Will The NAMM Show thrive or barely survive after 2024’s encouraging show?
A renewed atmosphere at NAMM 2024 makes us wonder whether the big names will return in 2025.
The NAMM Show 2024 at Anaheim Convention Centre. Image: Sam Willings
That’s a wrap on The NAMM Show 2024. There were some huge announcements, but some notable absentees: Universal Audio didn’t return with an extravagant, space-themed spectacle like in 2020; Moog didn’t have a huge presence, nor did Focusrite, Sequential, Oberheim or Arturia; the guitar world’s major brands didn’t show — Fender, Gibson and PRS, which also means no Presonus (Fender) or KRK (Gibson). We didn’t even see the adorably named ‘Modular Village’, where Eurorack brands showcase their latest innovations.
- READ MORE: NAMM 2024 recap: All the biggest synth, studio, DJ and software releases
If more high-profile music technology companies follow suit in 2025, will it spell the end of The NAMM Show?
After speaking to some brand reps and attendees at the show this year, the main takeaway is (and this isn’t news to anyone) that it’s very expensive to host a booth at NAMM. We’ve heard of top-tier companies paying over $1,000,000 for a significant space at the Anaheim Convention Center over the four days it takes place — and that’s before accounting for accommodation, travel, and paying talent for performing or hosting workshops.
Evidently, that’s no longer deemed a worthwhile investment for the aforementioned brands. It’s even encouraged some manufacturers to exhibit just over the show’s fences — the late great Dave Smith once showed us his Sequential Pro-3 from a nearby hotel room; this wasn’t a new thing and will certainly carry on for the foreseeable future.
Following Musikmesse’s demise in 2019 and E3 officially being cancelled in 2023, the pandemic paved the way for more considered announcements online. Why pay $1,000,000 for a limited-time space at NAMM when you could use that for a tremendous marketing campaign, rife with artist videos, influencer sponsorships, media partnerships, and a big social media push?
The thing is, we’ve not seen any of that from the big synth makers who skipped NAMM 2024. Arturia, which released its flagship products V Collection X and Pigments 5 in 2023, hasn’t released a massive marketing campaign, and UA recently sort of just said, ‘hey, LUNA is free without hardware now, btw’, rather than making a song and dance of it.
Instead, at NAMM 2024, we saw some of the smaller brands soaking up the attention for their new products. The Teenage Engineering booth was, quite literally, always packed, with Stevie Wonder even checking out the new products. Oeksound showed off Bloom, which had plenty of plugin fans stopping by. The Solodome — frankly, one of the coolest chairs I’ve ever sat in — garnered a ton of intrigue. Attendees couldn’t resist stopping by the Stylophone space to play with its new theremin-inspired instrument, and Reloop had a consistently packed crowd with performances by Laidback Luke, DJ Qbert and more.
Generally, the atmosphere at NAMM this year was exciting and elated. The buzz in the air was extremely palpable compared to the weird, empty vibe at NAMM 2022 and 2023. It really felt like the show was back to its old self, even without the likes of Fender, UA, Gibson and Focusrite.
Simply put, the absence of giant corporations gives ample space for more bespoke brands to flex. There are, of course, still plenty of household names – Korg, Yamaha, Sony, and Pioneer DJ (AlphaTheta) had plenty to show off and always had a crowd — but the charm of conventions like NAMM are in their quirkier offerings.
For the same reason, Superbooth is an excellent festival for the music technology space. Boutique brands connect with their audience and can actually have a conversation with them — even a quick jam, as we saw in the Erica Synths room in 2023.
On paper, this is excellent news for all. But, realistically, these smaller brands are likely blowing most of their annual marketing budget on the show and taking massive risks by attending. Imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars on a NAMM booth in 2022 as a Eurorack manufacturer and finding out that attendance numbers are 50 per cent lower than the previous show. Compared to the bustling, packed show in 2020 — and, indeed, 2024 — the 2022 show was upsettingly scarce.
And, really, there aren’t as many wins at every NAMM as there could be for these companies. Although they do make truly valuable connections with retailers, media, and customers, the promotion they might get is lacklustre. For all the influencers and media platforms that attend, all you ever see posted online is the same video demonstration at the same booth with the same spokesperson from each brand. That’s no shade on anyone creating these videos, it’s just a product of limited space and resources at the show.
It’s awesome to walk past the Sony booth, or the Mix With The Masters stage, or the SSL mixing console, and see artists and producers running live workshops and performances. That’s the stuff that is worth capturing on camera to put online. Unfortunately, that’s where you hit the $1,000,000 budget very quickly.
It’d be amazing to see more opportunities for smaller companies to collaborate on events where they can have talent running through each of their products, jamming with them in a live environment and teaching attendees how to use them. Even if it’s just once a day, rather than keeping all the boutique brands static at their booth for the whole show.
Other people will have more and probably better ideas than that, but it’s just one thing I picked up from the show.
But here’s the good news: NAMM 2024 genuinely felt like a successful show — an air of optimism, some fun and fantastic products, a host of interesting panels, workshops and events, and a healthy attendance. NAMM 2025 could easily follow suit, with or without the big brands. But the cost of exhibiting has to remain consistent — and not over-inflate — to maintain its charm and utility.
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