The music industry returns home to businesses worldwide with innovative ideas and products that will bring the power of music to the masses. Held January 21-24, NAMM welcomed a record number of exhibitors and registrants to Anaheim, CA. Hundreds of new-to-NAMM companies paired with an increase in global interest, and those quintessential “only at NAMM” moments made for what many NAMM members called the most exciting NAMM Show in the association’s 115-year history.
“As we look at the record number of exhibiting brands, influx of new entrepreneurial spirit and attendance from 125 countries, the industry seems poised for vital growth and breakthroughs,” said NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond. “The NAMM Show is a reflection of our industry, not only where it is now, but even more importantly where it is heading next. NAMM members brought their A-game to Anaheim this week with creative, innovative, beautiful products. They also came with inquisitive minds, filling NAMM's educational sessions all four days."
As the scope of music making expands, so do the number of brands that depend on the NAMM Show platform to unveil new products. This year’s show was the largest and most inclusive event in the National Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) 115-year history. A record 1,726 exhibiting companies representing more than 6,000 brands brought the entrepreneurial spirit to life. The energy was palatable, with a 7% increase in exhibiting companies over 2015’s event.
“We’re almost in a bubble focused on designing and developing products all year. But we set deadlines and goals around NAMM. NAMM is the platform, the only platform really, our flagship event to launch products,” said Brian Ball, president, Ernie Ball Inc.
A mix of NAMM member buyers and retail employees, exhibitors, media, artists, NAMM members’ invited guests, NAMM’s Generation Next (college music students) and Music Education Day participants (school music teachers) resulted in a record 101,736NAMM Show registrants. This is a 2% increase over last year’s record-setting event.
For buyers worldwide, NAMM is the ultimate music store. “We’re shopping our established vendors – like Yamaha – buying combo, band & orchestra and looking for what is new,” said Steve Ceo, general manager, C. A. House Music in Ohio. “I like to see people, build relationships, and meet face-to-face with the heads of brands – it makes a difference. Sure, our reps will come to see us, but here we are able to see the excitement of the industry, see what everyone is doing and how it comes together – it is amazing!”
This year according to longtime NAMM Show exhibitors, buyers arrived ready to buy, many writing orders at the show. “We’ve been swamped! We expanded our booth to have more room and it filled up right away with customers…like it is supposed to (with a smile),” said Greg Deering, president and co-founder, Deering Banjos. “Mostly we are seeing retail store owners and they are writing a lot of orders. Our sales this show are up over average, our numbers are really good.”
The number of new companies relying on the NAMM show platform grew again, representing 409 of the total exhibiting companies. In addition to the new-to-NAMM names, 174 companies returned after a lapse of a year or more.
The busy 2016 show provided many emerging brands with the ideal launch pad to meet new partners. “This is my first show and we’re really enthusiastic. It’s our first time to be able to make a good impression on buyers face-to-face. Many people have stopped by our booth in hall E. This morning (Thursday) I’ve already talked to five quality distributors who were extremely interested in our product,” said Renaud Sauzedde, Wild Custom Guitars, France.
One distributor explained how attending NAMM fuels her business year-round. “Over the years the market has changed along with how we do business. Coming here we can observe and keep up with those changes. We also find new brands to represent, of course. And we can ask our peers who might already represent these new brands for the experience in their markets, helping us to assess whether we can be successful with them too,” said Lynette McCullough, Keynote Music Sales, Ireland. “The timing is also so vital - it's the beginning of a new year, we get inspiration, fresh ideas, and renewed vitality for the year ahead.”
Increases in International
The NAMM Show’s global stature grew with 15,915 international registrants traveling to Anaheim from abroad, a 20% increase over 2015. Attendees came from every corner of the globe representing 125 different countries.
“Instead of going to various other shows we can see all the new products in one place, meeting old and new suppliers. It's very important for our relationships with existing suppliers that we come, and good for us to see new suppliers who come here, to keep expanding our business,” said Uche Ezeani, owner, De-Saints View International Co. Ltd., a distributor and retailer from Nigeria. “And since we sell to both other retailers and to end consumers it is vital to have access to the latest products first hand. I think we are regarded to be one of the best shops in Nigeria and it gives us a competitive advantage. Coming to the NAMM Show also means having the choice of the best quality of products. It's not all about the money though this is also about making and keeping friends. It's like a big school reunion.”
Exhibitors noted the international feel. "Half of the buyers we've been seeing are international, from places like Germany, Sweden, Israel...it's definitely a worldwide event,” Paul Vercellotti, Avid. “And this event is a whole lot of fun. It's the excitement and passion that gives this show a different vibe versus other trade shows."
While retailers and distributors come to NAMM to make purchase decisions, the show is also the place to see the big picture of where the industry is heading, and spot potential growth areas for the year ahead.
A trend in analog synthesizers made a major statement this year with a bustling neighborhood of small modular synthesizer brands and more established companies making it a focus. "The biggest thing is the analog synthesizer,” Mike Adams, president, Moog Music. "We're all seeing the change in the market, the analog synthesizer is a big thing."
The growth story for fretted instruments continued in 2015, with electric starting to catch up to its acoustic brethren’s hot growth. "We're adding lots of new electric strings - electric guitars are starting to make a comeback,” Jeff Sefton, president, Butler Music in Missouri. And the balance between analog and digital continues with greater variety in both. Sefton added, "We're integrating more analog-we tailor more to the entry/mid-level player, and they tend to want more low-end digital and some analogue pedals.”
The percussion world held a steady beat with buying interest meeting star power for many brands. The biggest drummers of our time including Questlove, Josh Dun, Tré Cool, Stewart Copeland, Carmine Appice, Josh Devine and many more stopped by the show.
With demos on every corner and big crowds, the DJ and pro audio software market appeared vibrant throughout. "I'm looking for new DJ controllers, headphones, speakers...this is the main show for us audio buyers,” said Kyle Kjensrud, Audio Category Buyer, Full Compass Systems.
NAMM Show Moments
Then there are those moments, moments that only happen at a NAMM Show, when you look over and a legendary artist is demoing an instrument right next to you. With hundreds of major stars attending the show to support their brand partners, there were more of those moments this year than ever before.
Where other than NAMM does the day start with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent, and Graham Nash on the same stage, as it did on NAMM’s morning NAMM U Breakfast of Champions. Legendary musician and songwriter Graham Nash shared personal anecdotes from his more than 50 years in music with a crowd of 1,522 industry leaders. “Graham Nash was breathing the spirit of NAMM and importance of music education, the importance keeping music in schools fresh,” said Anthony Cutietta, San Diego Music Studios.
“Weird Al” Yankovic hopped on stage for the inaugural NAMM Foundation Grand Rally for Music Education sharing honest insights and some laughs about his creative process with college students and educators. Evening award events including the 31st annual NAMM TEC Awards featuring Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Don Was, and Nathan East to the She Rocks Awards featuring Jennifer Batten, Amy Heidemann of Karmin and Chaka Khan added to the star-studded trade show’s allure.
The NAMM Nissan Grand Plaza Stage sparkled under a nearly full moon starting off with an intimate performance by Graham Nash. Dr. John & The Nite Trippers headlined the NAMM Foundation Celebration of Music Education in association with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Imagine Party on Friday. Saturday capped off with a sing-along set of classic rock hits by The Legends.
After the session, Nash headed out to a bustling NAMM Show, saying that his life’s work couldn’t happen without the businesses at NAMM, “I’m constantly drawn to the fact that these people are an incredible link in the communication chain. They play a very important role and we can’t do what we do without them. I know that and am very grateful for that.”