What is NAMM in a Nutshell?
By Dendy Jarrett | (edited)
NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is a not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting the joy of making music. It also provides support for the $17 billion global music products industry. There are two NAMM shows held in the United States every year: Winter NAMM in Anaheim and Summer NAMM in Nashville. In a nutshell, it’s where the musical instrument-related companies of the world gather to showcase their new wares to retailers, media, potential endorsers, and prospective investors. It’s also a place where you can see all sorts of performances and demos, from throughout-the-day demonstrations at various booths to one-off performances to epic concerts. For those who haven’t been to NAMM and wonder what it’s like, or for those who are going for the first time, here are some of my random thoughts and recollections.
How to Get In
The NAMM show is closed to the public (although Summer NAMM has had public days for the last few years), so if you don’t work in the industry, it can be tricky to get in. Sometimes music stores may offer passes to lucky customers or people call in favors. Basically, if you want to go to the NAMM Show, network, network, network!
What to Do When You Get There
Again, network, network, network! The NAMM show is where you’ll find upwards of 90,000 music industry pros, from retailers to teachers to gear designers to record company folk to media to artists. You never know who you’ll meet and what kinds of connections you can forge that can help you out professionally somewhere along the line. Once you’ve been to a few NAMM shows, it really takes on the vibe of returning to summer camp, seeing your buddies, catching up with everyone, and making new pals. Whether you’re there as media, an endorsed artist, an employee of a musical instrument company, or if you’ve been able to score yourself a pass, it’s a chance to meet other people in the field. So bring business cards! I think of it like this: when I was a teenager I was never cool because I was way too into music. But NAMM is now where I get to hang out with a whole bunch of other people who were equally uncool because they were equally into music. And it turns out there are a lot of us all concentrated in one area.
A Learning Experience
The NAMM show isn’t just about showcasing new gear on the show floor. There are also educational sessions, including Retail Boot Camp (one-day training for retailers, held the day before NAMM starts); NAMM U Breakfast Sessions, which involve discussions about the state of the musical instrument industry; the NAMM Idea Center, which features sessions all day; the H.O.T. (Hands-On Training) Zone dedicated to pro audio, entertainment technology, music business, recording, DJ, house of worship, stage and lighting industries, and more. I have a buddy who runs a music store and recording studio, and he’s found Retail Boot Camp and NAMM U Breakfast Sessions to be the absolute highlight of his NAMM experience.
NAMM at Night
At night there are all sorts of NAMM-related events. Many of them are invite-only (it helps to ask what’s on when you’re doing all that networking - “So hey, are you guys putting on any shows during NAMM?”). Some are open to the public and can be a great way of picking up on the NAMM vibe and the networking potential, even if you don’t have a pass. So, again—network, network, network!
In the end, NAMM is like going to a musical instrument heaven. It can be loud, so I suggest good earplugs, but be prepared to enjoy yourself. Stay hydrated, be prepared to overpay for food and coffee, and - most of all - when you go—have fun! - 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.
Edited by Dendy Jarrett