I’ve recently returned from the NAMM show in Anaheim California. NAMM has now become arguably the biggest Music Merchant conference in the World, with buyers, distributors and manufactures from all over the globe descending upon Anaheim to see the latest in music tech. I have now attended the show several years in a row on behalf of my company Hooke Audio and have watched it grow both in attendance and size (they literally added a whole North Hall 2 years ago). Here are my top takeaways from this years incredible show.
1. Brick and Mortar is not dead…internationally
We may be seeing a decline in physical musical instrument retail stores here in the U.S. thanks to Amazon’s dominance, but international customers still rely heavily upon in store demos and promotions to sway their purchasing decisions. This year I spoke with 7 of the biggest international musical instrument distributors from Taiwan to the UK to Germany to Canada to Japan. Each of them expressed the importance that Brick and Mortar holds in their distribution models and told me that it is still the majority of their business. With more and more products requiring demos or hands on experiences (especially if their from the U.S.) in store presence is key. And these distributors know this. NOTE: U.S. Brick & Mortar is actually growing 4.1% quarter over quarter for a 14% growth year over year since 2016.
2. A growing spatial audio market
This was the first time in 4 years of attending and exhibiting at NAMM that I heard multiple professionals tell me “I mean, the 3D Audio market is really hot right now”. We saw multiple large companies introduce immersive audio products including Bose, Sennheiser, RME and Sensaphonics. This was also the first year I met attendees who were specifically at the show to see “3D Audio companies”. The 3D Audio market is estimated to grow over 17% by 2025, and this years exhibiting companies was evidence of that.
3. Once Pro end Distributors are shifting towards consumer
The lines between prosumer and consumer are blurring with many pro end features now become easy to use and afford by today’s consumers. Bose now has AR sunglasses, Hooke Audio has brought binaural recording to a pair of wireless headphones under $250. Consumers are expecting pro control out of their consumer devices and today’s distributors/retailers are taking note. Of the 7 international distributors I spoke with, 50% of them said they’ve increased their consumer reach in the past 5 years. From what I experienced a large majority of the distributors at NAMM were now catering to professionals and consumers.
4. People Still Don’t know What Binaural Is
Though it’s been around for over 100 years, binaural audio is still an unknown term to many. And if there were any market to know what binaural is, if it would be the attendees at NAMM. I was pretty surprised to find that over 70% of the attendees we exhibited to had no idea what binaural audio is. We have some work to do! But awareness is growing.
5. Interest Around Hearing Aids/in ear monitors is growing
By now you’ve probably heard of the “hearable” market. With 1 in 10 Americans now hearing challenged, the business behind consumer hearing aids is booming. That plays well into in ear monitors for musicians onstage. The tech behind augmented listening and mixing playback alongside natural ambiance is astounding. With several companies offering different ways for you to change the way you hear the World, the future of hearable tech is very bright.
6. No one is using a GoPro anymore
Seriously. No one. I saw barely anyone using one. Everyone had a DJI gimbal, osmo or smartphone. GoPro stuffed the channel and got the H*ll out of there.
7. Gimbals have become a conference content game changer
That being said, the world of smartphone stabilizers and gimbals is completely changing the way we capture content at conferences and festivals. It’s astonishing the quality you can get out of today’s stabilizers with just your phone. The amount of gimbals and handheld stabilizers I saw this year was incredible. At this point, if you’re not using one to capture footage at shows, you’re being left in the dust. Do yourself a favor and get one, your followers will thank you in follows and likes. Check out this video I was able to get using just my phone and DJI osmo.
8. NAMM attendees are old and almost all male.
NAMM is the only show where over 50% of the attendees are over 40 years old and male. There isn’t much that NAMM is doing to cater to younger audiences (besides featuring kid bands on the stage in arena plaza during the daytime). NAMM should be taking note of this and finding ways to keep younger audiences and companies interested in the show. So many music professionals my age don’t know what the show is. Here’s to hoping NAMM can find ways to be more inclusive in the future.
9. Parking is actually the worst
And I’m saying this after attending CES, E3, SXSW and AES in NYC. Garages get filled by 12pm every day of the show with very limited options for additional parking. This year NAMM did something different by offering discounted parking passes to those exhibiting, but from what I heard, it was not enough. You’d think with Disneyland being just next door this wouldn’t be such an issue. But year in and year out attendees find parking to be the hardest barrier of entry. And that says a lot for a show not open to the public!
Arguably the most impressive thing about NAMM is the people. Every year I am blown away by the quality and passion that NAMM attendees bring to the music industry. They’re some of the kindest, most creative and inspiring people I have ever met. But by far what is most impressive is THE. HAIR. When it comes to NAMM, the classic “convention business suit” attire is a rarity, where mohawks, hair dye and mega birds are the ordinary. It’s a beautiful place filled with beautiful people and I can’t wait to get back next year!
From One Ear To Another,
Founder, Hooke Audio