Marketing Music at NAMM

NAMM is the show where rock stars come out to play.

All the Convention Center's a stage at NAMM.

If you’re keeping up with social marketing trendsetters like Seth Godin or Scott Stratten, you’ve probably heard it said that we do business with people we “know, like and trust.” This is especially true for the music business. Relationships (read: connections) have always been key for musicians. And January’s Winter NAMM show in Anaheim is where music business ties are made and strengthened.

While other trade shows are dying out, and the music industry itself struggles with a revolution in distribution and marketing, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) continues to grow in popularity. With the aptly titled “Take It To 11” theme (a sly reference to the rock mockumentary film “This Is Spinal Tap”) for 2011, this year’s show was bigger than ever.

Anaheim hosts the Winter NAMM Show.

The intrepid Tour Bus Live team from the OC Gazette has the stats: “1,417 exhibitors (up 2% from last year – a sure sign of a steadily recovering economy) from over 100 countries worldwide  manned their booths, while more than 90,000 registered attendees (an impressive 3% increase over last year) traversed the more than one million square feet of the 109th annual winter NAMM trade show.”

According to the organization’s website, “NAMM is the not-for-profit association that unifies, leads and strengthens the $17 billion global music products industry. Our association—and our trade shows—serve as a hub for people wanting to seek out the newest innovations in musical products, recording technology, sound and lighting—everything you need to enhance and grow your business, presentation or event!”

"Pick Guy" picked this fetching lass to model a dress made of 3700 guitar picks.

Harp-guitar highlights custom luthier work at NAMM 2011.

There’s an App for That

NAMM offered its own innovation in the form of a free downloadable mobile phone app for the first time this year. No Internet connection was required to use the map, look up exhibitors, schedule meet-ups with contacts, find events, or see who was appearing where.

Seeing Stars

Aspiring stars come to NAMM to make connections and secure endorsement deals while established stars make appearances, hold signings and promote products. Rock luminaries rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi included Jackson Brown, members of Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, Guns N Roses, Megadeth, Slayer, Bootsy Collins, Glen Campbell, and on and on.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth signing autographs.

Crosstown Traffic

The whole NAMM experience is sensory overload (especially auditory). Although the show is not open to the public, it’s a hot ticket among visitors because of the celebrity factor. But looky-loos created so much traffic in recent years that exhibitors and members were being hindered from conducting business. So this year, the organization tried a new tactic, encouraging members to move their non-industry visitors to Sunday (the final day), which seemed largely successful in reducing congestion.

While the big names are always the main attraction, plenty of up-and-coming new acts can also be found. One such band to keep an eye out for is Skick, a talented young group (ages 10–14) from the L.A. area. A late addition to the NAMM show, Skick was invited to perform at the Taylor Guitars suite.

Based in El Cajon, Tayor Guitars is another Southern California musical success story. The company has successfully weather the economic downturn by focusing on quality and service, adjusting its product mix toward more high-end models. The company’s marketing strategy is detailed in a chapter from Bob Taylor’s new autobiography, Guitar Lessons. Taylor’s book is worthy of it’s own blog post in the near future (as soon as I finish reading it).

Print ad for Taylor Guitars.

For more NAMM photos, check out the Tour Bus Live Facebook page or visit my Pictures of Music blog archive.

Here’s one more quick clip of my friend Doug Smith:

Have any good NAMM stories to share? Or do you know of any other industry trade show that generates similar excitement?

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