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Obsolete? Hardly…

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
  • January 2019
• Created: January 23, 2019

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Many of you reading this editorial are either currently at or en route to the 2019 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in Anaheim, California.

This year’s gathering is notable not only for being the 117th annual conference (I’m pretty sure?) spearheaded by the organization (congrats, NAMM!), but also for the “regular” reasons the get-together always matters: It’s agreed by all to be the most significant MI event of its kind in North America and (and this point quite important), it’s one convention that clearly, convincingly, and passionately makes the case for why and how trade shows, conferences, and conventions remain relevant and useful, even in the digital, online age.

Famously, in 2016, in an article inspired by that winter’s NAMM Show, Bobby Owinski of Forbes offered this assessment: “The annual Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim is always one of the most fun trade shows in the music business, and it ended last week with a bang. But despite a record number of attendees and exhibitors, this centerpiece of the music industry provided all the evidence that trade shows may be heading towards obsolesce in today’s e-commerce economy.”

Owinski pointed to the declining number of brick-and-mortar retailers, online access to information about new gear, and other online commerce and Internet-based factors as the reasons, “why trade shows are obsolete.”

Now, obviously the main “point” of exhibiting at or attending a given convention varies depending on the specific show and market/audience, but many of the same factors that the Forbes piece pointed to are often brought up by those who question the validity of any of these industry/culture get-togethers. Why pay for a plane ticket and a hotel stay when you can just as easily watch performances, lectures, or lessons on YouTube? Why incur costs for the acquisition of information that’s available via a quick Google search?

As I wrote above, the NAMM Show one of the events that – without fail – lays bare those arguments. Sure, you can learn things without leaving your couch or office, but you cannot catch the vibe of a large, convivial group of people who share your interests and passions, interacting with one another, exchanging ideas, forming friendships, and expanding their professional and personal worlds. Trust me, if you think a Skype session with some financial advisor or life coach matches the experience of attending a NAMM U lecture in Anaheim this January… well, let’s just say you owe it to yourself to discover how wrong you are. Facebook and Instagram can be great for networking and staying in touch, but sitting down and discussing a new instrument innovation or a recent brand acquisition over coffee with a rarely-seen friend takes that dynamic to another level.

Longtime readers of MMR may recall that I wrote about this same subject a few years ago, but I think it bears repeating because if you have the means to consider being a part of gatherings such as the NAMM Show (or Musikmesse, NASMD, Summer NAMM, Music China, et cetera), you owe it to yourself to learn how much value is there for the taking and how enriched your professional, financial, and personal life can be. Shows such as this one are decidedly not “obsolete.”

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