‘The Big One:’ 2018 NAMM Show Expands in More Ways than One

by Christian Wissmuller and Victoria Wasylak • in
  • February 2018
  • Show Report
• Created: February 21, 2018

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“Our members deserve all the credit for creating such an incredible show,” says NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond. “It’s their innovative products and displays, the lifelong friendships and business relationships, and dedication to drive business forward that results in those only-at-NAMM opportunities.”

Those NAMM Show-exclusive opportunities have both expanded and changed drastically in recent years. A quick search for news related to the gathering offers all the evidence one would need to conclude that this once strictly “industry-only” – and consequently somewhat under-the-radar event as far as the general public is concerned – is now a major cultural event that virtually anyone with even a casual interest in music and music-making is aware of. These days, outlets reporting on the Show include lifestyle magazines and websites, as well as all types of news media.

That fact isn’t “new” to the 2018 get-together, but the scope of this current reality is unquestionably growing.

The good news is that the increased numbers of attendees (115,085 – up 7.6 percent) and exhibitors (1,931 – up 9 percent) in Anaheim speaks to a robust and rebounded industry and a healthy interest in musical gear and the culture of making music.

The bad (depending on who you ask – see the “Voices from the Show Floor” section below) news is that with ever-more folks crowding the aisles, making noise – particularly those visitors not from within the industry – some are finding the NAMM Show an increasingly challenging venue at which to do actual business.

However, many we spoke with, both at and after the convention, observe that all trade shows have changed and it’s not necessarily a negative. Due to technology-driven developments in how we all communicate and engage in commerce, events like the NAMM Show, Musikmesse, Music China, and the like aren’t the annual one-stop-shopping centers for placing orders and doing business that they used to be. As much as (more than?) these events offer opportunities to showcase and buy or sell new gear, they also afford industry insiders with the chance to exchange ideas with colleagues, interact with one another, and celebrate the community.

New Digs

The expansion of the Show into the new Anaheim Convention Center North building saw increased pro audio and event technology participation at the Show. The convergence of industry members on the floor in each new “neighborhood” was met with enthusiastic response for ease in getting from location to location, and for the sound quality control, that was also balanced with the palpable energy that permeated throughout the convention.

Global Presence

International attendees increased by eight percent with representation from over 100 countries totaling 19,356 registrants. As the steady, reliable platform, the Show presented a valuable opportunity to convene and conduct business in a central meeting space.

Attendees were a mix of traditional NAMM members, including domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, event tech and pro audio professionals and buyers, media, artists, invited guests, NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students), Music Education Day (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and affiliates) participants. The convergence of the industry was met with enthusiasm as new innovations were revealed from all sectors of industry, as members also worked to establish new relationships.

Learn Somethin’, Pal

From peer-to-peer networking events and best-in-class education, the show set the stage for engaging participants over the course of the four days by offering over 500 educational sessions. NAMM Show attendees had the opportunity to participate in education provided by several NAMM partners at the new NAMM U Education Center in the Anaheim Hilton.

Education partners and opportunities included sessions from A3E: Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange; Audinate Dante Training and Certification; Music Education Days, GenNext career development and the Nonprofit Institute from The NAMM Foundation; AES@NAMM: Pro Sound Symposium Live and Studio, curated by the Audio Engineering Society; NAMM U; TEC Tracks; and 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, as well as Lighting&-Sound America/PLASA.

It’s not Just NAMM at the NAMM Show

The inaugural AES@NAMM program, which included a mix of AES members and prospective new members, was a hit with attendees. The program included four training academies, a variety of tutorials and sessions, as well as whitepapers, resulting in more than 300 total sessions.

The Event Technology sessions, as curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services Technology Association), The Pro Production Sessions presented by Front of House and Projection, Lights & Staging News magazines, as well as programming from Lighting&Sound America/PLASA, gave emerging and established professionals the opportunity to learn from industry luminaries in a series of sessions and tracks.

Terry Lowe, president of Timeless Communications, the Parnelli Awards and education partner, affirmed that sentiment: “From everyone I have spoken to, they all feel it has been a good first year. The Parnelli Awards were a smashing success which seems to have translated to the show floor!”

Most Important Meal of the Day

Each morning of the show, registrants were treated to inspiring business insights and key lessons learned from a variety of NAMM U Breakfast Session speakers. Thursday morning opened the show with the annual favorite, “Breakfast of Champions.” NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond took an up-close look at the people changing the music products industry, their trials and successes, and the importance of risk in business. Bob Weir, legendary co-founder of the Grateful Dead, was recognized with the “Music for Life” award.

Busy, Busy…

As the NAMM community prepared to gather for the show, the mission of NAMM came alive at the pre-show NAMM Day of Service. Held on Tuesday, January 23 at Orange Grove Elementary, the day supported the school’s administrators, teachers and students with a generous, member-enabled donation from The NAMM Foundation of $10,000 that will help to ensure that every child has access to music during the school day.

Across the school’s classrooms, 23 NAMM members, including Foundation board member and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams, rolled up their sleeves and offered music lesson instruction with hand drums, guitars and ukuleles.

Once at the show, a variety of networking and musical events awaited members, including nightly performances on the NAMM Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage. The NAMM Foundation Celebration for Music Education kicked off all four days with a dazzling performance from indie rockers, OK Go.

On Saturday, The NAMM Foundation and The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus presented acclaimed singer-songwriter Andy Grammer at the annual Imagine Party. At the start of the evening, funk legend Bootsy Collins performed “Together We Can” alongside children from Anaheim’s Loara Elementary and Country Club Hills (Chicago), who received a visit from the Lennon Educational Tour Bus last year.

On Friday, The Parnelli Awards debuted at The NAMM Show, honoring event tech professionals across 22 categories, including Billy Joel’s long-time Production Manager, Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lighting designer and innovator, Jonathan Smeeton (The Rolling Stones, Marilyn Manson, Jane’s Addiction, Taylor Swift), received the Parnelli Visionary Award; and DiGiCo technical director John Stadius was honored with the Audio Innovator Award. The same evening at the House of Blues, the sixth annual She Rocks Awards recognized notable women in the industry, along with artists Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, and the B52’s Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, among others.

At the Grand Rally for Music Education on Saturday morning, singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton was recognized with the SupportMusic Champion Award.

The special day also included two incredible performances by Country Club Hills school children, The Manhattan School of Music and Bernie Williams. The group performed “Unbreakable,” a song written by the students of Country Club Hills. Closing out the morning was vocal trio, FORTE (Josh Page, Victor Ryan Robinson and Alok Kumar), who delighted the audience with their a capella performance.

The morning also marked the presentation of The Don Johnson Award, presented by MMR, to NAMM Foundation secretary-treasurer and Founder/President of Sweetwater, Chuck Surack.

At the Annual Meeting of Members at The 2018 NAMM Show, NAMM welcomed eight new board members to the organization’s Board of Directors. Each board member will serve a three-year term and provide oversight, input and direction to the organization.

NAMM welcomes the following members to the organization’s Board of Directors: Christie Carter, Carter’s Vintage Guitars; Jimmy Edwards, Marshall Music Company; Mark Hebert, Cosmo Music Co.; Louis Hernandez, Avid Technology Inc.; David Kalt, Chicago Music Exchange; Tim Miklaucic, Cordoba Music Group; Mark Terry, KMC Music Group; and Barbara Wight, Taylor Guitars.

The meeting also celebrated the service, leadership and the many contributions of the outgoing members of the board, including Joe Castronovo, Korg USA, Inc.; Paul Decker, Music Villa; Greg Deering, Deering Banjo Company, Inc.; Michael Doyle, Guitar Center; Ron Losby, Steinway & Sons; Brian Reardon, Monster Music; Peter Sides, Robert M. Sides Family Music Centers; and Martin Szpiro, Jam Industries Ltd.

The Summer NAMM Show will return to Nashville’s Music City Center June 28-30. Later in the year, NAMM Musikmesse Russia will return to Moscow September 13-16, and Prolight + Sound Russia will commence September 13-15. In 2019, The NAMM Show returns to Anaheim January 24-27, 2019.

GAMA Annual Membership Meeting and Breakfast

The Annual GAMA Breakfast, held on January 24, welcomed eight new members to the group, which vice president Skip Beltz noted was the first net gain in membership for GAMA, according to his recollection.

The meeting detailed ways that GAMA had been working to keep the spark of curiosity for learning how to play the guitar alive, from giving out swag bags to programs, to creating and placing children-focused advertisements for guitars and guitar lessons. The meeting also noted an increased interest in ukuleles, which GAMA plans to capitalize on through partnering with ukulele dealers.

“Without players, you just have materials,” noted Menzie Pittman, owner of Contemporary Music Center. “That’s where I think GAMA has a really unique place in the industry. We are a legit voice working hand in hand.”

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion from Pittman, Laura B. Whitmore (She Rocks Awards), Mike Molenda (Guitar Player Magazine) and Squiggy DiGiacomo (The Music Experience) on the state of the guitar market.

“There are guitar heroes out there – they [just] may not be what we experienced,” Molenda said in reference to the now-infamous Washington Post article about the “death of the guitar.”

The meeting commenced as all new and current members in attendance received a plaque from GAMA.

Remo Debuts New Colortone Drumheads

Remo debuted their new offerings for Winter NAMM 2018 on January 25, featuring their new Colortone drumheads, Festival Drums, Dorado XE Cajon, Flareout Djembe, and Artbeat artistic collection of drumheads, cajons, tambourines, and djembes. Bob Yerby, vice president of sales and marketing, called the six different Colortone heads “one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.”

Despite their decision to stop producing bongos and congos, Remo president Brock Kaericher reassured that founder Remo Belli’s desires for the company remained front and center, and that his passing had nothing to do with the decision. “His thoughts and his visions drive the company and continue to drive the company,” he said. During the presentation, Remo also presented a plaque to Izzo Musical of Brazil for their 100th anniversary.

Casio Hosts Steve Weingart Album Release Party

On January 25, jazz pianist Steve Weingart performed in the Avalon Ballroom of the Hilton to celebrate the release of his new album Oasis with Casio. Weingart, who uses Casio’s GP-500 Grand Hybrid Piano, performed with Renee Jones, Dave Weckl, Carlitos del Puerto, and Eric Marientha.

PRS Guitars Expands Product Line

Paul Reed Smith of PRS Guitars introduced musicians to the company’s newest guitar offerings on Friday, January 26, bringing in Mark Tremonti forward to demonstrate the new MT 15 amplifier, as well as Dustie Waring to discuss new CE Dustie Waring.

Ibanez Releases New Signature Models

Ibanez hosted guitarists Tom Quayle and Martin Miller at their press conference on January 26 to allow both guitarists to discuss their new signature  models with the company. Boasting an “ideal neck” and newly-designed tremolo, both models from Ibanez were made with the input of Quayle and Miller, respectively.

Fender Guitars Q&A with Eric Johnson

To introduce the new Eric Johnson Stratocaster Thinline to the world, Fender met up with guitarist Eric Johnson to discuss their third signature model with Johnson, who is currently performing with the new model on tour.

“I’ve always loved semi-hollow body guitars,” Johnson said. “I used it last night and I felt totally comfortable. I was like ‘oh I don’t have to always play old guitars anymore.’ I think it’s bringing music back to where… you don’t have to pay and arm and a leg for an instrument to be a certain excellent value.

The Eric Johnson Stratocaster Thinline will be available to the public on February 20.


Voices from the Show Floor

We had a terrific show, with sales up 10 percent over last year and booth traffic much higher than prior years. Retailers seemed upbeat and eager to hear about new products and programs, as well as hearing about industry trends. We found the new show layout to be a big success. The North Hall was busy and took a lot of pressure off of the other halls. With wider aisles and better traffic flow, it was far easier to get around the show and it felt much better managed than prior years.

Larry Morton, Hal Leonard


I love going to NAMM, and Winter NAMM 2018 in Anaheim was just as exciting as my first NAMM, back in 1973 at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was much easier to navigate the halls now with the wider aisles, and the reshuffle of vendors meant less time spent between booths… Sounds levels were improved but need to come down more; it’s tough to talk business when you have to shout! In summary: fabulous! NAMM’s opportunity for product knowledge, professional development and networking are unparalleled in the industry; some good meals while catching up with friends are a welcome bonus.

Nick Rail, Nick Rail Music


This year’s NAMM was very successful for MXL. I definitely felt a lift in the overall mood of the show. There didn’t seem to be much risk for retailers to explore expanding their assortments and adding new products. I think most economies globally are in a good place to buy.

Being in the new hall helped even more because we were surrounded by buyers from all countries specifically looking for Pro Audio and Recording. We were able to spend more time with more category managers since most of their vendors were in the same place.

Scott Krueckeberg, MXL Microphones


This show has become antiquated and has lost its way. It seems far more concerned about the “number of bodies through the turnstiles” than what the intention of the show is/was. NAMM can no longer deter the line of a trade show vs. open-to-the-public. It is a 100 percent fact that anyone with the patience to go through the NAMM online registry and pay a price “premium” will get a badge… My solution? Thursday: Dealers only. Friday: Dealers and Press only. Saturday and Sunday: Open to the Public.

Michael CIravolo, Schecter Guitar Research


The 2018 NAMM show was a success for our company. We accomplished our objectives and had positive meetings with our vendors. I believe the NAMM staff did an extraordinary job of preplanning and executing this ever-expanding show.

Bill Everitt, Brook Mays Music Company


The Show for us was a great success. As you know, we invested considerably in a new booth, not only in an effort to elevate our brands but also show support to NAMM and our Industry in general. We have extremely positive engagement with dealers throughout the show… As for the show layout, I did indeed like it. While the wider aisles made it seem like it wasn’t as busy as in the past, it made it much easier to navigate the show floor. All in all, NAMM 2018 was an inspiring and extremely positive experience.

John D’Addario III, D’Addario & Co.


This year it was difficult for me to get to the Convention Center. I did a really quick lap, but didn’t make it over to ACC North. From my somewhat narrowed experience, this year’s show was very positive. Booth traffic was good and overall the feeling from dealers about the state of the music industry was upbeat.

Garth Gillman, Yamaha Corporation of America


Overall, I thought the vibe was positive and optimistic. From what I could tell, there appeared to be more general consumer traffic this year, which definitely increased the overall excitement of the crowd. I wasn’t a huge fan of the new layout as it seemed to really separate the guitarists and the bassists from the recording enthusiasts. We sell everything on the site, so we go to NAMM with the aim to talk to all sorts of folks – being situated in the “fretted instrument hall” seemed to limit the number of attendees we saw from outside of the guitar/bass world.

Heather Farr,


We loved the changes at the show. Having the new North Halls allowed NAMM to reshuffle the mix in the main convention center and it all felt very logical. The wider isles helped tremendously and we didn’t experience the traffic jams of previous years. Noise was certainly an issue in the drum area but I suppose that’s a never-ending battle. I know from experience that NAMM is on it and it’s just very difficult to manage to everyone’s satisfaction. We had a tremendous 2017 and we don’t see any reason for the momentum to stop. With our robust economy and the tax cuts we look for 2018 to be a banner year.

Kevin Cranley, Willis Music


For us, we’re bigger than ever here at NAMM. The energy we’re seeing is really high, there’s a lot of interest in the products that we’ve had here, and a lot of excitement. Traditionally Thursday is a quiet day, but it was absolutely booming this year, and I think that the new focus on technology and pro audio shows that NAMM is trying to focus on the future of the industry and be more inclusive across the entire range of genres and music-making formats.

Lauren Hendry Parsons, Bandlab Technologies


This year is definitely unique for us because we’re in a new location. We’ve been in the main hall for so long and now that we’re in this beautiful North hall, it’s definitely some new digs. I think the market is really robust and I think if you look across out various product offerings, especially things that have been introduced over the past couple of years, I think you can see that we’re definitely growing and expanding, and trying to keep up with what’s going on in the world at large – not just worrying about live performance microphones, but expanding that to microphones for content creators and things for content creators and mobile recording. Connectivity is changing and the way we connect to our devices, especially when we’re talking about our listening, is also changing too.

Cheryl Jennison Daproza, Shure


This year, the room is full of energy, and a lot of the energy is because many people got introduced to the ukulele, and they may have been introduced on a more affordable instrument initially, but now they’re really ready for the next step, and that’s where we are as Kanile’a ‘Ukulele, a real traditional Hawaiian-made ukulele. With 2018, we see the boom still continuing. Some people say, ‘well, the ukulele plateaued,’ but for us, I see the ukulele is just being reintroduced, and there is a while ukulele community that is ready to step up to the next level, and that’s where we are.

Joseph Souza, Kanile’a ‘Ukulele


We’re at a new venue over at the House of Blues, so that’s been a really fun production cycle for us. It’s a top-line venue with great audio and the setup is really nice on two levels. This is one of the first times we’ve gone offsite, and one of the reasons we went to this new location was just because it’s brand-new and so close.

Laura B. Whitmore, She Rocks Awards

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