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Live at NAMM

ANAHEIM, CA—The NAMM Show—the annual winter convocation of the National Association of Music Merchants— has always been a trade convention aimed at the musical instrument industry, presenting the latest that the MI world has to offer.

ANAHEIM, CA—The NAMM Show—the annual winter convocation of the National Association of Music Merchants— has always been a trade convention aimed at the musical instrument industry, presenting the latest that the MI world has to offer. In recent times, however, pro live sound manufacturers have taken an increased interest in the annual event taking place this month in Anaheim, CA.

It’s no secret that when home recording went mainstream, the pro audio world gained a higher profile at the convention. After all, today music stores are just as likely to sell customers recording hardware as they are a guitar: “Hey kid, want to get an interface to go with that six-string so you can record your own demos?”

Live sound, too, has always had a presence at NAMM, but offerings tended to be aimed at the consumer level, given the retail focus of attendees; there were staples like live microphones, but when it came to PAs, for instance, visitors typically came across small, portable systems aimed at DJs or wedding bands.

These days, however, high-end live sound gear is easily found on the show floor and its market’s presence has grown noticeably at the show. No longer confined to the Arena, sound reinforcement gear of all stripes can be found throughout the Anaheim Convention Center and the sheer amount of live gear on hand would appear to be growing.

That fact isn’t lost on anyone, least of all Meyer Sound. This year will mark the first time in 15 years that the sound reinforcement manufacturer has exhibited at NAMM, using the event to present its Constellation acoustic system, as well as its Mina and JM-1P loudspeakers, among other products.

“We work very closely with the live sound community to improve the experience for both performers and audiences by providing high-quality tools and science-based educational resources,” said Rachel Archibald, director of marketing at Meyer Sound. “By attending a high-energy event like NAMM, we hope to expand our reach to more touring sound companies, rehearsal facilities, music venues, musicians, and beyond, sharing what we know about sound reinforcement and electroacoustic technology, as well as gathering their feedback.”

Many manufacturers concur that part of why they to go to NAMM is simply because it’s where the end users are. “While most of our sales are through contractors rather than retailers, tens of thousands of musicians use our products,” noted Chandler Collison, director of marketing at Aviom, “and NAMM provides an important opportunity to interact with musicians. The convention also has a substantial international draw, so it is an efficient way for us to meet with many of our international sales partners.” At NAMM, Aviom will be showing its new Pro16 digital snake systems and AllFrame multi-modular I/O system, among other items.

Not everyone feels that pro live sound’s presence has grown in the wake of pro recording’s adoption of the NAMM show. Mark Humrichouser, Shure’s general manager of The Americas Business Unit, said, “It may just be my opinion, but we feel the situation is quite the opposite and that NAMM has traditionally been the show for MI and live sound—and, over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more exhibitors coming to the show from and for the recording side of pro audio. There has always been a ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude among musicians and engineers, but with all of the technological advancements in just the last decade, this DIY movement has really exploded. The wide, ever-expanding offering of recording software and other tools, like USB microphones, have allowed more and more people to create and share their music.”

Some feel that live sound manufacturers have more at stake at NAMM these days, due to the changing atmosphere in the pro audio industry. Sheldon Radford, senior live sound product manager at Avid, remarked, “As trade shows consolidate or cease altogether, it’s natural that the emphasis within the remaining shows shift to accommodate the needs of the diverse audio community. Also, the lines between the studio and the stage are becoming less well-defined, as artists see live recordings as a new source of revenue, and the technology begins to overlap, such as plugins for live mixing, studio quality mics being deployed on stage, guitar processors such as Eleven Rack being used in place of amps, and so on.” Avid will show its Pro Tools 9 and Venue software, as well as its latest MI products, at NAMM.

Darius Seabaugh, vice president of marketing at the RapcoHorizon Company, feels that NAMM has become more diverse— and as a result, more relevant to pro live sound manufacturers: “With many more music retailers expanding the reach of their business models to include installation and live sound production, the NAMM show has become a more viable option for showcasing our pro sound products.” RapcoHorizon’s booth will feature new music interfaces for smartphones and MP3 players, among other products.

Despite the growing presence of installers, integrators and more, NAMM hasn’t strayed from its roots. “NAMM still maintains a very strong retail focus,” pointed out Stefanie Reichert, vice president of strategic marketing at Sennheiser USA. “However, we also see a lot of pro sound companies also attending the show, primarily those located on the West Coast. NAMM is not yet at the level as, for instance, Pro Light and Sound in Frankfurt, but it very well may have potential to grow in the future.” In the meantime, Sennheiser will use the convention to debut its first large-diaphragm condenser mic, the MK4, and its new microphone customization service.

Adding to pro audio’s insurgence at NAMM is the TEC Awards ceremony, which will be held at the trade show for the first time. “Presenting the 26th Annual TEC Awards at the NAMM Show is an important step in the evolution of the TEC Awards,” said Hillel Resner, president of the TEC Foundation. “It will mean a broader audience for our event, and for the products and companies of the pro audio industry, which has become an increasingly important component of NAMM.”

The TEC Awards’ move to NAMM was part of the reason that Meyer Sound, one of the Awards’ Platinum Sponsors, returned to the convention after 15 years. “As NAMM became the new home for the TEC Awards,” said Meyer’s Archibald, “it gave us an opportunity to work more closely with both organizations. We realized that there were some interesting parallels with NAMM’s objectives and Meyer Sound’s goals, including our shared commitment to serving the professional audio community.”

That community is wide-ranging, but to resort to cliché, the show has something for everyone. Speaking as both a freelance FOH engineer and industry marketing consultant, Daniel East of the ECI Group explained why he’ll be at the NAMM show this month: “A manufacturer can reach everyone in the chain, from the artist to his crew and staff. There are opportunities to arrange product endorsements, and meet with production companies as they select the latest/ greatest gear they want on the road, in the studio, or even just personally. For a manufacturer, it’s about the products, customers, peers, competitors: NAMM is the voila opportunity, and you never know who will show up.”