By Phyllis Pollack
NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond held his State of the Industry address this morning. In his remarks, he made note of the upcoming 28th Annual Technical Excellence and Creativity (TEC) Awards taking place at NAMM this year.
The State of the Industry address was coordinated for members of the press by veteran publicist Jeanne O’Keefe of the Lippin Group. NAMM 2013 marks the 111th year of the confab.
Lamond acknowledged, “We’re music people at heart, and at the end of the day, I know we’re involved in manufacturing, retailing and live sound, but I think if you strip that away, most all the attendees at the show are musicians, music lovers, people who are passionate about music.”
“So of course, some of the great performances and the concerts that are coming up are really kind of exciting to me.”
This remark led to his discussing the highly prestigious TEC Awards. "The TEC Awards again are more of a concerted effort to reach out towards the live sound and event technology,” he noted.
This is the third year the TEC Awards will be held during NAMM.
Honors presented at the TEC Awards will include The Les Paul Foundation bestowing the Les Paul Award to guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful will host the award show.
"I love that event," said Lamond. "But one of the highlights for me, in addition to having John Sebastian from the Lovin’ Spoonful being the host, will be awarding of the Les Paul Award to Pete Townshend. Pete Townshend is coming to the TEC Awards for the first time.”
The Les Paul Award is sponsored by the Les Paul Foundation.
The event will be held at the Anaheim Hilton on NAMM week’s Friday night. “I do believe we’re seeing more of those companies that are in live sound, event technology, coming to NAMM, and this was a great way to give (to them). It really recognizes those companies that are pioneers in technology,” Lamond said.
“Yamaha, one of my favorite companies, has their 125th anniversary. They’re also having a concert with Sir Elton John, and just a host of other performers in a small theater. I don’t know when you’ll ever see Elton John again in a small theater,” marveled Lamond.
Sir Elton will be performing for Yamaha at the Hyperion Theater on NAMM's Friday. The concert will be streamed at NAMM, over the internet, and in many countries globally. “That will just be a wonderful event.”
Lamond noted, “This includes hundreds of other concerts that will be going on over the four days of the show. So I just love the fact there will be so much music. And in the hotel lobbies, are just all kinds of people playing. I think Jon (Hammond) will hopefully be playing again this year.”
Jon Hammond also took part in the call. Lamond introduced him as “The best (Hammond) B3 player, right there.” Hammond has performed with many legendary players and as a clinician. As a product artist, he has introduced many innovative products to music stores and their customers over the last 30 plus years.
Hammond, who was a Berklee College of Music attendee, is closely associated with the two main products of his career, the Excelsior Accordion and the Digital B3 Organ.
Lamond stated that drummers Bernard Purdie and Steve Gadd will be among players at NAMM. “For a drummer like me, it just doesn’t get much better than that,” said Lamond, praising their talent. “So from an overall point, I think the show is reflective of the industry,” he contended.
The logistics of space have changed for NAMM 2013. Lamond commented, “If we look at the amount of space being taken by our exhibitors, this will be the largest show since the recession hit in 2008 for us.”
The attendance will be higher this year than last, he said. “Basically, we’re sold out again in the Anaheim Convention Center. Good place to be, but it also has it’s own set of challenges. From an attendee standpoint, it looks like we have just over 96,000 registered attendees this year.”
“Based on where we are at two weeks out, there’s a good chance that if we don’t meet 100,000, we’ll be around a hundred this year, just up two or three percent,” he said, noting, “Our interest is always in making sure that we’ve got that from the global sound and products industry that we have all the right people there. So for us, hopefully, it’s always been about quality over quantity. We seem to be getting both lately, which is a good thing.”
Lamond enthused, “What I’m excited about the show especially is that 256 brand new companies exhibiting about 650 new brands. So I just look at that as the health of the eco-system.”
As far as new products and technology being introduced at NAMM 2013, Lamond announced, “They’ll be joining almost five thousand other brands of music and sound products, being exhibited by about 1,500 other exhibits.”
NAMM U will again be a big part of the convention this year. Lamond said, “The sessions will continue with NAMM University. On the M.I. side, it’s not just about retail, but about the best retail out there. NAMM University is helping to elevate the entire craft of music retail.” The H.O.T. Zone will also be another popular yearly feature.
“There will be some geographical changes this year,” he pointed out. “For those that have been there before, you will recognize that you would go into the lobby, and then badge and ID checks would occur before you went into the show floor. That is now being moved. The perimeters are the glass walls.”
“So once you’re inside the glass wall in the Convention Center, that entire 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space will become one environment, one complete eco-system. Then you will freely, between all the halls, all the floors, all the doors will be opened up to the halls, so you’ll just see one large environment,” he stated.
“So it gives us a lot more access to use the lobby for other events and exhibits. So it gives us more space, making it easier for people to move around freely, once they’re in. So that’s one new area. We’ll just have to make sure it’s smooth at the doors. But there are still many entrances, but the new perimeter is the glass wall,” Lamond said.
Another new thing is the opening of the Grand Plaza. Lamond explained, “The whole area between the Marriott and the Hilton Hotels is now turned into a park. It used to be a road. Now it’s a park. It was a $20 million expansion from the city of Anaheim. They’re going to dedicate it, and open it up at our show,” he said.
That event will take place during NAMM week on Thursday. There will be a series of events throughout the weekend. Said Lamond, “This is the first year that we will be using it, so we will be experimenting with how to best use it.”
Another event that Lamond referenced includes NAMM’s opening night. “The first night on the Main Stage, in the Grand Plaza, Tower of Power will be playing, and that is how we will open up, with kind of a little block party outside on the opening night of the show.”
“Because of moving everything out of the lobby, another new thing is that registration will be in the Hilton and the Marriott. So all registration is going to be done in those two hotels, and that will be something new for our members,” he advised. “We know it needs to be comfortable for guests when they arrive, and that they can navigate these changes.”
Due to the changes, Lamond said extra support people will be on hand. He stated that once attendees are inside, “They’ll see the advantage of having that change to the security wall to the perimeter.”
As far as the global economy, Lamond said, “This is going into, depending on how you count, maybe year five, where there’s real struggle as far as economic conditions around the world. We’re still seeing it in Japan, we’re seeing it in Europe, the United States, where hopefully, we’re on a better track going forward.”
“So I think we are firmly rooted in the love of music. In my opinion, the NAMM show has always been, even with as large as it is getting, like Cheers’ bar, that old TV show where ‘everyone knows your name.’ No matter what tribe you’re part of, when you pull up to the NAMM show, my hope and my goal would always be for the attendees to know it is their show,” he said.
“They belong. That’s their place. And they’ll always find all the other people that think like them,” Lamond expressed. “New ways to make music will inspire people around the world.”
Lamond attributed this year’s increased number of female musicians, both performing and endorsing as a result of the exhibitors, saying, “I think it’s a reflection of the environment, and manufacturers, who mainly plan those events. That’s the exhibitors’ doing, so I give the credit to them.”
Jon Hammond stated that this year will mark the first-ever NAMM Hammond organ night, which will be held on Friday in the Hilton lobby. Chester Thompson, who has played with groups including Weather Report and Genesis will be among those playing. Other notable Hammond endorsees will also perform.
The convention is still closed to the public, and open only to those in the industry, or those who have passes. There is still no day that is open to the general public. Lamond explained, “It’s a fragile balance between a trade event and a public event.”
As far as NAMM not having a day open to the general public, he stated he would not expect to see one any time in the near future. “Everyone who works the show, we’ve always had the theory you should be able to have a guest. This goes back decades.”
He verified, “If you’re working the show, you should be able to bring your spouse, your significant other, or a guest. So there already are a tremendous amount of visitors there.”
“So that is one of the challenges we face. What is the purpose of a trade event, versus an open to the public event? Our mission clearly is to advance the place that music holds in our society. The more people who make music, obviously, the more the industry will thrive. So it’s a little conflicting to say, ‘Okay, would that create more music makers?”
With record sales being decimated by digital downloads, and the downfall of record retail outlets, most artists have become more dependent on touring and playing live to make a living. Lamond notes that more touring artists have come to NAMM as a result.
"We started seeing more and more of those people at the show," he commented, noting "the increasing importance of live music." He added, "Those people that are in the live sound, live end of technology, they also have a great crossover into the M.I. side of things," noting players that cross into both categories.
Lamond said that NAMM is looking for ways to expand marketing to accommodate emerging markets. “When most companies are looking for growth, it’s the holy grail. Look at South America and Russia. NAMM created a new company within NAMM called NAMM International.”
The purpose of the company is to recruit members from around the world to attend the NAMM shows in Anaheim and Nashville. Lamond referred to working with governments, as well. He also noted that NAMM International reinvested funds into supporting music education in China.
NAMM Russia was introduced last year. “Can we go to other areas and create a show that will strengthen that area, and then have the proceeds also strengthen music education and the success of music in that area? We are very eager about increasing international attendance at the NAMM show, and then replicating that model.”
Lamond remarked, “We’re down a couple hundred people from international. If I was a betting man, I’m guessing it would be the European attendance. In many ways, that reflects a company taking 25 people instead of 30. If a company is trying to watch its expenses, that is how it would do it. It would bring fewer people.”
When it comes to new trends at NAMM this year, Lamond joked, “Any industry that counts among its customers church organists and death metal enthusiasts, is hard to generalize. But what I clearly see are two parallel tracks, and they are related. Technology. Companies making products and apps that are easier to play music, easier to learn music, easier to record music and easier to share music,” he said.
“Our industry is trying to figure out, what else do they need? What products and services do these technology services need? So there’s a whole technology track at NAMM, including an app pavilion, just for people that make apps.”
“The flip side of that is a whole section of the floor spread out of people making boutique handcrafted, hand-wired instruments. A guitar company that makes only twenty guitars a year.” There are also a growing number of boutique handwound guitar pickups available.
Lamond also cited, “Effect pedals that are absolutely unique, and made one at a time. The interesting part of that is that those instruments will be used by our great, great grandchildren. The technology trend, and maybe a whole generation of musicians that are looking for something unique.”
He also stressed the importance of music in houses of worship, and that noted that more performers are playing in them than ever before.
Lamond conceded that despite all the attention that NAMM’s constituents and attendees receive, “I realize globally, we’re not a huge industry compared to others. I remember, I think, the calendar industry is larger, and Denny’s Restaurant is larger than the U.S. music products industry.”
"But I also understand what music does, and how it’s related to everything we do. It influences fashion, politics, it influences our whole society,” Lamond reflected. “So we also understand the important role that music plays.”
NAMM 2013, which will be held from January 24 to January 27 in Anaheim, is not open to the public.