A New Decade of Innovation & Business Kicks Off at The 2020 NAMM Show

With the start of the new decade, leaders, innovators, experts, and artists across music products, pro audio, and entertainment technology gathered at the "Crossroads" of the global industry, The 2020 NAMM Show. Held January 16-19, in Anaheim, CA, the four days of the annual gathering saw professionals convene to launch and discover the next decade of business opportunities and celebrate music-making.

“It was incredible to see NAMM Members and industry professionals from around the world come together in such a positive way to experience the launch of countless new products, attend the best industry education available anywhere and to enjoy the comradery and networking that makes our musical lives so meaningful,” says Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. “The NAMM Show campus served as a living, breathing snapshot of the current global marketplace and I truly believe that our attendees who made the commitment and investment to be there have increased their competitive advantage for success in the year ahead.”

With business at the top of mind, the show welcomed over 2,000 exhibiting member companies, representing 7,000 brands, across all areas of The NAMM Show campus. Of the 115,888 NAMM Member and invited registrants, international members accounted for nearly 20 per cent growth over two years, with realigned member badge allocations to ensure an enhanced professional attendance resulted in a more focused business experience with a slight increase in attendees. Registrants were an invited mix of industry professionals from across the crossroads and included domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, entertainment tech and pro audio buyers and professionals, media, artists, invited guests, and The NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students and faculty), Music Education Days (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and nonprofit affiliates) participants.

"The NAMM Show is the ultimate opportunity for industry professionals to come together to share their passion for music, build relationships, and learn from each other through the vast array of educational and networking opportunities that The NAMM Show has to offer," says Chair of the NAMM Board of Directors, Chris Martin of C.F. Martin. "It's a place where we hold each other up, cheer each other on, and strengthen the industry as a whole."

"I think the show is transforming a lot. We’re seeing a lot of buyers and we’ve had a really good year for that, but we’ve also seen a ton of consumers and a lot of guests, as well," Mike Miltimore of B.C.'s Riversong Guitars tells Canadian Music Trade. "So, it’s turning into more of an experience show, as well, so it’s nice to be able to reach out directly to the consumers and show them what we’re doing but we also have a lot of new dealers coming on board, too, so that’s good.

Chris Halon, Vice President of Marketing for Roland, said that "The NAMM Show is an important annual event for Roland and the industry. We enjoy connecting with our wonderful network of industry colleagues and invigorating these relationships, some decades-long, and some brand new. It's great being able to showcase so many of our new products alongside our growing roster of artists and influencers as well… It can be busy and frantic, of course, but the one-to-one connection is invaluable, both person-to-person and person-to-instrument."

Justin Norvell, Executive Vice President of Fender said that "The NAMM Show is the place to showcase your brand and new products to dealers, distributors and customers. The show’s reach extends far and wide on a global scale to the music market as a whole. It’s one of the key tent-pole events that our brand works toward and we use it as a platform to launch some of our most-innovative products, including the new American Acoustasonic Stratocaster.”

“The NAMM Show 2020 in Anaheim once more turned out to be the center hub for the global music industry,” shared Markus Theinert, VP of Marketing and International Sales for Conn-Selmer. “For us, as America’s largest manufacturer of band & orchestra instruments, it is important to connect with customers, suppliers, educators and artists from around the world to discuss future business opportunities as well as to stay in close touch with new product and sales trends in an ever changing world. Meeting the people is still important in our relationship industry and the NAMM show provides an ideal platform for that purpose.”

"At this show, you see the company culture and the product directly and have a tactile relationship. And that definitely leads to decisions. It's one of the key things that really lead tips the scale between one manufacturer and another," said Emery Martin, Video Designer/Lighting Designer (Beck, Foo Fighters, Alt J, LACMA). "I'm looking at the strengths of different manufacturers here at NAMM, so I can say one product may or may not be right for this tour, but it might be perfect for another context."

Chris Curran, Customer Development for TMB Development, said that "January is right at the beginning of the touring season and people are still looking for ideas, and for product, concepts and what they want to do for the year, and spring and summer tours… It's been great because we've seen a lot of lighting designers from around-the-world, which is very important to us."

As the first show of the calendar year, purchasing decisions and future planning were top-of-mind for the crowd of traditional retail sellers, ecommerce, and distributors across-the-board. "As the world's largest musical instrument retailer, Guitar Center's participation at The NAMM Show is a top priority," said Karl Bracken, Guitar Center Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Private Brands. "The show provides us with an opportunity to connect with our vendor community all in one place and allows us to discuss key issues and trends in the MI space while interfacing with an exhibitors' complete teams to better showcase and demonstrate their latest offerings."


"Coming to NAMM gives us the unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with the buyers, sellers, and makers who invite Reverb to be part of their lives every day," said Kevin Drost, Chief Strategy Officer of Reverb. "We meet with store owners to discuss how they can increase their sales online, talk with manufacturers, nonprofits, and other partners we've worked with over the years, and hear stories from musicians about the perfect piece of gear they found on our site. We're in regular contact with our users throughout the year, but there's something special about hearing success stories and getting feedback in-person. At the end of the day, Reverb wouldn't be what it is today without the passionate people who love and rely on it—the NAMM Show gives us an opportunity to celebrate together."

With the world's experts at The NAMM Show, members had the opportunity to connect with top thought leaders through more than 350 education sessions designed to engage, inform and inspire new ideas, as well as to further careers and prepare for the future against the backdrop of the industry gathering.

Each day of the show began with a NAMM U Breakfast Session in the Pacific Ballroom, inside the Anaheim Hilton. On Thursday, January 16, NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond hosted "Breakfast of Champions" with a panel of industry leaders and innovators, including Bryan Bradley, Group One; Whitney Brown Gristaffi, Ted Brown Music; Noel Lee, Monster Cables; and David Schwartz, TEC Tracks offering their insight on the Crossroads and opportunities. Jason Mraz was presented with the Music for Life Award, an honor annually given to a musician or creative luminary whose body of work and artistry has inspired more people to make music. In his interview with Lamond, Mraz spoke of his early access to making music, with his mother having sat him at the piano and shaped his fingers to play chords, and later in school, how music teachers helped him develop his music-making abilities. "I was fortunate to have music education in my public school, and that's why I advocate so hard for it," Mraz said. "Knowing how much music shaped my life and gave me so many opportunities, I knew my career would include giving back."

Friday's Breakfast Session welcomed digital marketing pioneer, Ann Handley as she addressed the fast-paced and always-on nature of modern marketing and answered the question, "Is 'fast' really the best path to drive marketing transformation at your business?" in her presentation, "Transformative Marketing," and on Saturday, global customer experience expert and musician Scott McKain shared the five key characteristics of iconic organizations in "How to Build an Iconic Business." On Sunday, "Best in Show," led by UpBeat Daily and Music Inc. Publisher Frank Alkyer welcomed a panel of retailers and professionals who shared their product picks from the Show floor.

Before the Show officially opened, over 500 NAMM retail members attended the Retail Innovation Summit or the Retail Financial Summit. At the Retail Innovation Summit, best-selling author, sales, and marketing expert Marcus Sheridan – previous host of two standing-room-only NAMM U Breakfast Sessions – walked attendees through the changing behavior of consumers, and strategies to deliver in business. At the Retail Financial Summit, financial gurus Alan Friedman and Daniel Jobe of Friedman, Kannenberg & Co. provided members with critical financial training to thrive in today's competitive marketplace, and regulatory updates and changes in sales tax and labor laws.

After each Breakfast Session, the tools, tips, and tricks to advance business continued in the NAMM Idea Center. There, retail professionals enjoyed nearly 50 sessions designed to inspire individuals and grow their businesses with proven strategies. Industry leaders and subject experts covered a range of topics, including "7 Steps for Online Marketing Success," "How to Turn Web Visitors Into Sales Opportunities" and "How to Amplify Your Visibility With Google Ads" to "10 Management Hacks for Every Music Retailer" and "Lessons Learned From NAMM's Dealer of the Year" award-winners, among many other topics.


More than 200 pro audio sessions engaged emerging and established professionals from all aspects of production and performance, presenting a myriad of opportunities to grow their careers in preparation for the future of all things sound.

At A3E: The Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange, 13 sessions, and 13 workshops explored how advanced audio applications are transforming the music industry, production, and performance. Future-focused sessions included "The Future of Game Audio: Music and Sound Design for Mobile Gaming," where A3E explored the tools and techniques that are specific to mobile gaming and surveyed the landscape of opportunity for audio developers, musicians and sound designers; "The Future Indie Artist: New Technology for Independent Success," which focused on emerging technology that every gigging musician must know to maximize their revenue, and more.

AES Academy at NAMM (formerly AES@NAMM) returned for its third year, with hands-on training, technical presentations, and career development from leading pro audio experts. In total, 11 Academy subject areas—Audio Education, Audio Career, Control Room, Electronic Dance Music (EDM), House of Worship, In-Ear Monitor, Line Array, Live Console, Microphone, Measurement and Optimization, and Wireless Academy—were presented by top thought-leaders, including Sylvia Massy, Leslie Ann Jones, Karrie Keyes, and Mark Frink, among others. At the popular Main Stage: Studio, acclaimed producer, engineer, author, and technologist Bobby Owsinski returned to offer practical advice and insider tips for improving recordings and mixes, and at Main Stage: Live, AES Academy attendees had the opportunity to learn from industry-leading FOH mix engineers in an intimate, casual and extremely informative series of events.

Colleen Harper, Executive Director of AES, reflected on this year's event: "The AES is uniquely positioned to provide authoritative audio training and education for NAMM attendees and our west coast membership, which is reflected in this year's strongest-ever registration for Audio Engineering Society events during The NAMM Shows. The Society appreciates the resources and opportunities that NAMM made available for the AES Academy as we assembled leading audio experts to bring in-depth session content to our attendees, be they long-time AES members or our new members who now have access to AES resources for on-going professional growth."

For audio pros seeking big-picture sessions with big names, TEC Tracks uncovered topics ranging from "Mastering in L.A." to "Recording Vocals Outside of the Studio" with world-famous producer/engineers Ken Caillat, Joe Chicarelli and special guests as they discussed their favorite vocal mic chains in getting optimal sound in less than optimal settings. Other highlights include "Making Virtual Instruments Sound Real," with award-winning producer/mixer/engineer Robert Venable (Twenty One Pilots, MuteMath, Kelly Clarkson); "Elise Trouw, Up-Close and Personal," as interviewed by Steve Baltin, where she discussed the melding of live instrumentation and electronic music through looping, the ability to be a one-person show using technology and how this plays into being a touring artist; and "Pensado's Place Live!," where Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick welcomed super producers Louis Bell, Finneas O'Connell, and Alex Tumay.

Other sessions included "Birth of a Record Special Ed-ition: Remembering Ed Cherney." Hosted by Mr. Bonzai, the session honored the highly-talented and skilled engineer and producer with stories behind his work from his many industry friends; training from Audinate, the maker of Dante, with three training courses spanning Thursday and Friday, designed for all levels of users of the popular media networking technology, and on Saturday, a special five session track for house of worship professionals was presented by TEC Tracks and covered topics ranging from "Mastering the Integration of Multitracks and Pads" to "The Trajectory From Worship Leader to Worship Artist," led by experienced industry professionals from Worship Musician magazine.

Curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association), along with The Pro Production Sessions, presented by Front of House, Projection, Lights & Staging News and Stage Directions magazines, and Lighting&Sound America/PLASA, a suite of sessions for entertainment technology professionals were offered at the Show.

The Pro Production Sessions delved into the forward-looking trajectory of production and entertainment technology during insightful conversations and panel presentations. Among the highlights of the Pro Production sessions were "10 Years of Spectacular Creativity at Silent House," where all four design partners—Baz Halpin, Tamlyn Wright, Cory FitzGerald, and Alex Reardon—shared an insightful look at their work with such artists as Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Pink, Khalid, Jennifer Lopez, The Jonas Brothers, Childish Gambino, and the Py1 Pyramid: Through The Echoes project; "On the Road With Paul McCartney," offered an unprecedented opportunity to go inside the design and technology elements of the lighting, video, audio, and production management of Paul McCartney's "Freshen Up" tour; and "Everything Is for Broadcast," a talk about the challenges of designing for social media and livestreams and how to capture live shows for broadcast without hurting the live experience. Notable event producer Kevin Lyman and 2019 Parnelli Visionary Award honoree Michael T. Strickland, founder, and chairman of Bandit Lites, each shared their perspectives in sessions.

On Wednesday, before the show opened, ESTA offered a two-day training, "Stage Electrics: Clean, Safe Power for Audio, Video, and Lighting," presented by Richard Cadena. ESTA's Lighting & Electrical track also offered professionals the chance to learn from world-renowned concert lighting designers Susan Rose and Daunte Kenner, and electrical experts from some of the world's preeminent entertainment technology companies who spoke on the NEC, standards, electrical safety and working with your AHJ. Other ESTA training tracks included Rigging, Safety and Lighting Networking, qualifying established professionals for free ETCP renewal credits. Presenters in the ESTA certification included Bill Sapsis, Eric Rouse, Paul Sapsis, Elmer Veith and Bruce Darden; IATSE's Kent Jorgensen, Alan Rowe, Eddie Raymond, and Joe Aldridge; and in the Lighting Networking track, Wayne Howell (Artistic License and PLASA), Paul Kleissler (City Theatrical) and Sam Kearney (ETC) who talked control protocols, wireless, ethernet networking, protocol troubleshooting and more.

One of the new educational and networking opportunities at The 2020 NAMM Show was the Designer Studio. The Designer Studio welcomed top content creators, lighting, and projection designers including Sooner Routhier, Aron Altmark, Chris Lisle, Anne Militello, David Boykin, Lisa Renkel, Kerstin Hovland, Emery Martin, and many others, as they dove into the ever-expanding role of lighting projection and visual content in concerts and shared their challenges, successes, and favorite productions, what it takes to succeed in today's environment, all followed by an in-depth audience Q&A. Located inside Hall A, each day presented professionals with the opportunity to participate in meet-ups on topics like "Lighting Design for the Concert Arms Race," and "Tour Collaboration & Communication," with in-demand designers who are working on the biggest tours on the planet.

Held Thursday to Saturday at the Show, top sound manufacturers returned to present a showcase of line array and loudspeaker technologies at the second annual Loudspeaker System Showcase. The systems showcase, located inside the arena, gave participants the opportunity to demonstrate both their flown and portable systems in a real-world setting to a mix of industry professionals. Participating companies included Alcons Audio, BASSBOSS, Crest Audio, dbTechnologies, Electro-Voice, FBT, Martin Audio, Proel, RCF, Sound Barrier, T.W.T.W. Audio, Verity Audio, and VOID Acoustics.

"We were really pleased to be partnering with NAMM again in 2020 on the Loudspeaker Showcase introduced last year to provide NAMM attendees with a beneficial and truly unique experiential engagement," stated Kevin McPherson, president of the Pro Audio Division of E.H.E.H. Media, which publishes Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb. "It's also a major step forward for loudspeaker manufacturers whose products must be heard to be truly appreciated."

Other special education included hands-on education and experience with lighting consoles from Avolites, Chauvet, and M.A.M.A. Lighting, including the Grandma, as presented by ACT Lighting.

Additional professional development sessions included The NAMM Foundation's GenNext, a collaboration between The NAMM Foundation and The College Music Society that brings college music students and faculty to The NAMM Show for exclusive programming with access to career and professional development opportunities, Music Education Days, which offered music teachers and school administrators informative sessions, inspiring performances and the opportunity to preview the latest instruments, products, and tools; and The Nonprofit Management Institute for music nonprofits, the Foundation's partner and grantee organizations, presenting the best practices in nonprofit administration.

Each evening of the Show came alive on the Yamaha Grand Plaza stage with plenty of star power. At Thursday's NAMM Foundation Celebration for Music Education, internationally beloved prog-rockers Animals as Leaders packed the Grand Plaza; Friday's Yamaha All-Star Concert on the Grand featured the likes of Mr. Talkbox, Kenny Loggins and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others; and Saturday's Tower of Power 50th Anniversary Concert, which celebrated a half-century of inspiring musical achievement from dynamic soul/funk/R&B ensemble Tower of Power as they treated NAMM attendees to a retrospective of decades of groundbreaking music.

Also on Saturday, The Grand Rally for Music Education convened music education advocates for a celebration of the benefits and pleasures of music education. The morning celebration welcomed ten-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin and Gimme5 for a special performance. McFerrin, who became a household name with his earworm hit, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," has a rich history as an instrumentalist and bandleader. "I try not to 'perform onstage," said McFerrin. "I try to sing the way I sing in my kitchen because I just can't help myself. I want audiences to leave the theatre and sing in their own kitchens the next morning. I want to bring audiences into the incredible feeling of joy and freedom I get when I sing." Along with McFerrin, the Grand Rally for Music Education also featured a preshow performance by The Langley Ukulele Ensemble and The Legacy Ukulele Ensemble and winners of the A Cappella at NAMM contest.

Other special performances included the Roomful of Pianos; a concept which saw pianists from around the country performing symphonic arrangements, jazz explorations, and clangorous delights for 30 players with the music of Frans Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and Freddie Mercury/Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody; the IMSTA Songwriting Competition at NAMM (ISCAN) which gave college-level aspiring studio pros a chance to have their music heard and A Cappella at NAMM: the performance contest of three college- or university-level a cappella groups, as selected by professional vocalists Amy Engelhardt, India Carney, Jeff Smith, VJ Rosales, and Rob Dietz.

Honoring the Industry's Leaders and Luminaries

Friday evening welcomed the eighth annual She Rocks Awards at the House of Blues honoring women in the music industry. The event featured a star-studded performance lineup, including live music from honorees Gloria Gaynor, Lzzy Hale, Linda Perry, Suzi Quatro, Beatie Wolfe, and Tal Wilkenfeld, the evening's co-hosts, Mindi Abair and Lyndsey Parker, and opening act D_Drive, among others. Other honorees included Suzanne D'Addario Brouder, Executive Director of the D'Addario Foundation; Tara Low, Music-based entrepreneur and editor and founder of Guitar Girl Magazine; Myrna Sislen, Owner of Middle C Music in D.C.D.C., classical guitarist, philanthropist, music educator; Judy Schaefer, Marketing Director at PRS Guitars; and Ebonie Smith, Founder and President of Gender Amplified, Inc, and Atlantic Records audio engineer and producer.

Friday also saw the return of the Parnelli Awards to The NAMM Show. The Parnelli's recognize the pioneering, influential professionals and companies for their contributions to the live production industry. The event brought together the live entertainment community in a vibrant annual gathering to recognize the best-in-class across 22 different categories, with Karrie Keyes (Pearl Jam monitor engineer, Founder of Sound Girls) receiving the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award, Mark "Springo" Spring (Production Manager, Paul McCartney, and others) receiving the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Honor; and Michael Strickland (Bandit Lites) the Visionary Award, which was presented by one of his first early clients, Garth Brooks. The top-selling country artist came to honor Strickland, who believed in Brooks when, as Strickland says, "he was a kid with a marketing degree and a couple of minor hits" — and huge ambitions. Brooks came to Bandit and said he wanted a lighting rig as big as KISS. The team at Bandit made it happen, raising the production bar for all country music.

"If there was any doubt that being part of NAMM was a good move, it is unequivocally removed now," says Terry Lowe, PLSN/FOH Magazine publisher and executive producer of the Parnelli Awards. "We've sold out shows before, but the demand was such now we had to add tables for 200 more and turned around and sold out again." He added that being able to attract top talent has also been a boost. "With John Waite as host and Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, drummer Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osborne), and Brent Smith (Shinedown) presenting, the show shattered all expectations. Being at this 'crossroad' of artists, people, technology, and the creative infusion of the young people entering is not only extremely good for the Parnelli Awards but rewarding."

Later in the week on Saturday, the 35th Annual TEC Awards recognized 31 categories of products and projects in the areas of Technical or Creative Achievement, and the individuals, companies and technical innovations used in sound recordings, films, broadcast television, and video games. View the complete list of winners and nominees here.

At the TEC Awards, Joni Mitchell was recognized with the Les Paul Innovation Award, an honor which is given to individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology in the spirit of the famed audio pioneer, inventor, and musician, Les Paul. Of the award, Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation, offered "Like Les, she has been a trailblazer and a true renaissance woman – a songwriter, musician, producer, and influencer who made her mark with very influential songs in the 60s. She has pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a female singer-songwriter over the course of her four-decade career, and like Les Paul, she's never been scared to take creative risks. We are thrilled that Joni Mitchell will join the list of extraordinary recipients that represent the spirit of the legendary Les Paul."

Mitchell was introduced by the legendary Herbie Hancock, who spoke fondly of their decades of friendship, creative collaboration, and impact: "it's hard to imagine a world without this courageous woman's brave songs and records."

Mitchell remarked that she was "truly honored," as several artists took the stage to give the folk songwriting heroine a musical celebration worthy of her long and revered career. The repertoire included Suzanne Santo for "The River;" Kevin Ross for "A Case of You;" Weyes Blood for "Woodstock;" and Venice performing "Free Man in Paris." The Les Paul Innovation Award has been presented annually to remarkably-distinguished individuals from the music industry, such as Jackson Browne, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Paul McCartney, Neil Young, and 2019's recipient, Peter Frampton.

Earlier in the evening, recording engineer Dave Pensado and record industry veteran Herb Trawick, the creative duo behind the weekly web series Pensado's Place, were named recipients of the 2020 TEC Hall of Fame award. Both were honored for successful and impactful careers in the music industry, as well as long-standing efforts to share their knowledge through their global online show. The duo has also engaged in tireless mentoring opportunities and teaching tomorrow's audiologists, producers and musicians. The announcement was made from the stage by Maureen Droney, Sr. Managing Director for the Recording Academy® Producers & Engineers Wing®. "I've always felt like the next best thing to music is to talk about it," said Pensado. Trawick noted, "I thank the sponsors, guests, legends, artists, streamers, tech companies. We've had a very lucky career and worked very hard at it." Trawick also thanked their peers in the audience "because of all of your gifts, tools, talents, abilities." Pensado's Place reaches an audience of over six million per year, and with the induction, the duo join luminaries Leslie Ann Jones, Rose Mann Cherney, Skunk Baxter, Hal Blaine, Jack Douglas, Nathan East, Geoff Emerick, and others with her induction, the industry's highest honor for pioneers of audio technology and the music industry's most accomplished producers and audio technicians.

The TEC Awards ceremony kicked off with a Don Wilson Tribute performance and a medley of Ventures tunes that warmed up the crowd before guitarist "Skunk" Baxter presented Wilson with a Music for Life Award, saying "You gave us a great gift that keeps on giving!" Billy Bob Thornton added a special video greeting calling his in-studio time with Wilson one of the "greatest honors of my life."

The industry reconvenes at Summer NAMM 2020, July 9-11, in Nashville, TN, and at The 2021 NAMM Show January 21-24 in Anaheim, California.

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician, Canadian Music Trade, Professional Sound, and Professional Lighting & Production magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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