The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact the world of musicians, instrument and technology manufacturers and retailers as the virtual world-wide shut-down of live music performances remains in place, with no immediate signs of change.
This means that the annual NAMM (National Association Of Music Merchants) Show held in Anaheim, California, due in January 2021, will not now be taking place – at least not in its standard format which started back in 1901.
Not surprisingly, the NAMM team are not willing simply to abandon their iconic gathering, and they have created an alternative event to be called ‘Believe In Music Week’, which embraces all the cutting edge technology at the organisation’s disposal in order to connect and link the manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, musicians, and all trade personnel involved in music instruments and technology, to ensure that the physical restrictions in place impact as little as possible on this essential event in the music calendar.
NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond spoke to MIN’s Andy Hughes about the new January event, starting with the change in name for 2021.
“Over the summer, it became increasingly clear that with the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 and for the health and safety of our NAMM family, that physically gathering in Anaheim would not be possible. The team got to work on reimaging how to connect and meet the immediate needs of all facets of the industry while benefiting those most deeply impacted by the virus. Recognizing that nothing can replace the experience of the annual family reunion of The NAMM Show, Believe in Music: the online, global gathering to unify and support the people who bring music to the world, was born.
“Believe in Music Week will be powered by a powerful, interactive platform called Swapcard, which uses AI technology to connect buyers and sellers, launch new products and engage customers in real-time in a Marketplace. The platform will also offer comprehensive live stream programming through Believe in Music TV, professional development sessions for all segments of industry from top thought-leaders to develop new skills to meet the new realities, and of course, welcome and honor our industry’s most loved events and leaders across the Top 100 Awards, the TEC Awards, Best in Show, and the Grand Rally for Music Education.
“The week-long celebration will welcome domestic and international NAMM members, artists, media, and policymakers, along with participants from GenNext (college music students and faculty), Music Education Days (school music administrators), and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM Foundation grantees and non-profit affiliates). Emerging and established musicians and fans are invited to connect with brands and in special music-making projects and opportunities to showcase their talents and performances throughout the week, opening the potential to gather music makers in a capacity not restricted by location. Registration will open in October.”
The music industry, in common with the rest of the world, has found itself in uncharted waters since the pandemic began, and is not alone in having to navigate through changes without the benefit of anything approaching prior experience to offer any form of template or system to assist in moving forward. It is fortunate that at this time, the world is equipped as never before with vast resources of technology which can be, and are being deployed in various ways to circumvent the physical restrictions currently in place to safeguard everyone. The NAMM team have considerable valuable experience in the logistics of creating an event which is open to the world, and it has risen to the challenges created by the new environment, and its direct impact on the normal running of the NAMM Event, as Joe Lamond explains. “Each year, we build The NAMM Show from the ground-up, listening to member feedback and needs to make improvements to create a valuable and seamless experience for all members. In many ways, we’ve taken the same approach to building this online gathering: listening to our members, understanding the needs of the industry, and working to deliver high-value opportunities and solutions for business opportunities, professional development, and networking to make new connections. At the same time, nothing can replace the experiences of being gathered around a hotel bar or running into a long-time friend or making new ones. Through AI-facilitated matchmaking, we’ll be able to more intelligently connect people than ever before.”
As the team of innovators at NAMM have come to terms with the need for the ‘virtual’ instead of the standard physical presence of instrument dealers, they are offering virtual ‘booths’ available over the weekend, as Joe Lamond explains. “The Marketplace is the hub for buyers and sellers to connect, and during Believe in Music Week, it will serve as the central meeting place for brand engagement and product discovery. Powered by AI-facilitated matchmaking, the interactive platform will bring new and existing qualified buyers and sellers together to launch new products and brands, strategize and plan for inventory, and grow their networks around the world.”
There is no doubt that the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the virtual wipe-out of live music performances around the world, impacting with devastating effect on the musicians and performers whose lifeblood involves touring and playing music live. Joe Lamond is keen to remind everyone of the NAMM approach to this distressing ongoing situation. “First and foremost, musicians, touring professionals, and all event professionals should know that since March, NAMM has been active in securing federal relief efforts for all segments of our industry and continues to be at the table to push for additional relief funding. As it’s been said, our industry’s professionals were the first impacted and will likely be the last to return to any sense of normality. Right now, our team in Carlsbad and Washington, D.C. are working with industry leaders and elected officials on proposed legislation, the RESTART Act, to address long-term loans and other relief for this sector that contributes $877 billion to local and regional economies and represents over 10 million jobs. We applaud the efforts of the MIA and other organizations who are similarly seeking solutions to find relief.”
One of the mainstays of the NAMM shows has always been the Awards categories – recognition for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and musicians – together with other categories of individuals and companies who, together, make up the complex and varied strands that form the fabric of the music industry around the world. Joe Lamond is delighted to continue his positive approach to the NAMM event in 2021, and this particularly important and appreciated part of the weekend. “During Believe in Music Week, we look forward to celebrating the creative luminaries who are advancing pro audio technology at The TEC Awards, the standout products at Best in Show, and celebrating the heart of many communities and those at the forefront of creating a more musical world through the Top 100 Awards. I suspect that across the submissions, there will be stories of incredible creativity and perseverance through this time. The nomination period is currently open for both the TEC Awards and Top 100, and interested applicants can learn more at NAMM.org.
As 2020 draws to a close, and we all fervently hope for a return to normality as far as possible as 2021 unfolds, Joe Lamond and his team are already putting their long-term planning strategies into place for 2022, and although it would require a crystal ball to make a definite prediction, does he foresee a return to ‘business as usual’ for NAMM in 2022? “The short answer is yes. There is nothing that can ever replace the incredible opportunities, energy, and focus that happens when we gather together as an industry. The NAMM Show has been and will continue to be the time of year where we all come together in the ‘clubhouse.”
Let’s hope that we can look at NAMM’s ‘Believe In Music Week’ as the immediate response to an unprecedented situation, and that the proverbial ‘normal service’ is going to be in place for NAMM to be safe and home in California for 2022 and beyond.
ANDY HUGHES – MIN