Is NAMM worth it still? Do trade shows need to evolve?
Are music trade shows still relevant?
Is NAMM worth it still? Do trade shows need to evolve and what’s their relevance in this digital age? With this year’s NAMM show being much smaller than in years gone by, many asked if this would be the last NAMM show. With a change in attitudes towards trade shows, does NAMM need to evolve?
Does NAMM need to evolve?
Historically NAMM was always a huge deal for the music industry with huge global brands mixing with big-name musicians. The whole music retail industry was invited along to come and see what was hot that year. Manufacturers got to court retailers for orders and we, the press, got the latest scoop on new products. Sounds great, right? Well, things have changed…
A smaller, more focused NAMM for 2022
If you’d visited NAMM in the past, then you’d have had a choice of two shows: Winter NAMM was always the big show, the one where everything was announced. Summer NAMM was a slightly smaller event, yet still with plenty of new gear to see.
This year NAMM 2022 converged the two shows into one; held over the weekend of 3 June and 5 June, it was half the size of previous shows with some noticeable brands missing from attendance.
The next NAMM 2023 show is being held between April 13-15 at the Anaheim Convention Centre. So, does this mean that from now on there will be no Winter NAMM and just the one show per year?
I would guess that brands like Fender, Gibson and PRS decided that they simply did not need NAMM this year. It is already well known that these brands are working hard to fulfil huge backorders going back up to two years for guitars. With full order books, the added cost and organisation of running a stand at NAMM is probably a headache they can do without at the moment.
Additionally, guitar sales during the pandemic and lockdown boomed with many retailers struggling to fulfil orders. You can’t help but have noticed how difficult it is to get your hands on certain music gear, right now. The global lockdown impacts supply chains for just about every industry. With raw materials harder to source and taking longer to arrive, that means costs increase significantly compared to pre-pandemic days.
Plus, many workers could not attend their workplace. many companies were often paying staff who were working from home, or who had to quarantine after a positive test. Costs for everything shot up. Then the global fuel crisis hit and prices are still rising.
Are Trade Shows still relevant?
We could write off trade shows and do everything online. We know this as many shows could not run during the pandemic, and all the major brands still flourished. They moved their marketing strategies online, leveraged social media and released new products virtually. Therefore, on one hand, the answer would be that we could do without trade shows.
However, I actually believe that as musicians the social aspect of trade shows is what is important. As there is nothing quite like talking directly to the people that make the gear we use. Putting their products in your hands, and allowing us to feel and hear the instruments in real life.
The Social Aspect
I would guess trade shows are still relevant. Just they may need to evolve and become more agile. I have experience running trade shows myself, as I ran a small music industry expo for many years in the UK. We ran with major companies like Yamaha, Fender, IK Multimedia, Korg and Roland, and we showed off the latest music gear and ran seminars and classes. The feedback was always positive, each year and the one constant was how great it was to speak directly with each other as musicians.
For me, the social aspect of trade shows is the most important element. Yes, we can see new gear online, and we can, kind of, hear it as well. What makes a trade show special is that social aspect, where you can share opinions in the real world and make lasting friendships with fellow musicians.
The Future of Music Trade Shows
So what’s the future of music trade shows? Well, I suspect that in the future, trade shows will need to become smaller, and potentially more focused on certain gear. A great example would be Berlin’s SuperBooth. which was very well received this year. Superbooth caters predominantly for synths, modular and otherwise with a fantastic atmosphere and social community in attendance.
Additionally, this year, there was a small guitar show running at the same time as Superbooth called SuperGrail. It was the first year for this guitar show and so it is still a small, fledgling affair. However, I can see it growing in the coming years…
As musicians, we need the social aspect of music shows; music is a creative outlet and so for me, the trade show is still relevant although in need of evolution. We live in a digital connected world with social media acting as a wonderful tool for many aspects of marketing.
Undoubtedly, the social aspect of shows is what will really benefit musicians in the long term. It’s my belief that smaller, more focused trade shows will become a lot more prevalent in the future.
What are your views on NAMM and trade shows? Do you still think they’re relevant in 2022? Drop us a comment below!
- NAMM 2022: NAMM
- NAMM 2023: NAMM
- NAMM 2022: NAMM
- Superbooth 2022, a sociable, lively, modern music trade show (photos credit Angela Kroell): Angela Kroell
Coming from the tech world where there used to be trade shows every week, it seemed, we definitely do not need them. The sole benefit is meeting face to face on deals, building relationships, etc – not on making product announcements or displaying wares. Virtual/web all works better for those things.
I have bought a lot of stuff over the past three years without the benefit of touching it first but I haven’t been happy about it. If I were a buyer for a chain or Indy music store I wouldn’t stake my business selling extremely high-touch products without the benefit of a high touch marketplace. I loved Moogfest and would love a chance to go to NAMM, Cinegear, or NAB in the next two years. A chance to meet someone like Dave Smith at a convention (as I did at Moogfest) can be very inspiring for a struggling music store owner, journalist, or weekend warrior.
On the other hand, Benn Jordan’s (the flashbulb) caustic video of a recent winter NAMM really captured everything we’ve come to hate about the current state of play in trade show conventions. Some trade show producers are going to have to have their careers ruined on the way to figuring out the next successful evolutionary increment as they fail at innovating the next hotness in trade show design. To continue with the current model is madness.
What do you mean by “those things”? If you mean computer tech, then I agree and websites/videos work well. If you mean all the musical instruments at a NAMM show, you’re totally wrong. Musical instruments need to be seen and heard and played. Web reviews are great for deep dives into details but for musicians – and the people who want to sell to them – it’s got to be hands-on. Also the chance to talk to instrument builders and designers and get questions answered that would be almost impossible in any other way.
It was also the chance to see and hear some famous people and run into folks I hadn’t seen in years.
Do i need to socialize through stores, trades, sales of gear, etc.? Am I a musician, producer, trader or buyer? That’s MY questions.
So the baton is tossed to this generation. Seems you are willing to let it fall. Somethings that are cumbersome to maintain are also worth preserving, because of tradition.You know like your grandparents. I’m sure it just be easier to let them go, but somehow you don’t why
Yes, the rich cultural tradition of manufacturer and retailer trade events… like the glass pickle or the Thanksgiving turkey, we must preserve it all costs!!
Name should be finally open to public,
that would be a big innovation!!
Agree! I went decades ago when I worked for Musicians Supply. I want to lay my hands on real equipment, not relying totally on video demos and sales hype. Also it’s fun to rub shoulders with the big boys and girls in music.
First, please check your auto-correct 🙂
Next, I’m pretty sure that the summer show has one day open to the public. They could try that at the Anaheim show but it’s already so huge that it would likely be a nightmare.
Us regular folks can’t get in NAMM,so who cares.
Trade shows are as much or more about vendor – component supplier connections than end customers. This rationalization is what keeps the shows alive today.
As owner of Trade Show Consultants for the past 40 years, there has always been ebb and flow in the trade show industry. Trade shows merely reflect the dynamics of industries and those companies who service them. The pandemic completely shut trade shows down but they are coming back. The trade show, with its origins in ancient town square markets might fluctuate, but they are hard to replace especially in providing opportunities for buyers to shop and sellers with live products to meet face to face.
I really like the direction Peter is going with his comment.
After going to at least 10 NAMM shows, Many of them during the time I worked for the former president of NAMM.
There are so many factors involved here, the pandemic exposed and accelerated the flaws of North America‘s beloved tradeshow.
While I do believe NAMM will rebound, I know most certainly it will look a lot different. And I think it all starts internally whereas a big change in philosophy and procedures need to take place.
NAMM has undergone so many different changes over the years, has the name recognition and market strength to carry on for many more.
I feel that one of the biggest factors that has been overlooked is how technology has changed the musical landscape at the same time developing newer genres of music which come with their own culture.
NAMM has to adapt. Superbooth is a very good example. No longer can NAMM continue with the mentality of “ we built this city on rock ‘n’ roll “.
Again they have the resources to make all the necessary changes. I think it starts from the top down with the leadership and philosophies.
It’s not just a ‘DJ thing’ anymore.
A complete identity system overhaul and facelift is needed. They have become more attractive to the merchants in the industry, because look now the watering hole is starting to dry up.
I think the ‘NAMM FESTIVAL’, could be an additional vitamin boost/transfusion of new life.
I could go on however I’m very grateful if you made it this far.
Be strong, The Music lives on.
The question could use further vetting, because, “Are tradeshows relevant in 2022?” Is different from “Are certain tradeshows relevant in 2022?”
In order for NAMM to continue, they need cut the cost to suppliers, change how trade pays for membership/tickets, and to turn it into the consumer show it really is and charge those non-trade folk in order for them to make the profit they seek. Oh, and have hand sanitizer stations every 10 meters.