Tom Sumner is no stranger to the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM.
After 30 years with Buena Park-based musical instrument maker Yamaha Corp. of America, he’s seen plenty of clients—and rock stars—at Anaheim Convention Center’s largest show. NAMM draws more than 100,000 attendees annually and is booked at the center—its home for roughly four decades—through 2023.
It’s “the show of the year for musical products,” he said. “Even if folks don’t travel to Anaheim for it, they follow it online to see what is happening.”
This year’s just-concluded shindig was Sumner’s first time leading the Japan-based giant’s U.S. operations—the first American executive at Yamaha Corp. of America, which turns 60 next year.
He was named president in March, replacing Hitoshi Fukutome after serving as a sales and marketing senior vice president.
Sumner now leads about 400 employees at Yamaha, OC’s 24th largest foreign-owned company by worker count.
“Almost everyone in the company is involved in some way” with NAMM, Sumner told the Business Journal. “A team of about six has been working on it since July. It’s a huge show that has only become more important over the years.”
Yamaha took 34,000 square feet of ballroom space at Anaheim Marriott to showcase its wares. Sumner says the five-day event is focused on connecting with clients—typically stores that carry its products, which in OC include Jim’s Music Center and Guitar Center.
“We set up meetings with these music dealers to show them our new products,” he said.
This year’s crop of innovation includes 50 new and adapted versions of digital keyboards, synthesizers, music production software, and hardware. Yamaha brands include Bösendorfer, Steinberg, Line 6 and Ampeg.
Its setup this year included onstage performances by jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour, drummer Dave Weckl, and multi-instrumentalist Ellis Hall, among others.
Industry growth remains steady at 4% a year. The fastest-growing segment is wind instruments for education.
“That doesn’t change the type of instruments we make, but it does change the quantity,” said Sumner, who said the company has also noticed increased interest from female guitar and keyboard players, which he attributes to internet activity and social media, such as YouTube.
“Female artists are now more visible.”
Yamaha launched a local meetup, Girl Meets Guitar, at OC coffee shops and restaurants, to capitalize on this.
Sumner says his favorite part of NAMM is connecting with other industry folks he hasn’t seen in a while—in line with the “gathering of tribes” that NAMM President and Chief Executive Joe Lamond calls the show.