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