This article originally appeared in the December/January 2021 issue of Canadian Music Trade.
By Michael Raine
Photos courtesy of Getty Images for NAMM
Even when the 2020 Summer NAMM show was cancelled, many folks, including at the association itself, thought we would all be back together in January for a monumental family reunion. Alas, that post-pandemic mega party will have to wait a while longer. But not ones to sit on their hands, and always keeping a keen focus on helping its members, the NAMM team worked through the spring and summer to formulate a new type of event. And just as The NAMM Show is not your average trade show, they promised this new event would not be just another run-of-the-mill virtual trade show like we’ve all gotten accustomed to seeing surprisingly quickly. What they created instead is Believe in Music Week.
“When we conceived of Believe in Music, we were very careful to incorporate elements that translated well online. We were also very careful to avoid the temptation of looking at it as The NAMM Show. That is among the reasons we renamed it and also one of the reasons we have a slightly different format for education,” reveals the association’s Director of Professional Development, Zach Phillips, to Canadian Music Trade. “We are really focused on the user experience. In my opinion, nothing recreates a NAMM Show. Nothing recreates an in-person gathering. But we were focused on making Believe in Music intuitive to navigate and an event that ultimately inspired connections between people.”
So, read on to learn about NAMM’s vision for this unique (and did we mention
free to attend?) event that promises to be unlike anything else on the MI calendar during these strangest of times.
A WORD WITH NAMM PRESIDENT & CEO JOE LAMOND
CMT: You’ve said that Believe in Music Week is not a virtual trade show. So, in practical terms, how would you describe what it is and what role you want it to fill for MI retailers and suppliers?
Joe Lamond: … Uniting the global industry in Southern California each year is something that just cannot be replicated. But until this pandemic is behind us, we felt that bringing the NAMM family together virtually would be important and likely the next best thing to prepare the industry for success in 2021. That vision gave way to Believe in Music Week; the online, global gathering to unite and support the people who bring music to the world.
The team set out to bring this vision to life with our platform vendor, Swapcard,
to create and encapsulate those valuable networking opportunities, education and training, and brand experiences found at The NAMM Show to serve all members and inspire more music makers.
Specifically, Believe in Music Week will present a marketplace that’s powered by artificial intelligence (AI) matchmaking to connect buyers and sellers, helping all industry members learn about the latest products. At the marketplace, members will be able to discover new products and demos, and schedule and hold meetings with the brands, including video meetings.
The week will also have over 150 valuable education and training sessions from leading experts on the latest strategies, tactics, and best practices to grow their businesses on topics ranging from “SEO Strategies for 2021” to “Creative Ways to Manage Cash and Inventory During a Pandemic,” and other practical applications for your business and yourself. Education and training will also be offered in
audio technology, entertainment technology, house of worship, and advocacy, non-profit, and GenNext, for the industry’s emerging leaders.
Along with education and training, Believe in Music TV will present a series of livestreamed channels, including some of the most notable sessions and events found at The NAMM Show, including the Top 100 Dealer Awards and TEC Awards, along with NAMM Foundation programming and new content to inspire and connect our global community.
That said, in practical terms for retailers and suppliers, there is still no better time to take advantage of valuable education and training through NAMM U to reignite your business, connect with other industry professionals through AI matchmaking, and to plan purchasing decisions for the year ahead.
CMT: Can you provide some insight into the early discussions and plans for Believe in Music Week and what you envisioned for it? How much is the final product deviating from those initial concepts?
Lamond: When the impact of COVID-19 came into focus in March, our attention
immediately turned to helping NAMM members with practical tools to navigate the crisis and as an advocate for business relief resources, both of which we continue to advance today. Alongside this, we had the opportunity to observe how other shows transitioned to virtual events and experience traditionally in-person events virtually. As a result, we quickly built a consensus that most solutions available fell short of meeting the needs of our members and the industry. We ultimately selected Swapcard, an AI-based platform designed to more closely resemble a social network of industry professionals, brand pages, video, and livestreamed education, product content, and events. Like just about everyone right now, we’re in uncharted waters but excited at the prospect of being able to connect more members than ever before.
CMT: Compared to the usual NAMM Show, what are your expectations for Believe in Music Week’s attendance in terms of size, national/international makeup, type of attendees, etc.?
Lamond: It’s definitely a new activity for us, so hard to say with any certainty. On the one hand, we know who comes to The NAMM Show each year, and we believe that they will want to be a part of this, especially until we can all be together again at either Summer NAMM ’21 or Winter NAMM ’22. On top of that, we know that a lot of people around the world would love to come to NAMM but for various reasons could not. This platform has unlimited space versus the physical walls of our traditional home in Anaheim. Numbers aside, what we’re trying to do is support the industry and promote our members’ success in the post-pandemic recovery. And on a related note, it seems to me that future NAMM Shows will have this digital component alongside our physical events.
CMT: A lot of articles have been written about how exhibiting companies can take maximum advantage of virtual trade events, but there is not a lot of advice out there for buyers and other non-exhibiting attendees taking part in these events. So what advice do you and your team have for retailers, including buyers, in terms of how they can get the most out of Believe in Music Week?
Lamond: New products and education, that’s how I would approach it if I were still in retail. Our virtual exhibitors will have their new products on display and based on your interests and click-throughs, the platform will recommend other products you might not have seen if you were walking around the trade show floor. Our NAMM U, TEC Tracks, Breakfast Sessions, and many other educational opportunities will provide invaluable tools for success, regardless of your particular industry role.
Registration, Exhibitor Center & Exhibitor Meeting Portal are now open
January 6: Believe in Music channel lineup released
January 11: Attendee meeting portal opens
January 18–20: Industry preview meetings
January 20: Global Livestream
January 21–22: Marketplace opens
January 21–22: Believe in Music TV
February 28: Marketplace and Believe in Music TV content closes
With Swapcard as NAMM’s chosen online platform for Believe in Music Week, the artificial intelligence-powered Marketplace will offer unique matchmaking features. NAMM says this highly-interactive platform will connect buyers and sellers to help all industry members learn about the latest products.
In addition, based on the demos, viewings, and meetings attendees have with brands, the platform will suggest other products they may be interested in. These smart matchmaking capabilities mean buyers and other attendees will discover products that they may have missed if simply browsing the aisles and booths of a convention centre.
For exhibiting brands, the AI-powered Marketplace will offer: turnkey, multimedia-rich profile pages featuring video and product information; one-on-one meetings and the ability to segment groups by region and interest; translation features for an audience’s specific language and time zone; ability to conduct live chats, polls, and Q&As; and detailed reports of leads and activities, which helps measure ROI.
About the Platform
The digital platform that forms the technical foundation of Believe in Music Week comes from Swapcard. The company touts its ability to match an event’s audience with people and relevant content using artificial intelligence. NAMM believes this AI-powered matchmaking ability will offer significant value to its exhibitors and buyers, possibly creating more and better connections than are possible at a traditional in-person show.
Importantly, the Swapcard platform does not aim to recreate the look and feel of a traditional trade show. Rather, the platform’s look and functionality are more akin to a social media platform, particularly Facebook. Here is a look at what to expect when you log in:
Believe in Music TV
Believe in Music Week will feature custom, specialized video programming, including some of the quality education and entertainment members would expect from The NAMM Show, along with new content to inspire and connect the association’s various global communities. Believe in Music TV will feature:
Like the Grand Plaza at The NAMM Show, Believe in Music TV draws and excites a broad audience with special performances and presentations.
An opportunity for brands to showcase their latest innovations and stories.
Live music and artist appearances to engage musicians, professionals, and fans.
Believe in Music Week will offer four main tracks for music products, pro audio, and entertainment technology professionals: Business, Audio Production and Music Technology, Entertainment Technology, and Artists.
Each day of education — Thursday, Jan. 20th and Friday, Jan. 21st — will kick off with an opening “big picture” session featuring industry VIPs, artists and influencers, and NAMM’s Joe Lamond, with perspectives of what to expect in the year ahead.
The Business Track will bring together the top minds in the industry to offer actionable strategies, tactics, and best practices for music retailers and brands to navigate to the next level. At the heart of the track is NAMM U for member-only sessions on pressing topics, including “SEO Tips for 2021” by SEO expert Bill Sebald; “Email Marketing Tips to Increase Sales by 3x” by Ayana Webb of The Musical Webb; and a variety of sessions on online marketing and social media strategy, branding, virtual lesson programs, and creative ways to manage inventory and cash during a pandemic. Bob Phibbs, a.k.a. “The Retail Doctor,” and New York Times best-selling author Scott Stratten will also return for special sessions.
Audio Production & Technology Track
Audio professionals will also be able to grow and hone their skills in pro audio and technology. Sessions for recording, live sound, house of worship professionals, and music technologists will dive into the latest tools, tips, and innovations while also exploring the landscape of new technology.
Programs include: TEC Tracks, offering big-picture sessions and high-profile topics in recording, live sound, and music business, featuring industry thought leaders; the A3E (Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange) featuring future-forward education on how next-generation content creation is reshaping the entertainment industry; the Audio Engineering Society (AES) presenting educational sessions on key topics for audio professionals; and free Dante certification training of Audinate’s AV network solution.
For emerging and established artists, songwriters, and studio musicians, the Artist track will cover the new music industry landscape and tips for success.
Entertainment Technology Track
The Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA) will present in-depth education and training sessions for entertainment technology and design professionals, as well as those responsible for their safety. ESTA’s extensive sessions will cover everything from lighting and lighting networking to rigging and safety.
The NAMM Foundation Tracks
A series of programs from The NAMM Foundation to serve those in music and arts advocacy, management and education, social justice, and emerging professionals. Programs include: GenNext, an education series offering college-aged students and faculty access to career and professional development opportunities; Music Education Days, where school music teachers and administrators will take part in informative sessions, performances, and the opportunity to preview the latest instruments, products and tools for classrooms; the Music and Social Justice track, where participants will participate in conversations about diversity and inclusion with leaders of cultural organizations; the Music and Wellness track, which will explore better living through music; and the Non-profit Management Institute, which provides music non-profits resources to grow and succeed.
A WORD WITH ZACH PHILLIPS
NAMM Director of Professional Development
CMT: Thinking back to the NAMM team’s early meetings about Believe in Music Week, what were the main concerns/priorities/considerations being talked about?
Zach Phillips: It may sound overly simplistic, but we kept coming back to, “How do we serve our members?” With that top of mind, there were a lot of directions the event could go. Ultimately, we decided to focus Believe in Music on three key areas. The marketplace is the first of those key areas because we wanted to make sure brands had a platform to introduce new products and services in January. The second area was education. With that, we wanted to make sure we provided our members in the industry with best practices and new ideas to navigate this “new next.” And the third key area was Believe in Music TV. We wanted a means to celebrate and inspire the industry. That last area is something that is easier, in some ways, to do online. It is ideal to do it in a live show, but it’s somewhere where we saw some new opportunity with a video component.
Drilling down to a more tactical level, looking back on those conversations, we were really focused on user experience. In my opinion, nothing recreates a NAMM Show. Nothing recreates an in-person gathering. But we were focused on making Believe in Music intuitive to navigate and an event that ultimately inspired connections between people. Connections and networking are so important to the NAMM Show experience.
As a side note, we chose Swapcard, our online platform for Believe in Music, partly for its AI matchmaking tools. I think it will be key for connecting buyers and brands, as well as attendees. They have powerful matchmaking features. I’ve only seen a demo so far, but it’s impressive.
CMT: What were your main thoughts/concerns/priorities regarding how you wanted to approach education in this new kind of show?
Phillips: When I look at The NAMM Show, and the same goes for Believe in Music as well, we’re ultimately offering a series of micro events within that single event for all the different professional communities within our membership. In a sense, a pro audio professional experiences a different show from a school music retailer, for example. So, with that in mind, we really believed that we needed to provide a robust education experience for every one of those communities in our membership. That can be challenging because there are quite a few professional communities there, but we wanted to be inclusive of all of those professional communities, just as we are at The NAMM Show.
In terms of other priorities, we also wanted to ensure that the content and production are worthy of our members in the industry. It’s never lost on me that we’re programming for the music products, sound, and entertainment tech industries, which is a discerning audience. Going online also presents new opportunities for education. I think about a music retailer who is presenting a store design session, for example. I just think of the visual opportunities that video presents. Or a recording studio or a recording engineer presenting a TEC Tracks session who might offer a studio walkthrough. I’m excited about that.
CMT: The education offerings will not just be webinar-style livestreams. There will be a variety of sessions varying in length, style, live vs. recorded, etc. Can you tell us more about that?
Phillips: The plan is to have a mix of prerecorded and live content, but of course video content will be a huge part of it. We’re going in that direction for a number of reasons, a big one of which is just to ensure variety and depth. Also, as I was saying earlier, it’s about making sure the production is worthy of our members in the industry.
So, we’re planning on incorporating some live Q&A into the pre-recorded sessions and a few of the sessions will be webinar-style, but generally our mantra has been, “YouTube, not webinar.” Whenever possible, that’s what we’re aiming for. There are times when it’s good to have a webinar-style session, but we took a hard look at how people were experiencing education at other virtual events and we decided to alter the format slightly based on what we noticed. Often, they were opting for shorter micro sessions.
For those attending Believe in Music, they can expect a lot of short sessions ranging from 10 to 20 minutes as opposed to Zoom webinars running an hour or more. I also think that format will promote exploration of the entire education program and the larger Believe in Music event in general. We want our members have plenty of time to check out new products, hold meetings, and network.
I should add that all the sessions will also be available on-demand afterwards so that members can watch them at their leisure. Also, we plan on having the platform open through the end of February. Past that, some of that content will continue to live on NAMM U Online, though how much is still to be determined.
CMT: Thinking about the educational components, can you weigh the pros and cons of this virtual show?
Phillips: I’ll qualify what I’m about to say with this – we want to get this right the first time; however, it’s still the first time and we’re going to learn a lot and continue to improve virtual components of our events in the future. I’d imagine this will become part of the live show as well and there will be hybrid events in the future…
So, there’s a lot to be said about an in-person gathering. Here’s where virtual is exciting, though: there’s pretty much zero effort involved in getting to the event. There is no travelling and no hotel. That may not seem like a big deal, but I’m excited about having an opportunity to provide education for all the people who have never been to The NAMM Show. What’s exciting is, for instance, the idea that a retail sales person who can’t go to the show can now experience all these sessions. That is an incredible benefit.
In the case of Believe in Music, it’s free. You can invite every single person on your staff and you’re freed from the shackles of time and space, in a sense. I often hear from exhibitors who want to attend the educational sessions but they’re busy exhibiting. They can now check out as many sessions as they want at their leisure. It’s always incredibly easy to come back to a session at a virtual event.