The Crossroads of Business Opportunity: The Global Music, Sound and Production Industries Create a Strong Future Together at The 2018 NAMM Show

January 29, 2018

The global leaders in the music, pro audio and event technology industries came together in Anaheim, California last week for the annual NAMM Show, a crossroads of business opportunities with innovative product debuts, fresh inspiration from over 500 educational sessions, and the immeasurable power of 115,085 registered industry professionals gathering to advance the industry forward over four days of the annual conference.

“NAMM members, alongside our partners and guests, deserve all the credit for creating such an incredibly powerful industry gathering,” affirmed Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. “The ‘crossroads’ of industry pros, coupled with the passion and dedication to drive business forward in new and innovative ways, ensures an exciting year ahead for all aspects of music making and production.”

The creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the industry was on display among the 7,000 brands and nearly 2,000 exhibiting companies on The NAMM Show Campus. Across the two convention center buildings and multiple levels, members had the opportunity to engage and interact with a variety of exhibiting companies. “For us, the whole ecosystem of music is so important, you can’t separate traditional from technology, you need both to succeed,” said Lauren Hendry Parsons of BandLab Technologies. “There are so many opportunities now for a musician with technology and we are really pleased to see NAMM embracing this.”

The sentiment was not lost on Adam Hall ProSound’s Nikke Blout who shared, “I think that NAMM is really the true epicenter for our business which is event technology. We are involved in all of M.I. - that’s pro audio, that’s stage equipment, that’s lighting - and we love the mix of customers. We also love the mix of global reach. The overall vibe of working with NAMM is very good…moving forward I see the NAMM Show being of more strategic importance to us.”

“Yamaha serves a lot of different tribes: drums, guitars, pianos, pro audio, school band and orchestra tribes just to name a few, and The NAMM Show actually unites them all”, said Tom Sumner, Senior Vice President of Yamaha. “That’s a big deal for us to reach all of that, at the same time. We get to show the whole company to all those different tribes.”

With business at the top of the agenda, the mixture of professionals and exhibitors from all aspects of the music industry welcomed new opportunities and meetings. Brian Vance of D’Addario shared that, “[NAMM] provides unsurpassed access to our customers and the media. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage with people who can help get our good word out there. Well, look, everybody’s smiling, we have a good energy, and a new booth with a new location and we’re loving it. We spend a lot of time with our international customers here…we have a lot of individual meetings and presentations.”

Jason Gano, National Sales Manager for Cordoba Guitars related: “The NAMM show sets the stage for our year. It’s a great time for manufacturers and distributors to engage directly with people who purchase our product, develop new product ideas and relationships, and see some awesome performances. For sales, it’s important to start the year off positively.”

The expansion of the show into the new Anaheim Convention Center North building saw increased pro audio and event technology participation contributing to a 9% overall growth of exhibitors at the show. The convergence of industry members on the floor in each new “neighborhood” was met with enthusiastic response for ease in getting from location to location, and for the sound quality control, that was also balanced with the palpable energy that permeated throughout the convention.

Lin Buck of Adamson Systems Engineering - an ACC North exhibitor - has been attending The NAMM Show for the past 15 years and shared that, "For years I've wanted something like this to happen. The expansion to pro audio and technology is so important because it's a different market but here at the show, it brings us together.”

First-time exhibitors also felt the energy. Jesse Gutierrez from Mega Systems, an event production company offering lighting, media processing and trussing, says that NAMM brings a new opportunity for their business: “I love it because it’s all about the gear and what musicians are into. To see a tradeshow revolve around music – from orchestras to full bands – it’s a great experience and opportunity for us.” Audio Fusion Systems’ Brandon Leafblad chose to debut the company’s new product at the show. “I sent out press releases in advance of the show and the response has just been off the charts. We have people contacting us from all over the world, it’s really exciting for us.” 

A Convergence of Energy and Innovation

As the foremost, reliable platform for business and launch opportunities for setting products before an international stage of artists, media and attendees, The 2018 NAMM Show provided multi-faceted opportunities for NAMM member exhibitors. “For Harman in the past, we were in a smaller room and we didn’t have the visibility with the crowds, and now that we are in this new open space to showcase our studio space, and areas for us to give a demo, it shows people that Harman has all of these solutions that people didn’t know about before,” shared Lea Bush, Marketing Strategist at Harman.

“NAMM’s the global gathering place. It’s where you go to find out everything about our industry on a global basis,” commented Larry Morton, President, Hal Leonard. “The diversity of the companies that are here from technology to traditional musical instruments, to publishing to artists, to management, to labels you’ve got it. I mean, it’s the one place you can go and touch all facets of the music business.”

International attendees increased by 8% with representation from over 100 countries totaling 19,356 registrants. As the steady, reliable platform, the show presented a valuable opportunity to convene and conduct business in a central meeting space: “The NAMM Show is the most important [show]. You get to meet so many of your distributors, the retailers selling your products, and musicians,” said Simon Campling of G7th Ltd. “It’s just wonderful to talk to so many people who maybe don’t know about your product, or have been in love with your product for years and just [to] connect with people. That’s what these shows are about, connecting with people on so many different levels.”

Attendees were a carefully curated mix of traditional NAMM members, including domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, event tech and pro audio professionals and buyers, media, artists, invited guests, NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students), Music Education Day (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and affiliates) participants. The convergence of the industry was met with enthusiasm as new innovations were revealed from all sectors of industry, as members also worked to establish new relationships. For exhibitors like Sabian’s Andy Zildjian, the gathering meant that “You have four days to meet the world. Anybody who has a stake in the industry is here: whether it’s distributors, manufacturers, retailers, players, everyone.”

“Well as a major supplier and vendor of products there’s no place else we’d rather be” affirmed Joe Castronovo of KORG U.S.A., “We have a large global presence with KORG and VOX… we see all of our international buyers come over. We see a lot of customers coming here from all over the world. It’s really an international booth and I’m sure for most vendors it’s like that too. There are so many things to do [at NAMM]. There are so many ways to connect with our customers and our friends in the industry. It’s really a great gathering place.”

KHS America’s Kevin Philbin shares that, “We love coming to The NAMM Show because we get to connect with all of our strategic retail partners that are consumers. At KHS America we have 20 brands of musical instruments, so we get to see a lot of diverse musicians of different musical fields, and educators. Connecting with them at this level is so important, we don’t get to do every day.”

For domestic and international buyers, and distributors, the show continues to serve as the most important event on their calendars for the newest products and brands available. “The NAMM Show is the most important place to meet our suppliers,” shared Grzegorz Rybicki of Music Info from Krakow, Poland. “Every half an hour I have meetings. I love it so much. This is the place where everything is happening. The spirit is here.”

Scott Parsons of the Worship Musicians Association says that The NAMM Show is a way to connect and streamline his purchasing: “[At The NAMM Show] I can look at new products and what's going on in the industry – equipment wise and product to streamline the whole [buying] process.”

TamTam Sonorisation’s Jean Davoisne says that as an international buyer, it’s all about in-person relationships: “To see new products and meet the brand owners, founders, exhibitors and interact more personally instead of sending emails, making phone calls, or having Skype conferences, business is better in person at the show."

“This year, we’re seeing a lot of interest from music teachers in our digital line and here at NAMM, it’s a great place to connect,” said Barbara Newsom, Schoenhut Piano Company.

Business Enhancing Opportunities for the Crossroads of Industry

From peer-to-peer networking events and best-in-class education, the show set the stage for inspiring participants over the course of the four days by offering over 500 educational sessions. NAMM Show attendees had the opportunity to participate in education provided by several NAMM partners at the new NAMM U Education Center in the Anaheim Hilton. Education partners and opportunities included sessions from A3E: Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange; Audinate Dante Training and Certification; Music Education Days, GenNext career development and the Nonprofit Institute from The NAMM Foundation; AES@NAMM: Pro Sound Symposium Live and Studio, curated by the Audio Engineering Society; NAMM U; TEC Tracks; and event technology sessions curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association), The Pro Production Sessions presented by Front of House and Projection Lights & Staging News magazines, as well as Lighting&Sound America/PLASA.

The inaugural AES@NAMM program, which included a mix of AES members and prospective new members, was a hit with attendees. The program included four training academies, a variety of tutorials and sessions, as well as whitepapers, resulting in more than 300 total sessions. David Scheirman, President of AES shared that, "With the professional audio industry growing and changing rapidly, we believe it makes sense for our Society's in-person gatherings to evolve as well. Considering the rapid advances that are taking place in the technologies and tools we use as audio professionals, there is nothing like direct, in-person exposure to the latest advances in audio equipment and workflow processes. This event was designed to provide a sampler of knowledge and hands-on training across the entire signal path, from microphone to speaker. We're grateful to see the enthusiastic response and solid support from across the audio equipment manufacturing industry in support of this inaugural event."

"For audio professionals, networking is typically first thought of in a technical sense, but networking with people is more important than ever. From my perspective, The NAMM Show is one of the biggest networking opportunities in our industry,” commented AES@NAMM Executive Chair and ATK/Audiotek President Michael MacDonald. “The AES@NAMM Pro Sound Symposium was designed to help AES members and non-members alike expand their ‘human network.’ Our program was formatted to merge in-person networking opportunities with hands-on training and expert tutorials about relevant topics affecting our industry today."

The Event Technology sessions, as curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services Technology Association), The Pro Production Sessions presented by Front of House and Projection, Lights & Staging News magazines, as well as programming from Lighting&Sound America/PLASA, gave emerging and established professionals the opportunity to learn from industry luminaries in a series of sessions and tracks. Lori Rubenstein, Executive Director of ESTA said that, “ESTA members are extremely pleased about the partnership with NAMM. Attendees are overwhelmed with the number and variety of free professional development opportunities. Member exhibitors have said they are seeing people here they have never seen at other shows. They are mining new markets, and most have already signed up for space in 2019.”

Terry Lowe, President of Timeless Communications, the Parnelli Awards and education partner, affirmed that sentiment: “From everyone I have spoken to, they all feel it has been a good first year. The Parnelli Awards were a smashing success which seems to have translated to the show floor!”

A3E: Advanced Audio + Application Exchange co-founder and conference chair Doug DeAngelis offered some insights into how the NAMM crossroads creates only-at-NAMM opportunities. “We strive to bring the brightest minds in music and audio technology together to shape the future of M.I., and that mission is an enormous success when we partner with NAMM. We had hundreds of developers, CTOs, CEOs and R&D professionals, engaging with high tech artists both on stage and in the audience. There was a tremendous exchange of ideas, which is what drives innovation across the board, from our Kickstarter start-ups, to the major M.I. manufacturers. We are looking forward to continuing the amazing relationship we have with NAMM.”

As a whole, NAMM members took advantage of the opportunities to enhance their business expertise: “The opportunity to attend sessions gives participants that next-level of opportunity from the best presenters with the tips and tricks of the trade,” commented Joe Cupka of Eastman Music Company. Ron Manus of Alfred Music echoed the sentiment: “I think The NAMM Show, by being this ecosystem of education for the retailer and education for the next level of employees, it becomes this complete environment and is what makes The NAMM Show so special.”

Before the show officially opened, retail business owners, managers, sales personnel, marketers and accountants participated in Retail Boot Camp (RBC). The “boot camp” training offered attendees two tracks: Sales, Marketing and Websites or Financial Management. Presenters included New York Times best-selling author and customer service expert Shep Hyken; digital marketing pioneer Larry Bailin; and financial experts Alan Friedman and Daniel Jobe of Friedman, Kannenberg & Co.

Each morning of the show, registrants were treated to inspiring business insights and key lessons learned from a variety of NAMM U Breakfast Session speakers. Thursday morning opened the show with the annual favorite, “Breakfast of Champions.” NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond took an up-close look at the people changing the music products industry, their trials and successes, and the importance of risk in business. Bob Weir, legendary co-founder of the Grateful Dead, was recognized with the “Music for Life” award, and in an interview spoke to the importance of risk as a “muse”: “If you’re always going for it, the muse is always leading you in some direction. If you have faith in your muse, you’re going to get somewhere — if you put shoulder to the wheel. Every artist of any stripe is a storyteller, and the way you weave it together represents what makes life worth living.”

Other Breakfast Session speakers included digital marketing visionary Mitch Joel, who spoke about “Disrupting Disruption: Future-Proofing the Music Industry,” (Friday); Marcus Sheridan, “The Sales Lion,” who shared transformative strategies in “The Digital Consumer: How Buyers Have Changed and What to Do About It,” (Saturday); and on Sunday, “Best in Show,” led by Upbeat Daily and Music Inc. publisher Frank Alkyer, which featured a panel of retail owners and professionals who presented their product picks from the exhibit floor.

Notable NAMM Moments

As the NAMM community prepared to gather for the show, the mission of NAMM came alive at the pre-show NAMM Day of Service. Held on Tuesday, January 23 at Orange Grove Elementary, the day supported the school’s administrators, teachers and students with a generous, member-enabled donation from The NAMM Foundation of $10,000 that will help to ensure that every child has access to music during the school day. Across the school’s classrooms, 23 NAMM members, including Foundation board member and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams, rolled up their sleeves and offered music lesson instruction with hand drums, guitars and ukuleles. For Tristann Rieck of Brass Bell Music the Day of Service is “such a rewarding experience. To see the kids get excited about making music is transformative. That’s what keeps me inspired to stay working to create access to music for all children.”

Once at the show, a variety of networking and musical events awaited members, including nightly performances on the NAMM Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage. The NAMM Foundation Celebration for Music Education kicked off all four days with a dazzling performance from indie rockers, OK Go.

On Friday, the Yamaha All Star Concert on the Grand welcomed Lindsay Sterling, Marc Broussard, Butch Walker, Shelea, Melissa Etheridge, Michael MacDonald, Sam Moore and others, and on Saturday, The NAMM Foundation and The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus presented acclaimed singer-songwriter Andy Grammer at the annual Imagine Party. At the start of the evening, funk legend Bootsy Collins performed “Together We Can” alongside children from Anaheim’s Loara Elementary and Country Club Hills (Chicago), who received a visit from the Lennon Educational Tour Bus last year.

On Friday, The Parnelli Awards debuted at The NAMM Show, honoring event tech professionals across 22 categories, including Billy Joel’s long-time Production Manager, Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lighting designer and innovator, Jonathan Smeeton (The Rolling Stones, Marilyn Manson, Jane’s Addiction, Taylor Swift), received the Parnelli Visionary Award; and DiGiCo technical director John Stadius was honored with the Audio Innovator Award. The same evening at the House of Blues, the sixth annual She Rocks Awards recognized notable women in the industry, along with artists Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, and the B52’s Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, among others.

At the Grand Rally for Music Education on Saturday morning, singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton was recognized with the SupportMusic Champion Award. At the event, she shared her thoughts on the creative opportunities that music provides:“…It isn't a secret that all humans gravitate toward music. Even people that can't hold a tune love to sing. Music is stimulating and healing to the human brain in ways we can't explain. For this reason alone I believe every student should have access to a music class. And no one is ever too old to take up an instrument,” said Carlton. “I was the daughter of a piano teacher and I saw my mom change people's lives with her lessons. She taught a huge range of people, from age three to 60. I am devoted to creating greater access to music education in whatever way I can, because music is a profound form of connection to ourselves and to others."

The special day also included two incredible performances by Country Club Hills school children, The Manhattan School of Music and Bernie Williams. The group performed “Unbreakable,” a song written by the students of Country Club Hills. Closing out the morning was vocal trio, FORTE (Josh Page, Victor Ryan Robinson and Alok Kumar), who delighted the audience with their a capella performance. The morning also marked the presentation of The Don Johnson Award, presented by Musical Merchandise Review and School Band and Orchestra magazines, to NAMM Foundation secretary-treasurer and Founder/President of Sweetwater, Chuck Surack.

Later in the evening, the NAMM TEC Awards recognized 31 categories of products and projects in the areas of Technical or Creative Achievement, and the individuals, companies and technical innovations used in sound recordings, films, broadcast television and video games. Winners included JBL, PreSonus, QSC and others. A complete list is available here.

At the TEC Awards, Jackson Browne was recognized with the Les Paul Innovation Award, an honor which is given to individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology in the spirit of the famed audio pioneer, inventor and musician, Les Paul. Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation, shared that it’s an award that Paul would have very much enjoyed bestowing to Browne: “Jackson Browne’s success as a singer, songwriter and guitarist has had a prolific impression on the music industry throughout his successful career. Like Les Paul, Jackson has never shied away from expressing his emotions or thoughts through his music. I have no doubt that Les would have liked to share a few jams with Jackson along the way.” Upon accepting the award, Browne said, “It means so much to be honored by you because I’ve relied on the kindness of engineers and their knowledge in the studio and equipment my whole life. These people know everything I don’t know but they put their technical expertise at the service of the music - at the service of the song. I am indebted to them and I’m indebted to you all who make the gear.”

Along with Browne, the four of the “Knights of Soft Rock,” The Section, were inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame: Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Craig Doerge (keyboards), Leland Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums). Comedian and occasional musician Demetri Martin served as host and offered numerous humorous quips throughout the evening.

Future Forecast

Looking ahead, The Summer NAMM Show will return to Nashville’s Music City Center June 28-30. Later in the year, NAMM Musikmesse Russia will return to Moscow September 13-16, and Prolight + Sound Russia will commence September 13-15. In 2019, The NAMM Show returns to Anaheim January 24-27, 2019.



About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of approximately 10,300 members located in 104 countries and regions. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance active participation in music making across the lifespan. For more information about NAMM, please visit, call 800.767.NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.