Canadian Music Trade December / January 2023 | Page 16


By Luke Walton

GEAR-SYNERGY : The Beauty of a Multi-Product Show


’ m not just the marketing manager at NAMM . I ’ m a guitarist , keyboardist , producer , engineer , and former tour manager . When I explore The NAMM Show , I ’ m never focused on any one product community . I ’ m looking for ways to connect multiple pieces of gear .
Too often companies can focus on making their products ideal for one group — the synth for all synthheads . But musicians don ’ t follow these lines anymore . I love The NAMM Show because I can find a synth that sounds great running into my guitar pedals , which then feed my 500 Series preamp into my DAW and an awesome plug-in I found at Software . NAMM . The sum of the gear is greater than its parts — and only at The NAMM Show can I find all those parts .
Put another way , a show that is too focused on one product community misses how music is actually being created in the real world . As more musicians rely on laptops to run their live sets , the possibilities for MIDI-controlled everything continues to rise . That ’ s why NAMM and the MIDI Association are such kindred spirits and frequent collaborators . MIDI was introduced at The NAMM Show back in the 80s , and to this day , it drives much of the synergy across the product communities at the show ( including the awesome MIDI Showcase that houses some off-the-wall gear ).
But what ’ s next ? MIDI 2.0 is one answer . Other innovations like digitally-controlled analog gear or immersive audio have ramifications far beyond their pro audio silos . Only through a large and diverse marketplace can manufacturers and retailers see the ways that seemingly disparate innovations can influence their own .
As a weekend-warrior record producer , I want an immersive audio synth running into a recording interface that can handle those inputs — all highlighted by a truly ambisonic IR reverb . I realize that ’ s a lot of jargon , but that ’ s what the producers and engineers across the world are looking for today . We ’ ll spend a lot of money for the right tools because they set our sounds apart .
What manufacturer will identify these needs and make these tools ? What retailer will carry and recommend them ? After these years of isolation brought on by the pandemic , a silo mentality has set in . Those that come to the show have the best chance to break free from their silos and set trends rather than follow them . As we know , early movers on technological innovation can quickly upset pre-existing market share . If there ’ s anything I ’ ve learned from the past few years , it ’ s that the future is not easily predicted , and overconfidence is not often rewarded .
Innovation comes from our periphery , from imagination , and not repetition . At The 2022 NAMM Show , I was chatting with Sounwave , producer for Kendrick Lamar , Taylor Swift , SZA , etc ., as we toured the synth , software , and pro audio sections of the show floor . He shared new ways that he was using familiar products on hit records . In some cases , the booth staff had already left the floor for dinner , missing out on a chance to get direct feedback on surprising use-cases of their products . Others stuck around and got to chat , kicking off new product innovations with this free market research from an industry leader . Others still didn ’ t come to the show , missing the chance to get their gear into Sounwave ’ s studio and onto his Instagram . What ’ s the ROI on that ?
Retail should also consider the opportunities to meet with these end users available at the show . When I attended my first NAMM Show in 2010 , I felt I was looked down on , as I was presented as a musician rather than a buyer . But the reality is that I was a buyer , an influencer , a creator , and a musician , and I still am . At the show , retailers can meet their A-list customers as well as their manufacturers . Isn ’ t that incredibly valuable ? Not only will you see the future of products , but you ’ ll also understand how they ’ re being used to create , and how to best sell to these groups through NAMM U education
Additionally , more students than ever are attending the show . This enterprising next generation will make our industry younger and more diverse . The companies that attend the show have access to these future leaders , providing them mentorship . An intern you meet on the show floor might be your CEO someday . The investment in the show isn ’ t just an investment in yearly sales ; it ’ s bigger than that .
My central recommendation is for us as an industry to look for new collaboration points across product types , and pioneer ways to pull innovation from one hall into another .
And only at the show can we grasp the scale and scope of change throughout our sector and beyond .
Now is our chance to break down barriers . And it ’ s imperative . As the stimulus dries up , our industry needs innovation to power our next chapter . Investing in the future , however nebulous , is the best way to stay nimble and relevant . When you make the choice whether to attend or exhibit in 2023 , I only ask : Can you afford to miss out ?
Registration is open now on www . namm . org . I hope to meet and share in your experience at the show from April 13-15 , 2023 .
Luke Walton is the Associate Director of Marketing for the National Association of Music Merchants ( NAMM ), the global notfor-profit trade association representing 9,000 manufacturers and retailers of musical instruments and sound products . NAMM ’ s mission is to strengthen the music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music .