The Summer National Association of Music Merchants convention took place in Nashville, TN July 12-14. NAMM conferences are member-only events to show off the latest music retail and technology, but July 14th was open to the public.
NAMM Public Day is well worth the $15 price of admission for independent musicians. Make no mistake: this is a trade show focused on music manufacturers. Musicians can still benefit from plenty of networking opportunities, gear sales, and educational sessions.
Networking prospects are a bit uneven. For those looking to connect with music retailers and gear vendors, there is no shortage of contacts. More than 400 exhibitors display their wares and services. Among those exhibitors, opportunities for new relationships and sponsorships are available.
As for label personnel, publishers, and professionals from other areas of the industry, the chances of connecting are hit or miss. These people are certainly present at the show. The Nashville Convention Center sprawls across more than 118,000 square feet of floor space, making chances of meeting them somewhat low.
The primary networking obstacle is the wall of sound filling the convention hall. This can make conversations more difficult, but there is an easy way to work around it. Outside of the exhibit floor, there are plenty of quieter lobbies to hold conversations at a reasonable decibel level. Even if networkers meet in the midst of drummers’ blast beats, they can schedule a meetup in a more peaceful area.
For musicians looking to purchase gear, the options are endless. Equipment sells on the show floor. Gear ranges from simple drum sticks to cutting edge amps to quirky guitars.
Nearly every booth is very hands-on. Musicians line up to test out the gear for themselves. The JamCamp 365 booth even encourages jam sessions with multiple musicians. On the whole, manufacturers are enthusiastic to meet showgoers and answer any questions about their products.
NAMM Director of Public Relations Lora Bodmer says digital apps are making their way onto the show floor as well. At the larger NAMM event in Anaheim, Bodmer says NAMM devotes a whole pavilion to app developers. Roughly 100 apps are shown there, though a fraction of that presence is present at the summer event.
Education and Information
Artists get the most bang for their buck in the Idea Center. Educational sessions take place there, covering a range of business and performance topics. Show goers drop into the area and put on headsets to hear speakers above the noise.
Sticks ‘n’ Skins—The Sessions is a heavyweight panel discussion taking place in the Idea Center. It touches on contract negotiations, entertainment law, branding fundamentals, and more. The panel includes Dom Famularo (The Drumming World’s Global Ambassador), Eddie Bayers, Jr. (Session Drummer), Joe Hibbs (Mapex Artist Relations/Product Development Manager), Carlos Guzman (Production Manager), Paul Quin (Entertainment and Litigation Lawyer), and Harry McCarthy (Drum Paradise). The expert panel’s 3 hour discussion is insightful, engaging, and oftentimes entertaining.
Drummer Asa Lane feels empowered by Sticks ‘n’ Skins—The Sessions. “The idea is you have to know your craft. You have to be kind,” Lane explains. “I think it’s like what (the panel is) saying. Everything will fall into place if you’re persistent, if you’re patient.”
Success Through Openness
Summer NAMM’s Public Day offers plenty of opportunities for musicians. What makes the whole event work is the open, genial atmosphere. Music student Andy McCormick says a comfortable vibe permeates throughout the building. “It was very, very welcoming. It really was an open and inviting environment.”’ J.A.K. Custom Guitars co-owner Suzy Kerekes agrees. “We have been received with open arms, and given an immense wealth of knowledge you couldn’t gain anywhere else.”
Wes Davenport is a music marketer, blogger, and publicist. For his optimistic take on the music industry, visit wesdavenport.com or follow him on Twitter @wesdavenport.