Considering how bad 2009 was, many of us couldn’t wait to turn the calendar page to 2010. That finally happened. But the true test followed only two weeks later. Would retailers show up to NAMM? Would exhibitors be happy? The answer to both was a resounding “yes.” NAMM reported 87,569 registrants for the 2010 show from Jan. 14 to 17. The figure is about 1,000 shy of a NAMM record. Amazingly, that was only a two percent increase from last year, but registration figures are different than the number of people who actually walk through the doors. If we had to guess, those who actually entered the show floor was up massively compared to 2009.
Exhibitor excitement was up massively, as well. The Music & Sound Retailer spoke to about 50 exhibitors on the show floor. All—not most—were pleased with the show’s traffic. Even Sunday, traditionally a tough traffic day at best, had several dealers roaming the floors. “It was very pleasant and a happy surprise to see folks come out after a tough year,” said Crafter’s Joe Arias during an interview with the Retailer. “We had a very active booth. Many of our customers had let their inventories slide down for justifiable reasons. They are now back and reordering. We have a positive outlook for the future.”
We asked exhibitors and retailers alike why the 2010 NAMM show was so much better than the melancholy one just a year ago. Two reasons were consistently cited. First was that the economy had finally hit rock bottom and was recovering, something that put most in a good mood. The other reason for excitement was what you could term “tired of being tired.” In other words, people were sick of being down and out. Sick of being sick. It was time to get off of the sidelines and spend money again.
NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond kicked off the show, themed “Get Ready,” on Jan. 14 with the fifth year of the “Breakfast of Champions,” and two celebrities were among the featured speakers. Yoko Ono was the first to have a seat for a chat. Ono was honoring what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. (Ono turns 77 on Feb. 18). Lamond asked Ono about The Beatles version of Rock Band, which was released last year. “I believe it is a very important project,” said Ono. “This is a great opportunity for children to make music. Music is a healing power. That’s one we need in this world now: healing.”
Ono threw her support behind the John Lennon Educational Bus, which was parked outside the Anaheim Convention Center between the arena and Katella Boulevard. “It’s an incredible project,” she said. “I know it sounds kooky, but the minute I said yes to [the bus], I saw John jumping up and down. I’m sure he would have loved it.”
The bus isn’t parked often, though. It’s out on the road more than 200 days per year. “I’m excited to sit here,” Ono said during the event at the Anaheim Hilton. “If we didn’t all love music, why would we be in this industry?”
“We ask ourselves that every day,” joked Lamond.
Tom Beddell, who manufacturers Bedell Guitars and Two Old Hippies merchandise, discussed his return to MI after having a successful fishing tackle business. He was retired and he and his wife Molly decided it was time to get back in the business. Bedell reminisced quite a bit, though. In the 1970s, Bedell lived in Washington D.C. and served as a political consultant. “My favorite story is when Jimmy Carter decided to run for president, I got a call from (Carter aide) Hamilton Jordan, who wanted to fly me down to Georgia, meet the governor, and be one of three people to run his campaign. I said, ‘He doesn’t have much money and I don’t want to do that.’ So he went to Iowa to campaign and I said ‘He doesn’t have a chance.’ (Carter) gets elected president. My father Berkeley was in Congress, so I invited my folks to attend the ceremony at the Rose Garden. Hamilton Jordan spotted me from across the room and said, ‘Don’t have a chance huh? Screw you.’”
Chris Martin of C.F. Martin talked about the company’s beginnings in New York City to its longtime Pennsylvania headquarters.
Remo Belli, a 58-year industry veteran, stressed music as a lifestyle. “There’s a deeper connection between music and the human condition,” said Belli. “It’s not just entertainment. It’s much more profound than that. There hasn’t been one controversial article that says music is bad for you. So all of you out there have one heck of a mission…Technically speaking, a group drumming activity does excite someone. It calms them. I’ve seen some really interesting results in so many drum circles.”
Providing the anchor interview was the legendary Quincy Jones after receiving NAMM’s Music For Life award. The 27-time Grammy winner, only one month younger than Ono, has been universally praised for the ability to relate to today’s youth. The founder of the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium discussed the future, which will include releasing albums on cell phones. He added he wants to change the way children learn music in schools. “You have to know where music came from. What its roots are,” said Jones. “I don’t differentiate from gospel to blues to hip hop. It’s all music.”
For the majority of people, the last couple of years have been our “depression”—the worst economic situation of our lifetimes. So explained John Gerzema, of Young & Rubicam, at a NAMM Breakfast Session entitled “The Post-Crisis Consumer.” As a result, he said, “We are seeing a rewinding of American values,” namely an increased focus on saving rather than spending and a heretofore unforeseen alignment of consumer spending with their core values. Gerzema synopsized his thesis into several fundamental “rules,” which help to define the current state of affairs. First, he cited déclassé consumption; that is, becoming more nimble, and focusing less on luxury, in one’s spending. Second, he discussed a renewed focus on ethics and fair play, wherein a company must demonstrate what it stands for to earn a consumer’s business. Third, he observed the people’s “indestructible spirit,” which he broke down into tempered optimism about the future and durable, sustainable living in the present. Fourth, he addressed “community consumerism,” which basically means skepticism about marketers’ claims and a renewed emphasis on those who are in your “network.” He closed with the observation that people are becoming increasingly strategic in their consumption, adding, “We are moving from mindless consumption to mindful consumption.” In the end, then, the economy is shifting toward a “values-led marketplace.” In other words, cash-strapped consumers are growing skeptical of “corporate responsibility” advertisements, such as, for instance, tobacco companies’ anti-smoking campaigns and oil companies’ pro-environment messages, and seeking to ensure the bulk of their purchases is aligned with their core values.
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