The NAMM Show Crowd: What to Expect for 2024?
Anyone who has attended The NAMM Show can relate to the fact that we subconsciously look at the crowd to see what level of industry participation is taking place. The question is: Is there truly a trend to discern with attendance, and is it an accurate forecast of the future?
This is a resounding curiosity to most NAMM Show attendees. I want to gauge the level of proper engagement so that our industry can maintain and grow these types of interactive experiences because, let’s face it, there aren’t enough of them in the DJ and music world. The NAMM Show is where the magic happens, and without supporting NAMM and the show, we are limiting what we dictate for the future of the music community. By “supporting,” I don’t mean just showing up; I mean making a lasting impression that breaks the mold and adds tangible value to the experience. Make no mistake, to elevate everyone’s experience, this responsibility lies with both sides, attendees, and exhibitors.
Every year I often hear a lot of pre and post-NAMM Show speculation and hypothesizing about attendance. As the manager of a local Los Angeles DJ store, Astro AVL, and as an audio artist and lighting designer, I want to cover some insights from the perspective of a “boots on the ground” dealership and also an attendee.
The Bumps in the Road
Of course, COVID threw us all for a loop, and The NAMM Show is still finding its rhythm as it bounces back. The adjusted NAMM Show schedule in response to the pandemic has been challenging for many of our peers in MI. Notably, in recent years, other conferences have overlapped with The NAMM Show (such as Infocomm and 2023’s NAB), causing vendors to hastily migrate from one event to another or choose between the two. These scheduling conflicts forced many pro audio and lighting exhibitors to evaluate the logistical and fiscal feasibility of setting up a booth at either and having the energy to commit fully in heart and spirit. Hopefully, these types of conflicts will be a thing of the past as we edge forward into a fresh 2024.
Capitalizing on Pre and Post-Show Opportunities
This year The NAMM Show concluded on Saturday, which we can assume was a calculated move on the organization’s part. Perhaps this was to funnel the crowd into the open days, or maybe it was a tip of the hat for those attending NAB. Nevertheless, I started my NAMM Show a day early on Wednesday, setting up a range of meetings with vendors at hotels or with those who had the availability to converse over drinks by the bar, taking opportunities wherever they presented themselves. After all, in my experience, the more rapport building that takes place away from the show floor, the more time you have to let the product showcasing and other unexpected networking opportunities occur because, let’s face it, there is never enough time to see everyone and everything you want to see during show hours. That’s why my NAMM Show experience also encompasses all the things that happen both before and after the show floor is dark. And ultimately, aside from genuinely connecting, brainstorming, and workshopping ideas with others, my plan in every meeting is to get face time with the key pro audio and lighting higher-ups or those who can make mutually beneficial core marketing and sales initiatives actionable. I want to cut through the red tape that generally dangles in front of me during other parts of the year as emails get lost in the mix and bounce around while I’m left waiting for the replies in thread that will inch us forward to the final consensus.
As I mentioned, some vendors like JMAZ moved their meetings to nearby hotels. For me, it was still adequate to form and reinforce relationships on the marketing and sales fronts, albeit this doesn’t do much for those looking to experience a range of new DJ sound and lighting products intimately. Others, like Mackie, reduced their booths to private on-site meeting rooms to conduct business and maintain a presence on-site.
The 2023 crowd did feel a tad lighter in density, as I am used to an immense cluster of attendees filling up every walkway on Day One as the rush to get badges commences. For me, that reduction lent itself to comfortability in maneuvering the floor and avoiding shoulder-to-shoulder passageways, like during one of my many laps across the sky bridge between meetings. Despite this, for the moments that mattered, like the TEC Experience, where hip-hop legends were gracing the stage to receive commemorative awards, the room was buzzing, and energy was tangible. There was certainly no lack of gusto, passion, or crowd participation, evident from the cheering and hollering from every full seat.
So, What’s Next, and How Does It Involve Me?
What we do know is that next year, The NAMM Show in Anaheim will resume its regular scheduled programming, taking place in January. This is the first step in negating potential scheduling conflicts, allowing vendors to further invest their time and resources into The NAMM Show experience. From a top-down perspective, this will naturally translate to more manufacturer engagement. This year was the second that attendees were not limited to exhibitors and retailers but also extended to other professionals in the industry through NAMM’s Individual Membership category. Since this attendee expansion is relatively new, I found that many of my contacts who fit into this category were unaware that they now qualify to attend the show without my help. As word of this continues to spread and our industry understands that The NAMM Show is their show, we will continue to see an uptick in attendance.
The question inevitably circles back around to what can we expect from the next NAMM Show. If you also find yourself asking that question, that’s a good sign you should be thinking about how you personally want to leave your footprint on The 2024 NAMM Show, what you want to get from the experience, what relationships you’re hoping to form, what manufacturers you think you should be keeping an eye on that will be making promising strides, and how all of those factors will be shaping your future in MI. Be a NAMM warrior, and fight for the privilege we often take for granted by letting vendors, artists, and collaborators alike know we are paying attention and expecting them to put their best foot forward, as well.
Exhibitors, start thinking about what’s important to you when it comes to not just connecting with buyers, but also the end users. Commit to your 2024 booth now (if you haven’t already), and when you do, make the effort to inspire and innovate your approach instead of just dishing out food that’s already on the table. If you’re not unveiling a brand-new product at the show, perhaps explore useful integrations with other products that haven’t been thought of yet. I see many DJ controllers that could be paired with unusually appealing peripheral devices and DJ mixers that are begging for aux send and return usage. Exhibitors, you can also create a spectacle by inviting passerby attendees to get hands-on training to learn just how incredible your product is in front of an audience of their peers and perhaps a celebrity artist judge/participant. (Remember, everyone loves a little friendly competition.) Or take your pick of any number of outside-the-box ideas to set yourself apart. People want to be engaged, and they respond exponentially more enthusiastically to that style of creativity. You’ll get more value from your investment, and you’ll be reminded that generating organic digital noise is your best friend. I often see a lot of product representatives more comfortable conversing among themselves than engaging the attendees. Get your product rep troops to actively capture attendee interest and information, so you can create a legion of believers and brand ambassadors. They’ll go out into the world spreading the good word because they feel valued and can align themselves with the intrinsic value, you’re trying to bring into the industry they care so much about.
To everyone else thinking about attending, sign up to get the latest NAMM Show registration information on their site (https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/attend), think about the workshops and educational seminars that you missed this year that you wished you got to attend, and check back in with Playback for my blog contributions so you can get the most from the experience. And if you see me cruising the show floor, come shake my hand and let me know which booth sets the shining example of where the bar should be set.
About Astro AVL
Astro AVL has been a landmark resource in the entertainment industry since 1974. As L.A.’s first and original DJ store, it has helped legendary and local artists launch their careers and provided Hollywood's top production studios with the tools they need to bring their sets to life through visual artistry. Beyond sales, Astro offers a rentals & repair service department and a school for educational instruction in DJing, Music Production, and Lighting Programming. The company also designs and executes customized systems across hallmark L.A. venues and nationwide chains. If you find yourself in L.A., Astro AVL invites you to check out its award-winning showrooms. To learn more about Astro AVL, please visit https://astroavl.com/.
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About DJ Cypher Shah
Cypher has 20 years of experience as a DJ and as a producer, he has released music on five record labels internationally. Along with performing for venues from NYC to LA he designs audio systems and is a lighting programmer, giving him a wide base of knowledge of products in the entertainment industry. He is the Manager, Lead DJ Instructor, and Installation Foreman of Astro Audio Video Lighting in Glendale, California.