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How the Cancellation of NAMM's Live 2021 Event Affects Members of the Music Industry


The National Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) 2021 in-person show was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and instead took place online. This was a huge disappointment for those in the music industry, as this event is considered their largest and most important annual gathering. Not only does the show allow members of the industry the opportunity to create valuable relationships, they are also introduced to the latest products from top manufacturers. While the online event “Believe in Music” took place January 18-22, the experience was simply not the same for attendees.

NAMM Show

Virtual Event Challenges

Eastman Guitars’ Sales Representative, Steve Bernstein, has been in the music industry for 34 years (at Eastman for 11 years) and has attended 40+ NAMM shows. He describes the annual event as “almost like Christmas time for the music industry” and still looks forward to it every year. There’s excitement for the reps because they mostly communicate by phone and email with clients around the country during the year, but when NAMM rolls around, “they actually get to meet people face-to-face and show off their new products.” But that didn’t happen this year.

Eric Sakimoto, a District Sales Manager with Taylor Guitars, agrees. “NAMM is usually really busy with appointments for me. I try to see everyone I’ve spoken to (via phone and email) during the year at the show.” This year he had to rely on other methods of communication, so his usual NAMM interactions - helping retailers with merchandising, sales training, product demos, marketing and web sales – couldn’t be as effective.

A Retailer’s Experience

NAAM serves a variety of purposes for the retailer, including Denver Folklore Center’s Co-Owner, Saul Rosenthal. For his first NAMM show, his “primary goal was to make connections - with the vendors we already had on board, potential new vendors and with folks running businesses similar to ours all around the country.” At subsequent shows he’s been able to form important relationships with prominent vendors, like Collings, Taylor, Martin and Eastman, and add them to the store’s inventory. He’s also had the opportunity to attend “wonderful workshops and seminars, most of them free” at NAMM.

NAMM Show

Making the Best of the Situation

While this year’s NAMM experience was unprecedented, it seems like everyone involved was able to bolster their communication and make it work. Steve says that “Zoom and other tech helps, and everyone is still excited about NAMM. Instead of meeting face-to-face, we’re meeting in video calls to show the new products.” However, this presents its own challenges, since clients can’t hold and play the new instruments, which is a large part of the appeal. “That’s probably the biggest thing we have had to work through.”

On a lighter note, there’s one thing Saul won’t miss about the event. “I won’t experience the exhaustion of the three to four days at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is a huge facility. My first year at NAMM I walked 9 miles in one day inside the convention center, going from exhibit hall to exhibit hall and vendor to vendor.” We all look forward to a more familiar experience at the 2022 NAMM show.

To learn more about NAMM, visit their website at https://www.namm.org/