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Um... Exactly What Is NAMM Anyway?
What is the NAMM Show, Who Can Attend, and What The Heck Happens There?
Founded in 1901, NAMM is one of the largest music product trade shows in the world. Every January, NAMM swarms into the Anaheim Convention Center in California - this year between Thursday, the 24th and Sunday, the 27th. Although the name stands for the National Association of Music Merchants, it has evolved into an international association that includes members in the commercial, reselling, affiliate, and manufacturing fields. (The smaller Summer NAMM Show is held in Nashville, TN.)
NAMM is a trades-only business show that allows members to view new products, negotiate deals, and plan their purchasing for the upcoming year. Product exhibits are a very important part of the show. This is where you’ll find all the existing and new lines from each manufacturing company, as well as the artists who endorse them. Apart from employees of dealers, distributors, and exhibiting product manufacturers (including endorsing artists), the only other people who are allowed to attend are credentialed members of the press. Even with these restrictions, NAMM attracts approximately 94,000 people and has over 1400 exhibitors every year.
Important note: Everyone at NAMM wears a badge and needs ID to get in. Underneath the person's name on the badge is the name of the company they represent. There is also a small box with a letter on the badge to identify which group the badge holder belongs to, and their corresponding access level. An E in a red box means Exhibitor; B in a blue box means Buyer; M in a green box means Media; V in a yellow box means Visitor, and an A in a black box means Artist. That last one is important to note so that you don't go up to a world-renowned bass player, like Bunny Brunel, just standing around in a LaBella booth, film him and say that he works for Carvin because he's wearing a pass with the Carvin name on it. Oh Boy! (You can imagine the cringe factor when Bunny walked in during my interview with Brian Bromberg. A learning moment.)
Past The Front Door
When one first gets there, it can be quite overwhelming. The term 'sensory overload' comes to mind, especially on the first visit.
Products displayed, range from all types of musical instruments, amps/ speakers, gear and accessories, digital software/ hardware, microphones, all the way to lighting and show production gear. If it's used in the music industry, it's there. New product unveilings and launches are highlighted at NAMM. Successful products from abroad also come to try to break into the North American market, so it's a great place to see things that you've never seen before. Inventors also come looking for exposure and partnerships to help bring their products/ideas to market. The benefits of being at NAMM quickly become apparent as people are exposed to many manufacturers and distributors, all in one place.
Why Are There So Many Big-Name Artists There?
We've all seen pictures of musicians holding or playing an instrument of a particular brand, or standing next to a favourite amp or other gear. This, as most of you know, is called product endorsement. The purpose is to promote the brand and support the artists who use it. Endorsement deals are a symbiotic relationship between a successful artist and a manufacturer. If an artist likes a particular product or has had something custom created to suit his specific needs, he wants to make sure the manufacturer gets deserved credit, and also to let the public know the success he’s had by using that line. In addition to the extra exposure, artists get gear at a discount (or sometimes even free), the company sells more product, and all is good!
So the artists at NAMM are usually working in some way. They're either signing autographs at the booths of the gear they endorse, demo-ing products, giving small concerts, or just generally walking around and being seen. And when they're not working, they are also checking out new products for themselves.
With so many huge stars, the first unusual thing one notices is that nobody walks around with security guards (except for Stevie Wonder, but that's understandable). Everyone is approachable and accessible, and nobody gets mobbed. It's all quite civilized.
All the artists I spoke to* said they enjoy NAMM mostly because it gives them a chance to socialize with peers and people they rarely get to see, and it gives them a chance to talk to their fans close up. Many artists, especially studio artists, don't get to see their fans. The NAMM Show becomes a reunion of sorts for them, that they look forward to every year.
* Stu Hamm, Steve Bailey, Brian Bromberg, Victor Wooten, Alain Caron, Bunny Brunel
In addition to its main purposes above, NAMM has also evolved to include education for its music-industry members. The H.O.T. Zone (Hands-on-Training) - on the 2nd floor this year - provided training for anyone interested in pro-audio, sound, and entertainment technology (e.g.: Basic audio mastering and ProTools). Other educational sessions included 'Patent and Trademark Workshop', 'To Free Or Not To Free: Should Artists Be Giving Away Their Music?', 'Making It in the New Music Business', 'Law Essentials for Music Manufacturers, Vendors and Retailers', and many more.
Held at the Hilton (and too early for me), NAMM U started each morning at 8:00am, serving up a hot breakfast and inspiring sessions led by business experts and industry leaders.
The NAMM Idea Center was a central location where NAMM U presented 40+ professional education sessions filled with proven tips and techniques to boost business.
NAMM 2013 Miscellaneous
I attended the premier of the movie “Haiti 10”, hosted by bass player Victor Wooten on Saturday evening. Not a dry eye in the house at the end, as the Haitian family came out and surprised Victor on stage at NAMM. Very moving.
See About Haiti 10 at http://haiti10film.com/.
Plot: Bekenson Pierre, after helping his neighbourhood rise above the devastating 2010 Haiti Earthquake, gets a surprise visit from his musical hero, Victor Wooten (5-time Grammy® Winner). Haiti 10 is a story of faith, love and the power of music in a time when the human spirit needs it most. Packed with inspiration and emotion, Haiti 10 takes you deep inside the city of Port-au-Prince to a world that the mainstream media rarely visits.
Finally, here are some of the interesting awards that were handed out at NAMM 2013.
- NAMM President, Joe Lamond presented Stevie Wonder as the honourable Mayor of NAMM 2013.
- Randy Jackson received NAMM's highest honour, the “Music for Life” Award at this year's show. The legendary music producer was recognized for his pervasive influence in the music world, and his longtime encouragement of budding music-makers. He will always be best known to us as a great bass player who played with Journey, Aretha Franklin, and countless others. Oh, and as the loveable judge on American Idol.
- Excellence Award for Music in Advertising are Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for their Chevy Sonic ad, titled “Let’s Do This/Needing-Getting/OK Go.” The ad features members of the band OK Go driving a car rigged to play music with a little help from hundreds of guitars, pianos, and percussion instruments positioned along the driving course. Take a look:
And there you have it. A summary of NAMM 2013 from my whirlwind tour. I hope this gave you a good idea of just what NAMM is. See my pictures, videos and interviews here on Thunder Row.
More of Keiko's NAMM experiences coming! Pictures and interviews! Stay tuned.