NAMM Summer Session 2009
Numbers Down, Spirits Up
|Voices from the Show Floor
In addition to speaking with a number of suppliers and exhibitors at this Summer’s NAMM Show, MMR also sought out feedback from dealers present in Nashville this July.
With the economy the clear topic on everyone’s mind and the numbers at 2009 Summer NAMM reflecting the bleak climate, we asked a handful of retailers: “What’s your take on this year’s show in Nashville, and what is your outlook for the rest of the year?”
“I’m just looking around for new technology to see what’s out there in amps and guitars. Naturally, there are thousands of things to look through. It’s kind of overkill, but I’m just trying to find things that pique my interest, and check out pricing and economy: how much you’re going to get for your money. If guys are out playing, are they really going to spend two or three thousand dollars on an amp or a guitar that they’re going to take into some dirty club? I’m looking around and finding guitars that are only $500, but they’re made in that vintage style. It’s incredible.
“Like anybody else, we’re just taking it day by day. A lot of what we’re looking for in this economy is pricing and quality. That’s really going to be the big question over the next couple of years.”
Albert “Skip” Benicky
“We aren’t looking for anything in particular; we never miss a trade show. We think it’s so important to be at the trade show regardless of whom other people might think will be there. We feel it’s important to our business to come and build relationships with vendors and see what’s going on in the industry.
“Things are looking good for us. We’re a big band instrument rental dealer and we think we’ll be okay. We’re excited about the fall. We’re positive about things, though cautious.
“The numbers are down here. That’s obvious and you can see it when you walk onto the convention floor. But the people who are here are serious about their business and the vendors here are serious, too. It’s a great opportunity to have a conversation without the stress and anxiety of the really crowded shows, like Anaheim usually is. It’s been productive for us. We’ve seen some new things and we’re glad that we came.”
“I’m just checking out new products, seeing if there’s anything I’m interested in. I’ve found a few things – banjos, dulcimers, pedals. Everything looks nice here. There’s a bunch of new dealers here. I’m fairly impressed.
“So far this year, I’m up about 25 percent over last year. I’ve been growing about 25 percent a year since we’ve been around, which is about seven or eight years. Things are looking good.”
“We are a very small music store. We try to be full service, but we focus a lot on beginners. One big thing we are looking for is really good products in terms of entry-level material. Good, specialized products. We’ve been very pleased. I know everyone talks about this show being smaller, but I’m well pleased with the experience that we’ve had here. We came here because this show is where we get a lot of new ideas and see a lot of new products that may not be here next year, but they’re here now. We have a pretty high hit rate as far as the new stuff, taking it back to the store, and getting some things going.
“I think we’re still in for a rough ride. Historically, where we are, because we rely on music students and band instrument rentals, as well as our regular sales, the summers are always slow. But we are anticipating some good signs in August and September. I still think everyone is going to be kind of spooky until the first part of next year, maybe even until next summer.”
“We’re here because of the great time we have here at night, and a little bit because of the show. Usually, I want to see the smaller manufacturers, new inventions, and things like that, more so than the big players, so this year, we have a lot of that. We actually had time to have a beer this afternoon, and I had the chance to get out and check out a music store today; in the past, we’ve always been too busy for that kind of thing.
“Overall, I feel like the NAMM summer show is dissolving. I am still having a great time here and I’m making the best of it, but it needs to pick up. I’d still come back next year if I knew it was going to be this small, but a lot of that is because of the town.
“At our company, we’ve seen really good times and we’ve seen low times, so this is just how it goes. We are going to weather the storm and we’re always looking for new ideas. The best part of this show is the Idea Center. That’s what I come for. I learn so much; it’s great.”
Paul “Rick” Hamilton
“This show gives us a time to hone in on certain small and useful products. I’m stocking a small music store from scratch in Holly Springs, Mississippi. The economy is bad, I know that, but I feel confident because I’ll be the only store within 45 minutes in any direction. Providing band instruments to the schools, and giving lessons and knowing what my price market is and staying within that, I fell pretty good. I’m not going to be carrying thousand-dollar guitars, you know? $700, maybe, 3-500, maybe, but knowing what my price market is, I think I’ve got a good shot.
“Things seem to be a little bit quiet at the show right now. Some instruments are a little pricey, but that happens.”
“As with every year, this is the way that we stay in contact with our vendors, check out new merchandise and products that we can put on our floor. We’re looking for piano and related instruments, and I’m happily surprised with what I’ve found some new things. I didn’t know whether I would, since there aren’t as many exhibitors here this year. On the other hand, the slower pace affords you a little more time with each vendor, when the crowds are a little smaller.
“Overall, my impressions are mixed. I think NAMM could have done more with the Idea Center. They could have done more classes that maybe fit the core of what people are going through with financing and things like that. The classes that they have had are pretty good. Sometimes the classes repeat every year, so I’d like to see them change it up a little bit, but overall, as far as the exhibitors are concerned, things have been really positive. I’m pleasantly surprised. I expected this show to have less impact on me, as far as being a business owner, but I’m coming out of it with a lot of ideas.
“In the next six months or so, I see things moving at our store, I see positive flow. I tend to have a very optimistic viewpoint. At this point it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re in a recession. We’ve got to keep going. If we’ve made it this far, we’re going to keep going.’ You have to be creative. You have to get your eight hours of sleep every night, and then wake up believing that every day is a new day. I’m keeping track of the finance market and I’m seeing some positive signs there. We should all eliminate the naysayers from our lives.”
There’s no getting around the smaller tally of exhibitors and the lack of some “big names” normally present at Summer NAMM, but the numbers truly don’t tell the full tale of this year’s get-together in Nashville…
Small Names Do Big Business
“We got so busy on Friday, I was making appointments for dealers to return on Saturday and Sunday,” says Ken Haas, sales director for Reverend Musical Instruments. “We’ll be back to Nashville without question.” The sentiment was shared by many, especially smaller, companies: “We didn’t know what kind of expectations we should come with this year, but we were happy,” notes Phil Bettete of Yorkville Sound. “We wrote orders, saw the buyers we wanted to see, and did very well. I think, because some of the larger brands decision to stay home, companies like ours did even better.”
Indeed, the reduction in foot traffic and absence of some industry heavyweights provided many exhibitors with opportunities to showcase their products more effectively and for dealers and suppliers to engage in real conversations (instead of super-rushed, two-minute chats) and conduct real business.
“Due to the absence of several large ‘destination’ exhibitors, the attendees looked for alternatives and there we were,” observes Santa Cruz Guitars’ Richard Hoover. “Even though the numbers were down, we never lacked for booth traffic.” However, Richard voices a concern shared by many at this year’s Nashville Show: “I do hope that non-attending companies considered the long term cost of their non-support, as without it the summer show may not be available in the future.”
“The attendance was obviously down in terms of both exhibitors and attendees,” concedes Chaim Rubinov of FreeHand Systems. “Some may see that as sign of a bad show, but in my opinion, it was an opportunity for attendees to see more of the show, and spend a little more time at each booth.”
The reason for fewer exhibitors and convention-goers is a secret to nobody, of course. During his State of the Industry speech on Friday morning, NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond spoke in detail about the economy and its recent impact on all aspects of the industry. “No one really knows the answers to our global economic crisis,” he said. “Those who call for a fourth quarter recovery, when the recession will have reached 23 or 24 months, could be right. But we’ve been here before. It’s something that will repeat and we need to plan for it.” As the third and fourth quarters of ’09 will, doubtless, hold their fair share of challenges, Lamond also noted that such a climate also affords unique opportunities which music products professionals should be prepared to take advantage of.
Overall, NAMM is reporting a 26 percent decrease in registration from last year’s Show. However, of the 383 companies displaying products, a large number (reportedly more than 145) were newcomers to Nashville. “As we had not shown at NAMM before, I didn’t have a point of reference as to the amount of traffic in the hall,” acknowledges David Terrell of DARE Music Group, “but I can tell you that most of the time we were swamped! We were very happy with the interest level and feedback we received from retailers, distributors and artists. We are entering negotiations for distribution rights in Canada and the U.S as a direct result of the NAMM show. We also met with one of our European distributors that had already signed up with us previously at MusikMesse and this distributor tripled the initial order.”
The Breakfast Club
As in previous years, the popular NAMM University Breakfast Sessions provided attendees both a free-of-charge full meal and valuable insight into the MI Industry, making the sessions truly the most important meal of the day.
Saturday’s breakfast saw the presentation of the Music for Life award to Bill Ivey, longtime music advocate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and director of the Country Music Foundation. Previous winners include Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath, former Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and actor Richard Dreyfuss. In his acceptance speech, Ivey noted, “We don’t want to overlook the value of the music store as the center for learning, a place to imagine.” He expressed optimism about the resilience of the MI industry, stating, “Innovation combined with a sense of affordability and creativity will usher in a new era.”
The featured speaker for the session was Bob Negen, an expert in small business and retail. Negen provided a detailed look into many aspects of achieving success in sales, from creating an atmosphere of positivity to building a customer base and understanding price points. In response to the nation’s current economic situation, he states, “You have to focus on what you want, not what you fear. Focus on opportunities, not problems.” Many of the practical tips focused on his three ways to grow a business: get new customers; increase the size of the average sale; and increase the number of transactions. “Marketing is the what drives business,” Negen insists.
The final Breakfast Session engendered perhaps the most “audience participation,” as Mt. Zion Baptist Church Gospel Choir performed and successfully encouraged most in attendance (even one very sleepy MMR editor…) to clap and sing along.
Not Too Shabby…
In addition to visiting booths, attending concerts and receptions, and enjoying the daily Breakfast Sessions, attendees took advantage of the standard array of professional development sessions held at the Idea Center and NAMM University education seminars that show “regulars” have come to rely on. All in all, while certainly a reflection of the troubled economic times in which we live, the 2009 Nashville experience would have to be considered a success – albeit a triumph based more upon sentiment and attitude than cold, hard numbers. The positive vibes put out by those who did choose to exhibit or attend have many already looking forward to the next convention.
“Both GuitarGuard and NeverKink had unprecedented sales success at the Summer Show,” says Larry Post of GuitarGard. “We are already looking forward to Winter NAMM.”
The 2010 NAMM Show will take place January 14–17, 2010, in Anaheim, Calif. For more information about 2009 Summer NAMM, interested parties can log on towww.namm.org/summer.