A roaring success or a muted affair? Pro audio biz gives its verdict on NAMM 2021

Leading figures from across the pro audio industry have given their verdict on last month’s virtual NAMM 2021 Believe In Music Week.

With the California show forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAMM organisers knew that  the task of replicating the traditional show in a digital format would be an impossible one. Instead, they set about creating a new event for 2021 aimed at providing a vast range of interactive digital content, while also enabling exhibitors to hold meetings with clients and partners from across the world. 

In that regard, the show absolutely delivered. Of course, a digital show is never going to be an adequate substitute for an in-person gathering – the social element has always been the beating heart at the centre of any trade show. But given that the COVID crisis is still wreaking untold havoc upon much of the industry, it’s hard to imagine what more NAMM could have provided 

The numbers certainly showed a great willingness from the industry to embrace NAMM Believe In Music Week. Some 93,226 people ‘attended’ the event, with 1,227 brands participating in the Market Place to showcase their latest products and technologies. 

“With Believe in Music, we set out to accomplish a couple of key targets to serve our members and the industry,” Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO told Audio Media International. “We wanted to create a digital platform to launch new products and gear, our annual ‘Market Week’ if you will, then, education and training for all areas of the industry, and last but for surly not least, the opportunity to network to keep us connected and engaged, while exposing new areas and opportunities for business connections. 

“While the Believe Week numbers exceeded our expectations, we also felt it was important to keep the industry engaged and focused on planning for the year ahead so we extended the Believe Platform through the end of February. We’re having thousands of people a day still on the site, looking at brand pages in the marketplace and attending educational sessions. it’s still a little too soon to tell the real impact, but I can tell you that having never done anything like it before, the member response has been terrific.”

Hannah Bliss, marketing director at Focusrite Novation was quick to pay tribute to the efforts NAMM went to to deliver as vibrant a show as possible.

“Unsurprisingly, NAMM pulled out all the stops for a virtual trade show, providing constant entertainment and high quality produced visual and audio content for its attendees,” Bliss commented. “As with most online booth style events, the result for the exhibitors was a little lacklustre simply because you have no idea how many people are looking at your virtual display. The benefit, that we took advantage of, came from being able to host live or pre-recorded events at coordinated times that you could advertise from your booth and to your customers. 

“There was a chat and meeting function, which worked well, particularly during these sessions. It provided direct contact with customers who would normally be standing in front of us. However, the casual “hi, can I help you with anything” style conversations can still never be replicated in these virtual spaces. NAMM did a great job with the production of its TEC Awards and other artist, engineer and guest speaker events, and I imagine attendees really enjoyed the whole experience.”

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Tim Boot, director of global marketing at US loudspeaker giant Meyer Sound, was also full of praise for NAMM’s efforts. 

“Meyer Sound applauds the great strides NAMM made in delivering a virtual trade show,” he said. “It certainly is a different experience from an in-person show, but we leveraged the opportunity both on our own platforms and saw great engagement on the NAMM platform, especially for the special sessions we curated for the show. This content seemed to be some of the most viewed among pro audio manufacturers, so we were pleased with how our programming was received. The content continues to live on demand until the end of February so this engagement should only continue to rise. While there are still some lessons to learn on navigating through the show for customer meetings, Meyer Sound brand awareness with the NAMM audience certainly benefitted from our participation.”

Fellow loudspeaker manufacturer d&b audiotechnik shared similar sentiments: “NAMM Believe in Music delivered their promise with a very wide international audience,” added Marc Lopez, VP, marketing America. “We had visitors from all across the globe able to visit our virtual booth and attend our demo sessions. Virtual shows are incredibly difficult to build a sense of community, but NAMM did a really great job at bringing the music community together.”

Meanwhile, Sean Bowman, director of US retail sales at Shure, applauded the efforts of organisers’ to try something different. 

“We are appreciative that NAMM decided to create a one-of-a-kind virtual experience while keeping everyone safe,” he said. “Unlike other virtual trade shows, NAMM’s Believe in Music served as a celebration and global gathering to support the people who bring music to the world. This new digital initiative still allowed Shure to meet our immediate business needs. While we missed seeing everyone in person, we continued to connect with customers, introduce them to our products, and host planning sessions with our channel partners.

“NAMM did an outstanding job of planning the virtual experience. The well thought out digital platform enabled Shure to produce live streams, giveaways, and live chats, generating a similar number of customer leads that we have seen in past years in person. We were thrilled to learn 80 per cent of customers were new to Shure and experiencing the brand for the first time. Overall, NAMM Believe in Music Week was a great success for Shure and we are optimistic about the year ahead as well as the industry’s resilience in overcoming challenges. We look forward to incorporating these digital strategies and building upon them next year in-person at NAMM 2022.”

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