Hit The Accelerator

If you listen to Wall Street analysts, you’ve probably heard them describe the last several years as the “muddle-through economy.” To be sure, the American economy has been growing, but not necessarily at the blistering pace that often follows a recession and drives us into boom years. This halting economic performance has certainly affected the music products industry, which, even apart from macro-scale headwinds, has had to contend with the rise of Internet sellers, unfair sales-tax policies and unprecedented disposable-income competition. And yet…people still love to make music, and many retailers, drawing on their ingenuity and drive to succeed, have found ways to achieve consistent, year-on-year revenue growth. All of those components—passion for music making, creative innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and fiscal good sense—will be in robust supply at the NAMM Show next month.

Noting that there are more ways to make, record and share music than could have possibly been imagined by the people who founded the association more than 100 years ago, Joe Lamond, President/CEO of NAMM, said, “The industry is bigger and more diverse than at any previous time in our history.” Speaking from a sales perspective, he affirmed that the numbers over the last few years have shown a slow, steady move upward. “Last year in the U.S.,” he began, “our industry’s growth [3.3 percent] beat the overall U.S. economic growth [2.4 percent]. That’s incremental, but it’s moving in the right direction at a sustainable pace.” From January 21 to 24, as our entire industry—including many first-time exhibitors, a global mix of brands and about 100,000 people—descends on Anaheim CA, we’ll be looking to sustain, and perhaps accelerate, that growth.


Showing Tremendous Promise

Although, when I interviewed Lamond, the show was still several weeks away, exhibitor numbers already showed tremendous promise. “We’re expecting 1,600 exhibiting companies, representing more than 5,100 brands,” he declared, adding that he expects exhibitors to continue signing up right up to the start of the show. “I project that there will be a four-to-five-percent increase in the number of exhibitors,” he continued. “The industry’s incredible diversity will be reflected at the show in the product mix. Global sales growth in acoustics, the fretted market, synthesizers, and some segments of the live sound and recording space, along with boutique brands and music technology, will be apparent on the show floor.” The NAMM Show is, indeed, the one place where people can tap into every aspect of music making.

During my conversation with Lamond, I mentioned that, this year, more so than any in the past, indie retailers have been willing to discuss the issues of the day forthrightly, with little or no fear about “blowback” for saying something impolitic. This relates directly to the NAMM Show, which, in addition to being a new product bonanza, is the premier networking hub for the music products industry’s brightest minds. “Our industry is seldom short on opinions,” Lamond said with a chuckle, “so I suspect there will be many hot topics that week.” He added, “The best way to observe what’s on the minds of our members is to look at the titles and topics of the education sessions at the show, including the Breakfast Sessions, the NAMM U Idea Center and TEC Tracks.”


Given that, for many retailers, the education sessions—more so even than the glistening goodies on the show floor—compel them to attend the NAMM Show, it’s no surprise that the association has invested heavily in delivering a jam-packed week of education, training and inspiration. According to Lamond, “There will be about 130 education sessions at the NAMM Show this year, including something for everyone from the manager of a combo retailer, to a music educator, to a NAMM member company looking to grow their pro-audio-installation business.” It all starts the day before the show, January 20, with NAMM Retail Boot Camp: a free, all-day, intensive training program for NAMM members. Then, during each show day, there will be a full slate of peer-to-peer learning in the NAMM U Idea Center. “This year,” Lamond added, “we’ll also introduce TEC Tracks, which will feature around 70 sessions on the most pressing pro audio and music technology topics.”

NAMM U Breakfast Sessions


And, of course, we can’t forget that each day of the show opens with a NAMM U Breakfast Session, each one carefully conceived to inspire NAMM members to achieve success and to keep all of us apprised of the industry’s future. “As usual,” Lamond began, “the opening ‘Breakfast of Champions’ will feature a surprise lineup of guests that we’ve specifically picked to discuss the theme of ‘Game Changers.’” He continued, “On Friday, we’ll welcome entrepreneur and author Josh Linkner, whereas, on Saturday, we’ll have a very special guest coming to NAMM to share his personal success story and to inspire our members to create their own.” The NAMM U Breakfast Sessions are the ideal way to start a day at the NAMM Show: an opportunity to gather with your peers, learn from the best and brightest within our industry and beyond, and enjoy a free hot breakfast.

Although opportunities for networking begin over breakfast each morning, they certainly don’t end there; occasions to network carry right through the day, with lounges, special events, the NAMM Member Center and a new lounge off the NAMM U Idea Center all greasing the skids for meaningful connections. “A highlight for many members is the live music on the NAMM Nissan Grand Plaza Stage,” Lamond enthused. “We’re working on some really great live acts to headline the stage each night. The stage and food truck area on the Grand Plaza, as well as the backstage area, buzz all day long as members find moments to connect.” Lamond and the team are also working with NAMM members to book music on various stages in the convention hotels, as well as on the NAMM CenterStage Presented by Pioneer DJ. That incredible music is why, even after a very long day on the show floor, attendees nevertheless pack hotel lobbies until the wee hours of the morning.

As much fun and excitement as NAMM Show days provide, it might, indeed, be true that NAMM Show evenings are even better. “There are too many events to name, and there are always a couple we all hear about the next day that we’re sorry to have missed,” Lamond stated. “But one that’s really worth noting is the Women’s International Music Network’s She Rocks Awards on Friday night.” Once again, NAMM is partnering with She Rocks to help the event stage at the NAMM Show; this year, in fact, some of the proceeds will go toward supporting the NAMM Foundation’s important work. “We’re so proud to see our own Mary Luehrsen being honored for her work with the NAMM Foundation,” Lamond said joyfully. Among this year’s other distinguished honorees are artists Amy Heidemann and Jennifer Batten, Gator Cases’ Crystal Morris, Taylor Guitars’ Chalise Zolezzi and Seymour Duncan’s Cathy Carter Duncan. Show attendees last year agreed that the She Rocks Awards ceremony was an unforgettable show highlight.



Then, on January 23, the NAMM TEC Awards will bring music, technology and audio innovation together for an unforgettable night of celebration. “We’ll be inducting Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter and the Founders of Record Plant into the TEC Hall of Fame, awarding the Les Paul Award and more,” Lamond commented. “We’re proud to help this event grow and to see this community make their home at the NAMM Show.”

As if there isn’t enough to occupy our attention at this year’s NAMM Show, we also have an exciting future to anticipate. When the music products industry arrives in Anaheim in January 2018, NAMM will have a new exhibit hall to work with, adding more space for our musical family to grow into. “Upon arrival at the show,” Lamond remarked, “NAMM members entering from the Hilton or Arena side of the show will see construction where the expansion is underway.” It’s going up where one of the many parking structures had been located. “Our team is working hard to ensure that the construction does not impact the show experience, as well as to mitigate any possible parking challenges for people driving to the show each day,” he added. “And, in 2018, we’ll have the amazing, new, much-needed space to grow into.”


As someone who speaks to brick-and-mortar music products retailers every day, I’m acutely aware of the fact that, for many of you, it’s virtually impossible to break away from your store for three or four days and, in some cases, to travel a couple thousand miles to get to California. But, as Lamond rightly pointed out, ours is an industry populated with passionate, creative people; the NAMM Show harnesses our collective brainpower and allows all of us to strategize together, inspire one another and better our businesses. “The entire global industry coming together in Anaheim presents an opportunity that our members can capitalize on in every imaginable way,” he stressed, emphasizing that, if it’s possible to attend, doing so would be well worth your while.

“Look,” Lamond said frankly, “I certainly get the fact that some members just are not able to get away from the store this year, or they’re tight on money.” He continued, “But, for everyone else, I cannot think of a better investment to make than to come to NAMM. You are investing in the number-one determining factor of success: yourself!

I’ll see all of you in Anaheim next month!

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