No NAMM for me

As the bump-out continues in Anaheim, I have some regrets about not attending the once-mighty NAMM – the event where I met many of the industry luminaries and got to see products before they hit the market.
But with big names like Roland, DW, Pearl, Alesis and ATV not on the floor, I was not alone in staying away this year.
I have seen many social media posts lamenting the absences, most seeming to indicate that the annual Anaheim gathering may have run its course.
The decline of the trade show comes as no surprise. As a journalist who has reported on various industrial sectors and the meetings industry, I have seen this happen in many markets. Dominant industry shows became entrenched, kept hiking their fees and in order to justify the costs, broadened the attendee base to the extent that they ceased to be “trade shows”.
Over the years, I would see more and more “punters” at NAMM, including children. Clearly, as the audience shifted from trade-only to include more general public, it became more challenging for exhibitors to decide on their messaging. Product launches became a rarity because manufacturers realised that their dealers would no longer be the first to know. At the same time, they’d have to fight for attention among scores of other new products. Roland, for example, started launching its products at its own event like 808 Day.
It seems NAMM has not yet learned from the MusikMesse experience in Europe. That show ceased to be a trade show and opened its doors to the general public, making it very difficult for trade attendees to get quality time with the major suppliers. Very quickly, ‘professional’ visitors decided to give the show a miss, and to leave it to the fans, groupies and wannabes.
Personally, I am sorry to see the decline of NAMM. I attended several times at considerable expense and inconvenience, travelling from the other side of the world and enduring long customs/immigration delays and jetlag before the show even started.
Despite the cost and hassle, I had some great experiences, meeting all the movers and shakers of e-drumming, catching up with artists I had previously interviewed and lining up new talent for later profile articles. I got to hear about product plans, R&D projects, sales trends and personnel movements at the big companies. In short, NAMM turned casual contacts into friendships and business relationships, most of which are still as strong as ever – even after sitting out the last few shows.
In this world of virtual meetings, social media and instant communication, obviously trade shows are no longer the only avenue to business contacts. But they do offer unique opportunities for unexpected hook-ups.
So, while I am in no way surprised by the decline of the international show for our sector, I am sorry that NAMM is no longer the “must do major” event it was a decade ago.
  • See a full report on e-drum gear at NAMM in the February digitalDrummer, out soon.