A general view of the exhibition floor during the Summer NAMM Show Opening at Music City Center on July 13. I Getty Images for NAMM

Spirits High at NAMM Summer Session

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article reported that attendance was down 2 percent for NAMM Summer Session. That was incorrect. NAMM reported that attendance was up 2 percent, not down. Music Inc. regrets the error.

Summer NAMM once again brought the heat to Music City with three days jampacked with the latest gear, inspiring educational sessions and an opportunity to meet and connect with dealers old and new. Held July 13-15 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, Summer NAMM celebrated both industry vets and rookies who are motivated to keep up with the ever-evolving MI marketplace.

Overall attendance numbers were up 2 percent from last year (coming in at 14,284 attendees) and international attendees accounted for a growth of 14 percent over 2016 and nearly 28 percent growth over 2015, "a trend which continues to demonstrate the international opportunities available to both buyers and exhibiting members alike," according to NAMM. The show also featured 505 exhibitors, comparable to Summer NAMM 2016.

This year's show featured 235 new and returning exhibitors.

"We didn't know what to expect for the first time coming here," said Tim Barbour, co-founder of Strung, a custom guitar string accessory maker and first time exhibitor. "We've met some amazing people."

As always, gear drove attendee conversations at the show.

Yamaha showcased its CP4 Stage digital piano, the Billy Corgan Signature Model Jumbo Acoustic Guitar and highlighted its revised BB series.

"One thing that really excites me is we're now able to [produce] a Japanese-made four-string BB bass for $1,499 and a five-string for $1,599 in a hard shell case," said Andy Winston, product specialist at Yamaha. "We're trying to make [our] Japanese high-end [gear] more affordable for the masses."

D'Angelico displayed its Bob Weir Signature SS, the Limited Edition Elvis Presley Excel 175, and new options in its Excel Series: the DC Shoreline and SS Shoreline. On the acoustic side, D'Angelico showed off its Premier Series of acoustics.

"We were really excited to bring [the Premier Series] to Nashville because of the strong country scene," said D'Angelico's Ryan Kershaw. "Acoustic flat tops, in particular, are going up in popularity. We joined that race last year and perfected our spot this year."

To catch some summer vibes, Fender debuted the California Coast Series Ukuleles — a line consisting of five ukes with price points ranging from $59 to $250.

"I have a 10-year-old daughter and she's into ukuleles. For me, it's the first step in a fretted instrument developmental path," said Fender CEO Andy Mooney. "So we've greatly expanded the ukulele collection. All of the ukuleles will come with free [Fender Play] lessons."

In early July, Fender rolled out Fender Play, a video-based learning platform geared toward aspiring guitarists.

"We're focused on beginners because 45 percent of instruments that we sell, we believe, go into the hands of first-time players," Mooney explained. "90 percent of those players abandon the instrument in the first year. The [other] 10 percent commit to the instrument for life."

Another learning app discussed at SNAMM was Casio's free app — Chordana Play, which comes with the LK-265 Casio Key Lighting Keyboard, as well as the new CTK-2500, CTK-2550 or CTK-3500 Casio standard, and lets users import songs and learn to play them with the assistance of visual notes.

The other component Casio showcased within its portable keyboards was "Dance Music Mode," which offers players 50 built-in rhythms.

"Without any previous keyboard experience, [Dance Music Mode] is something that you could have a lot of fun with and create music on the fly," said Mike Martin, Casio's general manager.

Even though Casio's Martin felt that the show was slower than last year's, he said it's still worth it and that the company will be back next year.

"We didn't have any crazy expectations coming here, and it's a great way for us to reach dealers that aren't making the haul to Anaheim," Martin said. "I think there are still people that haven't put their hands on our keyboards and are seeing them for the first time. In that respect, it's still worth it."

Bryce Young, president of Warm Audio, sees value in presenting the company's audio products in Nashville because the city continues to grow as a recording mecca.

"This is where the industry is now," he said. "We meet a lot more true professionals here than we do at other shows. Some of the other shows are larger, but fewer professionals are there."

With that in mind, Warm Audio showcased its WA-14 condenser microphone, featuring a CK-12 style capsule based on the vintage 414 mic used on Freddie Mercury's vocals — very exciting, Young noted.

Antelope Audio showcased its Goliath HD 64-channel interface to connect with the recording community.

"It's smaller than winter NAMM, but the quality of people that come here are like, really excellent, professional people," said Don Spacht, Antelope's East Coast sales representative. "Our company only makes high-end products, and Nashville is where it happens."

Music Distributors Group displayed Gravity Stands for the first time in the United States. Gravity is a line of high-quality stands with more than 200 SKUs available. Also on display was LD System's Maui Go — a portable, battery-powered version of the Maui column P.A. system with mixer and Bluetooth. The Maui Go received a Best In Show award for its lightweight form factor and hard-hitting sound quality.

"The industry is really about making your presence known with a lot of the smaller dealers," Steve Savvides, president of MDG said. "It's a top-down industry, as far as we've seen. A lot of the bigger companies have taken over the smaller market share, but there are a lot of independent dealers that still do local school business and things like that."

"You just have to be able to get out in front of them."

Sabian's Luis Cardoso suggested treating Summer NAMM as more than The NAMM Show's little sister because they are entirely different events.

"I think a lot of people see it as a regional guitar show, but I think it's important to be here in Nashville to support dealers in this area as there's so much music happening in the city," he said. "A lot of drum companies for, whatever reason, have stopped coming, but we're having a really good, busy show." MI

By Kasia Fejklowicz & Alex Harrell