Now that the holiday season has passed and we’ve embarked on a new year, you may be thinking that the time for family reunions has ended…that gatherings of siblings, cousins and friends are over and done with. However, insofar as the MI industry is a community in the truest sense—indeed, is a family—the NAMM show, emanating from the Anaheim Convention Center in California from January 23 to 26, can be thought of as a family reunion that brings together brothers and sisters in music. Peerless as the leading music products trade exposition, this year’s NAMM show promises to be an incredible four days, buzzing with energy, enthusiasm and actionable business intelligence.

It has become rather tiredly cliché to remark upon the difficult economic climate with which our industry has wrestled for the past six years, but early numbers provided by NAMM President/CEO Joe Lamond indicate that, at least as regards the NAMM show, things might be returning to pre-recession levels. “We will go back over 1,500 exhibiting companies this year,” Lamond told The Retailer during an exclusive interview. “We’ve been under that since the recession.” But perhaps the more important number is 4,500, as in the more than 4,500 brands of music and sound products that those companies represent. “Right now,” began Lamond, “we’re up over four percent from last year, and that means we’re going to have the largest show floor we’ve had in five years.”

Looking at attendance broadly, NAMM expects between 94,000 and 96,000 registrants, robust numbers that are largely in line with the past couple years. According to Lamond, “We know that the demand for NAMM badges exceeds the supply, and we’re spending a lot of time studying—looking at really good data—and trying to get the absolute right recipe that creates a vibrant industry gathering and a really successful sales environment for the exhibitors, but that keeps the sense of community that makes the NAMM show so special.” In short, Lamond and other NAMM decision-makers want to ensure the show facilitates face-to-face interactions between the largest possible number of buyers and manufacturers, without extraneous crowds that would cause gridlock.

Being, by far, the leading music products trade exposition, the NAMM show represents every type and category of product that’s relevant to our industry. “You’re going to see a tremendous amount of space dedicated to beautiful, handcrafted instruments that will last for generations,” Lamond promised. “On the flip side, you’re going to see more pro audio, lighting, event technology and lasers than ever before.” He added, “Our growth area is the technology sector.” With 170 first-time exhibitors already having signed on at interview time—and more than 200 expected at show opening—it’s a safe bet that many of these NAMM show newbies will help to up the high-technology ante. Lamond remarked upon the show being the connection point where the handcrafted products that have long been our industry’s core will meet apps and the digital technologies of tomorrow. Referring to the future contours of music products retailing, Lamond stated, “The NAMM show floor will be the crucible where these challenges will be embraced and solved.”
Although the show floor, as always, will be massive and feature tens of thousands of cool products, many of which might be a great fit for your stores, education and training represent an equally important component of the NAMM show experience…one that no retailer can afford to miss. Indeed, according to Lamond, “More and more, the education opportunities are why dealers go. Everyone’s under so much pressure to improve their business and change where necessary.” These opportunities encompass everything from NAMM U Breakfast Sessions to NAMM U Idea Center Sessions, as well as H.O.T. (Hands-On Training) Zone Sessions and the highly touted Retail Boot Camp, originally conceived by the iMSO (Independent Music Store Owners).

On January 23, the show will kick off with the first Breakfast Session: Breakfast of Champions, an annual tradition that’s hosted by Joe Lamond and that features him conversing with music products industry icons, drawing on their wisdom to glean knowledge. This year, “breakthroughs” is the operative word, as in what the breakthroughs of today are, and the people who—and the products that—are shaping the industry’s future. Lamond will explore these areas, examining recent breakthroughs that are changing music retail and supply. The Breakfast of Champions will also include (as always) a surprise guest, as Lamond and NAMM present the Music for Life Award to one of the most beloved and accomplished singer-songwriters of our time.

Continuing to run down the Breakfast Session line-up, on January 24, Breaking Good: Growing Your Business in 2014, presented by small-business guru Barry Moltz and a panel of industry experts, will give you new ideas to jump-start growth. And, on January 25, Jeffrey Hayzlett, global business celebrity and host of Bloomberg Television’s “C-Suite,” will present The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Staying Relevant? to what’s sure to be a huge audience. And don’t forget Best in Show honors on January 26!

Turning to the much-loved Idea Center, NAMM’s Director of Professional Development Zach Phillips has shepherded the creation of more than 40 sessions that’ll be loaded with business-building ideas that retailers like you can immediately put to use. “The themes at the Idea Center are really about technology and music education, along with a series of business issues: finance, Internet competition, merchandising, etc.,” explained Lamond. “We have 15 sessions on technology. We have seven sessions on music education and how to have a good music-education program in your store.” Sessions that this Editor intends to make time to attend include The Dirty Dozen: This Year’s Best Ideas (January 23 at 2pm); 50 Shades of Facebook (January 24 at 10:30am); Take Your Store’s Financial Pulse (January 25 at 4:30pm); and 5 Product Trends for 2014 (January 26 at 10:30am).

Finally, Retail Boot Camp will make its highly anticipated return, having earned praise from all quarters of the mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar music store community. Taking place on January 22 at the Anaheim Hilton (California A and B ballrooms on the second floor), the program will run from 9am to 5pm and touch on topics critical to your store’s success. Nick Failla, sales trainer, retail expert, musician and Founder of business consulting firm Collected Concepts, will ensure you’re prepared to take advantage of every sales opportunity. MI product and marketing expert Michael Newman will reveal the latest and most effective social media strategies for music retailers. In addition, Newman will help you learn the 10 most common mistakes retailers make with their Web sites and how to fix them. Finally, music retail financial gurus Alan Friedman, CPA, and Daniel Jobe, from the firm Friedman, Kannenberg & Co., will help you to realize higher profits and better cash flow.

Apart from the exhibit halls and the educational opportunities on offer, two powerful reasons to attend the NAMM show are networking and live music. Both of those will be neatly wrapped into one on January 22 at 5:30pm when the inaugural NAMM Pre-Show Block Party kicks off. Taking place in the Grand Plaza and timed to begin after Retail Boot Camp, the day’s sales meetings and booth set-up duties wrap up, the Block Party will have microbrew and food trucks serving some delicious eats, plus live music, including Bernie Williams playing an acoustic set. “It’s the first opportunity to hang out outside, grab some great food and beer, and just network,” Lamond enthused.

On the subject of networking, Lamond and the NAMM team listened to member feedback and, this year, have instituted an important change to help facilitate these valuable conversations. “We heard from our members that it was becoming too much in the hotel lobbies in the Marriott and the Hilton,” he said. “They missed the times when you could just hang out in the lobbies, see all your friends and talk. So, this year, we’re reducing the amount of music in the lobbies. Instead of having two stages, where one starts up as soon as the other winds down, there’s going to be one stage in each lobby. And, the music selection is going to be more conducive to networking.” On a related note, following its successful move last year, registration will remain in the Hilton and the Marriott.
Additional opportunities to network—and simply to enjoy incredible live music—will be manifold throughout the annual Anaheim excursion. These include the nightly concerts, starting up at 6pm and taking place on the NAMM GoPro Stage in the Grand Plaza, that’ll bring January 23 (Grammy-award-winning guitarist and singer Jonny Lang), January 24 (Grammy-nominated singer, drummer and percussionist Sheila E. and her band) and January 25 to a rockin’ close. Plus, there are Drum Circles, Trombone Circles and Ukulele Circles scheduled. In addition, Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night, set for January 25 at 7pm, promises to be among the NAMM show’s most memorable events. And finally, we can’t forget the NAMM TEC Awards; that highly coveted hardware will be given out on January 24 at 7pm.

It may seem rather familiar to tout this, or any, industry trade show as an “unmissable event” that’s worth the investment to attend: an investment not only of financial resources but also, in the case of retailers like you, of time away from your store. But, familiar though the words might seem, the value proposition has never been clearer: In a time when your store is competing not only with every other brick-and-mortar music store in a 25-mile radius but also with Internet retailers and big-box stores, it is crucially important to get the invaluable perspective, new ideas, business intelligence and inspiration that only a show like NAMM, which brings together all corners of the music products industry, can provide.

Summing things up, Lamond said, “Everything in life is about priorities, and everybody has to set their own priorities: both in their lives and in their businesses.” He continued, “Everyone has to define their own end zone. What does success look like? But, to define your end zone, you have to know when you’re on the 50-yard line, the 80-yard line and just one yard out.” NAMM member companies, he said, have to decide how serious they are about their own success.

“If growing your business, improving your skill set and learning from the best in the industry are priorities and they’re going to help you get into your end zone, you should be at the show,” Lamond concluded.

The Music & Sound Retailer, and I personally, will see you there.



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