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Innovation and Inspiration on Display at The 2019 NAMM Show

During the course of four days at The 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, from Jan. 24-27, the global leaders of the music products, pro audio, and event technology industries gathered at the crossroads for new product introductions, business opportunities, networking, and fresh inspiration from over 400 educational sessions, as 115,301 registered industry professionals committed to serving the music community and advancing the industry forward in the year ahead.

“We live in accelerated times in technological developments and global business and market conditions, and that can create unpredictability in any industry,” says Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. “However, if you take a look around The NAMM Show, one could find many reasons to feel quite comfortable about the importance of music around the world and future of the music products industry. From the exciting innovations of our exhibiting members, the creativity of our retail members in finding enhanced ways to serve their communities, especially music educators, to the expanded live sound, lighting and event tech professionals and companies who made the trip to Anaheim, the connections, business opportunities, and education offered each the tools needed to succeed in the year ahead.”

With business at the top of the agenda, the show welcomed over 2,000 exhibiting member companies, representing 7,000 brands. NAMM's realigned member badge allocations to ensure an enhanced professional attendance resulted in a more focused business experience with a slight increase in attendees and achieved a targeted year-over-year increase of 14% in international participants recognizing the global importance of The NAMM Show. Attendees were an invited mix of industry professionals, including domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, event tech and pro audio buyers and professionals, media, artists, invited guests and The NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students), Music Education Day (school music administrators and buyers), and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and affiliates) participants.

Positioned as the first show of the calendar, the strong turnout of domestic and international buyers and distributors points especially to the importance placed on The NAMM Show to see the latest products and brands available, and the excitement of when the industry gathers together: “For four days, the centre of the music universe is right here at The NAMM Show where we’re connecting with our top customers and artists,” says David Glaubke of HARMAN Professional Solutions. “This continues to be the premier event to launch products that will shape how music is made, performed and recorded for years to come.”

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[Ed Sheeran at the Lowden Guitars booth. Photo: Getty Images for NAMM]

“The NAMM vibe goes way beyond just presenting your product–it’s about creating energy and moments for our Gibson players,” adds James “J.C.” Curleigh of Gibson. “You create the memories, and they stay with people forever. It’s pretty exciting.”

“NAMM 2019 was a landmark show for Yamaha. You could say it was a year of growth for us. After witnessing the excitement and energy in the audio-focused North Hall last year, we added a new booth this year dedicated to our Yamaha and Nexo Commercial Audio solutions. We met with lots of old friends and found some new ones at the North Hall booth,” offers Tom Sumner of Yamaha Corporation of America. “We also added a separate display for Ampeg bass amps. The crazy-big 14-ft. tall SVT was a popular display in the Marriott lobby and the Ampeg booth was packed from opening to closing every day…. A big show for Yamaha indeed.”

The mixture of professionals and exhibitors from all aspects of the Crossroads welcomed new opportunities and meetings that can only happen when the industry gathers together. For first-time international exhibitor, Josefina Daly of Tierra Audio, the Show presented a plethora of new opportunities: “There’s an incredibly interesting group of people that we’ve met. Yesterday, I was talking to a leading studio producer who invited us into his studio to try the device with his current system. And then, a television producer came to talk to us about his show and our product. It’s such an exciting opportunity for us to meet so many different people.”

“We launched the KSL System, the new addition to the SL Series, our top range concert line array series. This was d&b audiotechnik's most significant product release outside of Germany in the company’s history. We chose The NAMM Show for a launch of this stature because the timing and location of NAMM is so well suited to our global market,” says David Claringbold of d&b audiotechnik. “We have been inundated with people wanting to get up close to the KSL system and talk with our people on the booth and have had a packed demonstration room for our d&b Soundscape Immersive technology presentations. We look forward to returning next year.”

“We are excited about the amount of traffic we are getting on the main floor. We’re highlighting a lot of new technologies, applications, and products this year. The purpose of coming to NAMM changes depending on the business climate and what products we have going on. This year we’re focused primarily on key influencers and creating excitement for the new products,” commented Chris Halon of Roland.

“We get to see people from all over the world in one place and while here, we also get to do a little bit of market research. We ask our users, dealers and distributors ‘what if? What should we be doing next? What should we change?,’” said Albert Margolis of Lynx Studio Technology. As an exhibitor in ACC North he noted, “This works out well because the traffic that comes through tends to be highly qualified professionals of the trade who are using our equipment or could be using our equipment.”

Andy Munitz of Sony Pro Audio said, “I love this show, there are so many types of customers that come through, people that have used our products for years and love them and people that also want to learn about the new products constantly. We have video people recording performers, engineers, singers, musicians, you have quite the cross-section and that’s great for allowing us to promote our product and of course at Sony since we make so many different kinds of products.”

“We love coming to NAMM, and meeting with our existing customers, getting some nice face-to-face time. It feels like a reunion for people across the globe getting together year-after-year. And we are really excited about new customers, new accounts that we are opening or existing accounts that we are talking to that are unaware of some of the new things that we’ve been doing at Hal Leonard,” said Allison Roy of Hal Leonard.

Retailers too were on the lookout for the latest in exhibitor offerings: "It's [been] a great show - very productive and the vibe is great. The face-to-face contact is invaluable. Being able to meet with everyone, shake hands, and build those relationships and also get creative with new products, and what we're going to do for the year to increase business- this is the place to do it," said Glenn Noyes of Guitar Center.

“At the end of the day, Reverb doesn't exist unless there are passionate musicians, retailers, manufacturers, and more who are excited about buying and selling music gear on the site. The NAMM Show gives us a unique opportunity to meet with and celebrate the buyers and sellers who invite Reverb to be part of their lives, whether through the business that they do on the site each day or the big gear purchase they made to take their playing to the next level,” stated Jim Tuerk of Reverb. “We're in regular communication with our customers throughout the year, but there's something really special about getting the opportunity to hear success stories and talk strategy face-to-face. It's also incredible to see so much of the industry come together to learn from each other and connect. We're all working to get more instruments into the hands of current and aspiring musicians, and the NAMM Show is a testament to the fact that we're all in this together.”

Education Program

Benefiting from best-in-class education and connecting with top thought leaders, industry professionals were inspired over the course of four days through 400-plus educational sessions designed to engage, inform, and spark new ideas, as well as to further their careers and prepare for the future against the backdrop of the industry’s global gathering. Education partners included A3E: Advanced Audio+Applications Exchange, Audinate’s Dante Training and Certification, the Audio Engineering Society’s AES@NAMM: Pro Sound Symposium Live and Studio, and TEC Tracks for audio production, along with 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, and Lighting & Sound America/PLASA.

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Each day of the show began with a NAMM U Breakfast Session. On Thursday, Jan. 24, Joe Lamond hosted “Breakfast of Champions,” where he and pioneers in the music products industry explored the concept and power of originality and Nancy Wilson was presented with the Music for Life award, an honor annually given to a musician whose body of work and legacy has inspired music makers. In her interview with Lamond, Wilson spoke of her early inspiration: “As a kid, when The Beatles happened, it was a lightning bolt that struck us, and we were driven to have guitars, to write songs, to be in a band and get up on stage and to just turn it up. We had the work ethic of go get ’em and to not take no. We just went and did it.” Wilson also fondly remembered her childhood music store and the staff who made her feel welcomed and encouraged her: “There was a little music store I could walk to Band Stand East near Seattle, it was a mom and pop. They had really good guitars, and I got to hang around and play them.”

Friday’s Breakfast Session welcomed leading futurist and innovation expert Daniel Burrus, who unpackaged “what’s next” in music retail and supply with “Transforming the Music Industry: Trends, Game-Changers, and Opportunities,” and on Saturday, marketing, sales, and branding expert Scott Stratten addressed the “disruption” factor and how trust, connection, consistency, and service to your customers are what wins in a hyper-competitive environment in “How to Win in the Age of Disruption.” On Sunday, the annual favorite “Best in Show,” led by Upbeat Daily and Music Inc. Publisher Frank Alkyer and a panel of retail store owners and professionals, shared their product picks from the Show floor.

NAMM U: For Members, by Members

Before the show officially opened, nearly 500 NAMM retail members attended the new Retail Innovation Summit. The all-day Summit presented a future-forward education experience, hosted by world-renowned retail guru Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” and covered top trends, including the new technologies, retail shifts and more shaping the customer experience, and offered solutions for scaling business to meet them. Throughout the Show, the idea generation continued for retail members in the NAMM Idea Center. Located in the lobby of the Anaheim Convention Center, NAMM U offered more than 40 different sessions all day through Show hours. Sessions featured thought-provoking ideas, tips, and tricks proving successful in retail today, including “Decoding Google: Advanced Strategies for Businesses,” “YouTube Hacks for Music Retailers,” “How I Grew My Lesson Program to 1,000+ Students,” and best practices in finance, employee engagement, increasing foot traffic, merchandising and more, offer real, tactical value to NAMM members: “I’m thrilled for the opportunities given to me to learn through the NAMM Idea Center so I can make my store shine and grow. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this knowledge to make music even more exciting for all,” shared Krissy Straub-MacCanon of Music Go Round. Kimberly Deverell of San Diego Music Studio also affirmed the value of the program: “NAMM U has a plethora of information: you can find anything you need; from human resources to new technologies to growing your lesson base to using Instagram and YouTube to help grow your business. You can pick and choose what you want to improve upon for your business.”

Premier Pro Audio Programs

With more than 250 pro audio sessions dedicated to each aspect of production, emerging and established professionals had a myriad of options to grow in their careers. TEC Tracks offered big-picture sessions to uncover topics ranging from building a profitable home studio to an inspiring keynote from engineer extraordinaire Chris Lord-Alge. Other highlights included “The Future of Music” with Craig Anderton; Mr. Bonzai interviewing Danny Kortchmar for his inside perspective on classic records, classic artists, and the highs and lows of the music business; “Pioneers of Analog Synths,” a special panel presentation by Michelle Moog-Koussa; and “Prince: The Making of a Legend,” with the original arranger from Prince’s team, Brent Fischer, who, with his late father Dr. Clare Fischer, collaborated directly with Prince over three decades. TEC Tracks also brought together a who’s who of presenters, including Alan Parsons, Al Schmitt, Michael Beinhorn, Ed Cherney, George Massenberg, Eddie Kramer, Jack Douglas, Ross Hogarth, and Frank Filipetti.

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[Photo: Getty Images for NAMM]

AES@NAMM Pro Sound Symposium: Live & Studio returned for its second year. As the premier education and training program for working professionals in live sound, recording and performance audio, the four-day international symposium offered seven Training Academies and related sessions on line-array technologies, microphones for studio and stage, live-sound mixing consoles, wireless systems and studio environments, in addition to tutorials on system measurement and optimization, plus informative and intimate sessions with leading industry pros hosted by veteran FOH engineer Robert Scovill and studio guru Bobby Owsinski.

David Scheirman, AES Past President and AES Executive Committee Liaison for AES@NAMM offered, “AES@NAMM was again a successful and inspiring event. With over 200 dynamic sessions available, attendees were able to follow studio production and live sound reinforcement signal paths from mic to mixer and DAW, through hardware and software DSP and control, and on through digital networks to amps and speakers. Many thanks are due to the expert presenters and hands-on trainers gathered together by our program team and our Symposium Supporters. Industry career professionals and entry-level attendees alike left the event ready to implement practical knowledge uniquely provided by AES@NAMM 2019.”

For the future-minded, A3E: The Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange, dedicated to the future of advanced audio applications and new music technologies, explored how advanced audio applications are transforming the music industry, production and performance. The keynote session, “Driving the Future of Music Production, with BT,” delved into the technologies to release the full creative potential of an artist and what happens when the barriers are removed to limitless innovation. A3E welcomed Intel and visionary artist BT for the session. Other sessions included “The Impact of Blockchain on the Music Industry,” “Developing Disruptive Technology: Risk and Reward,” “The Art in Artificial Intelligence: The Science of Creative Tools” and many more.

Professionals also had the opportunity for a hands-on experience with Dante, Audinate’s multimedia networking technology. The training offered registrants a synchronous, practical experience with Dante and the basics of Dante concepts.

At the Loudspeaker System Showcase, 13 top audio manufacturers presented both line array and portable speaker systems. Held Thursday through Saturday at the Show in correlation with Live Sound International magazine, the system showcase overtook the Arena area and offered professionals an opportunity to demo a range of different speaker systems. “Experiencing the evolution of NAMM last year with the integration of pro audio and live sound products, we saw an exciting new dimension at the Show,” said Tarik Solangi, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, RCF USA. “RCF is a prime example of a manufacturer that reaches both the retail and pro audio markets….and adding the Loudspeaker System Showcase this year offers us an excellent opportunity for RCF to demonstrate a production product to a retail market. We’re delighted to participate.”

Event Technology Expertise from ESTA, Timeless Pro Production Sessions from FoH and PLSN, Lighting&Sound America/PLASA

A suite of sessions for event technology professionals, curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association), along with The Pro Production Sessions presented by Front of House and Projection Lights & Staging Newsmagazines, and Lighting&Sound America/PLASA, offered event technology professionals a range of best-in-class education and credit opportunities. ESTA hosted four tracks in Lighting and Electrical, Lighting Networking, Rigging and Safety, all offering the opportunity for free Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP) renewal credits. Richard Cadena, Steve Adelman, Paul Sapsis, John Huntington, Wayne Howell, and Steve Terry were among the presenters in the ESTA-curated education program. Of the program, Erin Grabe, Executive Director of ESTA reflected, “In 1901, when NAMM started, live music was the only music. In 2019, there is no way to remove event technology from live music. We belong here - we belong together! NAMM is the crossroads; where performance meets technology, where artistry meets innovation, where events and music merge onstage, as they do across the globe. NAMM is the crossroads where passion meets livelihood.”

The Pro Production Sessions, presented by Front of House, Stage Directions and Projection, Lights & Staging Newsmagazines brought the leading names in entertainment production together to offer a more in-depth look into iconic projects’ designs and the forward-looking trajectory of production technology during keynotes and single-speaker and panel presentations. Among the highlights of the Pro Production sessions were the “In-Conversation With...” interview series, featuring in-depth discussions of production in events and music, along with a slate of panels, including “The Creative Vision of Teamwork—Realizing the Production Design;” “Taking The Stage—The Rising Lighting Designers;” “Getting the Show on the Road—Top Production and Tour Managers;” and “The Many Realities of Video.” "In our second year as being part of NAMM, it is clear that the opportunity to put on these sessions is a huge success," says Terry Lowe, PLSN/FOH Magazines publisher and executive producer of the Parnelli Awards. "From Kevin Lyman to the top lighting, audio, and video designers for the likes of U2, Taylor Swift, Fleetwood Mac, and other top acts really benefits all who attend The NAMM Show. We're so grateful to provide access to this kind of real live industry talent to those just starting their careers in this business or thinking about it."

Additional professional development opportunities included sessions from The NAMM Foundation’s GenNext, a collaboration between The NAMM Foundation and The College Music Society for college music students and faculty; Music Education Days, which offered music teachers and school administrators informative sessions, inspiring performances and the opportunity to preview the latest instruments, products and tools; and The Nonprofit Management Institute for the Foundation’s partner and grantee organizations, presenting the best practices in nonprofit administration.

Notable NAMM Moments

On Tuesday, January 22, dozens of music industry leaders gathered at Loara Elementary School to help students learn to play ukulele, guitar, and drums, as well as engaged in choral and movement sessions as part of the organization’s Day of Service. Now in its fifth year, the day put “advocacy into action” with support for the Anaheim Elementary School District and its efforts to provide music education to every child. “The support that we have received from NAMM is phenomenal, not just for the check they present us each year but for literally launching us in this program for our district,” shared AESD Board of Education member Jackie Filbeck. “After 20 years of not having music, NAMM came, took us by the hand, and started us on this journey that has evolved in ways that are just phenomenal. From the very beginning with just a few students getting instruction, to now our entire district–it is an absolute favorite of parents, and we couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for the support of NAMM.” “The Day of Service is an opportunity for us to give back through music education and continue to champion the right for every student to make music,” said Scott Mandeville of Tim’s Music. “It’s really a fabulous opportunity because music education positively impacts markers of academic success.”

Later in the week on Thursday, The NAMM Foundation Celebration for Music Education celebrated the advocacy and dedication of NAMM members with a performance from the duo, Black Violin. Composed of classically trained violist and violinist Wil B and Kev Marcus, the pair combined their classical training and hip-hop influences with their DJ to create a distinctive multi-genre sound that is often described as “classical boom.” On Friday, an all-star line-up from Yamaha came together for an unforgettable multi-artist extravaganza with the Yamaha All-Star Concert on the Grand 2019. Performers included Jon McLaughlin, Loren Allred, Jonathan Butler, Sarah McLachlan, and James “J.T.” Taylor. On Saturday evening at the annual “Imagine Party,” The NAMM Foundation and The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus presented by Other World Computing welcomed singer and songwriter, Elle King. King blended pop, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll into a sound that’s all her own to the delight of the NAMM crowd.

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Elle King performing at The NAMM Show. Photo: Gettty Images for NAMM]

Prior to King taking the stage, the Butte Strong United Choir performed “You Will Be Found.” The choir was created to draw together high school students to heal a community after the fire that poured over the Paradise Ridge and devastated the communities of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow in Butte County. Choir director Sam Gronseth recently retired from teaching music at Paradise High School but has been active in the community since the tragedy. He says, “The students in this choir are amazing musicians, but even more, they understand the power music holds to bring people together. A significant portion of our singers lost homes, belongings, pets, friends, and community. Each choir member has been impacted in some way, yet their heart is to draw people together to heal. Music is our tool, and we couldn’t be more honored to be here sharing this inspiring story with so many at NAMM.”

Other special performances included the Roomful of Pianos on Thursday and Friday at the Show, which gathered pianists for performances of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Paul Dukas) arranged for 15 pianos and on Friday, "Nocturnes: Nuages and Fêtes" (Claude Debussy) arranged for 30 pianists. On Saturday and Sunday, the Arena Plaza featured the Earth Harp, the world’s longest playable stringed instrument reached from the balcony of the ACC North building to the Plaza. The harp was played live by its creator William Close, the LA-based inventor who holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest stringed instrument in the world.

The communal music-making continued at both drum and ukulele circles throughout the Show, as well as Saturday morning’s Grand Rally for Music Education, where Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre held a special discussion and encore viewing of his new film, "Deep Field,” inspired by the iconic Hubble Telescope’s Deep Field images; Whitacre was later awarded with the SupportMusic Champion Award. Whitacre spoke of his memories of the impact school music education in his life: “I remember very clearly…. And looking back on it now, just the experience of hearing Mozart, it was clear that music was a part of me, that I have to make music, I have to share music. Music was in me, and I left that room absolutely transformed determined to make music my vocation.” The Grand Rally also featured a Whitacre-led performance of CloudBurst and Fly to Paradise, as well as a performance from trumpeter Jonathan Dely, accompanied by The NAMM Foundation board member and former NY Yankee, Bernie Williams.

Honouring the Industry’s Leaders and Luminaries

Friday night’s Parnelli Awards recognized the pioneering, influential professionals and companies for their contributions to the live production industry. Founded in 2001 and named after industry luminary Rick “Parnelli” O’Brien, the awards brought together the live entertainment community in a vibrant annual gathering to recognize the best-in-class across 22 different categories. Brock Adamson of Adamson Systems was honored with the Parnelli Innovator Award; Yvan Miron of Stageline received the Parnelli Visionary Award; and Chris Adamson, Tour Manager for the likes of Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, and many others received the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award. On Friday eve at the House of Blues, the She Rocks Awards honored the likes of artists Macy Gray, Lisa Loeb, Nita Strauss, Erika Ender, and a variety of industry professionals, including Lynette Sage (Reverb), Samantha Pink (JAM Industries) and Terri Winston (Women’s Audio Mission) for their contributions to the music industry.

Later in the week on Saturday, the 34th Annual 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. View the complete list here of TEC Award winners here.

At the TEC Awards, Peter Frampton 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. Of the award, Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation, offered “Peter Frampton remains one of the most skillful and celebrated artists in rock history. He also was a friend of Les Paul’s and has played a pivotal role in helping the Foundation keep Les’s legacy alive. Like Les, he is an undeniable master of his instrument and in many ways ahead of his time. We are honored to have Peter join the impressive list of Les Paul Innovation Award recipients.”

After rocking the hall with several classics that included “I Want You to Love Me,” and “Blackhole Sun,” dedicated to the late Chris Cornell, Frampton remarked, “Les Paul was the godfather of modern recording, the most innovative of guitar players, and the creator of what we do. It’s a debt we all owe him. Whatever I’ve done to win this amazing recognition started with Les – Les showed us that innovation isn’t about high tech or money – it’s about ideas and using the tools at your disposal to make music in ways it’s never been made before.” Frampton joins Jackson Browne, Joe Perry, Don Was, Slash, Todd Rundgren and others with the Les Paul Innovation Award. Along with Frampton, Leslie Ann Jones, the groundbreaking engineer, producer and Director of Music and Scoring for Skywalker Sound was inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame. At the awards ceremony, Jones shared “it’s one thing to get an award for a particular project, it’s another thing to get an award for your career and the life that you’ve led…” Jones joins luminaries Rose Mann Cherney, Skunk Baxter, Hal Blaine, Jack Douglas, Nathan East, Geoff Emerick, and others with her induction, the industry’s highest honor for pioneers of audio technology and the music industry’s most accomplished producers and audio technicians.

Looking to the Future

The 2020 NAMM Show will return to Anaheim from Jan. 16-19, 2020. Summer NAMM will reconvene the industry in Nashville, TN from July 18-20, 2019.

For more information, go to www.namm.org.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.