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NAMM 2020 Goes Down to the Crossroads

NAMM 2020 hit Anaheim with a blizzard of new products, technologies and educational offerings in January. Here, we take a look back, sizing up what the show meant not merely on the product side, but also in terms of how the show affects the industry and where it may indicate we’re headed.

Returning once again to Anaheim, CA, the 2020 NAMM Show had an upbeat vibe that resulted in a moderate bump in attendance numbers from last year. That’s perhaps because, with the completion of the ACC North Hall three years ago, audio professionals can now enjoy a dedicated space that feels, well, more professional compared to the ever-raucous halls in the main Anaheim Convention Center.

NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond has for several years been positioning the show as a “crossroads.” (The opening of the ACC North Hall in 2018 marked the start of Crossroads 2.0, according to Lamond.) At the traditional Breakfast of Champions that kicks off every NAMM Show, Lamond explained how the industry is now at a “crossroads of opportunity.”

Lamond suggested that crossroads is a state of mind, an idea that those in the industry must focus on the entire ecosystem to stay ahead. “For some of you, that might mean diversifying. It might mean making some really tough decisions—maybe to abandon one segment for another, more profitable one…. We must all choose to adapt, constantly.”

NAMM 2020 live! All the hottest pics and video from the show floor, Music Radar, Jan. 19, 2020

He added, “Like the famed Delta bluesman who sold his most precious possession, what are you willing to give up to get what you want at the crossroads?”

To further drive home his point, Lamond called up Bryan Bradley, president of Group One, to share his experiences with the company’s four console brands—Allen & Heath, Calrec, DiGiCo and Solid State Logic—and their relative positions in the market.

Each of Group One’s console brands focuses on a very specific silo, Bradley noted, although there is certainly some overlap. But to Lamond’s crossroads theme, Bradley offered the example of SSL, a high-end brand that is adapting to the evolving marketplace.

Visit Pro Sound News’ NAMM 2020 News Hub

“The days of the million-dollar studio console are gone,” said Bradley. “As we’ve had to adapt and make more affordable consoles, we’re just now coming out with an interface product that takes that SSL legacy and brand, and sells it for $250 through a retail channel. We’re trying to bring that experience to a wider market.”

Some in that market are also looking to create a podcast setup, and this year’s NAMM Show saw an explosion of products directed at that business segment. The NAMM Show is the first opportunity for retailers, e-tailers and distributors to check which way the wind is blowing in any calendar year, so perhaps this year will see even more podcasting products fly out the door. Indeed, NAMM may have even played its own part in fueling the explosion, having last year scheduled a slew of educational events on the topic.

NAMM 2020: The big stories from the greatest music gear show on Earth, Music Radar, Jan. 20, 2020

Which brings us to another crossroads, where the NAMM Show and aspects of AES training and career development converge. Both organizations emphasize education, hosting busy schedules of seminars, workshops and panel discussions at their respective events. This year marked the third year that AES offered hands-on training, technical presentations and career development sessions from leading pro audio experts. Formerly known as [email protected], the presentations, now dubbed the AES Academy, covered 11 subject areas this year, including a track focusing on electronic dance music.

The AES Academy reportedly had its best year yet. According to AES executive director Colleen Harper, “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 recording business may have gone through some major changes over the years, but the live music market is bigger than ever. Lamond noted, “Artists are now making a living on the road, replacing their lost recording revenue. The concert and festival business is at an all-time high. Pro audio, entertainment and music technology are making for an exciting growth story in our industry,” he said.

Live music was the foundation of the business when NAMM began as the National Association of Sheet Music Dealers in 1901. “Perhaps we have returned to our roots,” said Lamond, “and that’s a good thing.”



More from NAMM
A New Decade, A Crossroads of Opportunity, Jan. 20, 2020