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Big Surprises at NAMM 2013

Feb 8, 2013 5:27 PM, By David Keene

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Winter NAMM has waxed and waned over the years in terms of importance to the pro audio community—especially the live event/PA side of the industry. That’s not to say the show has not always been a key event on the calendar. It has always been a key event. But for years many in the pro audio community have felt that the show is not quite living up to its potential. If you go back five or 10 years, there was a general feeling among technology-side exhibitors that more could be done with education at the show, with a stronger showing for live-event production technology and even more attention given to the increasing crossover between recording and production technology and installed AV.

That was then. This is now. This year’s show, which took place Jan. 24-27 at the Orange County Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., blew me away. A veteran of many NAMMs, last month’s event showed me that this is not the old, staid if noisy event more tuned to tubas, cymbals, and $200 guitars than to pushing the technology, education, and marketing envelope.

Pick the part of a tradeshow you think is crucial to a successful event. Education track? NAMM has made huge strides and now has very unique educational sessions. Not so much on the traditional side with a bunch of attendees checking email on their smartphones while pretending to look at endless PowerPoints, but many panel-style sessions where real-world issues are directly addressed from all angles. Strong showing of key manufacturers on the floor? They were all there. Demo rooms for exhibitors off the show floor? Most the key audio manufacturers had nice, quiet spaces to check out new products up close. Networking? If you can’t find new folks to network with at NAMM, you need to find a new line of work—nothing brings people together like music. Opportunity to see/hear/touch gear in venues not just in demo rooms but off the show floor? NAMM’s “Hot Zone” is something we should see at more tradeshows: It’s not just static gear in booths or gear in demo rooms controlled by the manufacturers, but in classroom with hands-on instruction, not PowerPoint instruction. Strong international attendance to broaden your business horizons? Exhibitors and buyers from 90 countries from around the world. 492 of the exhibiting companies were from beyond U.S. borders.

Based on member feedback last year, NAMM made an effort to increase buyer (blue) badges and decrease guest (yellow) badges to create the most business-friendly event possible this time. According to NAMM’s post-show press release, buyers at NAMM 2013 increased 4 percent over 2012 while non-industry guests decreased 16 percent. The important increase in buyers was attributed to more retail music stores, corporate buyers including houses of worship, live event venues and touring professionals, casinos, and studios sending buyers to shop the NAMM Show.

The new mix resulted, according to NAMM officials, in 93,908 total registrants. Very Impressive.

“We were approached by many potential new business partners, so it became an even broader type of business show,” said Tony Moscal, general manager of business development for Peavey. “We’re glad to see that NAMM’s provided with a full representation of an industry business show in addition to traditional retailers.”

Read more about David Keene’s adventures at NAMM 2013

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