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NAMM Show Returns, Wary but Ready to Roll

The NAMM Show is a convention like no other, but the 2022 edition, which opens today, will be like no other NAMM Show.

A larger-than-life NAMM Show sign greets visitors outside the pro audio-centric ACC North building in 2020. Photo: Clive Young.

Anaheim, CA (June 3, 2022)—The NAMM Show is a convention like no other, but the 2022 edition, which opens today, will be like no other NAMM Show.

The NAMM Show has always been the kick-off for the pro audio industry’s year. Held annually in January, the convention brings together 115,000-plus pros from the MI and pro audio industries to the Anaheim Convention Center for a blow-out event where manufacturers show off their latest gear, everyone networks and plans are made for the rest of the year. For 2022, however, this year’s edition comes halfway through the year, and that’s not the only change in store as the NAMM Show takes place for the first time since January, 2020, only weeks before the pandemic began.

This year, the Show’s stated aim is to provide a safe atmosphere for visitors and exhibitors to conduct business, recognizing that the pandemic is not over and that not everyone is entirely comfortable being here. With an eye towards ensuring that the convention doesn’t become a super-spreader event, this year’s show is three days instead of the traditional four, exhibitors are spaced further apart this year, and reportedly the show’s footprint has been reduced by half. To wit, Yamaha has moved from its longtime massive outpost at the Marriott next door to the Anaheim Convention Center to the ACC’s third floor, while Hall E, the literally underground home to the funkiest, most unusual booths run by startups and entrepreneurs, is gone this year.

NAMM Show Coverage

In all, about 1,000 companies are expected to exhibit this weekend—roughly half the usual number, pre-pandemic, and NAMM told the Los Angeles Times it expects less than half its typical attendance. While many of the missing exhibitors stem from the Musical Instrument side—Fender, Gibson, PRS and other high-profile guitar manufacturers are among the notable names—the pro audio industry has largely retained its presence, with both floors of the ACC North building once again packed with pro audio gear.

While there’s a few notable exceptions, such as Avid, which announced earlier this year it would skip all major trade shows in 2022, pro audio is well represented, particularly on the live sound side—which perhaps makes sense as live sound is, by its nature, tied to personal interaction and large group settings like a convention. Regardless, industry leaders like Shure, SSL, DPA, Audio-Technica, Focusrite, Apogee, DAS, d&b audiotechnik, Electro-Voice and others are on-site and ready to press the flesh—or at least elbow-bump.

Despite the pandemic and supply-chain issues, overall, the pro-audio industry has done well in recent times, though that success has largely been limited to the recording side, as live sound was virtually off the table for much of the last two years due to COVID, lockdowns and the like. According to NAMM, pro audio as a whole has grown 16.5% to annual sales of $1.5 billion. With momentum like that, there’s little wonder why the pro-audio side of the show would want to get together and take things even higher.

Still, that’s not always an easy thing to do. For some pro-audio manufacturers, today’s the start of a marathon as they begin two trade shows, back-to-back; they’ll tear down their booths on Sunday and then head to Las Vegas to load into that city’s convention center for the InfoComm trade show. Aimed at integrators and installers, that show starts Wednesday and runs through next Friday. The two convention, taking place nearly on top of each other, will be closely watched and analyzed, but they are no doubt two more major steps forward for the pro-audio industry as we come back from the pandemic’s impact.