It should be said, ahead of sharing our thoughts and experience of NAMM 2024, that Music Instrument News last attended NAMM in 2020. This was true of some exhibitors returning to NAMM for the first time since COVID and sees NAMM’s return to their pre-pandemic January dates.
For 2024, there was certainly an element of apprehension, booking flights, hotels, the 10+hour flight, and a bit of Americana from Enterprise Car Rental; what would we would discover? Collecting our press passes on Thursday morning, ahead of the 10am door opening and bag search, we grabbed two coffees and two pastries at the eye watering price of $26.00 from the Hilton, (no prices on display) ouch!
Having attended previous NAMM’s for more than 15+ years, it was pleasant to be able to find seating whilst we awaited, but with a strong recollection that normally this place would have been packed first day of NAMM. As we eked every last drop out of our overpriced coffee cups we exited the Hilton to find a civilised small queue preparing to head inside. It was most certainly a quieter and pleasant start to the show, but it felt like less of a buzz than previous pre-pandemic years, but let’s not jump to conclusions and judgements just yet. We had made the transatlantic crossing and taken the time do so not to whinge or complain, but to remain openminded and to discover how things looked, meet with the trade, witness product launches and hear the thoughts of those businesses that invested in exhibiting.
It was obvious upon entry that there were some notable absences and some sizeable gaps in the halls. Of course, keyboard warriors took to posting scenes of shell scheme walls, more eatery areas to plug gaps on social media, with the typical and predictable comments, rather than taking a more pragmatic and intelligent approach of qualifying who was there, not forgetting the carnage that COVID presented to the world and to our beloved entertainment music sector. Let’s just “hold your horses” here and not to be too quick to judge!
As we cast our eyes left as we headed into the musical instrument halls, we decided to start from the far end of the halls to the left and literally walk up and down every single aisle until we reached the other end. Purely from an observation point of view, there were more densely populated areas, and others that could have been closed off and presented a little better. But, despite this we thought, this is still most certainly the biggest gathering of brands our industry has, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Casting our minds back four years, and beyond, a Thursday at NAMM would have seen more visiting folks on the hall floors by now, but our industry, a way of working and possibly a shift in mindsets and mentality approach for trade shows as a whole could be playing a cautious part and approach to NAMM emerging and fighting its way back.
It was great to see familiar faces and brands we recognised from home, Dan and Mark from Ashdown, G7th Company, Nick and Simon Campling and many others. What was encouraging to hear, was that the theme and comments from those that we spoke to that had exhibited last year all said the same thing. “A noticeable improvement”, with comments ranging of “20 to 40% better than last year with more exhibitors,” as well as comments of great business achieved in 2023 which assisted them with making the decision to return to exhibit for 2024.
What was disappointing to witness was the repeated requests from Gibson to collect press from NAMM and shuttle them away, clearly targeting press in our experience, to check out their latest launches off location, whilst so many businesses had committed to exhibiting at NAMM. I am sure the mighty Gibson and others could have stretched to a room on the second floor, or scaled something fitting to be on location; perhaps next year? We came to the show to experience NAMM and those that chose to exhibit, so we declined their kind offer.
Alternatively, some companies opted for an office on the show floor, as some kind of support for NAMM to capitalise on NAMMs attendees. Greater thought could have been given to this, with office spaces sporadically appearing in the most unusual of places, to fill gaps we assumed, and in certain cases placed next to high level noise booths, that appeared to be overlooked by noise control, causing some frustration.
Anaheim saw a good number of individuals and businesses that made the journey to catch the winter sun of LA, but chose not to exhibit. For them, they will have their own reasons, but from our visit, it was most certainly worthwhile and for those that chose to exhibit that we spoke with.
Comments observed from those that exhibited were mostly a carbon copy. Thursday was a little quieter, Friday, my goodness was absolutely mental, as was Saturday, with the Sunday being much quieter. Reports of good business done in 2023, or a very pleasing turn out for 2024 from returning 2023 exhibitors or those that returned for 2024 were very positive. The comments of “cost of things” was really the only negative feedback we received from NAMM exhibitors and that of previous shows, of which when we met with NAMM’s Marketing Director Pete Johnston we shared feedback we had received from their exhibitors, which he embraced and shared his thoughts too.
For NAMM, based upon this year, it’s clear that they will have a good deal of support from those that exhibited this year. The comments of good business and growing attendance will no doubt win back exhibitors for 2025, with the cost and time saving news, that NAMM will return to a three day show, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A smart move we think.
We shared openly with NAMM, our comments, not naming individual businesses, but costs need to be saved and made to continue to attract returning exhibits, and for those that continue to sit it out, whilst benefiting from the opportunities of visiting or being in close proximity of the show. Our comments passed onto NAMM from past and present exhibitors that Freeman was “ripping them off” was shared. Charges of $4000 to simply move products from a van to a booth location, seem excessive, as are the furniture costs extended by NAMM’s partner Freeman. It could be considered a false economy if exhibitors are arriving early, making or purchasing furniture at a fraction of a cost to avoid being charged excessive “convenience rates” by not ordering through Freeman. A larger stick was suggested to NAMM to assist exhibitors by driving Freeman rates down to something that provides convenience but reasonable was recommended, so I guess time will tell.
Music Instrument News has no skin in the game with NAMM or exhibitors, so this report, we hope, will aid those that are considering next year. We think it was very worthwhile, based on the impartial and commonly shared comments we received at the show continuing to provide a positive and business opportunity for our sector. NAMM in our humble opinion needs to listen very carefully to existing supporters of NAMM and to encourage more brands to return. A deeper conversation with Freemans excessive charges as mentioned cannot remain unchallenged in our opinion and some intervention from NAMM as the customer, we think would be appreciated by exhibitors.
2024 provided a number of opportunities for companies. Company launch of AIM Audio with their new microphones.
GEWA celebrated kicking off the new year with new releases, along with the excitement of acquiring worldwide licence for Gretsch Drums.
Faith Guitars debuted their Blue Moon Acoustics, along with Premier Drums returning to NAMM, the last time being 2015.
News of new partnerships, along with brands changing distribution all make for valid reasons to get amongst it at NAMM. As press you have a diary of new releases and innovations to see, but being physically present, the whispers, the off-booth meetings and the chance encounters of news yet to unfold cannot be optimised in our opinion if you are not there.
Music Instrument News will return to NAMM 2025 where we would expect to see a continuation of growth, as described by this year and last year’s exhibitors. Please keep us informed if you plan to return to NAMM 2025.
If you exhibited at NAMM and would like to share your comments and experience, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org