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Pro audio manufacturers missing in action at Summer NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) held its annual summer show in Nashville, TN last weekend. At show close, NAMM reported a 26 percent decrease in registration from last year’s event, with 12,967 total registrants. Exhibitor numbers were also down overall, but the presence of 145 new exhibitors among the total of roughly 380 shows that the impetus toward growth and innovation remains strong within the industry.

Traditionally, Summer NAMM is a good place to spot interesting new products at the midway point of the year, but that did not really hold true this year. A number of major players in the industry were conspicuous by their absence, particularly on the pro audio side of the industry. Notable companies in the pro audio space that did attend included Sony, Yamaha, Sensaphonics, Akai, TEAC and DPA. A few other firms, including Audio-Technica, Roland and Peavey, opted for meeting rooms without booths. As a result, Summer NAMM, already with a reputation as more a regional show than an international event, was squarely focused on musical instruments, mainly from smaller companies.

While the summer show hasn’t been a hotbed of pro audio since its heyday in the 1980s, the number of notable absentees did raise some eyebrows. The major microphone and wireless manufacturers were not in evidence. The same held true for the other end of the signal chain, with all the loudspeaker stalwarts declining to attend. Software companies, traditionally a huge presence at a show like NAMM, were also hard to find. Even guitar-making giants like Fender and Gibson saw fit to invest their limited marketing dollars elsewhere this year.

“While the economic crisis certainly made this year’s Summer NAMM uncertain in many people’s minds, we forged ahead and provided a good venue for our members to do business and prepare for the important fall and holiday selling seasons,” said NAMM CEO and President Joe Lamond.

Interestingly, many exhibiting companies expressed pleasure with their results, taking advantage of the absence of direct competitors to bring their product messages to the marketplace. “We didn’t know what kind of expectations we should come with this year, but we were happy,” said Phil Bettete of Yorkville Sound. “I think, because some of the larger brands decision to stay home, companies like ours did even better.”

Like virtually all segments of the economy, the music products industry has been hit hard by the recession. But last week’s event drove home the point that as manufacturers continuously look for ways to reduce marketing expenditures, the NAMM organization faces a difficult task in renewing the viability of its summer show. With NAB in May and InfoComm in June, it’s clear that the pro audio companies are targeting other venues for their major midyear product announcements. It is obvious that, by their absence, several major companies are making Summer NAMM less appealing to customers, especially outside the trade organization’s primary market segment of musicians and music stores.

Conversely, the annual winter show in Anaheim continues to attract virtually all major manufacturers in the pro audio industry, with nearly tenfold more attendees. The 2010 NAMM Show will take place Jan. 14–17, 2010, at the Anaheim Convention Center.