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The MI Industry Descends Upon ‘Smashville’ for a Triumphant Summer NAMM 2019

by Christian Wissmuller, Victoria Wasylak • in
  • August 2019
  • Show Report
• Created: August 11, 2019

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“It seemed to me that this year’s Summer NAMM Show was particularly important for the industry,” says NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond. “One thing that really struck me was how the manufacturers and retailers who are playing to win demonstrated their commitment to each other, recognizing each other’s unique role in serving the music community and in growing the market. In addition, NAMM U and TEC Tracks broke all attendance records highlighting the deep desire for our members to learn and grow in this fast paced and ever-changing marketplace. I imagine those who attended understand, those who don’t should really try it (or try it again) and see what they’ve been missing!”

Without editorializing overmuch, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. While the Nashville gathering is far from the size and breadth of the annual convention in Anaheim, Summer NAMM provides unique and valuable avenues for connection and industry insight.

The numbers suggest that many agree, with 16,001 members showing up in Tennessee this summer – a seven percent increase in attendees, compared to 2018, and a 32 percent increase in international attendees. Summer NAMM 2019 hosted 1,500 brands presented by 500 total exhibitors – and first-time exhibitors accounted for nearly 200 companies. This July, in Music City, the musical instrument industry demonstrated it’s alive and well.

 

Top 100 Dealer Awards

On Friday, the industry gathered to honor their peers at the Top 100 Dealer Awards. Now in its ninth year, the Top 100 applaud the excellence and innovation found in music retail. This year, Cosmo Music Co. was named “Dealer of the Year.” Other “Best Of” category winners included: Walt Grace Vintage for “Best Store Design;” Thomann Musikhaus in “Best Online Engagement;” Beacock Music Co. in “Best Customer Service;” and Ted Brown Music for “Best Marketing and Sales Promotion.” The “Music Makes a Difference” award, which honors passionate music education advocacy, recognized San Diego Music Studio for the store’s tireless efforts to encourage more to start making music and fewer to quit.

Upon acceptance of the “Dealer of the Year” award, Mark Herbert of Cosmo Music said, “It’s not just me – it’s my team. I have an amazing team of over 200 employees [and] they made this happen – they are unbelievable people.” When asked what his advice was for others who aspire to be Dealer of the Year, Herbert offered, “Something that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not really about me or my store, it’s about the industry – to increase the amount of music makers, to be inspired, and to grow our market.”

Three new submission categories joined this year’s Top 100 Awards: the “Innovation Award” was awarded to Zeswitz Music; “Best Community Retail Store” recognized Amro Music Co., and the “Top 100 Customers’ Choice Award,” which allowed fans and guests of each retail music store to vote for their favorite store, chose Anderton’s Music.

CMT personality Katie Cook hosted the evening, which featured a performance by “American Idol” winner, Danny Gokey.

 

Lamond Discusses ‘Retail Disrupters’ at Summer NAMM Opening Breakfast

On July 18, NAMM president Joe Lamond came prepared to discuss the ongoing shifts in the MI retail world as he opened Summer NAMM with a breakfast session on “retail disruptors.”

“I think we can all agree that change is happening, and it’s happening incredibly, incredibly fast,” Lamond said. “Great retail is no longer an option. Great retail is an entry point.”

Defining retail disruptors as game-changing businesses – like shops that use new, innovative online tools and who embrace the popular sharing economy – Lamond ushered guests onstage to share their best advice for using creative forms of disruption to the advantage of their businesses.

Speaker Larry Bailin, for instance, explained that these “disruptors” often utilize the most basic concepts to remove reasons for their customers to say no to purchases.

“It’s not enough to be found nowadays, you have to be chosen,” he said, emphasizing the importance of not just grabbing your customers’ attention, but keeping it. Some stores – like brick and mortar Amazon shops – have already aimed to maximize what people love about shopping (browsing and selecting items) and minimize what they hate (the checkout process), helping them to attract and keep customers.

“Use disruption to get people to say yes,” he explained, pointing to similar creative methods to retain customers. “All you need is one competitor without the same trepidation as you.”

Honing in on a separate factor of MI businesses, guest Michael Cathrea spoke about the disruptive model of Resonate Music School and Studio, which currently boasts 1200 students. By removing the usual September to June-only lesson schedule, the school instead created a month-to-month membership-based system for students. Cathrea and Resonate also created a plan that offers unlimited makeup sessions, rewards points as incentive for booking lessons, and free time in their studio every three months for students of all ages. “Learning is not enough,” he said. “We’re an experience business.”

 

‘What’s Hot in Guitar’ Panel Shines a Light on Modern MI Trends

On July 19, Laura Whitmore hosted a panel titled “What’s Hot in Guitar: An Interview with the Experts” with three major players in the fretted world: Travis Atz of The Music Link, Cesar Gueikian of Gibson, and Brian Vance of D’Addario. Over the course of a half-hour, the panelists covered a lot of ground, from expanding online tools, to the specific price points that are appealing to customers in 2019.

Brian Vance explained that he sees “people are willing to pay more money for a premium product” – a trend that has taken off since the release of D’Addario’s Elixir Strings. While Vance noted that few players were prepared to spend extra money for the Elixir strings when the line originally debuted, he said that now folks are willing to spend the extra money for a higher-quality product.

Travis Atz noted a domination of dreadnought acoustic guitars in the acoustic world, adding that many companies are now changing their production process in order to make products that can be sold around the $300 price point. Combined with the fact that any given instrument is no longer limited to any one genre, there’s significant cross-pollination in the realm of musical styles, helping introduce new instruments to more already-active players.

Cesar Gueikian added that Gibson has been redesigning their guitars to look like ‘50s and ‘60s models, seeking modern twists on their classic designs: “that was part of our inspiration, going back to our roots and getting it right. When you do it in a way that doesn’t interfere with the classic, I don’t think there’s any resistance [from consumers].”

By the same token, Gibson’s also looking ahead, trying to advance their online platforms and create ways that Gibson players can interact with the brand online.

“We are a little behind the curve when it comes to online engagement with our fanbase,”

Gueikian said. “There’s a big move towards online learning. We’re in the process of coding, working, and developing how we can create a better engagement situation with our fans.”

 

American Eagle Awards Honor Vince Guaraldi, George Clinton, Country Music Hall of Fame

On the first evening of Summer NAMM, The National Music Council of the United States presented the 2019 American Eagle Awards in the Davidson Ballroom of Music City Center.

Vince Guaraldi was honored by fellow pianist George Winston, making him one of the few honorees to ever be acknowledged posthumously. Credited for introducing jazz to tens of millions of children through Peanuts, the composer and pianist passed away in 1976.

“His music is actually better known than his name,” Winston said, marveling at his legacy. “It’s quite unusual that a composer’s music is better known that his name.”

Andy Thomas also spoke, adding that Guaraldi “invented himself through a chemistry of talent and tenacity . . .serendipity might have been Vince’s secret sauce.” Together, Thomas and Winston bestowed the award upon Guaraldi’s daughter, Dia.

Songwriter Liz Rose presented the Country Music Hall of Fame with their 2019 American Eagle Award. Rose, a collaborator of Taylor Swift and Little Big Town, among others, passed off the third award of 2019 to honor the Hall of Fame’s decades as a cultural and educational institution.

Also honored was funk master George Clinton, who received his American Eagle Award from country legend John Rich. The two gentlemen starred together in the TV program, “Gone Country,” roughly ten years ago, and onstage, their friendly bond was apparent as ever.

“How many artists can you say define a genre? Not very many,” Rich said. “The simplicity of what he does is his genius. He is what is good and great about music.”

 

D’Addario and Taylor Guitars Host Pre-NAMM Party

D’Addario and Taylor Guitars tag teamed the pre-NAMM party Wednesday (July 17) at The Sound Annex in Nashville, hosting an evening of live music and BBQ eats before the convention officially kicked off the next day. Pictured are the Time Jumpers with special guest Vince Gill.

During the evening, D’Addario also presented awards to standout American MI retailers. School Music Dealer of the Year was awarded to Amro Music; Retail Sales Team of the Year was awarded to Ken Stanton Music; Combo Dealer of the Year was awarded to Blues Angel Music; and Community Dealer of the year was awarded to Beacock Music.

 

Voices from the Show Floor

“Overall I felt attendance of dealer business was up. The overall customer attitude to the industry at large was hopeful and optimistic. There was a lot of excitement around D’Addario products. There were some really cool products launching from D’Addario, as well as vendors that truly fill a need for the gigging musician.”

John Pizz, D’Addario & Co.

“I thought SNAMM 2019 was fantastic. I think Gibson acknowledged the importance of the show with our presence. With Nashville being so close to the largest population of the U.S., it is only logical that we (as instrument manufacturers) get behind the power of the face-to-face interaction with our dealers – and ultimately our fans. What I like about the summer show over the winter show is the ability to conduct business and be able to hear what the person you are communicating with is saying!”

Dendy Jarrett, Gibson Foundation

“Success at Summer NAMM doesn’t come from the quantity of people we talk to, it’s the quality of conversations we have. Summer NAMM continues to be the place to have meaningful conversations with the stores that make it a priority to attend the show. Frankly, I don’t know if the attendance was up or down as compared to years past. I do know that the ‘vibe’ was positive, the outlook was optimistic and the sales potential are real.”

David Jahnke, Hal Leonard

“It was good to see the show floor has expanded since our last showing in 2017 with more of the big builders there. We did very well. We decided to only show new or recent product development, we had a brand-new (ink still wet) catalog and a new website which has been a huge boost for us. The first day was a bit slow but I scheduled the majority of my meetings that day which offset slower floor traffic and gave us all a chance to explore and see new products. We are all very pleased with the success we had and expect the remainder of 2019 to continue the same positive trends.”

Dave Lewis, WD Music Products,

Inc. | Kluson Manufacturing Co.

“The show was great. It’s a very guitar-centric show, so it’s always a blast. The overall vibe was very positive and I felt great energy and momentum. You could feel that we’re in a cycle of growth and opportunity. In the coming months we are very excited as we used the summer show to launch several big new products like the Tone Master, Acoustasonic Exotics and the Vintera Series, which should give us a solid second half of the year.”

Justin Norvell, FMIC

“Summer NAMM was decent this year. The venue is great and NAMM does a nice job putting on the show. The traffic felt a little light compared to last year, but we still were able to meet with many of our key regional dealers in the Midwest. We are positive so far this year in the MI Industry – and specifically guitar and bass accessories. After being flat for a minute, we have seen significant increases last year and so far this year going into Q3 and Q4.”

Tim Pfouts, S.I.T. Strings Co., Inc

“Airpatch made an impact at the Summer NAMM show gathering lots of attention as a versatile accessory for your favorite effects pedals. The support from industry veterans and amazing reactions of people trying out Airpatch made the first ever public debut a major success. We expect the music products industry to continue moving towards brand new ideas that capitalize on the most cutting edge technology available.”

Ryan Jaquin, Aviate Audio

“I like it being more focused. I sell a lot of guitar-oriented products at Hercules Stands, there are a ton of guitar players here, and interacting with the consumers is always lots of fun. So that’s still intact – the interaction and the engagement that we have with our retail partners and our customers, that remains unchanged. This year especially, a lot of our retail partners are much more upbeat than they have been in the past several years. 2008 changed a lot, and we’re out of that now. I think people are more optimistic. We’re having fun again.”

Kevin Philbin, KHS America

“It’s great to see some of the bigger companies back here as well this year, and I think the attendance was very good. It’s an excellent opportunity to see new products and to be in a smaller environment, but still be able to talk to company representatives and learn about new products, particularly things that could be important for the fourth quarter.”

Chris DeMaria, Fishman

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