The NAMM Show is the world’s largest annual trade-only event for the music products and pro-audio industry. It’s also the mecca for all-things music-related such as the 11-foot tall Ampeg SVT bass Amp (which turns up to 11 as demonstrated by Spinal Tap’s own Derek Smalls), as well as custom made guitar straps, fluorescent flutes, harmonicas, keyboard stands, drum pads, sheet music, effects peddles, even website designers. Hey if you’re going to be a rockstar you’re gonna need a website.
NAMM was at the Anaheim Convention Center this past weekend. And I went.
Walking about the massive arena are at least 100,000 enthusiasts consisting of Hair Band Leftovers with frosted mohawks, leather vests and exposed armpits hoping to re-unite with fellow ex-rockers who are still living in a Whitesnake video as well as plenty of fresh-faced bright-eyed babies whose rock and pop-star dreams are all in front of them.
Also gracing the aisles are plenty of dudes dressed in 2019 attire, living in the moment and looking toward the future, as well as some energized and fearless females who are getting more and more comfortable behind a mixing console or wearing a production hat. Watch out.
This year I’m not here to buy equipment. I’m on the outside looking in. Observing this fascinating culture.
I can’t help but wonder about the tragectory for the eager younger hopefuls and how many of them are actually going to see their dreams come to fruition in an excruciatingly competitive Universe. That said NAMM is not about the music business. It’s about Music Nerds having a safe place to geek out.
The air is friendly. Good spirited.
Twice, within 50 feet of passing through the metal detectors, I’m recognized. I feel lit up! The work I’m doing is apparently not going unnoticed. One dude apologizes for calling out my name. I tell him, “Trust me, it’s all good.”
Let me just say I don’t like crowds. And I don’t like noisy environments. I’m nursing a f*cking vocal node. So what am I doing in the loudest place on earth bouncing off a wall of sound? It’s shredding on steroids. Thousands of orchestras tuning up at the same time.
The first booth I encounter (in a very favorable location I may add), is a dude demonstrating a new vocal auto-tuning technology. He explains to onlookers that the singer riffing into the mic, whose voice is being “auto-corrected,” might accidentally ‘discover’ a melody she didn’t even mean to sing. And ta-da! Hit song by accident. Imagine that! I want to raise my hand and ask, what about an idea? Doesn’t a song need an idea?
I’m cynical not 5 minutes in the door.
I can NOT believe how crowded it is. Was it always this crowded at NAMM? Slim chance I’m gonna run into anyone I know. Oh wait. There’s my friend and guitar hero Dave Amato, signing autographs for fans. Dang. I guess you can run into people you know. Miraculous.
Strolling strolling…Hmm…check out that guy wearing a T-shirt stenciled with the name of his band: ”Discharge.” Really? Call me crazy, I just don’t think that’s gonna resonate with the chics. He may wanna rethink it. Unless it’s a joke. I hope it’s a joke. Again, my favorite emoji: 🙄
Strolling, strolling by countless vendors demonstrating their wares. It’s literally musician porn. Every one has something new and exciting to sample. I’m overwhelmed. Disoriented. Some people come to NAMM for all 4 days. I’m here for only 1 and already I’m wondering if there are napping pods somewhere.
Ahhh, there’s another known traveller: record producer Greg Wells testing out a mic. Hi Greg! He says my voice would sound great through this mic. If that’s the case, I WANT it! I need all the help I can get with this vocal node.
Strolling. Knobs, cables, digital pianos for toddlers….
Mindlessly I wander off into the special effects section and find myself walking (and coughing) through clouds of fog from dozens of machines all dispersing their unique brand of atmospheric nightclub haze.
That’s my cue. It’s time to ditch this pop-stand and head over to the House of Blues where Michelle Lewis and I will be presenting a SheRocks Award to Lisa Loeb tonight. SheRocks celebrates pioneering women in music and audio who are paving the way for the next generation, in an industry where the female species has been under-represented, under-appreciated and under-paid. That’s changing. Case in point: Alicia Keys will be hosting the GRAMMYS this year! Yay.
But how do I exit? It’s like Vegas in here. They don’t actually want you to leave. Hark, a sliver of daylight beameth from atop a stairway. Follow!
After all that fog, the fresh air is heavenly. I walk a few blocks chomping on an apple I put in my backpack this morning. Cross a few streets. Up an escalator and I’m in House of Blues. Swag Bag. Thank you! Wristband. Back Stage Pass.
I’m escorted to make-up where I let Samantha have her way with me as long as she doesn’t apply any glue to my eyelids. (If you witnessed my recent lash extension fiasco on Facebook you know what I’m talking about.)
Red Carpet. Fun! I’m good at Step and Repeat. Hand on hip. Most of the journalists don’t know who the hell I am. I tell them. I build myself up. Make them think I’m somebody. Hell, I am somebody!
Showtime. For the past few weeks Michelle has been freaking out about the TelePrompTer. I told her there’s nothing to worry about. Just smile and read as the words scroll. But I spoke too soon because when the 2 of us walk into the spotlight there is an unfortunate TelePrompTer malfunction. Nothing scrolls. Here’s Michelle glaring into the wings praying that they fix the glitch ASAP while I try my best not to crack up and at the same time think about what it is I’m going to say about Lisa when it’s my turn.
We do just fine, though. We both know why Lisa deserves this award and we tell it like it is. When you walk into a spotlight, if it all falls to sh*t, just try to relax and speak the truth. One of the secrets to life.
When the night is over I’m Exhausted. I’m not 45 any more! My stamina isn’t what it used to be.
So you many wonder why I even go to NAMM. Well, my lane is evolving. I may not be making purchases, but I have a different kind of business to attend to. My book publisher who had a booth in the house wanted to discuss converting Confessions of a Serial Songwriter into a digital edition. (Of course he had to explain what exactly that was.) And my esteemed colleague from Yamaha, a beloved company which connects with their fans through a blog to which I contribute, introduced me to some of their new and exciting products like SILENT Pianos and Transacoustic Guitars (reverb and chorus built in.) I’ll be having me one of those, please, and thank you very much. (So I guess there was a purchase made after all.)
And then of course, there’s all the dreamer watching. Every dreamer in here has a story. When I make note of just how many there are vying for space on a marquee or at least on label copy, I am grateful that anything ever happened for me. But I know why it did: There was always competition but there weren’t as many songwriters before technology made it possible to be a songwriter without actually having to be a musician.
That said, my colleague and acclaimed Songwriter Whisperer Suzan Koc often reminds me that even though a room can be filled with wanna-be’s who never will be, there are also the diamonds in the rough. Change and technological movement are inevitable and necessary. We need a NAMM community to keep progressing, sharing knowledge and ideas, engaging, shredding, reuniting and introducing new collaborators so that the diamonds have a future in which to shine.
The rest of us? Well, we’ll see you next year. Right here at NAMM. And I’ll probably be watching.
Check out Nita Strauss, one of the women whose performance blew me away at the SheRocks Awards. I definitely think she rocks. What do you think?