There's one thing we can guarantee: There will be plenty of changes at Summer NAMM next month. Whether those adjustments will improve attendance at the Nashville show, taking place from July 21 to 23, is anyone's guess. But it's fair to say that, if the show is lackluster, lack of effort on NAMM's part is unlikely to be offered as the culprit. Let's take a look at the changes and we'll have NAMM tell you why it thinks you should attend this year.
The first two changes are the most obvious. This year's show will take place—for the first time—from Thursday to Saturday. Past Music & Sound Retailer editorials have pointed to the fact Sundays at the Summer NAMM show tend to have sparse turnouts. NAMM Director of Trade Shows Kevin Johnstone responded this way: "We knew we wanted to wrap-up the Summer NAMM show with a public day this year, and our research showed that we had a better chance of attracting consumers on a Saturday vs. a Sunday in Nashville. Having a vibrant public day will be a good thing for the manufacturers needing to show more value from their investment at the show. And, for dealers, it's just another way for NAMM to do our job promoting music making to the general public and, hopefully, create more demand for musical instruments and products leading into the important fall and holiday selling months."
We will have more on the public day coming up. But, first, let's talk about the other obvious change. The show will return to July for the foreseeable future. NAMM experimented with a June date twice. Why is July an optimal time for Summer NAMM? "The majority of dealers told us that mid- or late July was just better timing for them, so we went with it," said Johnstone. "I think the most important thing for us is to provide consistency in our show dates, so people can plan for it and know when the show will be each year. By moving the show around in terms of locations and dates these past years, I think we messed with people's comfort zones a little and we want to get back to a consistent schedule for Summer NAMM."
A much less obvious change, but perhaps even more important, is the addition of the Top 100 Dealer Awards that will be presented this year. NAMM hopes to honor the dealers for their great efforts. Of course, it is hoped that the event will bring more retailers to the Nashville Convention Center next month. How did NAMM come up with the idea? "The idea really came from a similar event that I worked on during my time with a trade show company producing events for the motorcycle industry," said Johnstone. "Over time, that event really helped drive the industry forward by improving best practices, including marketing, merchandising, promotions and even general operations. We hope to provide the same service to our industry with this event and hope that it will grow into something really special over time. Yes, we think the event has the potential to be a draw for dealers looking to learn from their peers and be recognized for so much of the good work that they do every day. Also, it allows NAMM to honor and celebrate the best of the best of our membership in a fun way at Summer NAMM."
Getting back to the public day, NAMM is bringing it back after it debuted last year. The topic has been hotly debated in the past. Some manufacturers have voiced their love for a public day, whereas others have expressed less enthusiasm. NAMM is aware of the pros and cons. Why did it decide to bring the public day—which will be July 23 this year—back? How do you measure success of a public day? "Well, we've found that, in the trade show world, almost anything new takes three to five years to really build," said Scott Robertson, NAMM's director of marketing and communications. "Last year was a good start, but, as they say, you never get to skip your first time at anything, so we'll keep working to make it better. The public day is about two things: increasing value for exhibitors and making their marketing dollars return even more for their companies, as well as sharing the NAMM trade show experience and the experience of making music with the public. One of our main roles is to get more people playing music, and our trade shows are a great way to reach out and stoke that fire to play or sing that so many people have inside of them. But it's important to note that this public day is unique to Summer NAMM and has nothing to do with our plans for the upcoming Anaheim NAMM show. I think many people assume that whatever we do for Summer, we also do for Winter and that's not the case."
The Top 100 Dealer Awards is not the only activity to check out next month. Here's another new wrinkle. "We're excited to work with some of our industry's best consumer magazines to promote the public day and one cool feature Guitar Player is bringing to the show is its Guitar Superstar event, which is a perfect end to a great Saturday at Summer NAMM for the consumers," said Johnstone. "We're excited about co-hosting it this year. Also, following the Top 100 Dealer Awards event, Muriel Anderson will be hosting another spectacular All-Star Guitar Night."
"Status quo" is certainly not a phrase we can use for the 2011 Summer NAMM show. However, one thing will stay the same: the Nashville Convention Center. But that's about to change, too. A new convention center, to be named the Music City Center, is expected to be completed in time for the 2013 show. We asked Johnstone to give us an update. "Well, [NAMM President and CEO] Joe [Lamond] and I recently toured the facility and it's on schedule for opening in 2013," he said. "It's state of the art and exactly what Nashville needs to attract more convention business to the area. It will provide a great home for Summer NAMM and our members for many years to come, offering great exhibit space, as well as new space to host concerts, educational sessions, performances, etc. Plus, Nashville is really a city on the move right now in so many ways."
So now that you know all the major changes—and one major change that will happen in the future—why else should you attend? According to Robertson, there are three big reasons to be in Nashville from July 21 to 23. "First, because the retail world is changing at such a pace that the only way to keep up and survive is to innovate your business constantly, and Summer NAMM is a great way to learn and try out new things," he said. "Second, because the holiday selling season will be here before you know it and it's good to see and try out the products that you and your fellow dealers will be selling. Finally, because the music products industry is a face-to-face, relationship-driven business. You could be on airplanes for two months and not have as many quality meetings as you'll have in two days at Summer NAMM. And one more thing: Attending the show is fun and, as a business owner in the music products industry, I'm pretty sure you're allowed to have some fun and enjoy this industry that you love."
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