The EAG Expo in London was further evidence of the marginalization of the coin-operated amusement industry around the world. Attendance appeared to be light and quite regional. Where the London events of the past used to draw buyers and exhibitors from around the world to this international showcase, this year’s show at the Excel Center seemed to attract primarily UK attendees. For instance, we saw very few folks walking the show floor from Scandinavia or the Far East.
Jukebox in the UK and Europe continues its inexorable march toward computer-based digital formats with enhanced, web-based features. However, there is still a little life left in CD jukeboxes. Sound Leisure debuted a new retro version of Rock-Ola’s classic chromed-out “Rocket 88” design. Sound Leisure’s Alan Black, the company’s leader and grand poobah of the UK jukebox community, was instrumental in the design of this jukebox, calling it a “labour of love.” But at present there are no plans to add a coin box to this beauty.
Sound Leisure also had another striking CD-based product on display, again for the home market. This one is a riff on the classic 1015 Bubbler style that also includes an iPod dock. Alan Black pointed out that this design can be “skinned” with any graphic theme to suit the customer’s taste. The model pictured below is tricked out with a Union Jack design. While Sound Leisure has no immediate plans to export this juke, it could be a great addition to themed concepts like Irish and British pubs.
NSM were also in attendance at the EAG with a large exhibit and a show of strength. However, CD jukes are no longer a part of their business plan. A number of other small digital jukebox start-ups were also exhibiting machines, most notably England-based Jaybox and Touch Hits, based in Ireland.
Sadly, the London industry event is not what it used to be. While dates have been set for next year’s expo (January 22-24), Martin Burlin, chairman of event organizers EAG Ltd admitted in a statement on the EAG web site that there are issues concerning next year’s event. Said Burlin, “We have well over 100 exhibitors from all over the world with different commitments and differing requirements and it is extremely difficult to balance all of those needs.”
Indeed the balance of international power in the industry is shifting to China and the Middle East. With more events in those regions competing for exhibitors’ and attendees’ time and travel budgets, the future of the London event is anything but certain.