In this month’s issue, the Music & Sound Retailer asks Believe in Music Week attendees what they thought of NAMM’s virtual show.

The show must go on. Unfortunately, for many reasons, there was no way there could be an in-person NAMM Show this year. So, we asked both retailers and manufacturers what they thought about the virtual Believe in Music Week, which took place Jan. 18 to Jan. 22.

The questions we asked were: How was your Believe in Music Week experience? What did you like most about the virtual show? Do you think could be improved upon if we have future virtual trade shows?

Here are the responses we received:

“I liked Yamaha’s combination of content. I think most of the manufacturers did a great job. If there was a way to have a similar look to scheduling of workshops and manufacturer demos, it would be nice if it could happen — maybe some kind of loose boilerplate script.” —Tom Fonner


“Our contacts were very few (less than 10), and most of those were people were looking to sell us something or looking for endorsements. I only engaged in the site to look at a couple of video sessions — one by Dan Erliwine, who I can watch forever. I checked my page daily, and then did other things that were more productive. I don’t want to judge NAMM too harshly, nor do I want to criticize the platform. I just do not see it as a worthwhile replacement or good investment of marketing dollars and hours.

In my opinion, I prefer driving traffic to our website, where we have much better materials for presenting our products and we don’t have to reinvent it for a virtual trade show. Our lack of contacts may also have to do with us selling accessories. We are not a ‘destination’ booth, more of a stop-by-while-walking-around for most of our traffic at the normal shows. We wanted to be involved to support the industry, but the results were dismal to say the least.” —Patrick J. Bovenizer, Vice President, Peterson Electro-Musical Products Inc.


“As someone who has been attending the NAMM show for the past 30 years (since I was 16!) and has been both an exhibitor and a buyer, nothing replaces that in-person experience to me of the show. I just didn’t enjoy the virtual show [Believe in Music Week], but do appreciate the effort that went into trying to make it happen. The one thing that I did like, though, was having a quiet space to place orders with my reps as opposed to in person (LOL). I look forward and pray that Anaheim will welcome us back with open arms next year, because this crew can’t wait to get back there!” —Nicole Castellano, Castellano’s House of Music


“The week was OK. I like the opportunity to reach new visitors to NAMM. The booths should be virtual; you click and go to a virtual booth. It needs to be interactive. Also make the booths live, not prerecorded. The training modules were helpful.” —Randy White, Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center


“While nothing can replace the energy and excitement of the physical NAMM Show, Believe in Music Week’s virtual platform proved to be a valuable experience for our brands. The most value came from the engagement and ability of attendees to watch sessions live or on demand. I was able to consume so much more content than if I was on the show floor working. The overwhelmingly positive connections and correspondence we received from the global music community proved how strong our industry is and how fierce our desire to connect with fellow music-makers is. I think NAMM really created a unique social network specific to our industry with the Believe in Music Week platform. While I cannot wait to be back on the NAMM Show floor, I think Believe in Music Week opened up new possibilities for us to incorporate more virtual elements into our show. Believing in music is an important sentiment. By supporting this event, we support NAMM’s mission to strengthen the music products industry and promote the benefits of making music. The more we can support getting instruments into more hands, the more we can support our dealers. That is why KORG USA chose to support Believe In Music Week.

One thing I felt was missing this year was the enormous hype that surrounds The NAMM Show, from the buildup, to the actual event, to the post-NAMM buzz. It just felt like the dial was turned all the way down this year — understandably so, because of COVID-19 and everything else going on in our country. Looking back now at how rich the virtual event was, I think everyone involved could have done more to communicate to their audiences globally to get involved with the Believe in Music Week platform.” —Morgan Walker, Director of Marketing Communications, KORG USA Inc.


“As an exhibitor, [Believe in Music Week] started early, so we could tweak our offerings. We can email people after the show — that’s nice. More artists than usual could get involved since they did not have to attend [in person]. So, as a consumer, I liked the sessions a lot. To see our industry rally around good people and innovation was uplifting. I love that part of what our usual January gatherings produce.”

Believe in Music Week was not much of a ‘trade’ show. We have to find a way to separate buyers from everyone else. As a businessperson, I found it frustrating. It did not offer a value that we did not already have. Most of my trade business was done outside of Believe in Music Week. So, it was a novel consumer experience which has value, but it never can be close to a ‘trade’ show. That was a little disappointing.” —Brad Smith, VP, MI Products, Hal Leonard


“No travel, no crowds, no noise and hearing damage, no waste of time, ease of communicating with our reps, cost savings. All future shows should be virtual. Get rid of the fluff, frivolity and gimmicks; work on communication between NAMM, members and vendors. This has much potential and brings us into the 21st century to do business on our time, in our way.” —Richard “Gus” Guastamachio, Dynamic Percussion


“While this year was much different than previous NAMM Shows, it was still very inspiring to see the gear community come together to collaborate and learn. This past year was a tough one for our industry, and the fact that dealers, brands, musicians and more still found a way to gather in January to support people’s love of music really demonstrates the resilience of this community. The educational sessions featured through NAMM U are a favorite of mine. I’m energized by how willing the community is to share their learnings and best practices in the name of lifting the entire industry. This year, I was thrilled to see these sessions live on virtually, and I was excited that several Reverb team members got the chance to speak on topics like how to grow your online sales, social media marketing and diversity in the musical instrument industry.

We are in contact with our seller community all year, but the NAMM Show is always a fantastic opportunity to meet face to face and discuss how we can connect more music makers with gear that inspires them. While these meetings were virtual this year, they were as important as ever. Musicians have been increasingly buying musical instruments online over the years, but 2020 sped up the shift from buying in-store to buying online significantly. In fact, last year, more people bought musical instruments from Reverb sellers than ever before. Now that buyers have experienced how easy it is to buy a guitar or keyboard online, we expect that they’ll continue to choose to buy online, and as they do, we’ll be here to partner with our sellers to help get their gear in front of anyone looking for musical instruments online.

If we have future virtual trade shows, one thing I’d like to do is encourage even more of our team to participate. When the show is in Anaheim or Nashville, we can’t send our entire team, but when the show is virtual, we have an incredible opportunity to involve anyone who wants to participate, from our customer support agents who speak with our community daily to the tech and marketing team members who work each day to help our sellers grow their sales. It really is an incredible opportunity to be able to experience a version of The NAMM Show regardless of where you are.” —David Mandelbrot, CEO, Reverb


“I appreciated all the effort put forth by NAMM headquarters and the participating vendors. I did enjoy the quick upfront conversations and product displays. I actually made a sizable purchase to a vendor as a result of these virtual shows. Well done, NAMM headquarters! Adding some ‘NAMM’ floor noise might be a cool, albeit odd — but heck, very cool — way to instill the ‘vibe’ of a live NAMM Show.” —John R. Borja, Principal, Systems Integration Engineering

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