Facebook, Blogs, YouTube, SuperBooth – Is NAMM Still A Must For Electronic Instrument Manufacturers?

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For many years, music companies have been making the pilgrimage to Anaheim to introduce their new music instruments to the press and their partners (distributions, shops…) As you known, NAMM is a four days trade fair show where only qualified personal can attend or musicians with a manufacturer’s invitation can visit.

There are 2 reasons why companies travel to the NAMM show: business and media coverage. On the one hand, many companies visit the fair to see the business partners and to negotiate with them what comes on the shelves. This is often done through distribution partners or directly through the developers. For another, there is no other music fair in the world where so many media representatives are. It will made thousands of photos, many videos and interviews about the companies and their new products. For many companies, this is a good but costly way to promote their products.

There Is A Strong Omnipresent Modern Competitor 

The social media have been attacking the NAMM show for several years now. As social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter,…) become more and more the focus of companies (YouTube videos, Facebook,…), many of them decide to showcase their new products before the world’s fair. Others even avoid the fair for various reasons (financially, wrong target audience, …) An important factor for smaller companies is even the financial one. Many of these “one-man shows, specially in the Eurorack (Synthesizer) area, can not afford the cost of a booth, hotel and flight.

So it’s logical that many small companies avoid the long journey to the US and put more power into social media. Here you can achieve with perfect settings exactly the audience that you want. Even though social media dominate the marketing sector in the music world, the NAMM show also remains a prestigious reason for many larger companies. Companies such as KORG, Roland, Yamaha or Moog Music will continue to exhibit at the NAMM that they can say: we are still in the market as brand and we develop new products. So seen, the cost for exhibiting at this show is in their annual marketing budget strong implemented since years.

Fewer Exhibitors In The Synthesizer Area

Especially in 2018 it will be exciting how the NAMM will look like.

Many well-known companies have already announced not to exhibit there for different reasons. Among the companies is Behringer or Dave Smith Instruments who introduced a new Synthesizer on every NAMM show, last year even two new instruments. Here are the reasons!

  • DSI will not be exhibiting at NAMM 2018 – we are focusing our energy on developing new and exciting products. Stay tuned for updates on our website and social media pages!  (DSI forum)                                                                                                                                                                                     
  • 2017 was the very last NAMM show we attended as we’re building large Customer Experience Centers in Los Angeles and many other cities all over the world. Our plan is to also focus on road shows to visit you where you live. We believe that we can provide you with a much better experience by inviting you to our “house” or visiting you at your place and treating you like a true friend. For us, noisy and stressful trade shows are the equivalent of “speed dating”, which does not coincide with our values of building and nurturing relationships.  In our Customer Experience Centers, you are welcome to drop by at any time, spend quality time with us – all in a super-relaxed and friendly “living room” environment and with a warm cup of coffee.  Please connect with us on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. and join our exciting new customer journey. (Uli Behringer) 

Small Cozy Fairs For Everyone Are On The Rise 

In addition to the social media, the NAMM show got another competitor who especially small companies like to visit: small specific fairs that are open to everyone. Of course, the pioneer in this area is Andreas Schneider’s SuperBooth in Berlin, the trade fair and convention show for electronic music instrument enthusiasts.

The whole concept started at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt with a big booth named SuperBooth where small Synthesizer companies got a chance to present their products cheaply without having to rent their own expensive booth. In 2016, the first big SuperBooth under the management of Herr Schneider was held in the historic Funkhaus where many companies exhibited. The whole event was nicely accompanied with many workshops and concerts throughout the day.

This year, it was in the FEZ in Berlin and included more than 80 music companies from each area. What was exciting, companies that were no longer at trade fairs like Native Instruments or Propellerhead Software were represented here with a booth. As the organizers have already confirmed, the next edition of the SuperBooth will be even bigger and more extensive.

They Appear From Nowhere! 

In addition to the SuperBooth, other small fairs have sprung up around the world: KnobCon, SynthFest UK, Tokyo Festival Of Modular, ModCon, MEFF (Modular Synth Expo), Soundmit & more. You can see this trend also in the guitar area where a group of people organised the Guitar Summit in Germany, a fair especially for guitarists or better say the SuperBooth for guitarists.

It will be interesting to see how the NAMM Show or the Musikmesse in Germany will continue to be attractive in the future for companies that know exactly that there are specific fairs like SuperBooth or Guitar Summit. I assume that the expansion will continue in the USA, Australia, Asia. What do the big fairs want to change?

Even Bigger Is Better? NAMM 2018 Will Be The Largest In The Show’s History 

A few months ago, the NAMM organisation announced already that the 2018 show will be largest in the show’s history. The NAMM Show annually gathers over 100,000 attendees from 139 countries and regions. Unlike the previous edition, the electronic music gear category will have a new area for keyboard & Synthesizers and a new building dedicated to pro audio technology. Are these changes in the field of electronic music instruments a consequence of the many new small fairs?

Personally, I find the concept “bigger and bigger” rather bad because visitors and we media get confused with the amount of booths. By more and more booths, you don’t now where to go or you have to leave other companies on the side you really wanted to cover. This is again not great for the companies since they have travelled for the big NAMM coverage to the US. Above all, I see little chance of survival for the software industry at NAMM. Since the companies in the area are very small, these companies certainly have better chances to assert themselves at small trade fairs. With Facebook, YouTube, they can reach even more people and musicians in a quiet environment and give them the chance to test everything at home without any hassles from the exhibitions floors.

How Could They Be More Attractive To Music Companies Again? 

After talking to many music companies, several points came out clearly:

  • lower costs for the exhibitors
  • a nicer and more pleasant atmosphere like cold showrooms (per example: SuperBooth)
  • expand the character of the fair from a pure business to a music experience show
  • adapt hotel prices (flights are cheaper from Europe than staying one week in a hotel) same applies to the Musikmesse in Frankfurt
  • ….

Although it is exciting how the future of the NAMM show or Musikmesse is, it remains the most important music instruments of the world. We will see what will happen in the future.

I can not guarantee if I will fly to Anaheim next year because the coverage costs are very high. Without sponsoring it’s not possible. In the meantime, you can check out my 30 video coverage from this years NAMM Show.

More information here: NAMM Association 

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