January 24, 2020 I Event

The NAMM Show Rocks Anaheim

The 2020 NAMM SHOW

As a new decade begins, The 2020 NAMM Show once again brought out the MI industry for four days and nights filled with special events, educational sessions and, of course, a staggering amount of new gear. Held January 16-19, in Anaheim, California, The NAMM Show welcomed nearly 116,000 attendees; a mix of domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, entertainment tech and pro audio buyers and professionals, media, artists, guests, and The NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students and faculty), Music Education Days (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and nonprofit affiliates) participants.

“It was incredible to see NAMM members and industry professionals from around the world come together in such a positive way to experience the launch of countless new products, attend the best industry education available anywhere and enjoy the comradery and networking that makes our musical lives so meaningful,“Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO, said in a statement. “The NAMM Show campus served as a living, breathing snapshot of the current global marketplace and I truly believe that our attendees who made the commitment and investment to be there have increased their competitive advantage for success in the year ahead.”


Every year The NAMM Show sees the debut of tons of exciting new gear, and this year was no exception. Yamaha showcased more than 75 products at the show, including its new SLB300SK Silent Bass, the NX series of nylon-string acoustic-electric guitars and the YC61 stage keyboard. Speaking the first day of the show, Yamaha president Tom Sumner noted the mood among dealers was positive. “Sometimes the folks you talk to at the show can be like, ‘Oh, we had a tough Christmas,’ or ‘We had a great Christmas,’ or ‘Last year was great,’ or ‘Last year was bad.’ In general, dealers are really upbeat,” he said. “I mean there’s always one or two that aren’t, but the general mood is, ‘Hey, we had a great year and we’re looking forward to this year.’”

Gibson CEO James “JC” Curleigh stressed that The NAMM Show places MI in the spotlight, and it’s incumbent on companies to do something meaningful with that. “Come NAMM time, all eyes are on the music industry,” he said. “And I think it’s up to us, as an industry, to continue to bring new, fresh ideas, celebrate ideas from the past, and then come together and make the music community at large stronger.” Gibson debuted the Slash Collection, a line of acoustic and electric guitars developed in collaboration with the Guns N’ Roses guitarist, at The NAMM Show.

Billy Martinez, vice president of acoustics and Squier at Fender, characterized traffic in the immense Fender installation at The NAMM Show as steady. “A lot of times it’ll come in waves, but this year it’s been consistently busy nonstop,” he said.

Martinez felt at an advantage in having had Fender’s American Acoustasonic Telecaster out since The 2019 NAMM Show, softening consumers to the concept as the company debuted its Acoustasonic Stratocaster.

“We’re a year in from launching a new platform, and people are coming in looking for it because they’ve adopted it, and we’ve had success with Acoustasonics, so people aren’t coming in hesitant. They’re coming in excited to see what’s the next edition of it. What does it do? The Acoustasonic Strat [is] a really exciting one because we’re now adding another body shape with multiple voices in it.”


The sheer size of The NAMM Show is legendary, and this year was no exception. “My Lyft driver this morning was letting me know that she thought that The NAMM Show had outgrown the convention center and the neighborhood because it’s such a popular event,” said Lauren Hendry Parsons, associate vice president for communications and partnerships at BandLab Technologies.

The NAMM Show was, as always, teeming with people, all there for different reasons; some just taking in the show, others conducting business. For the latter, the pace of the show is relentless. “The best analogy that I could come up with is it’s the type of energy that you have at like your wedding day or 40th birthday or something like that where you are in a conversation that gets interrupted to go to the next conversation and it just domino effects from there,” said Michael Adams, sales and brand manager with Korg.


As in past years, companies exhibiting throughout the show hosted attractions such as live performances, signings and more in their booths and rooms to attract traffic. Jeff Klopmeyer, attending the show with ESP Guitars, explained how such attractions can prove overwhelming.

“A few years ago, we ran into a situation where we had people from even some of our major dealers and some of our important distributors who came up to us and said, ‘We would have loved to have seen you, but your booth was so crowded we couldn’t even get in. It felt like a mosh pit inside of your NAMM booth,‘“he said. According to Klopmeyer, ESP Guitars President and CEO Matt Masciandaro subsequently declared an end to live performances in ESP’s room. “We’re going to let the products be the star of the show,” Klopmeyer said.

Live performances were certainly not banned in Marshall’s room on the second floor of The NAMM Show. Having a room rather than a booth is relatively new for the company, which Luke Green, product director with Marshall, said makes all the difference. “We’ve become a destination,“he said. “We treat this as not just a trade event for showing the latest and greatest products, but a way of properly networking with dealers and international distributors as well.”

Kym Bradley, managing partner and executive vice president of sales and marketing with Earthboard, spoke to experiencing The NAMM Show from a different perspective — the basement level.

“There are two schools of thought,” she said. “One is that they shove people in the basement cause they’re not the big boys yet. And then the other school of thought is, ‘Oh no, no, no. That’s where all the coolest stuff is. The really innovative stuff.’”

Some doing business at The NAMM show are even less concerned with the location of their booth as they elect not to get one. Such was the case for Lee Oskar Harmonicas for years. “We decided not to have a booth anymore because it was very important not to be stuck in a booth and be in the distributors’ booths,” Oskar said. The company resumed booking a booth last year but Oskar still looks at the show the same way. “The NAMM Show to me is more for exposure and promotions and having meetings for the various distributors. It is not intended as a hardcore sell.”

During a Q&A session at Harman Kardon’s booth, funk legend Bootsy Collins summed up The NAMM Show nicely. “It reminds me of the world and the way it should be,“he said. “Everybody can’t wait to get down here.”


More News

See all