So many conventions and trade shows convene at the monstrous Music City Center in Nashville over any year, and in most if not all cases it is so difficult to track the importance and relevance to the growing economy in Middle Tennessee. Living in Nashville as long as I have lived here, I have often pondered about the NAMM show, thinking it was nothing more than a loud room with demonstrations of guitars, drums, keyboards and any other type of instrument; rendering it a thoughtless and stressful experience for every non-musician just venturing to check out the goods.
NAMM is so much more than that, and it was surprising to enter the show and see an amalgamation of musicians, instruments, promoters and developers collaborating and strategizing for success. The NAMM Summer Show is a show that in all aspects is awe-inspiring. The intention for this article is to demystify the experience of NAMM and introduce the average person interested with music to the reality of what the NAMM show is in every perspective What NAMM does overall, not only for the music industry, promotes music and advocates the importance of music in everyone’s lives, while supporting business owners, dealers and artists alike. The trade show is in reality the largest of this multi-dimensional intricately constructed experience, which includes a Retail Boot Camp, an element designed to support early business success and start-ups. NAMM Idea Center, a NAMM University if you will, offer on-going training and support on topics ranging from fundamentals to advanced business practices. NAMM creates a foundation for success for anyone representing whatever aspect of the music industry.
So, what exactly does NAMM contribute to the local economy? You are about to see some pretty impressive statistics to say the least. The National Association of Music Merchants is a global trade organization representing the music products industry designed to gather members of the organization to share ideas and debut new products for prospective clients. The Summer NAMM Show for 2016 attracted over 1600 vendors with more than 125 of those vendors representing their product or brand for the first time. Overall the show has an impressive overall economic impact on Middle Tennessee of over $15 million. All metrics experienced an increase in 2016 over 2015 with early registration hitting over 14,000 people and with that Summer NAMM saw over a 12% international attendance increase over 2015 and 59% over 2014.
The multiple facets of the show are what really make the total experience so impressive and unforgettable and while all these events happen simultaneously, they are executed flawlessly.
The Trade Show
The Trade Show floor is typically the magnet that draws people in to the total NAMM experience. The new Music City Center’s exhibit hall sets a phenomenal stage for this element of the NAMM Summer Show. The natural light and industrial yet warm environment, set up with impeccable acoustics and monochromatic backdrops allows for an acceptable and visually palatable display of vendor booths that isn’t offensive to the eye. The positioning of key vendors with medium and smaller vendors seem to compliment the overall floor plan of the trade show floor.
The Fender experience is something that no one can comprehend without a visit. This is a “marque” that you can’t help but gravitate towards while roaming the tradeshow floor. The vibrant bright red and eggshell accents create an experience within an experience that pulls anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the “Stratocastor” in. The very fame of Fender creates a virtual bubble in the middle of all of this energy. What is most inspiring is the dedication to history while supporting and promoting new advances and innovations. Fender has taken the DIY “Design It Yourself” process and elevated it to a level that is unmatched on the tradeshow floor. Hospitality and comfort through product knowledge is what I can say about Fender and their “product diplomats” present that in the trade show booth.
Retail Boot camp is another thread of a quilt that is the overall experience of NAMM. The Boot-camp experience is presented and executed by the vendors themselves, focused on new merchants and geared toward on-going success and support in their business ventures. This ingenious idea and innovative approach is an overall result of the merchants representing product at NAMM realizing that success is achieved through their vendors, this being the catalyst to the merchants overall continued success. Vendors are the life-blood for the merchants of the show and this fact is realized through every function of the show itself, the appreciation the merchants have for the vendors, musicians and industry representatives is displayed in every nook and cranny of this huge experience.
NAMM Idea Center
While the Retail Boot-camp is geared toward merchant specific functions, fundamentals and initiatives that support vendor success, NAMM Idea Center sessions focus on fundamental business practices for music business from retail to management and everything in between. Learning sessions are conducted on the Trade Show floor utilizing the very best state-of-the-art technology from UHD display boards to sound isolating head gear that minimizes distractions from the Tradeshow floor while keeping everyone in touch with the energy and convenient to the “impromptu” events taking place at each of the vendor display booths. The very genius behind this set-up is attracting vendors, musicians and artists to learning opportunities while keeping it attractive, curious and convenient. There is no other recipe that makes learning so enticing as this one that NAMM has created.
The artist showcases are in my opinion one of the most alluring of all the elements of the 4 day NAMM event. Prospective artists are given a deadline to submit promotional material and final selections are made through the NAMM Organization. The thread of individual artists contributes to a diverse and colorful experience not unlike the other elements of the show. The Depth and The Whisper were one of the first performances and their approach to contemporary rock was intriguing and beguiling while somewhat mesmerizing. Once I learned their overall story and history, my appreciation was immediately solidified.
The Summer NAMM experience is one that no one with a passion for music or the slightest interest should overlook and miss. Nothing is more inspiring and motivating than the exhibit of passion, ingenuity, innovation and craft for a specific subject matter, especially when that subject is music. What makes NAMM so amazing is how it brings all of those elements together to support the crafters behind the instruments, the musicians and talents that utilize those instruments; businessmen and woman that promote this and ultimately the fans that support them. It is this type of environment that when cultivated and promoted effectively benefits everyone that wants to be involved and that is exactly what Summer NAMM 2016 exhibited to me with all of its colorful facets.
Pictured: Musician Dave Tanner of The Depth and The Whisper performs outside at the NAMM Nissan Stage on The Terrace during the Summer NAMM at Music City Center on June 23, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.