When the business is music, it’s a fine line between good times and work. Produced by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the NAMM Show provided the most effective platform across four jam-packed days filled with new product debuts, networking, and educational opportunities set to the soundtrack of live music and conversation among friends old and new. From January 24-27, every aspect of the music instrument and products industry including retailers, corporate buyers, artists and sound and lighting professionals did business with nearly 5000 unique brands in Anaheim, CA.
“Our industry, like many others, is in the midst of rapid change,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM. “And I believe NAMM Members who came to Anaheim to see the latest product innovations, attend NAMM University sessions, and network with friends and peers will be uniquely positioned to take advantage of the business opportunities in the year ahead.”
Based on member feedback, NAMM made a concerted effort to increase buyer (blue) badges and decrease guest (yellow) badges to create the most business-friendly event in years. Buyers increased 4 percent over 2012, while non-industry guests decreased 16 percent. The important increase in buyers was attributed to more retail music stores, corporate buyers including houses of worship, live event venues and touring professionals, casinos, and studios sending buyers to shop the NAMM Show. The mix of industry professionals resulted in an incredibly business-focused, yet vibrant show made up of 93,908 total registrants.
“We were approached by many potential new business partners, so it became an even broader type of business show,” said Tony Moscal, general manager of business development for Peavey. “We’re glad to see that NAMM’s provided with a full representation of an industry business show in addition to traditional retailers. This has been one of the most exciting, rewarding show’s that I’ve been involved with since my first NAMM Show in 1981.”
“I attend for the latest, greatest and best our industry has to offer. This show was rich with industry trends, the latest in gear and top notch sessions at the Idea Center,” said Billy Cuthrell, owner of Progressive Music Center in North Carolina. “I consider my time at NAMM a major part of my business success throughout the year.”
For the first time, a Mayor led the NAMM Show. NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond proclaimed world-renowned musician and humanitarian Stevie Wonder as Mayor of the NAMM Show with a lifetime, all-access badge to NAMM. “My goal is before it’s my time, I hope to be able to make music accessible to everybody, children and adults,” said His Honor (Wonder). “It’s a whole new world of music and instrument discovery at the show every year.” Wonder, one of hundreds of major artists at the NAMM Show, walked the show trying out new products and meeting with friends.
While live music played and celebrities visited, the resounding sentiment on the show floor was that the industry was getting down to business. “Roland Corporation U.S. is very pleased with the 2013 NAMM Show and activity on our new booth and location,” Kim Nunney, president of Roland. “Traffic was steady throughout the show and dealers responded very positively to our new products, Content Checkpoints and media stage. A great show, we’re looking forward to a strong 2013.”
The opening of the 2013 NAMM Show marked not only the start of the world’s premier gathering for the music instrument and product industry, but also the debut of the Anaheim Convention Center’s new outdoor venue, The Anaheim Grand Plaza. The Grand Plaza features 100,000 square feet of outdoor meeting and event space, and during the NAMM Show an outdoor stage for live performances.
NAMM Show-goers enjoyed a series of spectacular live performances all day, every day throughout the four-day show. Tower of Power, The Living Legends Jam (with band members from The Eagles, Black Sabbath, and Fleetwood Mac, among others), and CTA (California Transit Authority) rocked the Grand Plaza hard and gave the energetic nighttime crowds plenty of authentic rock and roll. “There’s great talent with Tower of Power and a community feeling [on the Grand Plaza]. It’s great to wind down out here after the day, while enjoying some music with good friends and business partners,” said Jerry Loos, owner, Jerry Loos Guitar Training, Westerville, OH.
The industry quickly adapted to the new show perimeter that reached the convention center’s exterior walls, effectively adding to the show’s footprint. By moving registration to the hotels, NAMM created an easier to navigate show with fewer ID checks.
While many NAMM Show veterans come to enjoy the musical spectacle and do business with old and new friends, the 2013 NAMM Show was rich in new faces, with 289 new exhibitors representing about 700 unique brands spread out over the sprawling Convention Center. Enthusiasm ran high among NAMM Show first-timers. Apps and software, new technologies for acoustic guitars, and performance accessories – all found a solid toehold on success at the show.
“I’m freaking out,” said Mike Miltimore, founder of Riversong Guitars in British Columbia. Miltimore’s business card also bills him as ‘Passion Igniter,’ and with his incandescent grin it is easy to see why. Miltmore brought his patent-pending guitar design to the show for the first time, unsure if he would meet his goals of finding more international distribution. “At the show, we’ve seen big-time interest from countries I did not even know existed,” he said. “I also wanted to connect with my current dealers, and NAMM is the place to do that.” Serenely regarding the brisk business at his booth and his smiling, upbeat crew, Miltimore seemed satisfied. “This is beyond my wildest expectations,” he said.
New exhibitors accounted for 20 percent of the exhibiting companies this year, with another 118 companies returning to NAMM after a year or more off. The increase is a subtle indicator that the music products industry is stealthily creeping back onto terra firma. Not so subtle is the vibrant, positive feeling among new exhibitors, some of whom are at NAMM because they felt the time was right to expand their businesses and gather input from the music-making world.
“We came to NAMM to network, to meet new retailers, and to get reaction from the music professionals out there,” said Helen Georgopoulos, director of sales and marketing for Wave DNA of Toronto. Her company develops a drum- and beat-creation software instrument designed for music producers, remix artists and songwriters. “We’ve hit every one of those goals. People see the demo and they immediately get the value and the uniqueness of what our product offers. Music and merchants. That’s NAMM.”
Buyers make a point to find new products at the show. “Coming to NAMM is my mental catalog for the rest of the year,” said Clark Baker, owner of Clark Baker Music in El Centro, CA. “I always walk every row and see everything I can because you never know. You could be out there, and Wow! That’s a new thing! I’m so glad I saw that.”
Music-product pros also found that NAMM’s international clout is great for business. NAMM traditionally attracts a vast international crowd of manufacturers, exhibitors and buyers from 94 countries from around the world. A true international show, 492 of the exhibiting companies were from beyond U.S. borders.
Mike Kairys, president of Ac-cetera, of Luxor, PA, came to NAMM for the first time, intent on acquiring international distributors for his EZClamp and Mic-Eze products, which securely clamp a variety of accessories from smart phones to tuners on microphones and instruments. “The response has been just excellent,” Kairys said. “We have a low-key approach, but we were looking for possible distributions into China, Germany, Denmark and others. I’d say just the first day of the show our investment paid off in spades. We are getting what we came for.”
A little more than 10 years ago, Indiana-based Rees Harps did five percent of its business internationally. Currently, they do 85 percent of their business internationally. “We began coming to NAMM in 2004 and it has obviously made a huge difference for us,” said Melissa Irwin-Rees. “We love NAMM and it truly has helped our business grow. We come here to find new dealers and new distributors, and people know our brand name. It all started for us here at NAMM.”
Bringing products to an entirely new potential cadre of distribution channels is part of the NAMM Show’s enduring cachet. Bethany Pryor of Blocki Flute Method of Gibsonia, PA said the NAMM Show represents more effective international opportunities than flute conventions. “NAMM Show is the best place we have found to make contact with people from all over the world,” she said.
PRO-LIGHT AND SOUND/VENUE
Products in the growing pro light and sound, and performance-tech segment of the industry provided some of the splashiest displays and demonstrations at the 2013 NAMM Show, as well as some vigorous commerce. The show’s new, dedicated pro lighting and staging area, The Venue, was filled with exhibitors such as SmithsonMartin, Mr. DJ, OmniSistem, Carvin Corp., NSI Audio and Performance Truss.
The Venue exhibitors enjoyed raised ceilings and dimmed lighting in an arena-style setting appropriate to the lasers and other lighting effects, and tall scaffolding and trusses being demonstrated by vendors here. Mike Weiner, president of Performance Group is a first-time exhibitor at NAMM and in The Venue. “Some people said this show wasn’t for us, but I’m getting a great reaction to lights and our LED screens,” he said. “There’s a lot of people – retailers, people who do church installations, which surprised me — and event production people. All aspects of the industry are here. We’ve seen South and Central American and Mexico buyers with our biggest lead from Brazil.”
As the pro light and sound segment of the market grows at NAMM, some buyers are prowling the exhibits to educate themselves, and their customers, about the industry as a means for expansion. Buyer Bryon Low of Annex Pro in Vancouver deals in audio systems for universities, high schools and other educational outlets. But he sees a day when his customer base will need the related light and production products. “I’m here to educate myself and get a handle on what’s out there so I can be helpful to my clients perhaps some time in the future,” he said. “It’s better to talk to the manufacturer here and have them explain it and demonstrate it. Now I know what’s out there and we can move forward.”