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THE FUTURE OF TRADE SHOWS IN THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT AND PRO AUDIO BUSINESS


After a two-year hiatus and a subsequent delay in January of 2022, the NAMM Show will once again open its doors in Anaheim in early June. Word is that this will be a smaller event than in previous years, as many vendors have chosen to pass. For my own part, I am not attending due to health reasons, and only a handful of my Reflex Marketing suppliers will have booths. Our Contractor-A/V division manager will be heading up to Las Vegas to attend InfoComm, as this sector of our business is gaining steam, and we are both hoping this is a successful event. But this still begs the question, with such low reported attendance at CES and other shows – what does the future really look like for conventions? We’ve adapted during COVID to mostly live without them, and a host of key industry players have decided the investment is still not worth it for them to attend for a variety of reasons.


Arguments on Both Sides


I’ve spent most of my 42 years in the trade on the Musical Instrument side, and NAMM has always been an annual ritual. “Back in the Day” dealers would come to the show and place purchase orders, and salesmen were expected to write business. Then gradually with computerized inventory management systems, taking purchase orders at the show waned, and the ability for a company to gauge immediate ROI came into question. Still, the show remained popular for many years, only to be disrupted with the onset of the pandemic. Today, many vendors still have very large backorders and slow deliveries due to continuing supply chain issues, so have used that as a viable reason not to attend. Others have come to their own realization that business can be conducted without the annual confab, the significant costs incurred, and drain on company resources. But other manufacturers have taken a different approach, deciding that June NAMM is a must for them to attend. Meeting customers face-to-face still matters, and this appears to be the line of demarcation in the debate. Like the Clash song “Should I Stay, or Should I Go?”, I’m certain that some heated meetings have occurred in conference rooms around the country.


Relationships Will Always Matter in Sales


People do business with people. That is still a fact in business, and the day this does not matter or is not relevant spells the end of many jobs that deal with relationship management. NAMM was always a celebration of those personal connections, and a time to rekindle friendships. While we can certainly continue to conduct business via email, store and office visits, telephone calls, Zoom and Teams meetings, the bonds formed by person-to-person interaction are still an integral part of doing business. While the show in Anaheim may be smaller in terms of vendor booths and overall attendance, I’ve read that NAMM is touting this one as a stepping-stone towards normalcy, which includes scheduling April of 2023 for the next show, then back to January in 2024.


Will the Lights Go Out on Broadway?


Time will tell whether trade shows continue, or if they have become an anachronism. We all know that dealing with COVID has changed the way we work, and that some may feel that the show may be over, or on its last leg. I have mixed emotions on this topic, but for now will not make a prediction either way. The industry, economics and health concerns will ultimately decide the fate of collecting as a group for conferences and large gatherings such as industry trade shows. For those who are attending NAMM or InfoComm, I wish you a safe and successful show. We can revisit this topic in a later post, as we see how convention participation pans out, and whether the suppliers and dealers see real value in returning to the “old normal.” For this time the show must go on…

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