I am sure a lot of you have heard of the NAMM Show. Primarily, NAMM is held for retailers to make orders from manufacturers. That seems kind of boring right? Well, it definitely is not. Music business professionals from all over the world gather each year to unleash their newest products. These products can be anything from recording software to saxophones and electric guitars. Not only do we get to view and test the products. We also get to witness artist signings, demonstrations and even private performances. So what does NAMM even stand for? It took me a while to get it right: NAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants. The show happens twice a year. More prominent, the Winter NAMM Show is held in January at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Summer NAMM Show is held in Nashville.
After arriving at my hotel in Anaheim the day before the show, I soon took a short walk to the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton is right next to the convention center, about a minute walk. I met up with my friend Paul Wandtke, a fellow Berklee student endorsed by Trick Drums. Already a busy scene, many of the manufacturers were returning from setting up their booths. After waiting around, I met another friend, Carlos Zema,, who I had known from the last NAMM Show when he was performing with Rusty Cooley’s Outworld. The show had not started, and I was already having a great time.
So lets get on to the good stuff. Right at the start of the show I visited one of my favorite manufactures ENGL Amps. ENGL is a Rock and Metal Amplifier company based in Germany. Tons of famous metal musicians play ENGL including Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) and Vinnie Moore (UFO) among others. ENGL had some great products as usual. It was great talking to Amber and Mike who run the booth. After I checked out ENGL I went to visit another great company, ESP Guitars. The ESP booth is always set up in a very professional manner, and is a standout at NAMM. Other than ESP’s intense custom shop models I immediately noticed their James Hetfield (Metallica) limited edition guitar. ESP never fails to deliver several new worthwhile products each year. After having a talk with a few of the ESP staff I went for a long walk. There are so many booths that you can never really see everything in full detail. So of course, I did a lot more walking… Soon I came upon guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio). I was really excited since I was just watching his live Dio DVD ‘Evil or Divine’. Later that evening I hunted down the Mesa Boogie Amplifier Company. I had a short chat with their artist relations manager who was very kind and professional. You’ll find that most people are happy to have a short talk with you about their products, company and even a little bit about your own business objectives. Later that day I met up with Firewind keyboardist Bob Katsionis and guitarist Gus G. As we were walking around a corner something caught our eye. Sure enough it was Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater doing a product demonstration. Talk about cool stuff. After hanging out a while, I returned to the Hilton to met my friends. Was NAMM day one over yet? Not in a long shot. Each night of the NAMM Show vendors set up public and private events for our entertainment. I actually went to check out a private gig a few miles away from the show. My friend Dave’s band Deathriders was playing along with several other interesting bands. The night was already going great. I eventually returned to the Hilton to see what was going on. There I met up with my friends Bill Hudson (Ex. Cellador, Power Quest, Coldera) and John Slaughter (Coldera). After a couple of drinks I ran into an amazing drummer Casey Grillo (Kamelot). You really never know whom you’re going to meet. As the night goes on it gets more and more crowded at the Hilton. Eventually you will recognize someone of high stature in the crowd. It was a huge honor for me to meet drummer Mikkey Dee (Motorhead). Mikkey drummed on the early King Diamond albums, which I still praise to this day. It surely topped off the first awesome day at the NAMM Show.
As the NAMM Show progresses it gets busier and even more extreme. Friday and Saturday are probably the most productive days at the show. You will notice that there are more private events and artist signings (among other things). Friday morning I went to observe several music products companies. I checked out the Fender and Gibson Guitars booths and also had a few words with some of their employees. Since these are large companies, it was a lot harder to speak with their representatives. It’s recommended that you have short conversations, take care of business and walk away. Manufacturers are typically at the show to sell their products to retailers, so it’s best to not get in the way of their business productivity. Between Friday and Saturday I got the chance to meet guitarist Craig Goldy (Dio) and Vinnie Moore (UFO). I also ran into Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen), Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Kiko Loureiro (Angra), Shawn Drover (Megadeth), Jason Rullo (Symphony X) and Bobby Jarzombek (Sebastian Bach Band, Halford). Some concert events held at NAMM included performances by Alice Cooper and a Racer X Reunion Show. A Van Halen cover band played the Hilton Friday night along with several other acts. There really are so many events going on it is hard to choose one to go to.
Being that I’m a student about to graduate at Berklee, I took liberty of looking for several business opportunities. Not only is NAMM a place where you can network with the music products industry, but also with the performers and even some record labels. As you read earlier, there are tons of players that are willing to talk to you and see what you’re all about. Performance experience can only amplify how you will work in the products industry. If you know how the product works in a real situation then you should be able to relate to its business needs in a more efficient manner. Being a Berklee music business student you are required to take many non-business music classes. These classes prepare you for that connection of player and product. Business and performance will always find a way to coincide with one another. I intend to work in the products industry, but still aim towards making a career with my own music. If either of these goals are yours, I suggest you check out the NAMM Show.
By Todd Seitz