The music product industry returns to businesses in every corner of the globe with a renewed confidence following the 2014 NAMM Show held in Anaheim, Calif., January 23-26. Promising signs of revitalization brought together more than 5,000 brands from around the world looking to reach the global buying audience found at the NAMM Show. Expanding product categories such as technology-driven music products and emerging brands pushed the show to its one of its largest and most diverse editions ever.
“As the global platform for the music products industry, the NAMM Show is an annual checkup for what is happening in the music marketplace worldwide,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM. “A focus on doing business reflected confidence among buyers and manufacturers alike. Fortified with NAMM U education, networking and fun opportunities that only occur at the NAMM Show, NAMM Members expressed to me a renewed spirit for the year ahead. I believe that the stage is set for growth in 2014.”
Emerging brands, growth in pro audio and the music technology category, and an increase in international exhibitors, converged for the second -highest exhibiting company number ever. In total there were 1,533 exhibiting companies representing 5,010 Brands. Meeting those brands was a 2% increase in buyers over 2013. Buyers arrived in Anaheim focused on rebuilding inventory after a strong school music season, and on building up categories currently experiencing strong consumer demand. In total, 96,129 members of the music product industry registered for the 2014 NAMM Show.
Exhibitors noted that crowds arrived eager for new products and ready to get down to business. “I don’t know what’s going on, but this year is phenomenal; we have been slammed! The buyers are buying!” said Ari Baron, vice president of marketing for Eastman Music Company. Dave Smith of his eponymous instrument brand also saw a lot of traffic, “NAMM is the only trade show we attend. This is it — the hub of our outreach, our PR, our marketing. We meet with our current dealers, sign up new dealers, and show artists our new instruments so they can play them and hear how they perform. We’ve been incredibly busy the whole show!”
Retailers large and small return to their businesses with new product lines and categories that will hit shelves in a matter of months. “I’m most focused on meeting up with major suppliers that I’ve done business with or do business with and seeing what they’ve got––new products in particular,” said Richard Ash, CEO of Sam Ash Music. “We are also looking for new companies that come out of the woodwork and have a product that will break through to the marketplace. If you’re a musician, it’s the ultimate kid in a candy store thing.”
In addition to products, retailers search for valuable ideas gleaned from five full days of educational offerings. “I come for inspiration and I always find it,” said Rob Kittle of Kittle’s Music in North Platte, NE. “I find products I never knew were out there. The buying I do and the things I see at the NAMM Show definitely influence my business for the year.”
Rob Joseph, president of the manufacturers’ rep firm the R. Joseph group, saw a renewed interest in buying across the diverse categories they represent. “I saw more traffic on Thursday and Friday than any year that I can remember in a decade. Buyers and manufacturers are substantially more optimistic and that is reflected in the overall tone of the show.”
NEW TO NAMM
New entrepreneurs and categories entering the music market brought 303 new exhibiting companies to the show. Video giant GoPro made its NAMM Show debut to introduce a new line of mounts designed to capture musical performances. “We chose to launch our new music products at the NAMM Show because the entire industry is here,” said Neil Dana, GoPro’s director of international sales and music. “This is the place to make a statement in the industry and enter the market.”
First-time exhibitor Matsikas Music House found a solid reception for its intricately inlaid Greek bouzoukis. George Matsikas brought his handcrafted traditional instruments to NAMM to explore the potential for growth in the U.S. market. “We’ve met so many musicians curious about the bouzoukis, and dealers intrigued by the possibilities. The United States has so many music people. We’ll certainly come back in 2015,” he said.
NAMM Membership and in turn the NAMM Show is increasingly global, as reflected in the 6% increase in international attendees. Kevin Ross of C.B.I. Professional Wiring Systems exhibited at NAMM specifically to connect with international distributors. “It’s one of the main reasons why we come to NAMM, and we do realize a significant return on our investment.”
The global scope of the NAMM Show is most clear walking the show floor. This year 636 exhibitors from outside of the United States made up more than one-third of the total exhibiting companies. These companies come from 49 different countries to unveil their brands’ new products at the show.
“People have this passion and belief in helping people make music, and it all comes from NAMM,” said Jon Gold of Music Force Distribution, The Academy of Sound and The Music Store in the U.K. “It’s a must-do in the calendar for the year. We’re living in very challenging times, however when you come here on the show floor and you look at people with the passion they have for it, we’ve just got to communicate—we’ve got great products, it’s a great industry, it’s exciting. And so coming to NAMM gives you what you need to get back on the treadmill and do it.”
HANDCRAFTED TO HIGH TECH
Traditional instruments of every shape and size share the NAMM Show stage with high-tech wunderkind brands and the latest DJ products. As the way people learn to play and make music in new ways, the two worlds are more interconnected than ever before.
Fretted acoustic instruments and DJ gear are enjoying strong demand at retail, which carried over to vibrancy across categories on the NAMM Show floor. Bruce Weber of Weber Fine Instruments noted that a large segment of customers trying out his fretted, acoustic mandolins were a younger group. “Kids, really” he said. “We’ve noticed the trend to a younger crowd who are turning to back to acoustic music as a creative challenge instead of the gaming. And they’re good! We are having a blast here. Best winter NAMM we have ever had.”
“We are looking to expand our uke offerings and entry acoustic, but also looking for more technology products, especially DJ gear,” said Joe Pritchard of the Pritchard Music Academy in Gaithersburg, MD. “We have realized that we need to have the DJ segment offered.”
The Grand Plaza, unveiled in 2013, was reimagined this year as a more intimate networking area by turning the stage around to face the Convention Center. NAMM Members made good use of the area, soaking in the southern California sunshine and meeting with friends old and new over good food, great music and craft beers.
After dark, performances by Jonny Lang, Sheila E., and Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen brought attendees together with rocking live music. Friday’s TEC Awards ceremony welcomed industry insiders to honor sound production and performance pros, while DJ performances, acoustic artists, drum circles and more rounded out the entertaining diversions.
Educational sessions primed attendees for success. “It’s always good to come see what’s new, but it’s also fun to put a face with a name or voice,” said Bob Williamson, owner of Symphony Music Shop in Dartmouth, MA. “We saw some friends at the breakfast sessions we did not expect to see, which was a delight. I’m going home with some new ideas, and some good friendships!”
NAMM Members crowded opening-day’s Breakfast of Champions, where industry leaders spoke about ‘breakthroughs,’ West Music Company President/CEO Robin Walenta gave a heartfelt address, and Music for Life winner Smokey Robinson made a surprise appearance. “There’s nothing more effective than listening to the great leaders of your industry to help you decide what’s working, what’s not, and how to change things up in the pursuit of excellence,” said Menzie Pittman of Contemporary Music Center in Virginia.
SEE YOU NEXT TIME
The excitement continues in Nashville when Summer NAMM returns to the beautiful Music City Center July 17-19. Plan to take advantage of international opportunities at NAMM Musikmesse Russia (Sept. 11-14, 2014) and ProLight + Sound NAMM Russia (Sept. 11-13, 2014). The NAMM Show returns to Anaheim January 22-25, 2015.