NAMM 2024: John Mlynczak on his first show as president and CEO


All this week, we’ll be publishing posts from the 2024 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. It’s a huge exhibition, so we’ll focus on what we do best: covering the field of music notation software and related technology. Follow all of our NAMM 2024 coverage at Scoring Notes, and on our social media accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

When John Mlynczak was named to lead The National Association of Music Merchants, better known as NAMM, as its next president and CEO a little less than a year ago, he was only the fourth person in 75 years to step into the role. His appointment came at a pivotal time; in addition to the seismic changes taking place in the industry, the NAMM Show had been off of its regular annual cycle since 2020, due to the COVID pandemic.

With the 2024 NAMM Show the first in four years to return to a full four-day exhibition at its customary time of the year in January, it offered both the organization and John an opportunity to both recapture the excitement of past shows while looking ahead to the future.

I asked him if the 2024 show accomplished those goals.

Philip Rothman and John Mlynczak at the 2024 NAMM Show
Philip Rothman and John Mlynczak at the 2024 NAMM Show

“A hundred percent,” John said. “We know what NAMM means to our industry. We’ve done it for 123 years. So we wanted to make sure we offer the experiences that everyone comes to, but we also knew that we needed to take this time, after a disruption and a leadership change, to say, where are we going in the next 10 years and 20 years? So our commitment this year is thinking in decades.”

“I know our members sometimes think in quarters or year to year,” he said, “but it’s our job for them to think in decades. So we’re bringing in influencers; we’re funding major research on AI and future customer experience, and we’re announcing new events over the summer. We came out really swinging hard on the future, and I think our industry is really, really taking it well.”

One of the forward-looking changes that NAMM has made was to make it possible for individuals to attend the NAMM Show and become members, without needing to be affiliated with a member company. “What’s really interesting is that we’ve always had these people at the NAMM Show,” John said, “but it’s always been like, ‘Hey, can I get a badge?’ We’ve actually been super data driven. We redid the registration process. We made major updates before the show. So when you register, we collect a lot more tick boxes — sorry for that, but we need to collect and understand who’s here. So we did a segmentation exercise and identified seven segments and 21 personas of who’s at the NAMM show. The notation community has very special nuanced needs, the pro audio community and the lighting community and the instrumentalists, they’re all different, but they all depend on each other.”

“We realized,” John continued, “well, then how did these personas get to the NAMM Show? Well, they’re working in the products industry. You’re a luthier. Why can’t you just come to the NAMM Show? Oh, because you don’t work for a member company. You’re a music producer. Oh, you’re 1099. You don’t work for a member company. We’re the gig economy, right? So we said, no, no, no. If you’re an individual working in music products, come as a member, so people know who you are, and we at NAMM know who you are. And it’s been really exciting. We have over 3,100 individual members now — highly qualified people working in our industry.”

John, who is well-known to the Scoring Notes audience, has extensive experience in publishing, music technology, and music education. Previously employed by

There are 400 million individual humans that look at a piece of music every month. So I take that to NAMM and I say, you know, our industry is big. The amount of music makers we create are big, and that all came from learning from the notation community.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve spoken with John. We’ve visited with John several times — ironically, at The NAMM Show, where instead of exhibiting, he’s now in charge of running the show, literally. With the average tenure of a NAMM CEO being 25 years, I asked if we’ll see him here in 2049. “I had a lunch with Joe Lamont and Larry Lincoln [previous NAMM CEOs], and they were joking; they’re like, this is not a tenure. This is a sentence. I’ve been sentenced to 26 years at NAMM. I’m doing 26 years of hard time at NAMM!”

On a more serious and accurate note, though, about his position, John told me: “It is an honor, and a dream come true.”

Watch my complete interview with John on the NYC Music Services YouTube channel.


Keep coming back to Scoring Notes for more coverage from the 2024 NAMM Show, and follow us on our social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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