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Catching up with NAMM CEO Joe Lamond ahead of NAMM 2020

NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond outlines his vision for this year’s event

From January 16-20, California’s Anaheim Convention Center will once again welcome the global pro audio community for NAMM 2020, as it looks to build on a record-shattering 2019 edition.

Now in its 119th year, the annual trade show continues to find new ways of attracting newcomers, whilst ensuring there’s plenty to keep regular exhibitors and attendees coming back. The show has proven especially popular with the pro audio market in recent years, following the much lauded launch of its dedicated pro audio hall in 2018. The appeal to a significant audience beyond its traditional MI core is evident in its attendance and exhibitor figures. Last year, some 115,301 attendees flocked to the west coast, marking the biggest audience in the event’s history, with numerous exhibitors citing it as one of the best in recent memory. That figure represented a 7.5 per cent increase on 2017.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 exhibiting members graced the show floor to represent 7,000 brands. The show also saw significant gains in its global reach, achieving a targeted year-on-year increase of 14 per cent in international participants.

Somewhat predictably, organisers are expecting yet another show for the ages come January 16. To find out what’s in store this year, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond to discuss his ambitions for 2020 and the opportunities that lie ahead…

What can you tell us about this year’s pro audio offering?

For over a century, NAMM has been a stable, reliable and predictable platform for the music products industry to come together to launch new products, enhance skills through great educational offerings and to learn and grow while networking with their peers. The past decade has increasingly seen the integration of all parts of the ‘signal chain’ from instrument to the studio to the performance stage. This crossroads effect of bringing the global music, sound, and entertainment technology ecosystem together has been very exciting for our members and our team here at NAMM, and 2020 will absolutely be the best event yet.

So, to break that down, our exhibitors have worked all year to create new and innovative products for the pro audio market. In my opinion, new products drive any market, and I’m certain that between the show floor and enhanced demo opportunities like the Loudspeaker Systems Showcase located inside the Arena, buyers, integrators, and touring professionals will find the gear they need to be successful in 2020.

NAMM has always believed in education; I firmly believe the second pillar of any industry (and gathering like NAMM) is offering life-long learning. The pro audio education at NAMM—which includes TEC Tracks, AES Academy at NAMM, A3E, and Dante training—will cover everything from live sound mixing to mastering techniques to audio for virtual reality. There will also be plenty of great general business, management, and marketing courses in NAMM U that are available to all attendees at no extra charge.

And the third pillar of our event is recognising the value of networking, on and off the show floor. This includes the peer-to-peer exchanges at all the concerts, exhibitor parties and meet-ups in the hotel lobby bars and experiencing the comradery of a reunion of people who have dedicated their lives to music.

The show’s audio element has thrived over the past two years. Are you seeing an increase in demand for booth space?

Yes, we have been fortunate to retain the exhibitors who have been with us forever, as well as attracting many, many new friends. However, as an industry-owned show, we have always taken the long view. Bigger is not necessarily better, better is better. Earning the trust and providing real ROI for our exhibitors and attendees comes first. If we get that part right, the rest will follow.

“Although NAMM came into being in 1901 (think of how much has changed since then) I feel like we’re running a 119-year-old start-up. Each year is experimental, how exciting!”: Joe Lamond

Has the number of visitors in the pro audio market grown in recent years?

Yes, thankfully the pro audio community has embraced the NAMM show and we are achieving our targets in buyers, installers, and touring professionals. It seems to me our unique mix of these folks, along with the global musical instrument retailers and distributors, is offering our exhibitors many new potential customers that they might not normally have ever met at other shows.

How do you continue to please exhibitors old and new?

One thing NAMM members can count on: we are here to serve; our whole team is dedicated to that mantra, and we will always seek to do the right thing for all. With that, we listen carefully to feedback from the 7,000 brands and attendees of the show and strive to make improvements to enhance their experience.

Why are trade shows in general still so vital to the industry?

The music, sound, and entertainment products industry operates in a complex adaptive system, which means a perfect understanding of the individual parts does not convey an understanding of the whole system. Each industry player in the system observes the other players and makes decisions to improve their chances based on those observations. Which companies have increased or decreased their exhibits, what are the main themes in educational sessions, which new products generate the most excitement, and which major headlines, announcements, and awards are making waves? From these clues, each industry participant will draw up strategies towards their own personal definition of the “end zone.” No one knows what 2020 and beyond will look like, but I do know that the clues will be found when the global industry gathers at the NAMM show. The amount of educational content (seminars, conferences, etc.) has increased year after year.

What do you have in store on that front for 2020?

With over 300 educational sessions scheduled from TEC Tracks, AES Academy at NAMM, A3E, and Audinate’s Dante training, I would be hard-pressed to pick just a few to note. But I suspect that members seeking to expand their competitive advantage and to learn from expert presenters through the carefully curated sessions will find the opportunity to do so at the NAMM show. The key is planning ahead and scheduling the sessions you really want to see and then building the rest of your itinerary from there.

How big a factor is this type of content in the show’s overall appeal to visitors?

Both exhibitors and attendees alike are putting much more value on this than in years past. The educational alliances with other like-minded organisations like A3E, AES, and ESTA share in a vision to create more music makers and a desire to serve our respective industry and its members – especially when it came to our mutual desire to continue to support the professional development of members. At NAMM, we believe that the three key ingredients of a successful NAMM show include a robust trade show floor with the latest innovative products, relevant and high value education and the socialising and networking that happens at all the concerts, parties and meet-ups across the various hotel lobby bars that remind us all of our shared passion for music and our true purpose as we dedicate our lives to this great industry.

As we prepare to leave the 2010s and enter the 2020s, what have been some of the key moments for NAMM over the past 10 years, and what are your predictions for the years ahead?

As Pete Townshend once sang in ‘Music Must Change,’ ‘Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealised sound, every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be found.’ The keyword there being change. We tend to think that just because things have been the way they are for a while that they will always be that way. That is just about the time when everything changes and the new comes in. Will the next decade look like the last? I doubt it, and besides, who would really want that anyway?

What are the biggest opportunities for NAMM in the current market?

Fulfil our vision of a world where every child has a right to learn music and where every adult is a defender of that right. Oh, and world peace…

What are the biggest challenges?

I’m a drummer, so I like to think of things in terms of rhythm. The ideal world seems logical to me in a comfortable 4/4 beat or possibly a nice ¾ waltz. The world today is something right out of a King Crimson nightmare or possibly Frank Zappa’s ‘The Black Page’. Keeping NAMM the stable and reliable partner for our member companies and the global industry through all of this is job number one. Although NAMM came into being in 1901 (think of how much has changed since then) I feel like we’re running a 119-year-old start-up. Each year is experimental, how exciting!