Every industry has its mega-trade show. In the electronics space, it’s the Consumer Electronics Show. The National Association of Broadcasters has its NAB Show. The car industry’s top draw is Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. The music sector – and by extension the voice industry – is no different, and the just-completed Winter NAMM Show once again set the tone for professionals looking to raise their game and gain a competitive edge.

The numbers were huge. Almost 100,000 attendees came to Anaheim, California to see approximately 1,600 companies display and demonstrate over 5,000 brands of industry-related products and services, including musical instruments, audio equipment, and even apps. The Winter NAMM Show is the world’s largest trade-only event for music products vendors, and is the second-largest music products show in the world, trailing only Musikmesse Frankfurt. A smaller show, known as Summer NAMM, is held each year in Nashville, Tennessee. As impressive as all this sounds, it’s the bottom-line number that puts it all into perspective: In 2013, members of the National Association of Music Merchants earned a total of $6.8 billion in the U.S.

Selected Attendees Only

The Winter NAMM Show’s numbers are even more impressive considering who is and is not  allowed on the show floor. Members of the public are not permitted to attend: Instead, only employees and guests of the member companies – typically manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – and pre-approved members of the media are authorized to participate. The show is designed to allow vendors to actively display and demonstrate their latest wares. Distributors and retailers then negotiate terms and plan their product roadmaps for the rest of the year, often right from the conference center floor. For anyone looking for guidance on where the music, audio and voice industries are headed over the next 12 or so months, NAMM is the only place they need to be.

Electronic dance music (EDM) stalwart Moby set the tone for the show as the keynote speaker at the NAMM Foundation’s Generation Next event. He spoke to a room filled with college-level music students, and inspired them with a self deprecating view of how he rose to the top of the emerging EDM scene. His message: You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, so choose carefully.

Giving Back

Stewart Copeland, best known as a longtime member of The Police, also spoke at NAMM, sharing snippets of the band’s early days before taking questions from the audience. The legendary drummer and songwriter wasn’t the only major name on the show’s agenda. Actress Alfre Woodard talked about her involvement in the Turnaround Arts program, which introduced intensive arts education into eight of the lowest-performing public schools in the U.S. The goal of the program, which is supported by the NAMM Foundation, was to drive improvements in academic performance – including math, science and reading – by introducing a comprehensive arts curriculum.

Woodard was joined by Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and singer-songwriter Clarence Greenwood (better known as Citizen Cope) who shared their experiences, as well. Each star “adopted” one school, and worked closely to bring arts education to the children. Smith, for example, brought a carload of donated instruments to his school in California’s Central Valley. Greenwood worked with children on a rural Montana Native American reservation, and used art education to bring hope where there had previously been none.

Woodard told attendees that the program, introduced in 2012 as an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, is already returning huge dividends. Students in the eight target schools have seen their math proficiency increase by 22.6%, and their reading proficiency go up by 12.6%. Beyond the numbers, participating students report fewer suspensions and expulsions, and lower rates of disciplinary issues.

The educational community was also well represented. There were approximately 1,800 music students at the show, most of them in music business programs, and the College Music Society and the NAMM Foundation hosted GenNext sessions for them. Betty Anne Younker, CMS President and Dean of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, visited NAMM for the first time, and came away with a strong sense of the potential for educational possibilities.

As the respective futures of the music, audio and voice industries were being played out on the show floor, the NAMM Foundation’s involvement in community-building investments like the Turnaround Arts program was building an entirely different – but no less critical – future for the next generation of artists. In an industry built on the concept of giving back, NAMM continues to set the tone for others to follow.

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