Greta and I attended the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center in mid-January, 2016. It was the usual cacophonous, end-all, music merchandise extravaganza, attended by 90,000 people per day over four days, right across the street from Disneyland. It’s quite a scene.
All of the major music manufacturers have booths, displaying instruments of every persuasion (acoustic, electric, digital), publications, accessories, recording gear, electronic and computer gizmos, and much more. Attendees are music industry professionals: company reps and designers, demo artists, and a ton of retail store owners and employees scouring the latest gear, placing orders, and enjoying the Southern California sun for a few January days.
I have been attending NAMM since my days at Frets magazine in the late ‘80s. These days we attend to discuss sales strategies and trends with Hal Leonard Corp. and Music Sales, the distributors of all of Accent On Music’s products. I also discuss possibilities with Aaron Stang (my friend and fellow Grammy winner), the guitar editor at Alfred/Warner Publications. They still have in print many books and videos I have authored for them. Aaron’s recent book, Joni Mitchell Complete So Far, is the work of a lifetime.
Years ago NAMM organizers moved most of the smaller acoustic companies (Collings, Santa Cruz, Dusty Strings, National, uke makers, Pro-Piks, String Letter Press, etc.) downstairs, away from the high-decibel clashing cymbals and whinnying trumpets of the main floor. Martin still has its booth upstairs, although they have built 8-foot walls around it – to try to keep the surrounding din out of the booth. (Oh, yeah – they hang their guitars on it, too.) This year’s event was the loudest that I can recall, going back to the pre-decibel-meter days when Sustainiac was located right next to Dusty Strings’ folk harps and hammer dulcimers!
Lots of acoustic ‘names’ were in attendance: Happy Traum, Mike Dowling, Andy McKee, Terry Robb, Doug Smith, Eric Skye, Kenny Sultan, Joe Caruso (owner of Music Emporium in Lexington, Mass.), and many more. Famed chicken-picker extraordinaire Albert Lee visited the Collings booth while I was there. We had lunch one day with my old boss at Frets, Phil Hood of Drum! magazine. I also had a nice talk with Dick Boak in the Martin booth. (I demoed their custom guitars in November for their traveling showcase at Portland Music’s acoustic store on NE Broadway in Portland, Ore.)
As the show wound down Saturday eve, Greta and I drove north to Thousand Oaks (100+ miles; L.A. is very long) for two performances on Sunday. Monday morning we flew back to Portland and got back to our regular activities.
As always, it was fun to attend NAMM. I have many good friends and business associates that I see there. But two days at NAMM is enough for us. When our daughters were younger, we brought them along and spent a day or two at Disneyland afterward. Great memories!
Folks synthesizing at the altar of MOOG: