The 2017 NAMM Show, emanating from the soon-to-be-expanded Anaheim Convention Center, might have been rather soggy when it came to the weather, but I left the show thinking that fourth-quarter storm clouds for the music products industry might have passed, ushering in some much-needed sunshine in 2017. I draw that conclusion from information provided by NAMM—we’ll dive into official figures herein—as well as from dozens of conversations with manufacturers and dealers on the show floor, and from my own observations.
The presidential election dominated much of the latter part of 2016, not only sucking all the oxygen out of the room but also, and perhaps more importantly, introducing a troubling uncertainty as to the future. Once the election was decided, though, the stock market rally that followed was a “sigh of relief” of sorts…the kind that comes when uncertainty is mitigated and stability once again prevails. In the run up to the NAMM Show, I was struck by the (as compared to previous years) conservative investment some companies made in “extracurricular” morning and evening activities. A scaling down of parties, press events and swanky dinners seemed of a piece with a cautious outlook for the music products industry. During the show, however, dealers and industry observers alike were impressed by the level of product innovation—Yamaha, for example, introduced 77 products—and they seemed persuaded that this year might see more robust industry growth.
If the NAMM Show is a reliable barometer of the MI market, then there is reason for cheer. The exposition attracted a record 1,779 exhibiting companies (a three-percent increase) and 7,000 brands (a two-percent increase). Registrants, who comprise a mix of retail employees, exhibitors, media members, artists and endorsers, invited guests, college music students, school music teachers and administrators, and NAMM member buyers, also powered the show to a new record: 106,928 registrants, a five-percent increase from 2016. Some exhibiting manufacturers griped that buyers were a smaller proportion of booth traffic than in previous years, but The Retailer cannot confirm or deny those anecdotal reports. [Editor’s Note: According to NAMM, buyer numbers indicated a strong showing.]
To borrow a phrase from The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, the world is flat. So, it was heartening to see NAMM’s international attendance increase at a pace disproportionate to the show’s overall growth: 17,964 registrants, representing 125 countries and marking a 13-percent increase. If the NAMM Show can be thought of as the music products industry in microcosm, then, on balance, our market seems to be healthy.
Apart from the robust attendance and the profusion of exciting new products, though, the sophisticated education and networking opportunities bespoke a mature industry. 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. Frequent topics included Web site design, online and social media marketing, e-commerce and lessons programs. Recognizing the integration of advanced technologies in inventory management and point of sale, the new NAMM Retail Tech stage offered sessions on retail software, technology platforms and strategies for business modernization. NAMM Idea Center sessions, which were held every half-hour, highlighted innovative, proven ideas for music retail businesses. And Retail Boot Camp delivered immersive training the day before the show started. All of that’s not even to mention the NAMM U Breakfast Sessions each morning, which delivered inspiring business insights and key lessons for success.
No single thing will better ensure the music products industry’s long-term success than seeding the next generation of music makers, who will populate school band programs and retailers’ showroom floor. Firmly in support of that goal is the NAMM Foundation’s Day of Service, which marks the beginning of the NAMM Show and which, this year, brought a contingent of NAMM members to Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim CA. The service event celebrated the Anaheim Elementary School District’s (AESD) commitment to music-education programs and, in collaboration with NAMM Foundation members and school and district officials, it helped further the district’s efforts to provide music education to all students via a $10,000 donation. In 2014, the AESD launched a plan to reinstate its music-education curriculum and orchestral program for its 18,500 students. Last year, the district continued hiring new music teachers; the final goal is 28.
Activities like the Day of Service remind us of the critical work NAMM does throughout the year, as well as the organization’s outstanding leadership. And the association remains very capably directed, as NAMM welcomed eight new members to its Board of Directors during the show. “As we eagerly welcome our newly elected board members and reluctantly say goodbye to the outgoing class of 2016, we express our deep gratitude to both groups for their willingness to serve,” Chairman Mark Goff said. The new members are as follows: Lauren Haas Amanfoh, President, Royalton Music Center, Inc.; Bryan Bradley, Senior Vice President/GM, HARMAN International; Philip Cajka, President and CEO, Audio-Technica U.S., Inc.; Kathy Donahoe, President and Member Partner, American Way Marketing, LLC.; Alun Hughes, Managing Director, British Band Instrument Company Ltd.; J. Scott Mandeville, President, Tim’s Music; Eric Matzat, President, Palen Music Center, Inc.; and Chris Syllaba, President/CEO, Jordan Kitt’s Music.
As always, the NAMM Show celebrated industry excellence in all its forms. Perhaps no event garnered more attention than the fifth annual She Rocks Awards, produced by the Women’s International Music Network (The WiMN) on January 20 and held at the Hilton Anaheim. The yearly event that celebrates and advocates for women in the music industry honored a diverse array of deserving individuals, including Musical Innovations’ Tracy Leenman (Enterprise Award), PRS Guitars’ Bev Fowler (Spirit Award), Roland’s Rebecca Eaddy (Excellence Award), and music industry icons like Esperanza Spalding, Shirley Manson, Ronnie Spector and Lita Ford. The event’s co-hosts, FOX KTTV anchor Christine Devine and Daisy Rock Girl Guitars’ CEO, Tish Ciravolo, helped The WiMN’s Founder, Laura B. Whitmore, deliver a fast-paced and well-rounded program. The show included performances by Kat Dyson, Victoria Renee, all-female tribute band Lez Zeppelin, Yasi Hofer, sibling guitarists The Command Sisters and the house band, led by Divinity Roxx.
On the same evening, the “Heart of Inspiration” concert, produced by Yamaha Entertainment Group and held at the Anaheim Marriott, wowed the company’s dealer partners and industry friends. The impressive bill of performers included Grace Kelly, Jeff Coffin, Randy Brecker, Butch Walker, Shoshana Bean and Stephen Schwartz, and U2 founding member Larry Mullen Jr. In addition, Mullen Jr. received an award for Lifetime Achievement in Music Excellence.
The following night, industry members toasted winners in 31 technical and creative achievement categories at the 32nd annual NAMM TEC Awards, presented by the NAMM Foundation. Comedian Sinbad hosted the ceremony, which saw four companies—AVID, iZotope, Sennheiser and Solid State Logic—score several Outstanding Technical Achievement awards, taking home two statues each. Joe Perry, one of music’s most significant artists and executives, received the evening’s highest honor: the Les Paul Award, which is presented to distinguished and accomplished individuals in the music industry. Actor Johnny Depp, his Hollywood Vampires bandmate, presented the award to Perry, and then he joined Perry, Brad Whitford and Alice Cooper onstage for a live performance. In addition, famed Aerosmith engineer and producer Jack Douglas became the newest inductee to the NAMM TEC Awards Hall of Fame.
And we can’t forget the 31st annual Music & Sound Awards (MSAs), presented by The Music & Sound Retailer to dealers, manufacturers and industry executives who exemplify the highest standards of excellence. We’ll have a complete MSA wrap up in next month’s issue, but I won’t neglect to mention our Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame inductee, Chris Martin of Martin Guitar; our Manufacturer of the Year, D’Addario & Co., Inc.; our Multi-Store Dealer of the Year, I DJ NOW; and our Single-Store Dealer of the Year, Kraft Music. Each MSA winner garnered attention during the show by being featured on ConventionTV@NAMM, the NAMM Show’s TV news program.
As is only natural for the MI industry’s annual gathering, great music was omnipresent during the show’s four days. There were nightly performances on the Nissan NAMM Grand Plaza Stage, kicking off on January 19 with a jam that featured rock guitarists RSO: Richie Sambora and Orianthi. The next night, the NAMM Foundation’s Celebration for Music Education welcomed former New York Yankees centerfielder and Turnaround Arts music-education advocate Bernie Williams and his All-Star Band. Special guests included legendary percussionist Poncho Sanchez and fellow Turnaround Arts artist Keb’ Mo’. On January 21, the NAMM Foundation and the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus presented R&B songstress Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes, as well as a special introduction from musician Jackson Browne, as part of the Lennon Bus’ 20th anniversary celebration. And that’s not even to mention the fabulous music at the Hilton Anaheim and the Anaheim Marriott.
If uncertainty breeds trepidation and stability brings relief, then we—as people whose livelihood depends on a robust music products industry—can be heartened by what the 2017 NAMM Show delivered. According to Joe Lamond, NAMM’s President and CEO, “This show 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 of creating a world with more music makers.”