Going to the NAMM show is a fascinating look at the strata of the music industry. Naturally, the general public focuses in on the big-name stars who make appearances, and the big-name manufacturers, but scratch that surface and you’ll find so much more.
Beyond the spotlight are the manufacturers of the classical instruments—the strings, woodwinds and pianos. In the areas where those booths are located you’ll see reps and buyers dressed in suits and ties (which is always a delicious contrast when you see them in the lobby area mixed in with the glam rocker dudes.) The mood in those areas is hushed and almost reverent, befitting the centuries-long tradition of classical music.
Then there is the brass section, where the jazz people congregate. A cacophony of sounds, like a marching band gone crazy, with each instrument playing a different song simultaneously.
The Chinese Corner is definitely interesting. Companies with strange-sounding and hard-to-pronounce names (to English speakers, at least) selling odd music gadgets and knockoffs of more well-known musical instruments. On Thursday, the first day of the show, their reps bravely put on their game faces and smile weakly while struggling with horrible jet lag.
It’s always interesting strolling through the area of the convention where the acoustic guitar manufacturers are placed, because the air temperature is noticeably colder than the rest of the convention due to the delicate nature of the instruments. Here you’ll see the folkies and bluegrass people picking and strumming.
Some of the most interesting manufacturers at the show are the makers of guitar effects pedals. There are so many of them, all purporting to do something better or more unique than their competitor’s products. The competition is fierce; one wonders how many will survive to make it to NAMM 2016?
Hands down, no debate, the loudest room at the show is the drum room. Only the brave—or foolhardy—dare enter there. Every drummer who comes to NAMM has to show off their chops, and it’s like…well, let’s just say earplugs and aspirin are highly desired commodities.
At the top of the food chain, so to speak, are the household names such as Gibson, Fender, Marshall, Roland, Yamaha, etc. Top-echelon companies such as these command the largest exhibits in the most prominent floor space.
After walking for miles and rubbing shoulders (literally!) with thousands of people for eight hours each day, after nightfall comes the parties and concerts. After the show itself closes at 6:00 pm each day, the hordes of people perform a mass migration from the convention center to the surrounding hotels to continue unto the wee hours of the morning. No wonder the lines at the espresso bars rival the lines for alcohol!
Planning for next year’s show has probably already begun…see you in 364 days.
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