The Parnelli Awards Move to NAMM
Strategic Alliance to Benefit All Sides of Music and Live Entertainment
As announced last month, NAMM is expanding their January Anaheim trade show to further include the live event production industry, and a big part of that strategy is bringing the Parnelli Awards to it. One factor making this possible is Anaheim Convention Center’s 200,000 square foot expansion, which will allow pro audio, lighting, staging, video, and all related manufacturers to have space available to them to exhibit at an international trade show that already pulls in over 100,000 professional registrants.
I sat down with PLSN/FOH Publisher and Parnelli Executive Producer Terry Lowe and NAMM CEO Joe Lamond to discuss what it means for live event production, and what the future of this alliance holds.
PLSN/FOH Magazine: Joe, let’s start with you. Why?
Joe Lamond: I think that the convergence of music and live entertainment has been coming for a long time. Neil Portnow, President and CEO of NARAS [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] once shared a theory with me about how each of us working in the business today all had one thing in common: we could trace our career paths back to the passion and excitement we had for music as kids. As we grew, we recognized that we were all wired differently with different skills and eventually found our particular area of interest and for some of us, our way back to music. But the common denominator was — and always has been – music, and that is what the NAMM Show is all about, the “crossroads” of our global musical ecosystem.
Terry Lowe: This partnership is the convergence of production and performance. Now more than ever it will be under one roof, as it should be. The Parnelli Awards joining with NAMM to make that convergence happen means providing the opportunity for all the people involved in all aspects of performance to be together.
JL: Terry, you nailed it. The most important thing is the recognition that the vital role of each part contributes to the whole. I can tell you that the music and sound products industry that NAMM represents has a tremendous respect for the production community, so to me this is a natural evolution and extension of the many professionals already at the show.
So how did the specifics of this partnership evolve?
TL: We flirted with the idea of bringing the Parnelli Awards to NAMM six years ago, but the timing was not quite right — for one there was a lack of trade show space. Also in those years, the Parnellis have grown exponentially, and we outgrew our situation [running in parallel with LDI]. Now is the time to bring the Parnelli Awards, our sponsors, and manufacturers in our industry to be part of NAMM.
JL: We’ve worked with the Timeless folks for many years now on various projects. To me this is just a natural next extension of a strong and trusted relationship.
JL: So much has changed in just the last few years. The entertainment experience is diverse, technology-driven, and crosses all lines — shatters them, really. From musical performances in the classroom and school auditorium, to houses of worship to the largest tours and festivals, the worlds have converged. Audiences are expecting a lot these days and our respective communities are eager to deliver with innovative products and production services, and can learn from each other.
The sum is greater than its parts?
TL: And that crosses into the MI side of things. Over the weekend, I went to the Family Music Center [in Las Vegas], and they had a performance center. This was a 110-seat black box with top-of-the-line audio and lighting.
JL: … and that’s the expectation now, starting with the first time your kindergartener has a recital. The days of a single mic, speakers on a stick and a lonely parcan are gone!
Following the trends, I do see MI stores who are successful creating those performance spaces and/or getting into installs for local churches, theaters, schools.
JL: Skip’s Music [in Sacramento] does more live sound and installs than they ever have before, to give just one example. So yes, our members are finding that providing their community with those skillsets which feature the latest pro equipment are adding value to their traditional MI offerings.
TL: And on the flip side, there are a lot of pro touring people who are getting off the road, or taking a break off the road, and bringing their formidable live event skills to that market. There really is a remarkable cross-pollination happening.
Terry, what are the key benefits of pro event professionals now considering coming to NAMM?
TL: NAMM has always brought top artists to their show — all the endorsers come. Now there’s an opportunity for our production managers, lighting designers, scenic designers [etc.] to be part of that. There is an increased opportunity to meet those who decide who to hire for the next tour that is a unique opportunity not found at any other trade show.
Also I’ll add that at one time all these people who are doing A/V rentals used to or even started as a backline supplier to local and regional events. That’s a trend we see coming back, so having those companies come and see what’s available in the latest Marshall Stack or Ampeg bass cabinet will open more business opportunities.
Joe, NAMM has a long-storied history — what do you want live event production professionals to know about it?
JL: Most [technological] breakthroughs do not happen from within an industry, but on the peripheral. Early in NAMM show history, many of Thomas Edison’s inventions debuted here, for example, including the phonograph.
NAMM more than ever is creating this broader ecosystem for conversation, exchange of ideas, and the happenstance of unexpected discovery. A music theater person might have a conversation with the manufacturer of a moving light that leads to a whole new line of lights. A production manager might strike up a casual conversation at NAMM and find a new way of doing something that increases their competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Tribal gatherings seemed to be programmed into us as humans, and they have always been part of NAMM. The Parnelli Awards will attract that specific tribe to their Friday night gala, and that’s great. But I suspect that during their time at NAMM those folks might also have the opportunity to interact with the broader industry and come away better prepared for success in the year ahead.
But what of the challenges? That this is “just” an MI show?
TL: Well it’s not, and this is where growth is going to happen. We’re both committed to it. But yes, changing perceptions is a difficult endeavor, which is why I am throwing all our media properties and our ability to communicate across print and the digital spectrum to let our industry know that NAMM is the place to be. I would not have moved the Parnelli Awards there if I thought otherwise.
JL: As I mentioned, the world is changing so quickly. Few things in our lives are the same as they were even five years ago, including the NAMM Show. I believe the production community will be pleasantly surprised and ultimately glad that they made the decision to attend.
What are some of the other advantages of this?
TL: Both Timeless and the Parnellis are committed to education.
A little history: The Parnellis were at one point part of a Pro Production Show in Long Beach which we held in January for a few years. During that show, we put on a lot of workshops, panel discussions, and seminars. When we moved the show to be at the same time as LDI, we set up a scholarship fund with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
NAMM is well-known for their ability to understand what is needed in seminars and workshops and we look forward to contributing to that for the live event production attendees. With our editors, I’ve already put together almost 20 educational ideas and together we will be fine-tuning those with the NAMM team. These will be a real incentive for production personnel to come, and manufacturers who want to be there when they do.
What are the other advantages to a trade show that includes live event production to be part of NAMM?
JL: One thing your readers might not know is that NAMM is a non-profit trade organization, and revenue generated by our trade events is reinvested back into promoting music and music education here in the U.S. and around the world. The NAMM Show is the beginning of what we call our “Circle of Benefits” business cycle to achieve our vision of a world where every child has a deep desire to make music and a recognized right to be taught. On a more practical level, January is the best time to introduce new products into the marketplace, and depending on where you call home (I grew up in Buffalo NY!), Southern California in not a bad place to be for a few days in late January.
TL: More specifically, this is the best time and place for live event production people. Tours are often still going on in October and November, and January tends to be the least active for our people. This is the time to get together, see new gear, and hang out with peers you rarely get to see.
This does feel like a partnership whose time has come…
JL: The truth is, we’ve already been working together for quite a while now. I’ve been going to the Parnelli for years, as have our key people. Timeless people who work on the Parnellis have been our guests at our TEC Awards, and conversations about making those shows better have gone both ways. We have a section on our Oral History site just for Parnelli honorees that includes many Parnelli Lifetime people like George Travis [Bruce Springsteen] and Jim Bornhorst [father of the moving light] ….
TL: … and even a few key Parnelli Honorees we’ve lost in recent years including Bob See, Mo Morrison, and my friend and Parnelli Awards co-founder, Patrick Stansfield.
JL: We at NAMM have great respect for the professionals reading PLSN, FOH, and Stage Directions, for the Parnelli Awards, and the hard working folks who make their living in the live event industry. We want to share your stories, and make sure everyone understands your vital role.
We all want to create music makers, make sure there is a strong music education that benefits all of us, and that avenues for getting into the live event production side are accessible. This is a brotherhood of kindred spirits. We’re cousins! Well, maybe second cousins once removed [both laugh] … but we all care about music, getting back to that initial passion.
Are you confident you can make the first year of this convergence a success?
JL: Look, I’m a drummer. So, I believe there’s a rhythm to everything, and there’s a rhythm to this too.
In any good drum solo — and Terry is a drummer too, so he knows — you start with a big splash! Then you go to the cowbell … then you settle into a steady straight beat… by November, December, we’ll pick up that beat. Add fills, get to the aggedda, aggedda part on the tom toms with sticks flying everywhere, build awareness, build enthusiasm, then there’s the big finish. We’ll crush it.
Where will we be in five years?
JL: Bigger isn’t better. Better is better. If the NAMM show gets bigger, I’m happy, but that’s not what is motivating us. Let’s provide a better gathering for all of us: better education, better networking, and better products. This is about serving the industry.