From insightful, business-advancing professional development sessions and networking events, to the latest in new gear from established and emerging brands, the music products and pro audio industries convened in Nashville last week for Summer NAMM (July 18-20), the industry’s annual mid-year gathering.
NAMM members prepared for the year ahead through buying new products and making all-important reconnections on the show floor. Independent retail members advanced their market opportunity through professional development sessions reflecting the continued evolution of service business opportunities of lessons, rentals, repairs and installations.
“Summer NAMM seemed to highlight the important role of both the manufacturer and the dealer in maintaining a strong musical ecosystem,” says Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO. “While the marketplace is evolving rapidly, our manufacturer and retail members are adapting and finding strength in better understanding each other and finding new and innovative ways to work together to better serve the music-making community.”
The industry cross-section of retail and commercial members spanning music products, pro audio and technologies welcomed 16,001 members, a 7% increase in attendees, and notably, accounted for a 32% increase in international attendees. The show counted over 1,500 brands presented by 500 total exhibitors which reflected this interchange representing all facets of the industry, including AVID, BOSS, Hal Leonard, TransAudio, Martin Guitar, Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, and a collection of leading plugins at Software.NAMM. New exhibitors accounted for nearly 200 companies and included the likes of British Drum Company, GO Pedal Boards, Maton Guitars, Whitestone Audio Instruments, and many others.
“The Yamaha team really appreciates Summer NAMM for the time we have to spend with our dealers, the ability for folks to be able to actually play and experience our products, and the educational events that can help dealers propel their business,” says Tom Sumner, of Yamaha Corporation of America. ”We had dealers hanging out at the booth to check out the gear and really experience it. It was a great official launch event for our new Storiaand FG Red Label guitars.”
Chris Martin, C. F. Martin & Co. chairman and CEO says that the company “Enjoys Summer NAMM because it gives us a very supportive, but more intimate venue to meet with our customers and fellow industry influencers. Its Nashville setting provides for a week of music immersion that you can’t find in any other city in the country.”
“Our dealers are important to us…and since a lot of the products that we may have announced at Winter NAMM are likely to be shipping on or just before Summer NAMM, the platform gives us another opportunity to sell more products and release new ones,” shared Richard Factor of Eventide.
For a variety of new exhibitors, the vibrancy and intimacy of Summer NAMM led to new opportunities to put their products before an influential crowd of tastemakers. Ricky Mannion, of Morley House Studios, chose Summer NAMM as the place to help launch his company: “We were college roommates that decided we wanted to make mixing equipment that we always wanted when we were in the recording studio and wanted to bring it to Summer NAMM to debut….Every couple of minutes, we are talking to different companies, different recording studios, producers, and musicians – it’s a great way to jump in and meet the right people.”
Andrew Jones of Deity Microphones, a year-old company, echoes that sentiment: “We do a lot of broadcast tradeshows but we decided to come to Summer NAMM because we’re surrounded by other [microphone] exhibitors who really love what they do. You’re going to see innovations here that you’re never going to see elsewhere.”
“The response has been pretty awesome,” affirms Matt Richards of Square Amps, a boutique builder out of Austin, Texas that builds guitar amps out of old radios. “Everyone – everybody who walks through the door is a potential customer. It’s where I want to be.”
“You need to come to this show,” says Rand Cook of Candyman Strings and Things. “It’s a slower pace than Anaheim, we get a lot more time to talk to manufacturers, vendors, and it’s a real pleasure…I get to meet with higher-ups in the organization to really integrate on issues and plan for the future.”
Professional development opportunities abounded throughout Music City Center with NAMM U and TEC Tracks. Before the show officially opened, retail professionals of all levels of expertise took part in the Retail Training Summit: a mini-conference that dove into the most relevant and critical areas for music retail success, across six different tracks. “Through the Retail Training Summit and NAMM U, I learned about artificial intelligence, disruption, and the importance of making changes now and trying new avenues to see if they work. Anybody that is not here is really missing out,” affirms Tracy Leenman of Musical Innovations.
Once the show opened, members started each day with a NAMM U Breakfast Session. On Thursday, industry thought leaders explored the trends and practices that are transforming music retail with NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond in “Retail Disruptors.” On Friday, customer service expert and New York Times best-selling author Shep Hyken drew from his new book, The Convenience Revolution, and shared compelling strategies that businesses of any size can take on now to transform their customers’ experience in “The Customer Experience Revolution.” On Saturday, at the perennial favorite “Best in Show,” a panel of retailers and Music Inc.and UpBeat Daily magazine publisher Frank Alkyer shared the hot products from Summer NAMM that consumers will be buzzing about into the holiday season and beyond.
Retail members seeking the latest best practices and tips to supercharge retail music stores gathered at the NAMM Idea Center. A variety of thought leaders presented more than 25 topics, including “Music Lessons: How to End No-Shows Forever,” “Insider Secrets to Manage Your Reputation on Google, Yelp and Facebook,” “5 Ways to Level Up Your Instagram” and more. Paul Decker of Music Villa said that “I love the flow of it….there’s always something you can learn from a NAMMU session. Just walk over, see what’s of interest and listen.” “Summer NAMM sessions are an incredible tool for my business, shared Adam Reiver of FU-Tone.com. “From policy updates to the latest in digital marketing strategies, there’s always something new to learn.”
“One of the things I love about Summer NAMM is the opportunity to engage in the offerings of NAMM U. We are a ‘brick-and-click’ type of store, so we have a large showroom and a great local contingent of customers that shop both in person and online. It is really important that we have the opportunity to renew knowledge on how to best manage the entire retail operation because it is our ultimate goal to provide the best possible customer service, products, and in-store atmosphere. This also extends to our online business, as things that I learn about great retail management will also translate to our e-commerce as well,” says Brian Douglas of Cream City Music.
For audio professionals, TEC Tracks returned on Thursday and Friday with sessions designed to help professionals take their careers to the next-level. Notable sessions included “Deconstructing a Mix,” where Grammy-winning engineer Craig Alvin (Kacey Musgraves) walked the audience through how he builds a hit album; “The Making of Willie Nelson’s Grammy-Winning ‘My Way'” with producers Matt Rollings and Buddy Cannon, along with engineer Steve Chadie, who shared the stories behind the songs; “Immersive Audio and You,” which featured pro audio gurus John McBride and Greg Penny, who explored the world of simulated reality, natural-sounding sources and environments; and “The Pro Audio Entrepreneur Mindset,” with Sean Giovanni, owner of The Record Shop Recording Studio and Production Company in Nashville, who shared new ideas for audio professionals to improve their success in entrepreneurship, career development, finding and maintaining clients, and building multiple revenue streams.
Saturday offered a robust lineup of sessions curated for emerging artists to build successful — and sustainable — careers. Highlights of the day included a Songwriting Masterclass with John Oates of Hall & Oates; “Unleashing and Maximizing the Hit Songwriter in You” with Grammy- and Dove-nominated songwriter Thornton Cline; and “Pensado’s Place Live at Summer NAMM,” featuring Dave Pensado, Herb Trawick and hitmaking producers and songwriters Beth and Luke Laird and Ross Copperman. Combined, these hitmakers count 40 No. 1 singles with such artists as Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Eric Church and more.
Exclusive to Saturday, A3E (Advanced Audio + Application Exchange) presented the fifth annual Future of Audio Summit, featuring the game-changing technologies and ideas that are driving the evolution of musical products, pro audio and music-making. Highlights from the day ranged from “The Future of Production: Gamifying a Supergroup with The Fell” to issues of rights and licensing, with “Why Is Music Free and How Can We Get Back on Track,” and “Data Collection Is Key to Maximizing Earnings,” as well as others.
A variety of NAMM at Night events could be found in the Music City Center and around Nashville. On Thursday evening, at the 36th Annual American Eagle Awards, the National Music Council honored funk legend, George Clinton, the late beloved “Peanuts” composer and jazz piano giant, Vince Guaraldi, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Pianist George Winston offered a tribute in honor of Guaraldi and performed one of his iconic songs from “Peanuts:” “Christmas Time is Here.” Country hitmaker John Rich offered a touching tribute in honor of Clinton, and renowned Nashville singer-songwriter Liz Rose presented the Country Music Hall of Fame with the award. The three honorees were recognized for their contributions and commitment to the preservation of American musical heritage and culture.
On Friday, the industry gathered to honor their peers at the Top 100 Dealer Awards. Now in its ninth year, the Top 100 applaud the excellence and innovation found in music retail. This year, Cosmo Music Co. was named “Dealer of the Year.” Other “Best Of” category winners included Walt Grace Vintage for “Best Store Design;” ThomannMusikhaus in “Best Online Engagement;” Beacock Music Co. in “Best Customer Service;” and Ted Brown Music for “Best Marketing and Sales Promotion.” The “Music Makes a Difference” award, which honors passionate music education advocacy, recognized San Diego Music Studio for the store’s tireless efforts to encourage more to start making music and fewer to quit.
Upon acceptance of the “Dealer of the Year” award, Mark Herbert of Cosmo Music said, “It’s not just me, it’s my team. I have an amazing team of over 200 employees [and] they made this happen – they are unbelievable people.” When asked what his advice was for others who aspire to be Dealer of the Year, Herbert offered, “Something that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not really about me or my store, it’s about the industry – to increase the amount of music makers, to be inspired, and to grow our market.”
Three new submission categories joined this year’s Top 100 Awards: the “Innovation Award,” was awarded to Zeswitz Music; “Best Community Retail Store,” recognized Amro Music Co., and the “Top 100 Customers’ Choice Award,” which allowed fans and guests of each retail music store to vote for their favorite store, chose Anderton’s Music. Country Music Television personality Katie Cook hosted the evening, which featured a performance by American Idol winner, Danny Gokey.
On Saturday, July 20, Summer NAMM welcomed industry professionals from across the spectrum with the Make Music Experience. Attendees enjoyed curated professional development from Nashville insiders, and a stream of performances alongside top country songstress, Lee Ann Womack. Womack’s career in country music spans over 20 years and nine studio albums. Her most recent album, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone, was released at the end of 2017 and saw her praised by critics “as one of the most gifted vocalists in modern country music,” and the album was called “an album that’s bound to last.”
In a Parade magazine article, Womack shared that music education is a formidable force in not only improvement in core subjects but also has the power to do more. “Music reaches people on a level a lot of times that other types of education don’t,” she said. “It feeds your soul…as well as feeding your mind.”
MME attendees also had the chance to participate in communal music-making opportunities, including a guitar and ukulele circle, as well as perform on the Martin Guitar and Strings Open Mic Stage and experience Fender Play, an app for those learning to play acoustic and electric guitar, bass and ukulele.
Other notable events included Wednesday’s pre-show Georgia on My Mind Benefit Concert for the Georgia Music Fund, staring the Peach Pickers, and the SheRocksSummer Showcase; and Thursday’s Avid Connect Live After Party At Vintage King Nashville.
The music instrument, pro audio, and event technology industries will again gather January 16-19 at The 2020 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. The 2020 NAMM Show campus will welcome the Entertainment Services Technology Association (ESTA), the Audio Engineering Society and others, for four days of business, networking, and events. Registration will open at the end of August.