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Dear Musician- NAMM: A Musical Homecoming

Is it 2018 Winter NAMM already? 


by Dendy Jarrett



NAMM stands for the National Association of Musical Merchants, and every January the organization puts on a trade show in Anaheim, California...which is a smart move, especially for those who consider insane amounts of traffic a worthy tradeoff for shoveling snow back in the Polar Vortex-friendly parts of the country. This year the show had around 100,000 attendees (who for some reason, all seemed to want to eat lunch and go the bathroom at the same time) from 139 countries. There were also some showgoers who may have been from other planetary systems (we saw them), but we couldn’t confirm that.


Manufacturers show their best of the best and release much of their new gear during this event. It’s four full days—this year, January 25 through January 28—when manufacturers roll out the red carpet for showmanship and try to “one-up” the competition with new gear, wow-factor displays, and artist appearances.


And it’s great but can have its moments. For example, the drum hall is...well, imagine as many drummers as possible, playing everything from Sinatra to Metal all at once, as loudly as humanly possible. If nothing else, it encourages good behavior because it provides what could very well be a preview of hell, and you certainly don’t want to go there. And for any click-bait journalist who wants to write about the death of the guitar, I think they maybe just got a little mixed up—after hearing the 42,012th guitarist playing Eddie Van Halen badly, it might be that they just wish the guitar was dead.


Since the end of the 20th century, Harmony Central has provided intense coverage of the NAMM show. In the beginning, it was just HC and a handful of other media doing that sort of in-depth reporting; in those early days, we had huge shoulder-mounted cameras, a control room, and spent all night editing video so we could get “something” up the next day (if we could get the bandwidth to do so). 


But times have changed.


Back then you needed big budgets and technology to get that sort of info to the masses. Now, you need only a cell phone and cellular connection or wi-fi signal, which means everyone who hasn’t dropped their smartphone accidentally in a toilet recently is uploading their own NAMM news on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, of course, the Harmony Central forums. Even before the show, if you searched on Winter NAMM 2018, there were already thousands and thousands of hits. 


As a result, this year we’re going to bring you insights and reflections on the show and its gear, based on our over 20 years of going to Winter NAMM. We can’t be first online to bring you “gear reveals,” because manufacturers now have the ability to do that from the second the show opens—and they threaten us with being exiled to the drum hall if we dare talk about anything even one minute sooner than they lift the embargo on their press releases. Instead, what we’ll give you is something the manufacturers can’t give you: our thoughts about what gear really stands out from the rest, and the directions in which the industry is going, based on our (ahem) expertise and years of analysis. So, this edition of Make Better Music is all about today’s trends in gear, technology, and even how government regulations affect new gear in these musical times.


For those of us in the industry who go to NAMM, it’s a musical homecoming. It’s the time of year we see all of our friends in the industry, catch up, tell stories, and reconnect with what got us into this crazy business in the first place. Craig Anderton has often said that Anaheim is famous for being the home of Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland...but he means the NAMM show, not that theme park next door. Yes, it’s another year, another NAMM, and another long weekend with no sleep...and we’re already looking forward to next year. -HC-






Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.


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revamp  |  January 29, 2018 at 4:33 pm
I remember the late nights editing videos of Craig and John's daily summary videos, getting them uploaded while we went to eat dinner, then come back to wait some more.  It was an all-night affair!  It's great to see HC out there killing it!  
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