Tales from NAMM
The 2019 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show ended almost a week ago, but it might as well have been yesterday.
As you’re reading this article, I’ll be in a van that smells worse than it should, headed to my next gig.
I’ll probably still be thinking about the show either for business or personal reasons. The business side of my brain will be thinking about all the appropriate follow-ups one must take care of.
This is only a small piece of the puzzle. The real lingering thoughts are personal.
Growing up around music, I had a fascination with the NAMM show soon after I discovered what it was. For the folks at home, the NAMM show, in short, is a collective of music retailers, manufacturers, distributors and affiliates who gather every year to display their products and hopefully close a few distribution deals. It has evolved into a behemoth, now encompassing all aspects of music, with well over 100,000 people in attendance each year.
For years, it was always a goal to attend. When I had the chance in 2015 to do so, I jumped on it and have subsequently attended every NAMM show since. While the mystique and allure has faded since my first show, there has been an underlying thread underneath all of them. Step your game up.
Since my first show, there’s been a fire lit under me for various reasons. This year is no different. The fire is fueled by different aspects of my psyche. At times, it’s as a musician. A culture that as evolved over the years are the various players that come to NAMM to either be discovered or gain some sort of endorsement deal.
Naturally, a by-product of this can be a cacophony of musical wankery for four consecutive days (Saturday usually being the most chaotic). This can wear on your soul after a certain length of time, multiplied by years of attending
However, there have been various performances by artists I admire, that have been truly life-changing. Bernard Purdie, Eric Gales and MonoNeon are some, but the list goes on.
These players, and people like them, are the antidote. Leaving the show, I always want to be dramatically better by the next year.
This year was my most business-oriented NAMM, so far. Due to a work obligation, I had to visit various companies and talk about gear. This started Thursday morning and by the time Saturday night rolled around, I was ready to collapse.
In the midst of this craziness, I stumbled across various locals attending the show, including Jesse Dean Designs. They’ve had a booth at NAMM two consecutive years. This year, he expanded his booth and created quite a buzz with their new products. Slipknot DJ Sid Wilson, a friend of Jesse Dean’s, walked around with a new mixer that Jesse just produced, creating an even bigger stir.
Again, this is why I love attending now. There can be a lot of meaningless schmoozing in an environment like this. Seeing my friends who have been grinding at this for years, getting the recognition they deserve, is the antidote. I would be an absolute fool to walk away from that and not try to be better.
It’s easy to be cynical in a environment like NAMM. Some people I respect despise the show with a passion. In some ways, it’s rightfully so. However, my story is different. I wouldn’t have the current career path I do without my first NAMM show. It could have been so easy to be discouraged by high speed musical wankery for eight hours prior and to have called it a day and effectively closed a door I didn’t know existed. Like the old knight in The Last Crusade said, ”You’ve chosen wisely.”
Looking past the suits, fancy displays and crazy get-ups, people who attend NAMM are largely searching for something — validation — whether it’s trying out gear they like, getting free swag or something deeply personal.
They just want to have a seat at the table. Whether or not NAMM provides that, isn’t guaranteed. Either way, I must finish the article now and get ready to drive to Arizona for a gig. Those words will forever haunt me. Step your game up.