First, they show you where to get ear plugs. Then, Eddie Van Halen walks by. It’s the 2013 NAMM Show, the 109-year-old event for the music industry that brings together instrument and equipment manufacturers and buyers as well as vibrant music community.
Owned and produced by the National Association of Music Merchants, it took place Jan. 24–27 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Music hits you long before you step onto the showfloor.
“How do we control the decibel level of exhibitors? We have sound control guys, all with pro firefighter and paramedic background,” said Kevin Johnstone, NAMM trade show director.
The 2013 show featured 1,500 exhibitors, with some 30 percent from outside of the U.S, on more than 518,000 net square feet of space. Attendance was expected to be on par with 2012 at about 95,000.
In its 35th year in Anaheim, the event spilled over onto four stages at the nearby Hilton and Marriott Hotels that host numerous concerts and jam sessions.
This year, much of the action was happening at the new Grand Plaza, more than 100,000 sq. ft. of beautiful outdoor space between the two hotels and the convention center.
It was packed for the evening concerts on the Main Stage and in the afternoons, the crowds enjoyed live music while digging into California-style fare from the food trucks.
To combat the issue of counterfeit badges, registration this year was set up at the two hotels and badges and IDS were checked at the entrance to the convention center.
Another distinct feature of the show is that there are no sponsorships, except for a few digital products.
“When a marketing manager is asked to cut 20 percent from their budget, they won’t cut line items for each show. They’d cut then entire show,” Johnstone said. “We’d never want that to happen to us. We make enough money.”
There’s plenty of visual and auditory overload without bright banners here as classic instruments meet tech-driven products and technology.
One of the fastest-growing segments of the show is musical apps and online lessons, inspiring more than a quarter of people between eight and 21 to learn to play, according to a recent Harris Poll. NAMM mirrors this trend with its App and Gaming Pavilion.
“Our company does video training, but we still come out here to connect to people face to face,” said exhibitor Lauren Lochtefed with Lynda.com, an online education startup that got a $103 million in funding earlier this year. “This is a perfect audience for us.”
U.K.-based exhibitor Howard Bragen with Log Jam Music Ltd. aaid he was at NAMM for the atmosphere, as much as for demonstrating his new products.
“We like to come here because this is where it all began,” he added. “Our audience is guitar players and they are here. It’s good fun too. A lot of music in the evenings. “
Attendee Leon Tan with Cypress Semiconductor Corp. said he sees strong growth in connecting the passion for music with ubiquity of mobile devices.
“People who create music are using mobile devices, which drives the development of new products,” he added, “ It’s a robust market segment. Even when the economy is soft people still love to make music.”