Every January, it’s a pleasure to leave the cold, snowy streets of New York for the Winter NAMM Show, held in the sunny climes of Anaheim, CA. Traditionally for the last few years, there’s been a massive blizzard back home whenever I go to the convention; the 2016 storm dumped 27 inches of snow on New York and my flight back was cancelled three times, forcing me to stay in 70 degree weather for an extra four days. Man, that was a hardship. Alas, there was no blizzard back East this year and it rained a lot in Anaheim, but that was fine because all the real excitement was going on inside the Convention Center anyway.
In all, there were 7,000 brands and a record 1,779 exhibiting companies at the show this year, with new exhibiting brands growing 2 percent over 2016. Seeing all those companies and their new products were 106,928 attendees, a rise of 5 percent over 2016. Not all those visitors treading the aisles of the Anaheim Convention Center were from the United States either; there were 17,964 registrants from 125 countries on hand, and the show’s international pavilion expanded somewhat as well.
There was a lot going on for the pro audio world at the NAMM Show, and that was no accident. The convention was almost entirely an MI industry affair when I first attended it in the mid-90s, with most of the pro audio exhibitors quarantined off in the arena at the convention center’s North end. Generally, you didn’t see that much serious pro audio gear at the show.
These days, pro audio is an integral part of the MI world and the NAMM Show floor aptly reflects that change. Many of the manufacturers appearing in our pages are readily found at the convention, and even on the MI side, everything seems to have a new pro audio angle, with a networking or digital processing aspect to it.
Some of that pro audio adoption has happened with the changing times, as recording largely became a personal facility-based industry with a lower economic threshold for entry, for instance, but to be fair, a good amount of pro audio’s presence at the show was because the convention has worked to attract it. For instance, the annual TEC Awards have become a staple after being purchased by NAMM a few years ago. Highlighting the products and notables of the pro audio world, the awards remain feathers in their honorees’ caps.
Also a growing draw has been the annual TEC Tracks educational offerings, spread across four themed days of Live Sound and Lighting; Futurism; Recording; and Music Business. This year’s edition saw the introduction of Live Sound Day, serving up a slew of dedicated live sound education events, panels with noted front-of-house engineers and more, all moderated by live sound engineer (and occasional Pro Sound News contributor) Mark Frink.
The existing TEC Tracks educational contributions continued to take a similar approach, providing insight and observations that could be be absorbed and used by engineers at all levels, from brand-new amateurs to longtime professionals. With pro audio such an integral part of music-making these days, the various days of TEC Tracks at the convention fall into the NAMM organization’s mission of music education, but let’s face it—the beginner who learns at a panel what some of that equipment on the exhibit floor actually does is far more likely to buy some of it down the road.
The Winter NAMM Show will shake up its status quo again next year when it returns to Anaheim, as the 2018 edition will the first to benefit from the opening of a new hall, currently under construction. Physically separated from the rest of the Convention Center, it will be interesting to see how the new space is used, whether for exhibitions, education or something else.