coolKids-640x400Summer is my favorite time of year. It’s not only warm weather, sandy beaches and relaxing vacations that make me smile, though; it’s also the impending arrival of Summer NAMM (July 9 to 11), and all the fun, fellowship and festivities the MI industry’s annual trip to Nashville entails. The NAMM Show in January is always a rush, bringing together nearly 100,000 deeply passionate music makers and advocates for music making. It’s a week in which sleep is in short supply and everyone’s fueled mostly by adrenaline and Starbucks coffee. Summer NAMM is only a fraction of its much larger sibling’s size, but the show’s smaller, more intimate nature opens up a world of opportunity for networking, relationship building and “mind sharing” that simply does not exist amid the Anaheim show’s leather-clad, creatively tattooed throng. As such, it’s a show to which every dealer should be going, and in no year has that been truer than in this one.

During a recent conversation, NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond emphasized to The Retailer that high-level, quality vendor meetings are at the core of Summer NAMM’s value proposition. “At Summer NAMM,” he began, “you have a level of meetings with your vendors that you can’t have anywhere else,” adding that such interactions are critical to developing and strengthening relationships. Lamond also described the show as akin to an “executive retreat,” bringing together MI retail’s brightest minds and most influential players and allowing them to mingle and strategize with, as well as learn from, each other. “It’s often hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in fees to go to executive retreats,” he noted. “With NAMM, it’s all offered for free as part of your membership.”

Given that the reasons for attending Summer NAMM have never been more persuasive, the propitious early numbers that Lamond shared came as no surprise. Next month’s show is expected to attract 450 companies, representing 1,600 brands; if achieved, that would mark a very healthy nine-percent year-on-year growth rate. Even more auspicious is the fact that 2015 will see 130 exhibitors attending Summer NAMM for the first time, as well as 100 returning to the show after missing a few years. Companies in the latter category include Peavey, Marshall Amplification, Washburn Guitars, Santa Cruz Guitar Company, Zildjian, DigiTech, Seymour Duncan and Amati’s Fine Instruments. With respect to registrants, the association expects around 13,000 members of the industry to register for the Nashville show, ensuring that booths will be well trafficked.

And, speaking of the booths, Lamond was quick to emphasize that this year’s Summer NAMM will have a marked increase in the pro audio and technology category. “It’s a real trend,” he remarked. “It’s where more and more of our members seem to be going.” Identifying it as a growth area, he continued, saying, “There’s also the issue of obsolescence: when last year’s model has been replaced by this year’s model, customers want to come into the store and check it out.” Perhaps (and one hopes) the increased prevalence of pro audio gear and related technology will serve to combat the longstanding (yet demonstrably false) belief that Summer NAMM is mostly a fretted-instrument show. As I mentioned in an editorial last year, the category-by-category breakdown of the products on display at Summer NAMM differs only very slightly from the breakdown for the NAMM Show in January.

Given the accent on pro audio and technology amid the abundance of music products on display, it’s quite fitting that, this year, for the first time, Summer NAMM will feature TEC Tracks: three full days of free master classes, live interviews and panel discussions, addressing the biggest topics for recording and live sound professionals. These sessions, which will be separate from and concurrent with those in the Idea Center, will be held in a mini education campus on the show floor. Among the subject areas covered by TEC Tracks will be optimizing project and home studios, recording live shows, studio stories from Nashville legends and understanding recording formats, as well as a “Women in Audio” panel. Plus, on July 11, A3E (Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange) will present a forward-thinking, full-day program on the future of audio, beginning with an opening keynote, “The Future of Audio: Harnessing the Power of Musical Instruments & New Technology,” presented by Microsoft. (More than an acoustic guitar show, huh?)

Amid all the talk about the “new,” though, let’s not overlook the old favorites. The NAMM Idea Center, whose program NAMM Director of Professional Development Zach Phillips carefully crafts to meet dealer needs, promises to deliver truly valuable insights to those who attend. Although every session is worthy of your time, some might prove particularly useful; they include Essential Tips for a Successful YouTube Channel; Use Instagram to Build Your Brand and Customer Base; 7 Ways to Improve Your Website Now; The Used and Vintage Market: What You Need to Know; and How to Set Up and Profit From Maintenance Agreements. “At the NAMM Board meeting,” Lamond began, “we asked about dealers’ most vexing problems, and we heard that many people are still having problems online and with their Web sites. Zach’s going to really drill down into dealer Web sites at Summer NAMM.”

In the same vein, two other reliable favorites are returning this year: Retail Boot Camp and NAMM U Breakfast Sessions. The former never fails to deliver an intensive, one-day training session for your music retail business. This year, Bob Negen, a marketing and sales guru, reveals how to host promotions and special events that get results, while also offering tips for creating a service culture that sells. And, financial experts Alan Friedman, CPA, and Daniel Jobe of Friedman, Kannenberg and Co. do a deep dive into tactics for improving your cash flow and back-office operations. Whether you’re a music store owner, salesperson or office administrator, Retail Boot Camp will help you do your job better. The Breakfast Sessions, meanwhile, will kick off each show day with a warm meal and a taste of big ideas and strategies you can use.

If you think you’re in for jam-packed days, though, just wait until you hear about NAMM at Night events! Perhaps the two biggest will be Insight 3: An Evening of Music and Stories, brought to you on July 8 by returning hosts Tom Bedell and Vince Gill. If last year’s Insight program is any indication, it’ll be among the highlights of your Nashville experience. Then, on July 10, our industry’s most successful and forward-thinking dealers will enjoy a moment in the spotlight at the annual Top 100 Dealer Awards. Aside from identifying the industry’s best 100 dealers overall, the program also honors retailers in specific categories, such as Best Store Turnaround, Best Customer Service, Best Online Engagement and Dealer of the Year. The ceremony is also a fantastic time to network and make connections.

Ultimately, Lamond is convinced that Summer NAMM’s value proposition is tied to growth: how to capitalize on a growing economy, and how to achieve growth yourself. “Now that the prospect of growth is coming their way,” Lamond began, “dealers will be attending the show to get the tools they need not to miss a minute of it. Not to miss one customer. Not to let one opportunity slide by.” He elaborated further, saying, “They want to maximize growth. They’ve been affected by the Great Recession, and they’re so motivated by never wanting that to happen again. So, they’re really focused on getting it right. Summer NAMM is all about helping dealers get it right.”
Summer NAMM might not be for everybody, but, to hark back to something a NAMM member told Joe Lamond about the show, it’s the place where “the cool kids go.” And, with this jam-packed, three-day schedule, “cool” might just be synonymous with “most successful.”

No more articles