Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, meet the musical instruments and music tech business. Events in Germany are threatened, and more could be in store worldwide.
It’s too tempting to use the virus image instead of Messe, since, well, while they’re deadly, viruses look amazing – thanks, science and nature, mostly.
This isn’t really about spreading fear about the disease itself. It makes sense to keep connected with health authorities and heed their advice to reduce our own exposure and help prevent infecting others.
But the other power of epidemics is to disrupt other activities – not just by making us sick, but by making us adapt as the world around us changes.
In Germany, documented cases are growing, and travel is being curtailed. It’s possible that simply the economics of trade fairs can break down – if there aren’t enough flights, or workers supporting the airport system, the travel infrastructure itself starts to devolve.
For now, Messe finds themselves in the part of Germany with more cases, and therefore more restrictions. And on top of it, not all exhibitors will be able to travel. In a press release from today:
The ongoing spread of Covid-19 in Europe called for a reassessment of the situation in close cooperation with the public-health authorities in Frankfurt who require that steps be taken to prevent event participants from high-risk regions coming to Frankfurt and visiting the fair when ill. Given that these participants could also be infected by Covid-19, it is necessary to conduct a health check to prevent the infection spreading even further. This is an important part of the infectiological risk assessment. Messe Frankfurt is not able to implement such measures. Additional factors behind the decision include the growing number of travel restrictions, which will make it difficult for many potential visitors and exhibitors to get to Frankfurt.
This should also make it clear why it’s not just “panic” closing events – at least, not in areas with greater infection. These sort of precautions at large scale events help prevent those gatherings from turning into hubs for spreading disease.
At least in the case of Messe, these are science-based precautions, made in consultation with people who study infectious disease.
Musikmesse runs 1-4 April. The organizers say they’re looking for other dates and tickets will remain valid.
For now, part of the event remains on schedule – a local marketplace of instruments and gear and a festival of events across Frankfurt:
The ‘Musikmesse Plaza’ pop-up market (3 and 4 April) and the ‘Musikmesse Festival’ (31 March to 4 April 2020) can take place as planned. These events are aimed primarily at a regional audience from the greater Frankfurt area.
Musikmesse is one of three major music instrument/tech manufacturing events in April, all of them in Germany. Superbooth and Ableton’s Loop could also be impacted.
For now, both Ableton and Superbooth say they’re pressing on. Berlin currently has more limited cases than the western part of Germany, which might help, though travel restrictions elsewhere or the continued expansion of the disease in Germany could change that.
Synthtopia has some coverage of the news this week:
With SUPERBOOTH20 starting in about 8 weeks from now, we prefer to rely on facts rather than speculations about the future. Please check Robert Koch Institute in Berlin for further information (German/English).
Without any carelessness about health or risks, we basically are very careful with the daily news spreading and panic producing sensational reports. We are observing the development, but can not say how the situation will change in the coming weeks. If we have the impression that we should act in any way, we will do so. By now we can only say, the situation in Berlin is safe and we do not want to be part of any speculations.
As long as there is no official ban by the authorities, we have decided to keep on working on the finalization of this year’s Superbooth.
Ableton’s Loop is a smaller event without the same public component (at least looking at the day program). They say in a public statement that they’re consulting with the same authorities and suggest the same references, essentially:
Our first priority is to provide a safe environment for all attendees, participants and staff. We are in close dialogue with the Berlin Senate and the Robert Koch Institute – the German government’s central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine – to make sure we are taking a responsible approach based on the most up-to-date guidance.
As of now, Loop 2020 is going ahead as planned. Our team is working in partnership with our venues, travel planners, and suppliers to assess any risk, and implement any necessary measures alongside our existing health and safety policies.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely and take care of the needs of any special cases. We will inform you immediately if anything changes.
If you would like more information about Covid-19, the following links provide a useful resource:
World Health Organization Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19) (English)
Robert Koch Institute
Robert Koch Institute is a German resource with both German- and English-language resources.
And that seems the best advice – neither panic nor dismissiveness helps. Stay informed via sources with actual knowledge of infectious disease. (You know – for the same reason you wouldn’t go to the WHO and the Robert Koch Institute and ask them to explain the relationship between Chicago House and techno, let alone how consult your local health authorities about what they think is the best way to manage gain structure of mix bus compression in order to adequately balance overall dynamic level and maximizing dynamic range and transient punch. Actually, come to think of it, I wouldn’t even trust a lot of DJs and producers with either of those questions, so I definitely won’t be asking those DJs what they think about epidemiology.)
Musikmesse is not alone. Leipzig Book Fair, ITB Berlin (a tourist fair), Berlin Tourism Festival, and the Hannover Messe tech fair have all postponed.
The good news for Germany is elsewhere; despite some closures, Germany for now is not resorting to quarantines or shutting its borders, at least for now. Trade fairs are an especially difficult case because of their complexity and dependence by nature on lots of travel.
The larger impact in music tech may come from the supply chain. Whether they’re Chinese-made or not, the vast majority of music hardware is dependent on China for a lot of their components. And manufacturing in China is off – way, way off. As the country has struggled to find workers and move goods, its capacity is dramatically reduced. (See the BBC on their just-released manufacturing numbers.)
It might sound callous to talk about economics when a potentially deadly virus is around, but the reality is, both could impact lives. Jobs in Asia and internationally in music gear face some new challenges. An overstressed health care system can put both lives and livelihoods at risk, too. That hits especially hard for people lacking access to good health care or absent health insurance and job security.
And artists face hardships, too, as travel is diminished, economies weaken, and large-scale events like festivals and clubs cancel.
Of course, the one place we can go is online. I have real belief in the resiliency of the music, immersive visual, and musical instrument communities and industries. I wish everyone strong health and easy travel and – even if we’re stuck in one place, hope we keep talking about ideas so we keep exchanging music and supporting ourselves. Watch this space. (I, uh, just hope I’m not quarantined or down with a virus with extra time as a result!)
NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), U.S. NIH – https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/novel-coronavirus-sarscov2-images
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.