After three long years, the NAMM Show returned to Anaheim. I had the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends, make new ones, and check out some excellent products and presentations. I’ve written about NAMM before and what it’s meant to me over the years.
NAMM-thrax Became Real
It’s not that NAMM has been completely missing since COVID turned the world on its head. In 2020, with the pandemic looming, the show took place in January as usual. The jokes of sales people catching the dreaded “NAMM-thrax” had an ominous feeling.
Of course, we know what came next. Less than two months after the show that brought people from all around the world together to shake hands, embrace, share instruments, test microphones, keyboards, trumpets, and more; we all found ourselves locked inside our homes. The Summer NAMM Show in Nashville was canceled and NAMM pivoted to prepare for an all-virtual show in January of 2021.
As we approached 2022, NAMM announced the main Anaheim show would happen in the summer instead of January. I was registered and ready to attend but after avoiding it for so long, I caught COVID right before the show.
I followed up with a few people after NAMM 2022 and found out the show was a far cry from the one we knew pre-COVID. International restrictions were still in place, Americans were still reluctant to travel, and even locals were uncertain about packing themselves into a convention. NAMM announced then their plans for reaching normalcy: 2023 would happen in April, 2024 would go back to January.
April 2023 could not get here fast enough! I joined the music industry in 2008 and not being able to surround myself with thousands of others who are passionate about music was painful. Once April hit, I began counting down the days until the 13.
The top reason the show exists is for its products. Whether you’re into brass instruments, electric guitars, electronic instruments, recording gear, or anything in between, the NAMM Show has you covered.
My attraction is always to synths. Noise Engineering, one of my favorite modular synth manufacturers, was missing this year. As was the legendary Moog. But Moog was moving out of NAMM even before we hit COVID so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Soma Synths and 4MS filled in some of that gap with exciting noise makers. The MIDI Association also had several tables with small synth demos.
The DJ area was popping off as always. Companies like Pioneer DJ and ADJ had DJs spinning while show visitors could test their skills on headphones. Others had the demo tables hooked up to speakers so anyone passing through could step in and show off what they could do.
Accessories giant and fan-favorite Gator announced it was expanding its reach into musical accessories by adding a line of cables to its product catalog. Whatever electronic equipment you use for music and recording, you can now almost exclusively turn to Gator for everything you need to transport it, protect it, play it, and connect it!
The Metaverse is Coming to NAMM
If you’ve read any of my work outside of Los Angeles Noise, then you’re aware of web 3 and how it will change the way we do anything. Web 1.0 brought about the change of seeing commercials on television guiding you to a website. Those that waited eventually had to scramble to get on the web.
Web 2.0 brought social media and again, companies that understood the opportunity, acted. They engaged with their audience, shared their products, connected with people who supported their products and had them share original content. Those that didn’t see it, complained people wasted time on social media and wondered why print advertising wasn’t working.
Web 3.0 promises to do the same as people navigate to a mixed reality world. And those who wait until it’s already here, will again have to scramble to figure things out.
Thankfully, there are some companies looking forward to how recording, playing, and enjoying music will change in the future.
One such company is Opus-Labs and its founder, Bryan Ottens, took some time to share his thourhgts with the crowd at NAMM’s Idea Center.
Ottens shared ideas for how manufacturers and retailers could take advantage of creating digital products or promotions in the form of NFTs. Manufacturers can offer digital versions of custom guitars, for example, while the physical product is being made. Buyers can share what their custom piece will be before it even arrives. In the near future, they may even use it in a VR rehearsal space.
Another company looking forward is Zylia. Their main product is a 3-dimensional microphone. It’s actually 19 microphones inside of a small globe designed to capture spatial audio, 3D audio, or ambisonic audio. Whichever term you prefer, it is the audio companion to create original recordings you can play inside of a virtual space. Your aural experience will then change as you move around a virtual space playing back what was recorded.
The buzz around the NAMM Show is unique. Children and adults who love music and aspire to play want to attend this show. Music fans who want the opportunity to see some famous musicians want to be here. And of course, some people just go to catch live music.
There are performances everywhere the duration of the show. Some are inside the halls, including at manufacturer booths. Others are on outdoor stages set up at the two ends of the convention center property. Some just happen as musicians stroll through the outdoor space and play just to be heard.
In the afternoon, when the business of the show winds down, things really get loud. As I walked out Friday to meet some friends, I ran into a drum circle that went on for close to an hour.
In the outdoor gathering space, there were various bongos, maracas, and tambourines set up for anybody to come up to and pick up. One conductor was at the center of everything guiding a performance made up of complete strangers gathering to pick up those instruments, clap, dance, or just watch the performance evolve. It was a brilliant percussive party.
From there, I was off to the Hilton Hotel lobby for drinks and later, the Marriott lobby. It was nearly 11 PM when I left and I didn’t go more than 5 minutes without live music that night.
Not All the Way Back
Despite all the fun of the show, I can’t say NAMM is all the way back. I don’t believe there will be a Summer NAMM Show in Nashville this year. It’s possible, we may have seen the end of that event for all we know.
There were areas of the Anaheim Convention Center not in use. NAMM used to take up every inch of that place. There were also notable absentees like Fender and Gibson. In an interview with Guitar.com, Fender CEO, Andy Mooney said the following:
“What we found was we were reaching 5,000 dealers, we were reaching much deeper into the organization, at just a fraction of the price [compared to the costs of NAMM], and we were doing more business.”
What’s Next for the NAMM Show?
Only time will tell if NAMM comes back strong. Some people believe COVID may have shown trade shows are a thing of the past. I’m not part of that camp, but I do believe the expected outcome of a trade show has to change.
Big companies can skip a show like this and get more out of it. But trade shows still help smaller companies find distribution, retailers, and new fans. They also provide an unparalleled experience to learn from others in the industry, network, and even for students to break into these industries.
As for the NAMM organization, the best thing about its return still comes down to its mission: the music. People attend this show from all around the world because of a passion for music. This is a passion that does not go away. We need a place to gather where all, regardless of skill level, are invited to make some noise!