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NAMM Plays for Bigger Crowds

All eyes, and ears, in the music industry focus on Anaheim at the start of each year.

The annual show put on by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) at the Anaheim Convention Center marks the world’s largest gathering of the music industry—from musicians to makers of guitars and pianos.

Attendees this year included producer and songwriter Mark Ronson, Country artist Hunter Hayes and violinist and performer Lindsey Stirling.

“The entire music industry knows about Anaheim in January,” declared John Mlynczak, the new chief executive of the Carlsbad-based organization.

This year’s edition ran from Jan. 25 to 28.

Attendance Up

The music show is one of Anaheim’s largest trade events, expected to bring in 60,000 to 75,000 visitors this year, up from 47,000 last year.

It still has ways to go to reach pre-pandemic levels of attendance; the 2019 edition of NAMM attracted 115,000.

The group has estimated its annual show brings in $120 million to Anaheim hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

New CEO

Since 1946, it’s had only three CEOs. Prior CEO Joe Lamond stepped down this year after serving 20 years in the post.

Mlynczak, who was appointed CEO about 10 months ago, most recently served as the vice president of Music Education & Technology at Hal Leonard, which calls itself the world’s largest source for music publications like sheet music and songbooks.

He oversaw the worldwide education market strategy, managed education software products and collaborated on music education technology initiatives for the global organization.

Mlynczak has taught general music, band, choir, marching band, and music technology, starting the first music technology course in Louisiana.

“With John’s knowledge of the industry and proximity to NAMM through his work as a music education advocate, our members will benefit from the tradition of a seamless, stable transition,” Lamond said in a statement last year. “I am confident that he will continue to champion our industry and our vision, mission, and objectives.”

Disruption

Mlynczak aims to match the changing business needs of its annual attendees and exhibitors, following the past few years of “disruption” caused by the pandemic.

“We want to elevate the products that every music maker and music enthusiast uses globally,” Mlynczak said.

NAMM expected this year’s show to have the largest number of new product releases since 2020.

“We are digging deep into what influences the growth of the music product industry,” he said.

The latest edition of the event is performing well financially, according to Mlynczak. This year, NAMM’s exhibit sales are up 30% from last year with exhibit orders up 15% year-over-year.

Mlynczak also said the organization has hit its goal for exhibit orders at the 2025 show.
Exhibitors typically include music product retailers and manufacturers such as Buena Park-based Yamaha and Sony. This year’s show had 1,200 booths representing 3,000 companies.

NAMM’s weekend schedule featured over 500 events and 200-plus live performances.

“The NAMM Show will continue to provide critical platforms and industry innovations that will drive growth to create a better future for the next generation of music industry leaders,” Mlynczak said.

Status Quo

“Attendees come to NAMM to help grow their business, not just maintain the status quo,” Mlynczak said.

The show aims to host a combination of events designed for a mix of attendees for their music making, networking and education needs.

“We have been strategic to make sure the mix is a true representation of all the segments of our industry—nuanced and specialized,” Mlynczak said.

Mlynczak said that the NAMM show will follow the consumer shift toward online, social influence by creating intentional spaces for content creation and social influencers in order to be on “the forefront of influencing consumer behavior” and maximize visibility.

The organization invited nearly 600 digital personalities, identified by their music product reviews and their following, to attend as media at NAMM.

“Our ability to facilitate the right connections and target our marketing messages to the right segments is vital to our growth,” he said.

Creating this authority in consumer trends also includes presenting more than 200 industry and educational sessions. In addition to presentations for professionals, the group also has workshops for community and nonprofit leaders, as well as music educators and students.

“Because it’s music, we’re a sector where people have to use to learn the products. It’s about the right product but also the right training, as well as the motivation and commitment to continue,” Mlynczak said.

“It turns into investment.”

NAMM aims to encourage networking and supportive programming at the event.

“There are opportunities you don’t know exist until you’re there. You can’t bump into a business over Zoom,” Mlynczak added.

Global Industry

The music industry is valued at around $19.5 billion annually, according to the organization.

Events like NAMM still provide real value, the group’s CEO says.

“The global connection is something you can’t get anywhere else,” Mlynczak said.

“Manufacturers won’t travel all over the world, but they will travel here.”

International attendance, which has grown 38% year-over-year, and interest typically comes from countries such as Europe, Japan and China. NAMM’s connections to these markets have allowed the organization to gain more insight into what the Anaheim show will look like in the coming years.

“Association partnerships are the key to our global growth,” he said. “Each country has several of its own localized associations, each with a specialty.”

Mlynczak reported an increase in brands from China exhibiting at this year’s show with even more to come in 2025.

“We are working with companies who have established, quality brands that will provide a strong brand experience in their booths,” he said in an insights report published last year.

Japan-based companies represent more than 30% of the global music product business, according to NAMM. Mlynczak added that many of these brands are “longtime supporters” of the show including the parent organization of Yamaha, based in Japan, which has been at the show since 1960.

NAMM is also looking at potential places to expand the show, and it’s considering holding the show in other countries after events firm Messe Frankfurt stopped holding its own version of the trade show in Europe.

A potential market filled with new manufacturers and brands to bring to NAMM is Latin America, where Mlynczak cited interest from recent visits.

“Our mission is to strengthen this industry, and right now, we can do that by educating our members on how to best compete in the future market—and, of course, gathering the global industry annually,” he said.

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