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Trends and Observations: Four Takeaways from the 2017 NAMM Show

by Menzie Pittman • in
  • Small Business Matters
• Created: February 14, 2017

At the NAMM Show there is always more information than you can ever wrap your head around. So I thought I would try to recap some moments of interest and share some ideas I witnessed at this year’s show.

It is fascinating to me the different goals of the attendees at the show. I make it my agenda to listen and watch for trends and perceptions. Then I bring my notes home to dissect and review them with my team.

Let’s start with breakfast.

• Is the next big idea retro or tech?

• Is the buzz high­end gear or entry­level gear?

• Is the new trend at NAMM seeking advice from others in our field at NAMM’s education sessions?

When I attend NAMM I study all of these things like a bug. I also strive to meet new people, make new friends, and learn new things. I pick the brains of the smartest people I know, asking them hard questions about how they perceive the spirit of the current music retail environment.

At this year’s NAMM Show, one of the smartest decisions I made was to attend the breakfast session featuring speaker Guy Kawasaki. Guy’s background intertwines with Apple, and he has a completely unique perspective on the idea of purpose and meaning. He was certainly a very dynamic speaker and his message was simple and aligned with similar beliefs that most of us hold.

His advice seems impeccable:

• Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.

• A good idea represents about 10 percent and implementation, hard work, and luck are the other 90 percent.

Guy was engaging, thought provoking, creative, and on top of his game. His presentation was simply refreshingly impactful.

I would venture to say you would like to have someone with those traits on your sales floor. Or better yet, how about someone with those traits sitting in your chair in your office!

Here are some trends and perceptions I noticed at the show.

The main vibe I witnessed at the show was a sense of upbeat enthusiasm and a definite crisp curiosity about retail opportunities. The buzz around the show was unquestionably good; I got the feeling that everyone is reignited to have the opportunity to be in this crazy business. However, I also got the feeling that no one is absolutely certain about the trajectory of the retail opportunities in our industry, or where we are in this crazy flight, or even where it will land. No one seems certain about what to expect from the economy or what the customer or end user really wants. But one belief that most people cherish is that in the “new jungle” you have to be at the top of your game 99.9 percent of the time.

That is an exhausting scenario and maybe the explanation for the other trend I noticed: how physically fit my business friends are and the brisk attention they are paying to all aspects of health, physical and otherwise.

My favorite trend : Odd parings and the morphing of iconic with nouveau.

The most foretelling trend I witnessed at NAMM, (and I am sure I have mentioned it before, so forgive the redundancy on my part) is the of morphing of “iconic and nouveau.”

You need look no further than Vulfpeck and Bernard Purdie playing “Something” by the Beatles. It’s Purdie’s patented “Purdie Shuffle” with fresh young wizards interpreting George Harrison and the Beatles. It’s a “touch edgy” because Bernard pushes the feel with a different pulse, and so the rendition has a different flavor and feel, yet one that is hauntingly familiar because we begin to hear a taste of Steely Dan within the Beatles’ music. That also helps make it unique: old school yet fresh.

Remember when Stevie Wonder opened for the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s? Some would say that was an odd pairing, but here’s my point: Stevie and the Stones knew, and they were right. Vulfpeck and Purdie know, and they’re right. Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson have figured it out . Michael League and David Crosby know, and they’re right. The new trend is getting back to honest roots, but with spanking new curiosity, a sense of play, and a tip of the hat to the masters.

Like these cutting edge artists, in my business I embrace this trend and every aspect of our industry’s history, but I don’t run from new thinking. Whether it’s old school or cutting edge, my only rule is authenticity.

My closing thoughts are simple.

Fresh enthusiasm, new opportunities, new trends are all exciting, but in the end we must remember that it is vision, understanding, dedication, and consistent hard work that brings our creativity to life. NAMM is the best resource we have because it provides the melting pot necessary for us to share our creativity and passions. Unequivocally and without dispute, the NAMM show is never out of style!

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column. He served on NAMM’s Board of Directors from 2012 through 2015 and currently oversees the curriculum for CMC’s performance venue @4410. In 2016 NAMM awarded Contemporary Music Center the “Dealer of the Year” award, the “Music Matters” award, and the “Best Sales and Promotion” award.

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