Just as the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season supercharges a retailer’s annual revenue, the NAMM Show energizes the music products industry members who make the yearly trek to Anaheim CA. There is literally nowhere else on earth that one can find so large a contingent of MI folks, so immense an array of new products, and so wide-ranging an offering of education and training sessions. And, at a time when the contours of the retail—and political—landscape are changing, there has never been a more important year to take advantage of the networking and mind-sharing opportunities that the NAMM Show affords.
Ours is an industry populated by those who have been in the music business for generations, benefiting from passed-down wisdom and newly gleaned insights. Those are the people who can help us prepare for the next twist in this winding road. Against that backdrop, we cannot be surprised that, according to NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond, the show, scheduled for January 19 to 22, is looking quite strong this year. As has become the norm, about 100,000 registrants are expected.
“Our members use their free badge allocations to ensure the right mix of buyers, sellers and, yes, the occasional ‘colorful characters,’” Lamond said. “NAMM has augmented that mix by inviting music educators, music business students and other key influencer groups, such as global trade and educator associations.” Lamond also noted an increase in global membership and registration at the show, as well as a surge from those within the electronic music, pro-audio and live-sound sectors.
Last year, the NAMM Show attracted 1,726 exhibiting companies that represented more than 6,000 brands, giving show organizers quite a lot to live up to. According to Lamond, however, he expects the association to mirror last year’s exhibitor growth and achieve another increase (setting a new record). “We’re constrained by the current size of the Anaheim Convention Center,” he admitted, “and we eagerly await the opening of the expansion in 2018. For now, we’re down to selling any remaining space we can find. Even broom closets aren’t safe!”
If early figures are to be believed, Lamond’s joke might prove prescient. Last year, NAMM drew more than 400 new companies and 174 companies that returned after a lapse; this year, the association is already projecting similar results, citing, in particular, interest from smaller, boutique instrument makers. “It strikes me as healthy for the industry when one sees so many new entrants trying to break in,” he observed. “The NAMM Show gives those excited entrepreneurs the platform to show their products to the global buyers on an equal footing with industry veterans.” Lamond added that dealers that attend get a first look at those products, and can then bring it all home to their customers.
The NAMM Show always attracts a large contingent of buyers, and their presence is one reason why exhibitors return year after year. Aware of how important that fact is to the show’s value proposition, NAMM has worked to quantify the purchasing power at the show. According to Lamond, “We estimate the buying at the 2016 NAMM Show yielded more than $10 billion, drawing $600 million more in buying power as compared to 2015.” In fact, he said, he believes those estimates might be conservative. “We expect the global buying power will remain high for 2017,” Lamond affirmed, “with the majority of attendees stating that their purchasing decisions are directly influenced by the products they see and the meetings they have at the NAMM Show.”
As mentioned earlier, in a business evolving as quickly as ours, adaptation is critical. And, apart from the meaningful buyer/seller connections forged at the NAMM Show, there are numerous opportunities for retailers to improve their businesses. Lamond broke out the different programs, explaining, “NAMM U Breakfast Sessions provide big-picture strategy; NAMM Idea Center sessions deliver proven ideas straight from successful music retailers; and Retail Boot Camp offers an opportunity to do a deeper, all-day dive into training as it relates to music retail sales, marketing, Web sites and finance.” For the first time, NAMM will also offer sessions on retail software and technology platforms from NAMM service providers, giving members an opportunity to discover the latest technology tools and updates. And, TEC Tracks will feature more than 70 sessions, reinforcing best practices and offering innovative ideas.
Amid all of those offerings, though, perhaps none will better equip MI retailers for the challenges that lay ahead than the NAMM Idea Center. The retailers that are our industry’s leading lights—those achieving annual revenue growth and racking up Top 100 Dealer awards—populate the Idea Center as both presenters and audience members. And, this year, NAMM’s Director of Professional Development, Zach Phillips, has helped create a remarkable calendar of sessions. “This year’s program will strike a balance of preparing NAMM members for the future while also delivering the best practices and creative ideas that are working right now,” Lamond enthused. “Just a few of the featured topics are Web site upgrades, lessons program improvements, store design breakthroughs, simple but effective SEO techniques and next-level online marketing tips.”
Two evening events are sure to be highlights for nearly all showgoers: the She Rocks Awards on January 20 at 7pm at the Hilton Anaheim, and the TEC Awards on January 21 at 7pm in the Hilton Pacific Ballroom. Our companion cover story, written by Women’s International Music Network Founder Laura B. Whitmore, spotlights the fifth annual She Rocks Awards, which honors the women who are reshaping our industry and music as a whole. The TEC Awards, which are marking their 32nd year, will honor the technical innovators and leading companies in recording, live performance, film, TV and video games. This year, Joe Perry of Aerosmith will be honored with the prestigious Les Paul Award for musical innovation, and legendary engineer Jack Douglas will receive the TEC Hall of Fame honor.
As is natural for the musical mecca that is the NAMM Show, incredible music will be the soundtrack to four days of good business and powerful education. “Live music can be found at all corners of the NAMM campus, and we’ll showcase a musical diversity of genres and performers,” Lamond declared. In total, more than 100 artists will be featured on the NAMM CenterStage presented by Pioneer DJ, the NAMM Marriott Stage, the Sheraton Acoustic Stage, the NAMM Hilton Stage and, of course, the Nissan Grand Plaza stage. January 19 will feature super duo RSO: Richie Sambora and Orianthi. January 20 will welcome former New York Yankee Bernie Williams—an incredible musician and music-education advocate—accompanied by a few surprise guests. On the evening of January 21, NAMM will host the 20th anniversary of the John Lennon Imagine Party, promising a surprise performer.
Asked whether registrants can expect any major changes from past iterations of the NAMM Show, Lamond instead reinforced the show’s stability. He stated, “Our goal is to be the reliable, predictable, safe platform for the industry to springboard off of. It’s a place where our members can come together and create the chaotic entrepreneurial stew that is the marketplace. If we do our jobs right, from the moment they arrive until the end of the show, our members will be able to make the most of their time in pursuit of their business goals.” As such, expect the association’s trademark efficiency as regards registration, traffic flow and food service, as well as up-to-date event information on the NAMM Show app.
The steadiness of the NAMM Show contrasts with the turbulence of our economy and our politics, and the rapid evolution within our industry. Those things are daunting, but they also present an opportunity. According to Lamond, “The changes hold tremendous potential for those who adapt most quickly…those who make the changes work for them instead of against them.” He further elaborated, “I know this is incredibly complicated and, in an industry as diverse as ours is, there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions. But think about it: If you were going to invest in a business, would you rather pick the one where they are pretending everything is still the same, or the one where they are seeking every opportunity to learn, grow and capitalize on new opportunities? My money would be on the ones that went to their industry conference, studied the latest trends, learned what’s working in the marketplace and came back with what economists call the ‘animal spirit’ to compete and win.”
Still unsure about whether to invest in a NAMM Show visit? Lamond and his team understand the reluctance of some to expend the time and monetary resources. “But,” he suggested, “the owners who are on the fence about going are the ones who, perhaps, can gain the most from the show experience. Our team thinks deeply about how we can serve those dealers. And, in my opinion, the free NAMM U educational offerings alone are worth the price of the trip.”
NAMM’s staff is dedicated to music retailers’ success, Lamond affirmed, saying that it’s particularly heartbreaking to see a store close after NAMM staff had been calling to try to get them to come to the show. Concluding, he said, “Come to Anaheim, where our staff, your friends and your industry peers can help you succeed in the year ahead.”