Founded in 1901, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the trade association of the international music products industry and boasts memberships from 9000 companies. The NAMM show is the music products industry’s trade show that is held every January in Anaheim, CA at the Anaheim Convention Center. It is a four-day event that features around 1300 exhibitors and 87,000 registered attendees. The NAMM association works toward growing the music products industry by taking revenue from trade shows and putting it into industry charities like advocacy and market-building programs to increase public awareness, and ultimately increase demand for music products.1 NAMM supports music education through their “Wanna Play Fund,” a non-profit program founded by the NAMM Foundation and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee which raises funds to strengthen music education programs and increase awareness about the importance of music education in the lives of children.2 NAMM also promotes scientific research into the benefits of music making through grants and scholarships from the NAMM Foundation.
Students focused on the recorded music business sometimes forget that there is an 18 billion dollar industry in music products. Since I first heard about the NAMM show in high school, I had been eager to attend, so I signed up for a badge in the Music Business Department at Berklee. After I finally arrived at the show and picked up my badge from will-call, I got my first glimpse of the energy of the music products industry. The enormous Anaheim Convention Center was completely packed full of people bustling around the halls and checking out all the new products from each of the 9000 companies. They all varied in size and extravagance. Some booths were simply a table and a banner, whereas others had ceiling high video screens and even upper level structures to hold their business meetings. Every booth was either buzzing with product demonstrations or crowded with spectators trying to get a glimpse of the celebrity that was endorsing that company’s product. Most notable of the endorsees that I watched were Victor Wooten for Presonus, John Petrucci for D’Addario Strings, and Weird Al for Shure Microphones.
At every booth I visited, every rep was energetic about their products and ready to show me everything that was great about it. As a performing musician, I was looking at these products for my personal use like most of the people around me. A good number of attendees were in music retail and looking at these products as possible inventory for their stores. I even ran into the manager of my local Guitar Center as he was meeting with Drum Workshop.
The NAMM show is extremely beneficial to business in the music products industry because it allows for maximum exposure to the customers and the retailers. The NAMM show is not just for checking out new gear, it is also a place to learn how to adapt and grow your business whether you are a producer of music products or a retailer.
The NAMM U aspect of the show featured Idea Center Sessions that took place on the main floor and started every 30 minutes. These “How To” sessions covered everything from presenting products to building a rapport with customers. After this year’s show, NAMM CEO Joe Lamond stated that this year’s show was especially strong, which signals for a strong 2010 and a comeback for the music products industry after the economic downturn.
I hope to be in attendance for NAMM 2011 with a few things in mind to maximize the experience: bring a group of people so you can all enjoy the products together, bring a camera so you can take pictures with your favorite musicians, and above all…wear comfortable walking shoes.
By Tim Woo