Although not an in-person event, NAMM’s Believe in Music Week intends to have something for everyone.

If this were any other year, we would have our flights already booked and our hotels scheduled to visit Anaheim, Calif., next month for The 2021 NAMM Show. But alas, it is 2020.

In a recent conversation with the Music & Sound Retailer. NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond recalled the moment he decided to cancel The 2021 NAMM Show. It was the only choice. “In July, it did not appear that we would be able to take the time and put everything together,” Lamond told the Retailer. “A show the size of NAMM takes at least six months to create and produce safely and successfully. So, if we didn’t have a clear green light by July or early August at the latest, we knew we couldn’t do it. […] It was inevitable, but the tougher part was accepting that for the first time since 1944 there would not be a NAMM Show. I knew what it meant to all of us and the NAMM organization. It is our No. 1 driver of revenue that helps us do all the things we do year-round, like music lobbying and supporting the industry with music education. It was a tough one to swallow, but we tightened our belts and figured out a way to make it work.”

Lamond added that when future generations look back at 2020, which will probably be the focus of many textbooks, they will see how well music fared during this period. “Think about how devastating the pandemic has been throughout the world,” he stated. “There is not a country where NAMM has a member that has not been devastated in some way by this. But through it all, whether in quarantine or small groups, individuals have turned to music. I looked back to our records from 1918, the last time we had a major pandemic, and there were articles just like we had recently about the resiliency of music. When people are looking for hope or faith or optimism, they pick up an instrument. I think we will be poised to come out of this, as an industry, in good shape.”

NAMM’s CEO acknowledged that in his daily conversations with the trade group’s members around the world, everyone, without exception, has been impacted by COVID-19. “I can’t find two businesses that have been impacted the same way. Having to shut down your store is not part of your business plan. But then [MI retailers] were able to create curbside pickup and move more of their sales online. The speed at which NAMM members responded to this [pandemic] was astounding,” said Lamond. “[But] the touring and live event industry has been heartbreaking. These are dear friends and members of ours. The cancellation of every live event has been devastating. We have to get those people back working again. Artists want to play and get on stage. Audiences want them back.”

The uncertain status of school music programs will be the biggest challenge the industry will face in the future, added Lamond. COVID-19 has impacted every area of school music, from fourthgrade beginner band to choral to marching band and everything inbetween, he noted. “Closures of everything have really impacted state budgets,” Lamond said. “Deficits at the state level will be the biggest they have ever seen. That is going to impact music education. It is going to impact education in its entirety. We as an industry have to think very carefully about how we approach 2021 and 2022 to not only help music and arts programs thrive, but also to make sure education is in a good place. We as an industry have to pull together, probably more than we ever have, to work both at the federal level and state level to ensure that we are doing everything we can to make sure students have the socializing that comes from music class, the connectivity to the community that comes with being in a music class, and of course all of the music brain research that comes with success in school.”

I’m a Believer

Rewinding back to the immediate future and NAMM’s Believe in Music Week, the loss that no in-person NAMM Show brings, primarily the inability to see other MI industry members in person, as well as manufacturer booth visits, parties and live in-person musical performances, is immense. “There is nothing that will take the place of The NAMM Show,” relayed Lamond. “Walking onto the plaza and seeing the buildings and banners, the energy exhibited on the show floor and the amazing exhibits for the week we are there — nothing can emulate that. It is really unfortunate [we cannot have the in-person show]. It is a really important start of the year for the global industry.”

However, NAMM is making sure that Believe in Music Week, set to take place Jan. 18-22, is the best it can possibly be for a virtual event. “The idea was, how [do we] create that same feel of The NAMM Show?” said Lamond. “At The NAMM Show, we have great new products that will set the stage for the whole year — products that change the way music is made, recorded, played and taught. So, we created the Marketplace, where companies can show their new products, have meetings, show videos, show artists and have one-on-one meetings with dealers. But we also want to reach the broader audience of music educators, artists and players.” Lamond emphasized the importance of providing a platform for new product launches. “The Marketplace is a fundamental thing we do,” he said. “We need to launch new products in 2021. That will be part of our push to get our industry thriving.”

Believe TV will be another main component of Believe in Music Week, featuring 16 hours of daily programming. “It is going to be live. There will be interviews, performances and all kinds of intriguing content created to keep people engaged,” said Lamond. “The engagement is what we are trying to create, something we would like to be a part of.”

Of course, nobody can sit around a computer for 16 hours a day. But having this much programming means there will be live broadcasts at all times for audiences throughout the world. “When we sign off in California, we will be picking it up in Asia, and then in Europe. We will go around the world with content being created by members in those regions. While we are sleeping, they will be engaged, and viceversa,” noted Lamond.

A plethora of on-demand content will be available as well, which is expected to be available for viewers through the end of February. NAMM understands MI retailers have to work at their stores while Believe in Music Week takes place. Hence, a huge on-demand video library of Believe in Music Week content will quickly become available. But Lamond hopes that virtual attendees will be able to watch the live events, likening it to the excitement of watching live sporting events. “In sports, you don’t know how it will end. I can’t wait for this live stuff when I fall flat on my face,” he joked. “It will be hilarious. It is one of those things you want to see live.”

One aspect of The NAMM Show that may not miss a beat is the NAMM University education sessions. Although attendees will not be served eggs, sausage and orange juice before keynote sessions, online music learning has really taken off in 2020, and many are already comfortable with this experience. Virtual education sessions during July, when Summer NAMM would have taken place, went off without a hitch, with subsequent NAMM-hosted education sessions also being successful as well. Virtual NAMM U sessions also bring out a whole new potential audience of MI retailers that cannot leave their stores to attend a NAMM Show. According to Lamond, expect virtual education sessions, as well as other online content, to be a permanent NAMM staple in the future, even when it is safe to resume in-person shows.

“The world has changed a lot even since January, so the education [sessions] will be focused on that,” said Lamond. “Dealer sessions will look at how the world is now. How can dealers thrive in a world where there is more and more shopping online and delivery? So, there will be a lot of timely sessions about that.”

NAMM’s CEO stressed that everything is new to the organization as well as the attendees. The trade group’s focus is to make sure it has the best possible content for MI retailers in their stores. “When we are in Anaheim, we are all in. There is a captive audience there. This is a little different. We have to make sure we help retailers and exhibitors to show their products in the most efficient way,” Lamond said. “It is the first time we have done it, so we are making mistakes along the way. We will not get everything right. We will learn with our members. We want to get this right so that, moving forward, every NAMM Show will have the incredible physical gathering, as well as this really robust online gathering. I think it will make the whole thing stronger moving forward. So, we have accelerated what we need to do anyway: create this physical event with an online event.”

Creating what amounts to an entirely new show format certainly presents a lot of challenges, but there is also a lot of excitement emanating throughout NAMM’s California headquarters. “We are having a lot of fun. We are a 120-year-old startup,” mused Lamond. “People are running around here saying ‘We can do this!’ There are a number of choices. It is just about making the right choices. [But] we do feel the pressure to make sure we try to get the industry together and create our own social network to do what we need to do as an industry globally in 2021: get past the pandemic, past the economic crisis that came with it, and make sure music is a part of all this recovery going forward.”

Above all, Believe in Music Week will start 2021 with energy, enthusiasm and optimism. “That’s really what we are trying to accomplish,” relayed Lamond. “The industry is gathering with our own social network, and we are going to make sure 2021 is one of the best years, if not the best year, in our history.”

The Future in Nashville and Anaheim

Although securing the aforementioned funding for music education could be the toughest challenge the MI industry faces going forward, NAMM’s most difficult near-term decision is when to resume staging an in-person trade show. What criteria will determine whether it is safe enough to return to Nashville in July 2021 for Summer NAMM and ultimately Anaheim for The 2022 NAMM Show?

“Nashville is on, depending upon any major news we have not anticipated yet. We think by then the economics will recover, and there will be relief on the therapeutic side, and vaccines will be delivered,” responded Lamond. “We think by then, the industry will desire to gather. Nashville could be one of the most exciting events we will ever have. But we need to do it safely. We will be working with the city. We want to make sure we only have a show if people can be safe while they are there.”

As for The 2022 NAMM Show, NAMM’s CEO stated he hopes the recovery will be fully in play and a lot of the economic and medical problems will be behind us by then. “Hopefully, tours will be happening, bands will be out working, marching bands in schools will be in person,” Lamond said. “By February, we will be full-on planning for January [2022]. We start that literally a year ahead of time.”

Lamond cautioned that a lot can happen in a year, as the world has unfortunately seen. “Winter NAMM in 2022 I hope will be the biggest family reunion and one of the most important shows since 1945 or 1946 after World War II,” Lamond concluded. “If nothing else, the world has shown us this year it pays to be resilient, creative and quick.”

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