The world’s music products industry gathered in Anaheim, California last week for the annual NAMM Show, and with it, the symphonic harmonies of the industry could be heard echoing across the campus of the Anaheim Convention Center. Held January 19-22, globe-spanning members of the National Association of Music Merchants joined together to create a firm foundation for the music products industry to make new connections, reaffirm relationships, create and establish new business opportunities, experience world-class education, and build on the energy and enthusiasm shared by passionate, established, and entrepreneurial exhibiting brands, registrants, and artists.
“The NAMM Show gathers our industry as a global community, which in turn drives opportunity,” said Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. “This event once again proved to be a stable, reliable platform for growth, both in business and in professional development, as well as in solidarity to share our common vision in creating a world of more music makers.”
A Firm Foundation: Community, Innovation, and Opportunity
The creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the music products industry was on display among the 7,000 brands and record 1,779 exhibiting companies found across the robust show floor where meaningful connections were made. “NAMM is the single greatest spot to get in touch with the people we need to connect with and show them the products that matter,” shared Paul Nunn, of Ultimate Support.
The 3% increase in exhibiting companies is a direct reflection of the expanded capabilities, innovations, and new ways in which people – and companies – are making music today. This trend was also demonstrated in new exhibiting brands, which accounted for a growth of 2% over last year.
For many, the energy was palpable and provided a wealth of opportunities to set products before an international stage of artists, media, and attendees. “It’s truly a world stage; media is here, musicians are here; it’s one-stop-shopping for us as far as exposure,” commented Saul Koll, Koll Guitar Company. Alex Auxier, at Orange Amps echoed that sentiment: “NAMM is the only place in the world where all the distributors and dealers come together, so we get a huge chunk of business done every year here and it gives us a strong way to kick off the year.” Richard McDonald of Fender Musical Instruments Co. affirmed, “The NAMM show is extraordinarily important and it has grown over the years to really become the global show for our industry.”
Of note, international registrants turned out in force, as demonstrated by a growing international pavilion area and in total, representation from 125 countries and 17,964 registrants – a 13% increase over 2016. For multi-national companies, the show provides a central gathering place: “It’s an international showcase for our products and it sets the bar for the rest of the world,” said Stephen Schmidt of Casio. “We have divisions in Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and more, and we all come to the Anaheim show to see the latest.” Michael Skinner, DANSR Inc., agreed “We are an international company and NAMM allows us the ability to address the needs of our clients and customers in one place, and having the international companies here allows us to meet and have face-to-face conversations under one roof.” As Brian Levan of Remo shared, “A huge percentage of our market and customer base comes to NAMM. We get to build partnerships… that help each other build our businesses.”
Overall show registration increased, primarily the result of member company badge allocations, by 5% to 106,928 from 2016. This member-driven model created a mix of retail employees, exhibitors, media, artists and endorsees, invited guests, NAMM’s GenNext (college music students), and Music Education Day participants (school music teachers and administrators) and NAMM member buyers, who turned out in force, a direct reflection of the optimism and enthusiasm that could be felt across the show floor. The registrants represent the vast ecosystem of those engaged in the business of making, selling and using music and sound products to achieve NAMM’s vision of creating more music makers of all ages around the world.
For exhibitors like Conn-Selmer’s Renee Jones, this year’s show again proved to be the ideal platform for launching new products, and the ideal place for getting business done. “NAMM is a great opportunity for us to launch new products and get together with our dealers, both domestic and international. This has become more and more an international show, so we can use it as a place to share new information while also building the relationships that are so critical to the industry.” Ben Parker of Teton Guitars said, “The reason we always come back to NAMM is that we get to see so many people that are interested in our products, meet new dealers, and find opportunities to sell our guitars in new markets.” Craigie Zildjian shared the same sentiment: “The connections we make and the energy we feel at NAMM is nothing like any other place we go.”
For both domestic and international buyers, the show continues to serve as a one-stop shop to meet with exhibitors, reaffirm relationships, and enthusiastically stock stores with products that music-makers are seeking. “We’re always on the lookout for new brands we can take into distribution, fun and unknown brands to come into the European market,” said Julien Bitoun of Woodbrass, France. “NAMM is the place to do that.” Joy Cafiero of Kala says that it’s all about the connections: “It’s the largest music trade show to be part of. We come mainly for the connections; everyone comes to one place and we can all do business together.” Tom Sumner of Yamaha echoed the positive sentiments: “Yamaha had its best NAMM show ever. The Yamaha display was packed with attendees including dealers, educators, artists and members of the press. Attendees were wowed by our booth and most of them stayed to catch individual demonstrations play with our gear and see a performance on our stage. We exceeded every goal we set for the show and were happy to see our dealers’ positive mood.”
Business Enhancing Opportunities
From peer-to-peer networking events and best-in-class education, the show set the stage to inspire participants over the course of the four days. NAMM U offered more than 50 sessions focused on transformative business know-how, leading strategies, and tips for music industry professionals and businesses of all sizes. Key topics included website design, online and social marketing, e-commerce, lesson programs, and more. Recognizing the integration of advanced technologies in inventory management and point of sale, the new NAMM Retail Tech stage offered a series of sessions on retail software, technology platforms, and strategies for business modernization. NAMM Idea Center sessions, held every half-hour during show hours, highlighted the most innovative and proven ideas in music retail, and Retail Boot Camp delivered immersive training the day before the show started.
Each morning of the show, registrants were treated to inspiring business insights and key lessons learned from a variety of NAMM U Breakfast Session speakers. Thursday morning’s show-opening session, “Breakfast of Champions,” welcomed a panel of NAMM retail members and “Music for Life” award recipient and The Band co-founder, Robbie Robertson. The theme of the morning was innovation and Robertson shared his perspective on what continues to drive him: “You are influenced by people you admire…no matter how long you’ve been doing something, you’re still absorbing, you’re still learning. You learn one thing and then something else comes along and it challenges you and it raises you to a new place. The challenges that make you want to wake-up early is one of the greatest gifts of life.” A guitar player since the age of 10, Robertson imparted wisdom from his early days on the road, recording with Bob Dylan and the importance of music in his own life to the Breakfast Session crowd.
Subsequent days of the show featured notable presentations. On Friday, business expert Larry Ballin spoke on “20/20 Vision: Future Proof Your Business;” on Saturday, marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki inspired attendees with “The Art of Innovation;” and Sunday welcomed the perennial favorite “Best in Show” panel moderated by Upbeat Daily’s Frank Alkyer.
The Complete Signal Chain
Sound, studio, and stage professionals also had their place at home with TEC Tracks. The TEC sessions offered four themed days (Live Sound and Lighting, Futurism, Recording, and Music Business) and a robust schedule of more than 75 educational opportunities featuring the preeminent names in the pro audio world, including Peter Asher, Tom and Chris Lord-Alge, Mark Frink, the Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison, among many others. On Saturday, journalist Mr. Bonzai and Aerosmith engineer and producer Jack Douglas discussed the process of recording the classic Aerosmith album, Toys in the Attic, and surprised the crowd with a guest panelist: Aerosmith co-founder and lead guitarist Joe Perry. Later in the evening, The NAMM TEC Awards celebrated the best in professional audio and sound production, recognizing Douglas with its Hall of Fame induction. The multi-talented actor and musician Johnny Depp was on hand to present Perry with the Les Paul Award. Upon receiving the award, Perry thanked his family and dedicated the award to his manager Howard Kaufman, who recently passed away. After accepting the award, Perry was joined by Hollywood Vampires bandmates Depp and rock legend Alice Cooper, as well as Aerosmith bandmate Brad Whitford in an all-star jam.
For the first time, The 2017 NAMM Show-hosted training and certification sessions for the multi-channel, digital networking protocol, Dante, which welcomed a capacity crowd. Software.NAMM, a showcase of music apps and technologies created in concert with IMSTA (International Music Software Trade Association), returned for its second year and featured top music software and app developers who were on hand to meet with prospective buyers and showcase their latest applications.
Notable NAMM Moments
As the NAMM community prepared to gather for the show, the mission of NAMM came alive at the pre-show Day of Service. Held on Tuesday, January 17 at Patrick Henry Elementary School, the day supported the school’s administrators, teachers, and students with a generous donation the member-enabled NAMM Foundation of $10,000 that will help to ensure that every child has access to music during the school day. Across the school’s classrooms, 30 NAMM members rolled up their sleeves and offered music lesson instruction with hand drums, guitars, and ukuleles.
Once at the show, a variety of events awaited members, including nightly performances on the Nissan NAMM Grand Plaza Stage, which kicked off the four days with a Thursday jam featuring rock guitarists RSO: Richie Sambora and Orianthi. On Friday night, The NAMM Foundation’s Celebration for Music Education welcomed former centerfielder for the New York Yankees and Turnaround Arts music education advocate, Bernie Williams and his All-Star Band plus special guests legendary percussionist Poncho Sanchez and fellow Turnaround Arts artist Keb’ Mo’. On Saturday, The NAMM Foundation and The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus presented R&B songstress Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes which featured a special introduction from musician Jackson Browne as part of The Lennon Bus’ 20th anniversary celebration.
On Friday, The She Rocks Awards returned to the Anaheim Hilton for their fifth annual event honoring notable women in the music industry. Honorees included Lita Ford, Shirley Manson (Garbage), Esperanza Spaulding, Sarah Command and Spector, among many other notable women in the music products industry.
In a week of rare wild weather in Southern California, the industry came together in the spirit of creating more music-makers. Jim DeBardi of Moog offered his perspective: “NAMM is not for us, it’s for them, the people we get to speak to face-to-face. Everyone is here because of a common connection on how to express ourselves. It is about having some sort of tool or process to express yourself.”
Looking ahead, The Summer NAMM Show will return to Nashville’s Music City Center July 13-15. Later in the year, NAMM Musikmesse Russia will return to Moscow September 14-17, and Prolight + Sound Russia September 12-14. In 2018, The NAMM Show campus expands, with the new addition of “ACC North” providing an enhanced show experience for all exhibiting companies and other members. The 2018 NAMM Show will be held January 25-28.