By Tom Menrath, Audio & Key Accounts Manager
This was a pivotal year for The NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants), held last month in Anaheim. Here is my NAMM 2023 recap. Typically, NAMM runs every January but was held in April this year – just before the NAB show in Las Vegas. While the energy of the show was through the roof, with attendance and momentum scaling way up from last year, several major companies impacted by the date change were unable to attend. The start date for next year’s show is back in January. With another year of business under our belts, it’ll be interesting to see if exhibitors and attendees return in pre-Covid numbers to NAMM 2024.
For the ASG audio team, NAMM 2023 was a fantastic opportunity to see our manufacturers, partners, and friends. The vibe of the show was upbeat, and the turnout from the pro audio community was phenomenal. Our entire audio team was there. It was incredible to see customers and partners face-to-face, some that we work with routinely but may have not seen in years. For our inside sales and purchasing manager, Joe Putnam, it was particularly beneficial for him to meet people in person that he’s only spoken with over the phone. At the end of the day, trade shows are about the people, and it’s as much a social event as a business endeavor.
All the major audio console, microphone and outboard gear manufacturers were there. There was also a large contingent of boutique vendors and specialty products. If there was one overriding theme on the pro audio side, it would be immersive audio in general and Dolby Atmos specifically. Sony was also doing very compelling immersive audio demonstrations.
We were eager to check out immersive monitoring and mixing solutions for Dolby Atmos Music and Apple Spatial Audio. Immersive audio is a rapidly growing category, and manufacturers were out in force with products to support immersive music production. Dolby showed a vehicle factory-equipped with an Atmos audio system as well as listening rooms with Atmos. Genelec and PMC had Atmos listening spaces. Several other loudspeaker manufacturers had live demos set up with some great content.
Atmos is being rapidly adopted by people building or retrofitting mixing studios. At ASG, we’re seeing that work coming in at a very fast clip right now. We’re in the middle of several studio projects that call for the rooms to be Atmos-capable, in addition to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound. The acoustic design and tuning necessary to make the room work properly for an Atmos-capable mix is something we’re discussing a lot with customers right now. Immersive audio is here to stay.
Trade shows are also a great opportunity to meet with people from overseas that we don’t get to see very often. We deal with companies in Asia, the UK, Denmark, and many other places in the world. While we were in Anaheim, we got to spend time with many of those folks – out at dinner and in their booths. The NAMM show has always had a strong international presence, and that’s always been a very attractive factor for ASG. NAMM reported 46,711 attendees, representing 120 countries and territories, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. International attendees accounted for a 64% attendance increase, year over year.
Going into trade shows these days, there’s little mystery regarding new technology. Most of the news and new technology introductions are communicated online, with little held back just for a trade show, as companies used to. So, there aren’t many surprises once you get to the show. We went to NAMM with networking, education, and partner collaboration in mind. And with those as our goals, we were hugely successful.
Today’s NAMM is less focused on rockstars signing autographs in booths and more on education. There were plenty of parties with free beer and live music, which is a big part of NAMM as well, but not at the level as previous years. That’s always fun but in the end it’s not as useful as the panel discussions and white papers presented by NAMM and the AES community. There were panels from a host of audio engineers, music producers and record label executives talking about Dolby Atmos and other immersive formats.
Overall, NAMM proved a great show for us to learn, get business done and most importantly, connect in person with our industry friends. We’re looking forward to next year’s show in January!