NAMM Show, a music industry giant, postponed from January to June 2022 because of COVID variant concerns

The NAMM Show, the world’s largest annual musical instrument and equipment trade event, is postponing its 2022 winter edition at the Anaheim Convention Center from Jan. 20-23 to June 3-5.

The move was prompted by continuing health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic in general and the Delta variant specifically. The switch to June will also see the Carlsbad-based NAMM — short for National Association of Music Merchants — fold its smaller annual July NAMM show in Nashville into the new June event in Anaheim.

The decision to move and merge reflects the uncertainty regarding national and international health protocols during the ongoing pandemic. The NAMM Show’s 2019 edition, held at the Anaheim Convention Center and adjacent hotel ballrooms, drew more than 115,000 NAMM members from 120 countries. They gathered to do business and to check out a slew of new instrument lines, sound and lighting gear, digital music technology equipment, and other products coming to market.

“The move from January to June next year is due 100 percent to the pandemic, and there was a big likelihood we would have had to cancel our January 2022 show,” NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond told the Union-Tribune Thursday. If all goes as hoped, he noted, the nonprofit business organization is planning to resume its January and July shows in Anaheim and Nashville, respectively, in 2023.

“For a large gathering like the NAMM Show, it takes six months to organize it carefully,” Lamond stressed. “With the Delta variant — and possibly other new variants around the corner — we just didn’t have the certainty we could move forward. Global travel bans and restrictions are also a major factor for us.”

The 2021 summer NAMM Show did take place in July in Nashville as an in-person event, but it was scaled back from three days to two and strategically downsized in other ways. In any year, the Nashville show draws about 15,000 NAMM members, one-tenth the amount of its January counterpart in Anaheim.

“Our Nashville show felt very much like the pandemic had never happened,” Lamond said. “A few weeks after that, everything started going in reverse with the Delta variant.”

Because of the pandemic, this year’s January NAMM Show became the first in the 120-year-old organization’s history to be held entirely online. Billed as “Believe in Music,” it was also the first NAMM Show that was free and open to the public, rather than only to dues-paying NAMM members.

Online attendance for the online edition was slightly over 93,000. But it’s unclear how many of those represented NAMM members, doing business virtually, and how many were simply curious members of the public.

“It seems a lot was missed in not having the event in-person. The feeling of many of our members is they would like to get back to an in-person NAMM Show in Anaheim when it is safe to do so,” said Lamond, who in June disclosed his intention to step down next year from his position as the head of NAMM.


The NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center typically draws 115,000 NAMM members from around the world. This year’s edition in Anaheim was held entirely online.

(John Gastaldo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

‘It’s a great idea’

The online pivot for the January 2021 Anaheim event was a pragmatic decision for NAMM, which reported that the global music equipment and technology industry had revenues of $17.3 billion in 2019, with U.S. sales accounting for nearly $8 billion of that. The total U.S. revenues for 2020 is $7.21 billion; the global tally for 2020 will be announced next week.

NAMM’s decision to push back its 2022 date in Anaheim and consolidate with its July Nashville show was applauded by music industry leaders, including Jamie Deering, the CEO of Spring Valley’s Deering Banjos, and Tom Sumner, the president of Yamaha Corp. of America.

“I think it’s a great idea to move the NAMM Show to June and (merge) with the Nashville NAMM Show,” Deering told the Union-Tribune. “It allows us to put our resources into one event. And it’s a good period of time away from the winter holiday season, which is a notorious time for viruses in general.

“The Anaheim NAMM Show has always been the biggest and most beneficial for us to be at. So, in the long run, whether it’s held in January or June doesn’t make a difference for us.”

Those sentiments are seconded by Sumner of Yamaha Corp. of America, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of musical instruments and equipment. Its 2019 global earnings were around $4 billion.

“I think the move to June is a sound move and Yamaha supports it,” said Sumner, speaking from Yamaha’s Buena Park offices. He and NAMM honcho Lamond work closely together as members of the organization’s executive committee.

“We’d like to have an in-person show in 2022,” Sumner continued. “And the only real way we can see to do that is to push it off from January in Anaheim until that late-spring, early-summer time frame.

“The NAMM Show in Anaheim is huge for us and for the entire industry, and Yamaha started our plans for the January 2022 show in July. Because of the pandemic, it was difficult to plan strongly for January. Moving to June gives us a lot more confidence and a lot more runway to put on a really good show.”

While the 2022 NAMM Show in Anaheim will now pivot from January to June, NAMM will host a one-day livestream event of workshops and presentations on Jan. 21, as a streamlined sequel to its January 2021 “Believe in Music” week.

“Whether the pandemic passes quickly or more slowly is the real big question for all of us,” Lamond said. “So, we’ll continue to do what we’re doing now, which is to adapt as quickly as we can as conditions change.”

Jamie Deering (center), the new CEO of Deering Banjos, is shown with her parents, Greg and Janet

Jamie Deering (center), the CEO of Deering Banjos, is shown with her parents, Greg and Janet, who founded the Lemon Grove company in 1975 and made it into an international leader in its field. “I think it’s a great idea to move the NAMM Show to June and (merge) with the Nashville NAMM Show,” Deering told the Union-Tribune. “It allows us to put our resources into one event.”

(Photo courtesy of Heather Sali Photography)