Investing in Staff at The NAMM Show Yields Big Returns for Nick Rail Music

Elizabeth Dale

Nick Rail Music takes a unique approach to its NAMM Show experience. With stores throughout Southern California and its headquarters a two-hour commute from the Anaheim Convention Center in Santa Barbara, the retailer has an exceptional opportunity to send most of its staff to The NAMM Show. 

The tradition of sending employees to The NAMM Show began long before the current owner, Laura Penrose, purchased the store from its original owner, Nick Rail. While Penrose originally intended to operate the chain on a “business as usual” model, the pandemic and rapidly shifting retail marketplace required her to tweak nearly all facets of the venture. Despite this need to drastically change operations, Penrose remained steadfast that one Nick Rail Music tradition would stay the same, its approach to attending The NAMM Show.

Since it opened its doors over 35 years ago, Nick Rail Music has sent employees, as many as possible, to attend The NAMM Show. Penrose maintains this tradition by sending employees of various positions and departments each year to the show.

State of the Industry Address (2021 Summer NAMM): Laura Penrose, Nick Rail Music

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Penrose shares, “We try to bring as many people as possible. One day it’s managers, then another day, education representatives and sales staff attend. Our leadership and inventory teams attend the show’s entirety and are expected to attend Alliance of Independent Music Merchants (AIMM) meetings. By the conclusion of The NAMM Show, we typically send about 30 staff members.”

I remember going to The NAMM Show with a friend at 16, and I was floored. Honestly, it still gets me every time. I want to share that experience with my staff members.

Laura Penrose

Owner, Nick Rail Music

Sending over 30 employees to The NAMM Show may seem like an intense undertaking, but Penrose sees the value, much as Rail did before her, in having a diverse and robust presence at the show. Penrose reports that by sending such a large group of representatives from the store, they can “try new products, attend educational sessions, and network.” She continued, “There isn’t any other opportunity for so many musicians to get together, and honestly, it rekindles the excitement of being a musician again.”

Radu Azdril, a store manager at Nick Rail, recounts his experience, saying, “I enjoy The NAMM Show so much because I have the opportunity to meet and engage with all of the sales representatives. It is great to have face-to-face conversations, not just over the phone or email.”

Azdril continues, “I’ve attended almost every year for the past 20 years, and it never gets old. Connecting with industry friends at the show is something I look forward to year after year.”

While attending The NAMM Show is a coveted experience for many in the industry, Penrose recognizes the return on investment that sending such a large cohort to the show has on her business. “We strategically arrange booth tours at our biggest vendors and have them describe and educate our staff about new products and marketing opportunities. Staff members are also assigned to find one ‘cool new thing’ during their NAMM Show experience. After the show, each employee must also write a report. This way, the experience is a ‘working day’ for our staff, but we still allow a bit of time to explore all the show has to offer freely.”

Despite the challenges retailers may face in sending a larger delegation to The NAMM Show, Penrose encourages all NAMM members to consider sending more employees to the show. “Even if you use it as an incentive, attending the show is a great way to get your team excited about retail. It’s a great opportunity for them to get involved in other groups like GenNext, NAMM YP, and Women of NAMM that NAMM supports. If your staff is excited, they will also want to tell your customers about it and get them excited. The entire NAMM Show experience has a waterfall effect that trickles through your business and into your customer base.”

For more information from Nick Rail Music, please visit them at and to register for The 2023 NAMM Show and begin planning your show