“We missed being there, and I’m excited to see everyone again back in Anaheim”: NAMM receives massive boost as Fender announces return

Fender Vintera II '60s Telecaster
(Image credit: Olly Curtis / Future)

It’s official: Fender is returning to NAMM, with the gear giant confirming that it will pitch up at the Anaheim Convention Center in 2025 – the first time it has exhibited new product at the world’s biggest gear expo since 2020.

Since then we have had a pandemic and a new strategy from Fender for product roll-outs, with online dealer events allowing the company to showcase its forthcoming catalogue in-depth. 

And while NAMM has remained silly season for new product – just look at the MusicRadar NAMM 2024 hub for a recap of how silly it got – there was no question that post-Covid, the event was diminished by Fender’s absence. 

Not that Fender was alone in that. Gibson, PRS and Boss also chose not to invest in a booth and sat out the in-person event.

In 2022, Fender CEO Andy Mooney told MusicRadar that it had no intentions of returning. “Never say never, but I don’t see a lot of compelling reasons to return to NAMM in its current format,” he said. 

Andy Mooney and NAMM CEO John Mlynczak

Andy Mooney and NAMM CEO John Mlynczak (Image credit: Fender)

A lot can change in that time. Today, Mooney admitted that Fender missed the face-to-face interaction with the industry.

“We sadly missed actually having a physical presence at NAMM; that high-touch in-person long form interaction is vitally important for the industry,” he said. “Going forward, [Fender] will have more and exciting new products to intro at NAMM and then in the fall, we will revert back to our online dealer events… we’re thrilled to be back, we missed being there, and I’m excited to see everyone again back in Anaheim.”

Fender 70th Anniversary Stratocasters

(Image credit: Fender)

This is a massive shot in the arm for NAMM, and for its president and CEO, John Mlynczak, who has been in the role since 2023. Mlynczak is only the fourth CEO in the National Association of Music Merchants' history.

Fender’s return is an endorsement of the direction that Mlynczak and his team are taking NAMM, but it is also, in a sense, business as usual. The Fender strategy for product launches and interactions with its retail partners hasn’t changed that much. It will produce its online dealer events, where it can engage with retailers from executive level to the shop floor. 

As Mooney has said repeatedly, the strategy as Fender sees it, is to grow the industry, driving online traffic – and dollars – into retailers’ pockets along the way, which is what its online retailer event model was designed to do. The only change now being that it sees NAMM as part of this strategy, and worth investing in.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.