MUSIC CONFERENCE Review ~ by Rani Weatherby
(Singer/Songwriter and Guest blogger from Champagne Honeybee) ~ ~
Come On, Feel the Noise:
An Overview of the 2019 NAMM Show ~~
While Washington State is still reeling from Snowpocalypse, my mind harkens back to the sunshine and warmth of Anaheim, California. I attended The NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show at the Anaheim Convention Center from January 24th-27th, and I returned with some fond memories and useful tips from that whirlwind weekend.
You may have seen your friends’ NAMM photos that made it look like a 4-day music party. While it certainly has its celebratory moments, NAMM is a trade show. Merchants from all over the world bring a selection of their latest and greatest instruments and music gear. Attendees get to shop for new products, watch professional demonstrations, rub elbows with some of their favorite artists, and ogle the impressive displays. Musicians might also seek networking opportunities and endorsements with their favorite brands. The show room floor is bustling with a high volume of noise and people, which can be both exciting and overwhelming.
The show is not open to the public, so you must obtain a badge through a qualified retailer or industry professional. There is more information about this at NAMM.org. I am endorsed by Lanikai Ukuleles through KHS America (a connection made during my first NAMM experience in 2017), so I attended as an exhibitor artist. Badges are free for NAMM members up to a certain date, so the real expense is travel and lodging. The key is to plan ahead, as hotels fill up quickly, especially those closest to the Convention Center. Once approved for a badge, you can book your lodging through the NAMM website, or find housing on your own. I chose a moderately-priced hotel a few miles from the venue, and took a bus to and from the show each day. While not the fastest mode of transportation, it only cost $2.00 each way, which saved me quite a bit of money.
My number one NAMM tip is to wear comfortable shoes! Leave the cute heels at home, because you will be walking for several miles each day, whether you realize it or not. There are multiple buildings and floors packed with retail booths and performance stages, so prepare to be on your feet for hours at a time. If you use a wheelchair or scooter, the convention center has elevators and accessible restrooms, and the crowds are generally polite about making space for those who need to get through. Seating can be hard to come by, even for long concerts. I attended the Yamaha All-Star concert on Friday night, which included surprise performances by Sarah McLachlan and James “JT” Taylor from Kool and the Gang. It was an incredible show, but after standing on concrete for nearly 3 hours, my feet were DONE. I wandered to the adjacent Hilton Hotel, to rest my feet before walking the last few blocks to my bus stop. The crowded lobby assured me that I wasn’t the only one with tired feet!
Another tip is to stay well hydrated and adequately fueled, because the show can really drain your energy. There is food for purchase in the convention center and at the food trucks outside, but it can be expensive. I brought energy bars and snacks from a nearby drug store to tide me over between meals. Complimentary breakfast is served at the Hilton Hotel each morning before the NAMM U Breakfast Sessions. Breakfast included hot food, muffins, yogurt, a selection of beverages, and an informative talk in the ballroom. I woke up unpleasantly early on Friday morning to attend, but the delicious meal and discussion on music industry trends made it all worth it. Evening parties and receptions often serve refreshments, so there are multiple opportunities to grab a quick bite without spending a fortune.
My final tip is to review the schedule (online or with the NAMM app), and map out your day ahead of time. Without sufficient planning, you may find yourself running to get from one activity to the next because they’re in different buildings, or you might miss them entirely. I missed 2 of Victor Wooten’s autograph events because of my poor time management, but I was lucky to catch him later for a quick chat. You might run into some fun surprises, like comedy legend Sinbad playing percussion in St. Paul Peterson’s rock band. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you may even catch a glimpse of the “Mayor of NAMM”, Stevie Wonder! My dream came true when I encountered Stevie and his entourage on Saturday afternoon at the Tascam booth. He attends NAMM almost every year, and security ensures that onlookers keep a respectful distance. It was a humbling experience watching him peruse and test out the gear, just like us mere mortals. I wasn’t able to meet him, but standing a few feet away from my lifelong music hero was quite a thrill!
This was the gist of my NAMM experience, but it is different for everyone, depending on your goals for attending. I tried to do a little of everything, while also helping out at the Lanikai display, and recording promo videos for the company. I also enjoyed trying out some new (to me) instruments, including kalimbas and space drums, and I was gifted a beautiful Hohner harmonica at a release party. I wish I could have done more, but there is only so much that you can achieve in those four days. I highly recommend that any music professional attend The NAMM Show at least once, if only to take it all in, and get lost in the sound.