NAMM CEO and President Joe Lamond and Chair Robin Walenta

Summer NAMM Sizzles in Nashville

The Summer NAMM show welcomed 15,010 attendees, a 5 percent increase compared to last year. Held June 28-30 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, NAMM reported more than 500 exhibitors representing some 1,600 brands.

Exhibitors included a mix of brands in traditional MI including Boss, Martin Guitar, Fender, Fishman, Gator Cases, Gibson, Gretsch, Hal Leonard, Korg, Peavey, Warwick, Yamaha, and in pro audio, 64 Audio, AEA, Antelope Audio, Aston Mics, DPA, Lavry Engineering, PreSonus, Quilter Labs, Rupert Neve Designs, Tascam, Telefunken, TransAudio Group, Walrus Audio, Warm Audio and more.

"There are many ways to be successful in our industry, but they all require effort and initiative," said Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO, in a statement. "I believe that the members who came to Nashville for Summer NAMM will be ahead of the competitive curve and deservedly enjoy greater success in the weeks and months ahead."

Over the course of three jam-packed days, attendees got a first look at the latest gear for the fall.

Fender celebrated the new Player Series, the company's final line to get a makeover.

"We think that it's really pivotal to make the product as contemporary and relevant as possible and spend a significant amount of money telling people about that to get them to cross the threshold," said Fender CEO Andy Mooney. "We found that that was very successful with the Elite Series launch, [and] even more successful with the Pro. This is a really important series for us."

Along with a sustaining focus on Fender's signature models, the brand is also bringing updates to its Mustang amplifiers, which will feature a new firmware level with backup and restore this fall.

"It's great because this product can keep developing as you have it," said Justin Norvell, senior vice president at Fender. "If you keep updating the software, the amp gets smarter."

At another part of the show floor, Yamaha showcased two limited edition guitar models, the Pacifica 612V and Koa A Series.

"Our A series has been doing extremely well since we revamped it last year, and sales have over doubled in one year," said Dennis Webster, product marketing manager at Yamaha. "It's a perfect time to bring out a limited edition model."

Yamaha also introduced the P-515 digital piano, the DTX402 electronic drum set and the Crosstown Advanced Lightweight Hardware system.

Easy setup was a focus for Boss as well with the WL-50 wireless system for pedalboards and WL-20 virtual guitar cable.

"People got really excited about the fact that we had wireless technology," said Jeff Slingluff, U.S. strategic product manager for Boss and Roland guitar products. "We wanted to bring that to the next level, which is coming up with, first, a virtual guitar cable."

Gibson returned to Summer NAMM after being absent from The 2018 NAMM Show. The company showcased Les Paul Standard electric guitars, the J-45 Standard acoustic guitar and a 1968 reissue priced at nearly $7,000.

"They build the guitar up like a normal new guitar and then they laboriously hand cut the lines with razorblades," said Josh Carey, product specialist, about the 1968 reissue. "They wear down the neck to make it look like an authentic original guitar, so there's a lot of skill involved with the custom shop. That's why the prices tend to be more expensive for them."

For many exhibitors, including Cordoba CEO Tim Miklaucic, the show was a success.

"It's been one of our best shows to date," Miklaucic said. "Look at this show from two points of view: You get to show new product and talk about your brands, and you can look at it from the point of view of sales, and both have been really good."

Mike Martin, general manager of marketing for Casio, echoed a similar sentiment.

"Throughout the show, it's really encouraging that we've got some dealers that are coming here for the first time — perhaps they were buying through a distributor or maybe haven't considered our line before — but they're putting their hands on our products, they're liking what they hear and how they feel, and they're ordering up," he said.

While Summer NAMM attendance was up, some exhibitors, including Hal Leonard's David Jahnke, senior vice president of national sales, said it's more important to make the best out of the time distributors and manufacturers have with the dealers present, no matter the number.

"Attendance can go up, it can come down," Jahnke said. "But as long as music retailers are continuing to come to the show and stop by, and we can talk to them about new products and find out about what their focus is at their store and finding ways to partner together, that's what makes a show a success in our minds."

Although some label Summer NAMM as a guitar show, others see the potential in buyers interested in various segments of the market.

"Despite there being a heavy guitar presence and the locality of the show, we also have [seen] a lot of interest in keyboards," said James Sajeva, director of music technology brands at Korg.

Antelope Audio's Marcel James, director of U.S. sales and marketing, explained that when the company began attending Summer NAMM approximately six years ago, pro-audio representation was scarce. But since then, James said Summer NAMM doesn't skew toward guitars as much anymore.

"It's definitely blown up by 20 or 30 times as far as how many pro-audio options there are," James said. "Now it isn't just known, at least from our perspective, as a guitar show anymore. It is a pro-audio show very much."

Kevin Packard, combo marketing manager at Pearl, emphasized the importance of dealer attendance at Summer NAMM — and the association's responsibility to make the show as accessible as possible for them.

"Dealers need to reconsider trade shows again because it's one thing to see it in front of you, [and] it's another thing to make it more accessible," Packard said. "The other thing I think NAMM needs to improve on is making it easier for dealers to come. The cost of coming to a trade show is so high these days, and anything that we can do to make it so it's easier for dealers to actually show up is going to deter them from denying themselves those experiences." MI

Upcoming NAMM Shows include NAMM Musikmesse Russia in Moscow, Sept. 13-16; Prolight + Sound Russia, Sept. 13-15; and The 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim, Jan. 24-27.

For full coverage of Summer NAMM, check out Music Inc.'s August 2018 issue, out July 31.

— By Tyra Bosnic & Kasia Fejklowicz