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6 Questions for: Thomas Weilbier, head of No. 1 Guitar Center in Hamburg

The Les Paul story, music stars and lots of action

After the successful vintage guitar exhibition at the Frankfurt Musikmesse 2018, the team around Thomas Weilbier, head of No. 1 Guitar Center in Hamburg, will curate another vintage show for Musikmesse 2019. The focus this year: the work and legacy of the legendary guitarist and MI pioneer Les Paul. In an interview, Weilbier reveals the concept of the exhibition - and why he's holding his breath at the newly created B2C show Musikmesse-Plaza taking place on the Saturday of the fair.

Thomas Weilbier, Chef von No. 1 Guitar Center in Hamburg

1. First a short review: How satisfied were you with last year's vintage exhibition at the Musikmesse?

The exhibition was a success. We were really a magnet at the fair, especially for guitarists and those who wanted to look back on the old days. The team of the fair supported and magnificently realized the exhibition. We collected instruments from half of Europe to recount the story of Leo Fender in an almost forty-meter long glass showcase. That was a highlight, there was always something going on. And the exhibition became a real meeting place for musicians. Also, because we always had stars there, for example Darryl Jones, the bassist of the Rolling Stones. Of course, he alone was a real driving force. And the evening session with Darryl Jones and Thomas Blug was great.

2. There will be a vintage exhibition again this year. What is the topic in 2019?

At the Musikmesse 2019 we will tell the story of Les Paul. We concentrate on his time with Gibson, from 1952 until the end of 1961, when the last guitar bore his name. We will illustrate his story with tables and original instruments in a visually appealing way. I've seen the insurance sum recently. We are between 3.5 and 4 million euros. Again, we present the instruments in an extra vintage room, where everyone can test a vintage instrument. By the way, I assume that Gibson will support the exhibition. After all, that would be an important signal and a necessary sign of life for the company.

3. Will you expect star guests again?

Absolutely! Nothing is confirmed yet, as we still want to talk to a few people from America. But I am confident that we will welcome big names again. Maybe even Darryl Jones again. It was great fun for him last year and he is a very nice guy who I always like to have with me. Probably, Matthias Jabs from the Scorpions will come, too, which would be a really big name - also for our many foreign guests. The Scorpions are unbelievably popular, especially in Europe and America.

4. Will the exhibition also be on display at the Musikmesse Plaza on Saturday, April 6th?

Yes, first we'll be at the Musikmesse from Tuesday to Friday, then on Friday evening we'll transport everything to the Plaza and rebuild the exhibition. The consumers will get a lot for the sensational price of only five Euros: four big stages from the 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s, records, CDs and posters on sale including antique things like old cars, clothes and vintage studio equipment. And there's a lot to see from us, too: Beside the current Les Paul exhibition we will show the Fender exhibition from last year again. In an extra Leo Fender room we'll be holding a two-hour workshop from eleven o'clock on, where absolute experts will tell the Fender story - garnished with sound examples by Thomas Blug. From 14 to 16 o'clock we tell the Gibson story, Peter Weihe takes care of the musical realization. In short: Anyone who has a heart for music has to go there.

5. With the Musikmesse Plaza, Musikmesse Frankfurt is breaking new ground. How do you assess the potential of this innovation?

The Plaza could give the Frankfurt Musikmesse an incredible boost. We had this vision 15 years ago, by the way. But that was not possible at the time - because it was a pure B2B fair. Now the Plaza is also open to consumers: Anyone can bring their instruments with them and sell them or just buy them. I've travelled a lot over the last few months, been to almost every vintage fair in the world and talked about the new Plaza concept. The feedback is great. We already have an incredible number of international registrations. Even from America, four dealers come to the Plaza and bring their rarities. Among them is Drew Berlin from the Burst Brothers, perhaps the greatest vintage expert in the world. That's a real honor, that says something for the concept. What disappoints me a little is the hesitant attitude of the Germans - while the Americans and other Europeans react almost euphorically to the concept. It seems to me that people here have not yet fully understood that the market has become so small and difficult. We must stick together. Otherwise we will lose ground.

6. Trade fairs today generally face a lot of challenges Why are Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound still important for the industry?

I think you just have to be able to look people in the eye. As a musician, dealer or businessman, it's best if you can sit opposite someone. You can tell your problem and he understands the problem and can help. Artist Relations have become so difficult today. You can't talk to anyone anymore. That's why I think such a fair is important. You don't necessarily need huge stands for that, five people and ten instruments from each category are enough. This creates the basis for communication - and that is always important. That's how you come home motivated and maybe you're happy that you got a "go" from a supplier again. The supplier then pats you on the shoulder and says, "you've done well, let's tackle this or that now". That's important - and that's what Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound are creating the platform for.

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