My plane touched down days ago, but the NAMM show still has me soaring. Although the music products industry’s annual sojourn in Anaheim is, without a doubt, my single busiest week of the year, it’s also an incredibly invigorating experience: nearly 100,000 passionate music-makers gathering together not only to check out new products and arm themselves with essential education and training, but also to commune as one musical family. Those who are part of it know there is a certain ineffable magic that’s organic to the music industry, and the NAMM show captures it in microcosm.

This year’s event was the largest NAMM show ever, boasting a record 1,621 exhibiting companies—a six-percent increase over 2014—and more than 99,340 registrants, a figure that reflects an 11-percent increase in international registration and a two-percent increase in buyers. Perhaps the show’s evident robustness contributed to the positive attitude that prevailed among virtually every manufacturer and dealer to whom The Retailer’s team and I spoke. Even though our industry’s dealers have substantial challenges—consumers’ multitude of choices for where to spend their disposable income, the siren song of direct-to-consumer sales that’s bewitching some manufacturers, and the rise of Internet-based e-tailers and non-traditional competitors—most NAMM attendees arrived hungry for knowledge and motivation, and left with their appetite sated.

Indeed, the very turbulence caused by such challenges serves to make the constancy and stability of the NAMM show particularly appealing. “In an unpredictable and chaotic marketplace, the NAMM show has become the reliable and predictable platform where our members can come for business, education and inspiration,” said NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond. “From fledgling entrepreneurs to the most established brands, everyone here has an equal shot. The industry showed up with unparalleled energy, and we hope they are leaving better prepared for success in the new year.” The profusion of opportunities that attendees had to educate themselves and be inspired makes me confident that the organization’s hopes have been met.

In our December issue cover story, “Launch Pad For Success,” Lamond emphasized that, even if the massive exhibit floor didn’t exist, there would still be compelling reasons for dealers to invest in visiting the NAMM show; the Idea Center presentations, Breakfast Sessions and opportunities for hands-on training bore out just that. The show featured a staggering 45 Idea Center sessions that covered essential subjects such as optimizing your store’s Web presence, improving your music-lessons program and executing promotions that really work. These progressive, sharply focused presentations armed attendees with knowledge they could execute immediately…the week they returned from NAMM. Retail Boot Camp, the H.O.T. (Hands-On Training) Zone and Generation Next Sessions, among other offerings, were a perfect complement.

The ever-popular Breakfast Sessions opened up each show day with a warm meal and the opportunity to learn and grow. The first day kicked off with the Breakfast of Champions session—a much-loved annual tradition—and that was followed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday by three equally engaging programs. On Friday, Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, presented Epic Marketing: Win More Customers by Marketing Less, which offered attendees strategies to ensure compelling, relevant and consistent marketing. Saturday featured the best-attended program: NAMM Presents Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak. “Woz,” as he is known, shared passionate insights laced with humor to the standing-room-only crowd. “Music is like a magic dust bringing love to people,” he remarked, capturing music’s power to enchant us. Sunday capped things off with the annual Best in Show presentation.

And if you thought your mornings were jam-packed, they were nothing compared to your NAMM show nights! Apart from the electrifying performances occurring nightly on the NAMM GoPro Stage on the Grand Plaza, each evening had its own headline-grabbing event. On Thursday, throngs of NAMM show-goers packed into the Hilton Anaheim’s California Ballroom to celebrate Peavey Electronics’ 50th anniversary and the company’s legendary Founder and namesake, Hartley Peavey. The party featured performances by members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, numerous guest artists and a special performance featuring Blue Oyster Cult, all presided over by musical host DJ Keith Shocklee of Public Enemy. And, the evening’s emcee was none other than Vinny Testa, The Retailer’s President and Publisher, and a longtime friend of Hartley’s.

On Friday, it was the ladies’ turn to take center stage as Laura B. Whitmore, Founder of the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN), organized and executed an unforgettable ceremony—the 2015 She Rocks Awards—honoring all the strong, creative, inspirational women in the music industry. Co-hosted by Whitmore and guitarist and solo artist Orianthi, the awards paid tribute to women whose achievements are towering: Craigie Zildjian, Avedis Zildjian Co.’s CEO; Amani Duncan, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Martin Guitar; Gayle Beacock, Beacock Music’s Co-Owner; multi-platinum artist Colbie Caillat; Grammy-nominated sax player Mindi Abair; legendary band The Bangles; Debbie Cavalier, Vice President for Online Learning and Continuing Education/CEO for Berklee College of Music’s award-winning online continuing-education program, Berklee Online; Paula Salvatore, Vice President of iconic Capitol Studios; and Katie Kailus, Music Inc.’s Editor. The first-ever male to receive a She Rocks Award was Rob Christie, Owner of Robo Records.

That same evening, Yamaha held its bi-annual NAMM week concert at the Hyperion Theater within Disney California Adventure. Artists on hand included The Piano Guys, Nathan East, Colbie Caillat, Bob James, Jonathan Butler, James Blunt and Jamie Cullum, all of whom delivered a night of unparalleled enjoyment for the nearly 2,000 in attendance. The musical exuberance rocking the theater until close to midnight was of a piece with the entire NAMM show, at which talented musicians of every age and genre infused nearly every inch of the Anaheim Convention Center property with their artistry.
Saturday night featured the 30th Annual NAMM TEC Awards, which recognized outstanding achievements in audio product innovation and sound production across 30 creative and technical categories. During the event, the NAMM Foundation inducted revered engineer/mixologist Ed Cherney and renowned bassist Nathan East into the NAMM TEC Awards Hall of Fame; iconic guitarist Slash received the prestigious Les Paul Award.

On the topic of awards, The Music & Sound Retailer honored the music products industry’s best dealers, manufacturers and company executives with the 29th Annual Music & Sound Awards. They were bestowed during the show, the presentations airing on ConventionTV@NAMM—the official television programming of the NAMM show—and being viewed throughout the convention center and in all the convention hotel rooms. Alto Music, of New York, was named Multi-Store Dealer of the Year, whereas Sweetwater (Fort Wayne IN) took home honors for Single-Store Dealer of the Year. Product of the Year went to Sabian’s 22-Inch HHX Omni Cymbal, whereas Yamaha Corp. of America was crowned Manufacturer of the Year. Jim D’Addario, CEO of D’Addario & Company, Inc., earned the Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award. A complete list of winners in all categories, as well as comments from our manufacturer winners, will be featured in next month’s edition.

And, speaking of our next issue, the abundance of new brands populating the show floor—the number of new exhibiting companies, 331 of them, more than doubled from 2014—plays perfectly into our other cover story for next month. Anthony Vargas, our Assistant Editor, scoured the show floor for the most innovative, most promising new companies and interviewed the men and women at their helm. Next month, he’ll present an intimate look at several companies that, a few years from now, might be magnets at the NAMM show in the same way that iconic companies like Taylor Guitars and Gibson Brands already are. Check out Anthony’s in-depth reporting in March…and make sure those companies are on your radar screen.

After a week so jam-packed with excitement, education and gearlust overload, you might be looking to catch your breath a bit. But, as you get back into the swing of things, don’t forget to book your ticket to Music City U.S.A.! In just a few months, Summer NAMM’s returning to the beautiful Music City Center; the show’s scheduled for July 9 to 11. And, global growth opportunities abound at NAMM Musikmesse Russia, taking place September 10 to 13, and ProLight + Sound NAMM Russia, running concurrently from September 10 to 12. Finally, the NAMM show returns to Anaheim from January 21 to 24, 2016.

If your love of music runs as deep as your G-clef-shaped DNA, then I know I’ll see you there.

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