How The NAMM Show, GenNext, and the PIA Shaped My Career

David De Cristofaro (Hypebot Contributor)

I first learned about The NAMM Show while earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Music Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology at the University of The Arts in Philadelphia.

I discovered a passion for innovation at the intersection of fan experience and music’s consumer culture through my digital distribution and media industries classes. As my interest in innovative tech solutions grew, so did my interest in attending The NAMM Show, as I’d see a group of students and school administrators travel to Anaheim each year for this event.

I quickly realized I didn’t fully understand the scope of NAMM and its show until I arrived.

When I stepped foot in the Anaheim Convention Center, I was in awe at the larger-than-life show. The community atmosphere at this event brings a tremendous amount of people together from so many corners of music. It’s the premier event in our industry, both in terms of the show itself and the programming. The convention floor alone is full of varieties of music instruments, goods, and technology ranging from smaller, more focused, and specialized brands to household names. In addition, artist brand partnerships were widely visible and present in a way I’ve never seen elsewhere but in the music products industry.

Even with so much to offer on the convention center floor, I didn’t explore the show floor until the last day. As unbelievable as that might sound, it was with good reason. One of the best values of both the show and the music industry is the professional education and programming that surrounds the floor. Nowhere more so than in its GenNext and professional development offerings.

An entire conference schedule is interwoven into The NAMM Show, packed with high-value topics, speakers, and panels. Some of the leading thought leaders and industry drivers in music, business, technology, and education share their unique perspectives and experiences and provide invaluable insights and knowledge that can streamline and advance one’s developmental trajectory. Adding that value to my growth as a student was both supplemental to and a defining moment in propelling me forward into advanced learning.

My participation in the GenNext program and experience as a President’s Innovation Award recipient helped things take off. I worked hard studying the history and applications of technology at the intersection of music and consumer culture both at UArts and in my post-grad studies in music marketing and media ecosystems with Berklee College of Music. I advanced those studies and developed my skills at The NAMM Show when exposed to a schedule of that magnitude. Another critical component was the access to key professionals and their input and feedback, making meaningful network connections with them and with fellow students and President’s Innovation Award (PIA) winners from around the country who would become my professional peers and friends.

The NAMM Show was vital in building a professional community and filling in any gaps in my education. My experience laid the groundwork for the next stage of my education at Berklee. It also allowed me to audit grad classes at USC alongside MIT Professor Henry Jenkins and Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. Ultimately attending The NAMM Show became the cornerstone in the foundation for a career in music innovation. The lasting impact of being a PIA winner has been visible throughout my career development since then, and the possibilities remain endless.

I have gone on to work on innovative VIP fan experiences on artist tours, including Muse’s award-winning 2019 Simulation Theory VR experience. I have also helped facilitate XR immersive activations by creative directors and companies like Intel and HP at The Lab and Dome at music festivals with Goldenvoice and worked on some of the biggest productions in the world like the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show which featured a fully immersive 360-degree VR live streaming experience powered by Verizon, events for GRAMMY® week, and most recently the world’s first NFT-gated music and arts festival.

The professional path I’ve been on since first submitting for the PIA is traced back to the first answer on my application. I was asked to “Describe the one interest or activity (in or out of school) which has engaged most of your time and energy within the past three years and to which you have made the strongest commitment.”

My answer was simple and to the point. “The study of technology in paving the way to the future in the creation, performance, recording, and distribution of music.”

I expounded how creative tech tools have empowered people from all walks of life to make music, giving broad, global accessibility to the general consumer public and musical creatives at different levels of know-how and from every culture and class system. Finally, I spoke to the potential of what is possible through creating more multidimensional and dynamic media, music, and music-related content that interfaces between digital and physical spaces and experiences.

You would be correct in saying I never stopped believing this to be true - nor did I lose sight of that vision that carried me forward to where I am today and where I’ll be tomorrow.


David De Cristofaro is participating as a panelist with leading industry professionals at the Careers in Music Summit on June 4 hosted by NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond. To register for The NAMM Show, please visit https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2022/attend.