With the global pro audio and MI industries gearing up for their annual trip to the sunny west coast, Daniel Gumble finds NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond in equally bright and breezy mood...
It seems there is more than just the vast expanse of the Atlantic separating the Winter NAMM show from its European counterparts these days. Over the past five years or more, the pro audio trade show landscape on this side of the pond has been in a state of perpetual flux. The inexorable rise of ISE during that time has been evident for all to see. Breaking records left right and centre, it has had to relocate from its current home at the Amsterdam RAI to Barcelona’s Gran Via in order to accommodate the masses desperate to get in on the burgeoning AV and install market.
Meanwhile, London’s PLASA show has experienced something of a mini renaissance since the arrival of former Roland exec Peter Heath as its managing director, bringing with him a renewed focus on pro audio that seems to be winning over some of the doubters after the show endured a good few years of upheaval and a perceived deviation from its roots. And as for Prolight+Sound, well, who knows? The Frankfurt show has implemented major changes to the show’s layout and its consumer-trade balance for several consecutive years now as it strives to maintain its place at pro audio’s top table.
Amidst all of this, the annual NAMM show has remained an oasis of relative calm, quietly going about its business year-after-year, applying the occasional tweak here and there and introducing just enough new content to keep the regulars happy and appeal to a steady stream of newcomers. Of course, the event’s sun-bleached, palm tree-peppered environs will always help to add a little sparkle to the NAMM offering, but it’s the combination of engaging content and networking opportunities that underpins so much of its success. All of which has been masterminded by its president and CEO Joe Lamond. Taking place from January 24-27 at the Anaheim Convention Centre, NAMM 2019 promises yet another stellar array of exhibits, live performances and educational sessions, as Lamond explains…
While the global pro audio trade show landscape has changed significantly in recent years, NAMM has remained a constant, fine-tuning its offering as opposed to making sweeping changes. Do you have any new features in store this year, particularly with regards to audio?
The credit for the vibrancy of the NAMM Show goes 100 per cent to our members, who have continued to see this event as a stable, reliable platform for them to launch their year. Operationally, the NAMM team looks at each year as another experimental show. Starting from a blank piece of paper, we think carefully about how we can do the best job possible for the industry, given our members and the economic conditions in the global industry.
This year’s show will see expanded offerings in pro audio exhibitors, hands-on educational opportunities and new features like the Loudspeaker Systems Showcase; an opportunity for manufacturers to demonstrate both their flown and portable systems in a real-world setting to a mix of industry professionals. We’ve also worked closely with our partners AES, ESTA and groups like Timeless Communications to curate high-quality education that complements the already successful NAMM TEC Tracks. Our guests who take advantage of these opportunities will leave much better equipped for success in the new year.
Are you ever tempted to relocate or implement any big changes, or is NAMM’s gradual evolution a deliberate approach?
If we were to rewind to 1960, you would find two thirds of the show floor featuring console television sets and radios. How crazy is that to imagine? The fact is, that as the industry has evolved, NAMM has evolved in tandem to reflect the demands of the market and to anticipate the needs of the industry’s future. The crossroads concept of bringing music products, pro audio, and event technology all together is an extension of that, and a reflection of where the industry is headed. Southern California in January has been the home of the NAMM Show for almost 40 years; we’re lucky on so many fronts. It’s true that the industry changes and evolves, and that our members are extremely entrepreneurial, but in my opinion, one of NAMM’s main jobs is to be stable, reliable and predictable so that our members can launch from this platform.
How big a challenge is it to achieve the right the balance between pleasing regular visitors and attracting new visitors?
The NAMM Show is about our member communities, the professional tribes; they are the heart of our organisation. As industry evolves with market demands, the products, services, and technologies we see do as well. Often that means new segments are created and grow, and perhaps, some are smaller than they once were. These are market forces at work; customers will always be looking for new and innovative products to create new and innovative music. Looking back over the course of our 118-year history, The NAMM Show has been a reflection of these changes.
Have you been able to learn anything from the huge growth seen at shows such as IBC and ISE, which is relocating in 2021 to accommodate its ever-growing audience?
It seems to me that new and innovative products drive any industry, whether it’s autos, electronics or medicine. The segments where we are seeing this kind of growth have a lot in common. Product innovation and the resulting obsolescence of older products, increasing demands from the market and higher customer expectations, in this particular case for their sound, lighting, and video needs. What a great combination. And again, looking back through NAMM’s historical data, this pattern has repeated itself over and over again, just the segments have changed - at one time, home organs had the same trajectory.
How important is it for NAMM to keep abreast of what’s happening in Europe with regards to trade shows?
We’re insanely curious about all kinds of things. The NAMM team are voracious readers, and we think carefully about many industry economic and geopolitical issues. As the famous comedian Steven Wright said, “It’s a small world (but I wouldn’t want to paint it).” But seriously, our member companies do business around the globe; we want them to be successful, and therefore we support efforts that lead to that outcome.
What can visitors and exhibitors expect from the new pro audio space that opened in 2018?
Crossroads 2.0 launched this past January with the opening of the new hall, the ACC North. It was a long sought expansion and could not have come at a better time. We laid out the show floor having never seen the finished building though, and we learned a lot about traffic flow and building logistics. This year our guests will find more exhibits and improved convenience in locating and seeing all of the exhibits. The security perimeter has been widened as well, so our guests will be able to move freely between the new ACC North and Halls A and B, which also include many exciting pro audio, lighting, video and event technology exhibits. This year’s improvements will really be felt by our guests, and I suspect they will have a really fun and productive time in Anaheim.
There has been a major education drive in recent years at NAMM. What’s in the pipeline on that front this year?
As you can imagine, we’ve given this a lot of thought. NAMM’s mission is to strengthen the industry and to help our members be more successful in their craft; professional development is one of the most important ways to do that. There is basically an extensive educational conference within the NAMM Show, which could almost be a stand-alone event. Inside the NAMM U Education Center at the Hilton, professionals will have world-class leaders, product experts and technology innovators to learn from. Here, alongside the Audio Engineering Society, Audinate’s Dante, ESTA, The Entertainment Services and Technology Association, A3E, and NAMM’s TEC Tracks, professionals can advance their career through know-how from the industry’s top experts and luminaries.
What are the key business trends you have seen in 2018? Any particular markets or sectors that have surprised you?
As much as technology has brought us all together digitally, I’m continually awed by the human need to gather with like-minded tribes. Live music and music festivals are thriving, and keeping music in the forefront as a positive unifier in an increasingly divided world, I like that trend. Business-wise, I’ve seen many NAMM members quietly having some of their best years ever, not wanting to say it out loud for fear of jinxing it. These business cycles will continue to ebb and flow, which also reminds us to be sure to put something away during the good years.
What are the biggest opportunities for the NAMM show and the NAMM organisation in 2019?
Honestly, I’ve been looking at the show exhibitor map and simply cannot believe how much exciting new product will be on that floor. Many of us are ‘gear folks’ at heart, and that alone is enough reason to get to the show. Bigger picture, the industry continues to evolve. Names that were just huge a few years ago have been challenged by new and up and coming companies with a new vision. This is normal and just as it should be, after all, who would be happy having their first mobile phone from the ’90s? So, in my opinion, the biggest opportunity for us all, NAMM included, is not to be afraid of change, to seek it out and make it your own. No one can invent your future better than you, so why let them?
What would your message be to first-time pro audio exhibitors at the show or those who have yet to exhibit at the show?
It is an extremely competitive world, so my message is quite simple, and that is don’t miss out – maximise every opportunity you have to get business done, invest in yourself and in your company/skill set through education and have some fun along the way.
Last year’s introduction of the pro-audio wing was a welcome change. Will there be further tweaks this year? And how will you address the handful of issues that came up, like the low number of concession stands or the sometimes extensive lines to get in?
As with each of our shows, member feedback guides our model of continuous improvement, and in the case of the ACC North, that’s true as well. After our first event in the new building, we’ve made adjustments to improve the traffic flow of attendees to create a more seamless process, reduced the physical security barriers and have increased access and options of available food and beverage inside and outside of the building. We have also worked closely with our partners to improve the Wi-Fi and cellular service in and around the space and created those in-building networking and gathering opportunities.
In the wake of the first AES@NAMM event last year, NAMM and AES signed an agreement to continue that partnership for a number of years. What do you feel AES brings to the table for the NAMM Show and its attendees?
I’ve been going to AES events for decades now and always thought we should work together. Like NAMM, AES shares in a member-focused mission to offer essential and affirming professional development opportunities to keep the industry strong. With the NAMM Show as the platform to AES’s expert sessions, courses and training workshops, NAMM members and audio professionals can fulfil the need for continued education and networking, as well as to experience the latest in products and technologies from the leaders in pro audio across The NAMM Show floor.