For the first time in 18 months, NAMM hosted an in-person show when industry friends and colleagues reconvened in Nashville last week for Summer NAMM (July 15-16). Filled with optimism for the future, NAMM members gathered to invest in their businesses, reconnect with their industry relationships, and discover the connections, tools, and strategies to help inspire innovation and reignite business in a post-pandemic world.

“This Summer NAMM was the industry gathering that needed to take place, our first since the start of the pandemic. I’m grateful to the intrepid NAMM members who came to meet with their industry partners and to improve their knowledge and competitive advantage. It sure seems to me that they will have an edge in this rapidly changing marketplace,” shared Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO.

Chris Martin, Executive Chairman of C.F. Martin and Co., expressed his enthusiasm for the industry gathering. “It’s good to be back and it’s good to see a very diverse crowd from all walks of our life. This is an industry where we like to associate — we like to hang out. Even in the music store, people like to hang out, and this is like a big music store, so we need to keep doing this. You need to touch and feel; you need to see it and hear it; and that’s the advantage of a show like this — you get that opportunity, and I think that’s great.”

“Summer NAMM is really unique and one of the best ways for us to really get some quality time with the independent dealers that make up the backbone of the music industry. There’s really no substitute for just letting people try our products and experience them and see how people are reacting to them and get that feedback, and you can’t get that honest, in-person feedback from Zoom meetings,” shared Dan Boatman, Marketing & Sales Manager, IK Multimedia. “Also, events like this are really critical to show that things are opening back up again. I also love that we’ve been here listening to all the different people share their strategies and what’s been successful for them over the last year and how they dealt with the pandemic and how it’s changed their businesses going forward. I think that one-to-one connection and sharing what enabled companies to survive and thrive makes for a stronger music industry overall, and I think it can only happen in an environment like this.”

“2021 Summer NAMM was a family reunion where the Yamaha team reconnected in-person with our dealers, our customers and the industry after a long 18 months apart,” Tom Sumner, President of Yamaha Corporation of America, shared. “Music is intrinsically tactile and interactive, so experiencing people playing and enjoying some of our newest instruments like the DTX6 electronic drum kit, the DGX-670 portable grand piano and FG-TA TransAcoustic guitar felt like a new beginning. Yamaha was also proud to sponsor the Top 100 Dealer Awards, honoring the top music retailers in the country, as well as several other events at the show. It felt great to be back in Nashville at Summer NAMM!”

The weeklong gathering, which took on a pandemic protocol-dictated size and approach, welcomed fellow industry associations the Alliance of Independent Music Merchants (AIMM), the Event Safety Alliance (ESA), the Music Achievement Council, the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD), Retail Print Music Dealers Association (RPMDA), and Show Makers in co-located yet socially distanced conferences and events. In total, 5,671 influential NAMM members representing a cross-section of buyers, independent music retailers and commercial members in music products, pro audio and technologies took part in the conference, which convened more than 700 brands represented by nearly 300 exhibitors, including Ampeg, Artesia Pro, Cannonball Musical Instrument Co., D’Addario, Gibson, Hal Leonard, IK Multimedia, Martin Guitars, Taylor Guitars, Ultimate Ears, and Yamaha, among others. New exhibitors included the likes of Chaos Audio, Fischer Amps, JET Pedals LLC, NativeAudio, Rask Guitars, Red Seven Amplification, Siren Pedals, STRAUSS Elektroakustik, THIRD MAN HARDWARE, and others.

For a variety of members, the intimacy of Summer NAMM meant the chance to reconnect with their peers, and a new opportunity to put their products before an influential crowd of tastemakers to trial, converse and make important end-of-year purchasing decisions.

“We are introducing a new line of electronic drums that we believe are next-generation acoustic style drums, so it’s very important for us to get the brand out in front of everybody so they can sit down and play them and check them out for themselves,” says Matt Harpster, CEO of Artesia Pro. “Everybody is trying to get back to normalcy, so this is a great first step in realizing we’re all coming out of this and we’re all going to get back to our normal lives. I’m so happy NAMM went forward with this show, so we could all get back together again.”

“We’re extremely excited to showcase our new UE SWITCH changeable faceplates for UE Pro in-ear monitors at Summer NAMM 2021,” said Philippe Depallens, Vice President and General Manager, Ultimate Ears. “It’s great to see our industry returning to normal, and we’re thrilled to connect with our customers in-person again.”

First-time Summer NAMM exhibitors were also able to take advantage of the reunion. Shane Nolan, CEO of Aviate Audio, chose Summer NAMM to debut his new products, Airpatch and Multiverse. “The feedback has been really enthusiastic. It’s always great to be able to see someone’s live reaction to their experience, and when someone comes to our booth and tries out Airpatch and hears their own effects kick on, it’s inspiring.”

Rafael Capone, owner of SAS Acoustic Design Firm, echoed the feelings of inspiration. “The vendors are amazing … some amazing young businesses here and senior businesses I grew up with. I’m really loving NAMM, the whole vibe.”

Another new-to-Summer NAMM exhibitor, Rebecca Featherstone, CEO of Musicology, a music education app, shared, “Within the first hour, we have been so busy, the response is overwhelming. We had music educators thanking us for doing this platform, and it’s just been such an inspiring experience to connect in person.”

Emerging brand NativeAudio chose to make Summer NAMM the debut of the company’s pedals and to reap the benefits of networking while at the show. Micah Kemplin of NativeAudio said, “It was wonderful meeting other manufacturers and getting to talk shop with people that are just as obsessed with music as we are. The response to our pedals has been fantastic! We were able to meet so many awesome people who really connected with us and our products. We also got a lot of positive feedback on the artwork and stories behind each pedal. Can’t wait for winter NAMM!”

Professional Development to Lead the Next Chapter 

Across the two days of Summer NAMM, NAMM U and TEC Tracks welcomed a convergence of established and emerging professionals and thought-leaders and experts transforming the industry to share in big, actionable ideas, new perspectives, and future-focused outlooks to help members meet the challenges of today and position their businesses for the future.

On Wednesday, July 14, the conference kicked off with the “Online Marketing Summit: Meeting the Challenges in A Post-Pandemic World.” Best-selling author, digital marketing pioneer, award-winning marketing executive and entrepreneur Larry Bailin offered a half-day immersive workshop on proven strategies, tactics, and updates to prepare for what’s next in online marketing.

Each day of the show started with a special NAMM U opening session in the NAMM Event Center. On Thursday, a panel of manufacturers and retailers joined Joe Lamond for the “2021 State of the Industry Address.” In a series of one-on-one interviews, Lamond welcomed Sammy Ash, Sam Ash Music; Jamie Deering, Deering Banjos; Chris Martin, C.F. Martin and Co.; Laura Penrose, Nick Rail Music and Penrose Strings; and Barbara Wight, Taylor Guitars, to explore the state of business, the future and lessons learned from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Friday morning’s NAMM U opening session welcomed the return of “Best in Show.” Hosted by Frank Alkyer, publisher of Music Inc. and UpBeat Daily magazines, Alkyer moderated a panel of top music retail judges as they revealed their winning picks from the show that customers will be clamoring after in the year ahead.

Hot topics at NAMM U included “New Innovations in School Music Retail,” which featured a panel of industry experts, including CJ Averwater, Amro Music; Robert Christie, A & G Central Music; and Jeff Bertrand, Bertrand’s Music. The program also included “New Innovations in Store Events,” a panel discussion moderated by DeDe Heid of Heid Music, and “Lessons Learned for the Next Pandemic,” presented by financial experts Alan Friedman and Daniel Jobe, and more.

Donovan Bankhead of Springfield Music said, “It feels amazing to be here. We worked out a schedule where we brought in a few of our teams for NASMD, and then we brought in other people for NAMM. They’ve had a chance to see educational stuff, visit vendors, and the big thing for me has got to be reconnecting with industry friends and then connecting with my team … We’re building deeper connections and relationships.”

“I always love Summer NAMM, but I was so excited for this year. There is nothing like being together in-person to solidify those relationships, and then you come here,” said Melissa CEO of C.A. House of Music. “There’s so much education. I always go home motivated, inspired and energized.”

Jessica Austin of Austin Music Co., a new music store and a Top 100 Dealer Award nominee from Destin, Florida, shared her impression of the store’s first industry gathering: “The education is fantastic; it’s a ton of information. I took a million notes. It’s been really exciting to think about how to apply these lessons to our store and town.”

TEC Tracks harnessed a future-focused program to help professionals in the audio space meet the opportunities of today and to prepare for the future. Topics included “Live Sound Post-COVID: Interview With Blackbird’s John McBride” with Mark Frink, interviewing John McBride of Blackbird Studio and Blackbird Academy; “How Recording Studios Can Thrive Through Disruption” with Sean Giovanni, producer, engineer and owner of The Record Shop; “Cross-Cultural Issues and Solutions in the Music Industry,” presented by Brian Hardgroove, Public Enemy bassist and producer; and “The Future of Livestreaming” with Maggie Seidel-Laws, creator and CEO of VYE, Nick Whitehouse, CEO of Fireplay, and Peter Sotos from Epic Proportions Tour.

Alongside NAMM U and TEC Tracks, the Event Safety Alliance (ESA) and Show Makers held a special two-day session series, “Road Ready: Preparing for Your First Tour.” Curated for touring professionals, the sessions shared the latest in reopening strategies, safety, mental health and more. On Friday at the Event Center, the ESA and Show Makers presented “What Do We Do Now? COVID Safety Without Rules.” Presented by Steven Adelman, of Adelman Law Group, PLLC and Danielle Hernandez, McAlister Auditorium Manager, Furman University and Board Member of the Event Safety Alliance, the session offered insight into the frequently updated CDC guidance, widely varying state and local rules, and the legal duty to behave reasonably under rapidly changing circumstances.

Reconnecting and Celebrating at Special Events 

Summer NAMM networking events and traditions, including the American Eagle Awards and the Top 100 Dealer Awards, returned on Thursday of the show. The American Eagle Awards recognized iconic a cappella group Take 6 and music educators across America for their extraordinary service during the pandemic. The awards are presented each year in recognition of long-term contributions to American musical culture, the idea of music education for all children, and the need to protect creators’ rights both locally and internationally.

One music educator from each state virtually attended the awards ceremony, with Tennessee-based music educator Franklin Willis accepting on behalf of all teachers. Willis shared with the audience, “Music education is hope, music education is community, and music education is transformation … We teach because we believe, we teach because we know there’s a song in each and every day. Keep giving students hope.”

Earlier in the week, Claude McKnight from Take 6 reflected on the importance of music education and educators in his life. “I can remember at the end of third grade the class was told that the next year would be one that would allow us to start playing wind instruments … When I got to high school, I auditioned for the jazz band under the direction of Dr. Joseph Baudo. Under his tutelage, I felt an even greater love for music and knew without a doubt that one day I would be working in the field of music myself. His guidance and encouragement made me feel like anything was possible! It was shortly thereafter in college that I started the group Take 6.”

Later that evening, members gathered to celebrate and applaud the accomplishments, resilience, and commitment of music retailers in serving music makers in communities around the world at the Top 100 Awards. Now in its 11th year, this year’s awards recognized West Music Co. with the “Dealer of the Year” award, the top honor. West Music was also recognized with the “Music Makes a Difference” award for its commitment to providing continued music therapy throughout the pandemic. Other “Best of” category winners included Mike Risko Music for “Best Community Music Store”; Righteous Guitars in “Best Customer Service”; Dietze Music for “Best Marketing and Sales Promotion”; Amro Music Stores for “Best Online Engagement”; Cosmo Music Co. in “Best Store Design”; and Bertrand’s Music Enterprises for the “Innovation Award.”

Other special events included Wednesday’s Gibson Gives event at The Gibson Garage to benefit The NAMM Foundation, the Smart Women in Music SWIM Meet, and the RPMDA Reception. On Thursday, the industry celebrated innovative products, technologies and creative projects with the 2022 NAMM TEC Awards finalist nominations, and on Friday, the NAMM Young Professionals welcomed Andy Zildjian, President of Sabian for a special session.

The music instrument, pro audio, and entertainment technology industry will again gather January 20-23 at The 2022 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California for four days of business, networking, and events.

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