For much of its 122-year history, the NAMM Show has served as a vital economic barometer for the creators, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of musical instruments and equipment. It also helped them deal with unexpected changes in an industry that saw near-record US sales of $8.7 billion in 2022.
In the past few years, however, NAMM itself has undergone unexpected changes. Long held at the 1.8 million-square-foot Anaheim Convention Center and adjacent hotel ballrooms, the music industry’s largest annual trade show has changed course several times during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had our largest NAMM show in 2020 with more than 115,000 NAMM members from more than 120 countries and territories. Then COVID hit and began our ongoing four-year journey to get back to normal,” said Joe Lamond. He is the outgoing president of Carlsbad-based NAMM — the National Assn. of music dealers.
As a result of the pandemic, NAMM in January 2021 was the first to be held entirely online. Billed as Believe in Music Week, it was also the first NAMM show to be free and open to the public, not just membership-paying NAMM members.
More changes followed.
As a result of the Delta variant surge of the pandemic, the 2022 NAMM show was postponed from January 2022 to this past June. It was cut from three days to four and reduced its footprint in Anaheim by 50%.
Exhibitors at the 2022 event were spaced further apart and Rapid Antigen, PCR testing and N95 surgical masks were available to attendees. Color-coded badges allowed each attendee to silently indicate the degree of physical contact they were comfortable with.
Some major exhibitors, including Gibson, one of the world’s largest guitar makers, have pulled out of the shortened 2022 NAMM show.
The 2023 NAMM Show is now underway
Opting to err on the side of caution this year, Lamond and the nonprofit music trade organization have pushed the 2023 NAMM show from January to this week. It opens on Thursday and runs through Sunday.
“This is another pandemic-scheduled off-cycle show for us,” said Lamond, who has headlined NAMM since 2001.
“This year will be 20 percent bigger for us than June 2022. But it will by no means be the traditional size of the NAMM Show. When we go back to January 2024, we’ll be back to normal size.”
How challenging have the last few years been?
“Well, I didn’t have gray hair before,” said Lamond, whose original plan to retire after a triumphant 2020 NAMM show was thwarted by the pandemic.
“We will have 1,200 exhibitors, up from 1,000 last year, and our registrations to participate this year from non-US members are up 50 percent,” Lamond said.
“So this is the first NAMM show since pre-Covid where we’re going to bring the world of music back together in person. And there are some countries whose NAMM members only see each other in person at the NAMM show.”
These members include Daniel Neves. He is president of the Brazil Music Assn., which represents about 130 companies. Neves is also the publisher of the trade magazine Musica & Mercado.
“The NAMM show is where the whole industry meets,” he said, speaking from his office in Sao Paulo last week.
“It’s funny that I talk to more of my friends in the Brazilian music industry in person at the NAMM Show than I do here in Brazil. NAMM leads the industry and inspires and excites people. It’s easy to meet everyone at NAMM, and it’s so much more than a trade show.”
Neves’ sentiments are shared by Yamaha Corp.’s American president. Tom Sumner.
“The NAMM Show is truly an international gathering place for people who make, distribute, sell, service or play musical instruments,” Sumner said.
Yamaha will showcase some of its latest instruments and music products across 15,000 square feet at this year’s NAMM show. The company will release 39 new products, more than last year but fewer than the January 2020 edition of the event. It will also host free outdoor concerts for NAMM-goers throughout the weekend.
“NAMM is the only major trade event for musical instruments and equipment left in the world,” said Sumner. “There was one in Frankfurt [Germany]Musikmesse but failed to emerge from the pandemic.”
The NAMM Show has navigated the ups and downs of the past few years as nimbly as possible under such unpredictable circumstances.
Credit for NAMM’s continuity goes to Lamond for his steady leadership — and to growing consumer demand for musical instruments, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic shutdown. Although the concert touring market suffered massive losses in 2020 and 2021, last year the concert industry earned record gross profits of $6.28 billion, according to Pollstar’s year-end Top 200 World Touring Companies.
Guitar sales — which had skyrocketed during the shutdown — fell slightly last year. But the demand for acoustic and electric keyboards, professional audio equipment and school band and orchestra instruments has increased.
2022 US sales of $8.7 billion, as reported by the 132-year-old Music Trades magazine, represent a 2.3% drop from 2021. However, last year’s sales were second only to the record $8.8 billion for 2021
“Overall, the industry is bigger now than it was before the pandemic,” Yamaha’s Sumner said. “The pandemic has given people in the US time to get into tools, while government stimulus checks have made it possible for many people to buy tools.
“And Joe Lamond has done a fantastic job leading us all over the last 23 years and doing all the hubs during the pandemic. It’s going to be an emotional NAMM show.”
Lamond’s successor, John Mlinczak, is a former president of the Music Educators Institute of Technology and was vice president of music education and technology at Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music publisher.
“I will be CEO for another NAMM show and will be involved in our NAMM education programs for the next three years,” Lamond said. “When I wake up on May 1, I won’t have to go into the office. I’ll probably go on a long motorcycle ride.
By the numbers
NAMM won’t release its full 2022 global sales report until later this year. But it did provide some preliminary data for the US for 2022.
- Total sales of musical instruments and equipment in the US are $8.7 billion.
- Sales of guitars, both acoustic and electric, were down 4.5% (to $1.04 billion) and 7.7% ($859.1 million), respectively.
- Sales of guitar effects pedals increased 7.6% to $177.5 million, and multi-effects processors increased 2.2% to $97.1 million. Unit sales of effects pedals fell 5.1% to 1.4 million units. Sales of multi-effects processors fell 6.1% to 185,000 units.
- The entire professional audio market increased 0.5% to $1.48 billion, with all categories reporting increases.
- Sales of keyboards under $199 rose 11% to $67.1 million. Unit sales rose 3.8% to 621,000.
- Acoustic pianos increased 17.1% to $362.6 million. Unit sales also increased by 17.1%.
- Digital pianos increased 3% to $265 million, while units sold decreased 12.9% to 203,400 units.
- The school music market has done exceptionally well. It posted a 13.5% jump in retail sales to $739.3 million and an 11.7% jump in units to 800,000.
- Sales of educational percussion for school bands and orchestras increased 12.5% to $49.5 million.