of the Maritimes, then there›s the exciting new versions of dance and metal music coming out of Quebec, to the Asian and Indian “mash-ups” with rock and jazz throughout Canada. Yes, it’s different in the best possible way and I have the privilege of being a part of all that into every province and territory.
We all need to focus on creating more music makers. This can involve creating lesson programs that approach the way today’s students want to learn like group lessons, guitar ensembles, recording classes. We can take a cue from the conservatories – “times they are a-changin’.” Dealers can keep it as simple as making sure teachers have access to materials that reach out to all learning styles. Stores can look at reinventing their teaching studios and their display space within their stores. And we should all be cognizant of involving parents in a meaningful way in their children’s music education, just like they are involved in other academia.
Mike Martinand Stephen Schmidt
The show seems to be a bit light. It might be partly because of being Mother’s Day. But when groups come by, they’re very interested in the product and they spend time and, in that way, it’s better to have less but more interested people and more quality time. With something like NAMM, it’s going to be a lot of people – maybe guitar people who aren’t as interested in pianos and keyboards, except in passing. Here, they seem to be specifically interested in the new synthesizer product or our portables or our pianos.
I think it’s Casio’s first time having a presence in a number of years, so we’ve been trying to explain the change in Casio. In the past, it’s been mostly geared toward the mass market – portable keyboards and entry-level pianos. Over the past two or three years, we’ve been trying to develop a more professional or semi-professional offering with improved pianos, improved console pianos, and our new synthesizer product that we just launched this year.
One thing we noticed with the synthesizer market is that it had declined so much because of the evolution of software and controller keyboards, that we felt there was an opportunity for something that was as good or better than some of the software at a basic price point that many people could afford. Our hunch is looking very good. The initial signs are that we may have a home run here.
We deal in drums and guitars – acoustics, electrics, classical – repair and all that.
It’s a really nice show. I thought it would be a bit bigger. We had a list of everyone who’d be at the show and it seems like we’ve seen less than we expected.
I’m mostly excited to see some new business opportunities. We’ve got two music stores that have been there for decades in the same region as us. We are three or four music stores and we can’t sell the same guitars anymore. I sell Dean and Schechter which are great products but the accessibility is difficult with the shipping costs and everything.
I’m open to new products as always. We’re not as rich as we appear to be, but we’d like expand our business, so we’re looking for better prices, better deals, and better opportunities for long-term relationships. It’s tough when lines that you have end up changing distributors and it ends up taking forever to place orders. Then you have to explain to your customers why it’s taking so long. Meanwhile, they realize they can just get on the web and find better prices for guitars that ship in two weeks. It’s hard for business. But we offer great service and that keeps us alive.