NAMM CEO Joe Lamond

Do You Believe?

By Frank Alkyer

The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of live events around the world, including one near and dear to the musical products industry’s heart: The NAMM Show 2021.

In it’s place, NAMM will be hosting Believe In Music Week, January 19-22, a virtual marketplace, education hub and fundraiser for out-of-work members of the music community.

What is it? How will it work? What is its goal? Frank Alkyer, Music Inc.’s publisher, sat down with Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM, in late August to discuss the plans for this first-of-its-kind event — and why it’s important to the industry.

A Difficult Decision

Lamond called canceling The NAMM Show one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to make.

“When it became clear that the physical event couldn’t take place, we looked to others who had canceled. We weren’t the first one to go through this. We’d already seen InfoComm, NAB, SXSW, Sweetwater’s Gearfest, the Apple product launch, the Salesforce Integrators Conference, Comic-Con — a dozen if not more that had to cancel their physical gatherings. The default for almost everyone was a virtual manifestation of their physical event.

“There were varying degrees of success on that idea that we could see. We weren’t the first, thankfully. We weren’t the first that had to instantly try and figure out something else. Others did a great job with that. So we had the benefit of seeing what they did on the fly. We also saw the shortcomings.”

Those shortcomings included others trying to replicate a trade show floor in a virtual space.

“We looked at that, and thought about The NAMM Show and what it really is as far as walking onto that campus and feeling the energy of a global gathering of everyone involved in the trade, of stepping inside those glass doors of the convention center where the lighting almost gets brighter and the energy is pouring out of those halls. And then, we went back to that website and looked at this little lobby where you click into that or that. That’s not what we wanted to do.

“We looked at that, and it just didn’t seem like the industry would be excited about that. And, worse, if people saw that for the first time and thought that was The NAMM Show, we could actually disappoint quite a lot of people.”

The Birth of Believe In Music Week

Deciding not to replicate the show online lead to a great deal of soul searching about what the organization could do.

According to Lamond, in surveying NAMM members, it found that educational sessions were just as, or more important, to members seeking new ways to literally get through the pandemic.

At the same time, many NAMM exhibitors said they were still developing new products that will be ready by January 2021.

And, finally, looking around the industry, NAMM could see that many segments of the industry were hurting. The live events industry had been shut down. Those employees were out of work. School music faced heavy headwinds as schools decided to start the school year with remote learning.

“Then, we thought that we’ve been doing a lot of the lobbying for the industry segments that were hurting,” Lamond said. “And we thought, ‘OK, what can we do for the industry to be a beacon?’ This was no time to stand down. This was the absolute time for the industry to come together as we could, as much as we could, to put music out front as part of the solution. And that would be our flag we would plant. And that got us excited.”

Like Your Favorite Social Network

In this spirit, NAMM has developed “Believe In Music Week,” which incorporates a three-pronged approach. First, it will have a strong emphasis on education. Then, it will have a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers. Then, the third component will be a push to raise money to help a wide array of music industry professionals who have been put out of work due to the pandemic.

At the center of it is Swapcard, an online platform that will serve as the home of Believe In Music Week. Instead of creating a virtual convention hall, Swapcard’s technology will present Believe In Music Week as more of a social media gathering for the musical products industry.

“If you’re on Instagram or if you’re on Facebook, this will instantly look like what you’re used to seeing,” Lamond said. “That’s what the other platforms were not, and that’s what sold us on this one.”

Exhibitors and attendees will have their own home page on the platform. They can contact, connect and virtually meet with people. They can tune in for new product demos or press conferences.

The technology behind Swapcard also offers a big advantage for exhibitors and attendees alike — artificial intelligence. Through this AI, Swapcard serves as a matchmaker between buyers and sellers and between people with similar interests, too.

“Think about that for a second, that concept,” Lamond said. “If you like this product, you will like these other products. That leads to discovery of things you might not normally have seen if you’re trying to walk through 1.6 million square feet of trade show.

“It’s the idea of discovery. And not only on product, but on people. How you register is going to identify you as interested in certain things. So there will be a match making of people you should meet for your career or people that you should meet to learn more about their company.

“So, there’ll be an interactive matchmaking for product and for people. And, at the same time, it’s great for scheduling, when you get to the education component. If you like one certain topic, and you put that class onto your schedule, and the AI will suggest other topics and sections that will also be something you might be interested in. So, with the idea of this thing helping you lay out your schedule and discover new people, companies and things, it’s looking like your favorite social platform.”

Believe In Music TV

Instead of walking into the lobby of the Anaheim Convention Center this January, Believe in Music Week attendees will enter into the event’s home page and be greeted by Believe In Music TV.

NAMM is planning on delivering 16 hours of programming at over two days, January 20-21. Lamond said to think of this as Live Aid for out-of-work members of the music community.

“How do we do a Live Aid-style fundraiser for those hurting in the music products industry?” He asked. “It’s not maybe as glamorous as what Bob Geldof did, but at the same time, we don’t have to get everybody to Philadelphia or London for an afternoon. This can be pre-recorded and set up as music, interviews, spotlights on on the careers and the people. There will be a diversity-and-inclusion track to all of this talking about the issues our industry faces in regard to women and race and how we can do a better job. We’re going to hit all those topics with Believe In Music TV, while promoting the charities that we fund, and others. For example, promoting the touring workers, highlighting their plight and seeing what we can do to make sure people are aware of that.”

The week will culminate with an all-star, fundraising concert on the platform, sponsored by Yamaha.

“We will be celebrating the diversity in music, and music’s role in healing this situation that we’re in globally right now, not only from the pandemic, but racially and with respect to other social issues. Music is part of that. And that’s where that concert is going to glue together music’s role in helping solve the world’s problems right now.”

The Bottom Line

For Lamond and NAMM, this January will be one of the most important times ever for the industry to gather.

“This will be a time to get everyone together to prepare for the post-COVID world, which there will be, and just to make sure that we are all: a) promoting music; and, b) getting ready for the recovery, ready for what comes next,” he said.

For exhibitors and event sponsors, the concept of gathering together will still bring heightened attention to the industry, as well as the companies within the industry, Lamond said.

“There is a value to having a product launch when all the world’s eyes are in one place,” he said. “In this case, those eyes will be on Believe In Music Week in January.”

If you’re an exhibitor, if you’re a brand, the cost of entry to this is a fraction of being at The NAMM Show, both from exhibiting expense, and then all the ancillary expenses of shipping and setup in hotels and meals and entertainment. All that is gone.”

In short, the opportunity is definitely worth trying something new. MI

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