NAMM 2020 Anaheim, California

This year's theme was 'A New Decade: A Crossroads of Opportunity.'

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Known as one of the largest music conventions worldwide, The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) held the first of their three annual expositions at The Anaheim Convention Center. The second this year is July 9th through 11th returning to Nashville, while a third international exhibit, this September is in Russia. This year’s theme was A New Decade: A Crossroads of Opportunity.

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Attracting over 100,000 international attendees over the four days and taking over the center’s one million square feet of exhibit space, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer size of it.

Here, we are in the company of the vast world of suppliers who are critical in bringing music to the world. From sheet music to DJ equipment and every imaginable instrument in between is represented. And at the center of it all are the musicians, manufacturers, production professionals, educators, advocates and engineers who are keeping current with new technology, latest releases and our changing times.

All the familiar brands such as Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, Marshall, Guild, Taylor, Shure, Boss, Roland, Yamaha, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Hiwatt, to name a few are major draws hosting stunning booths to draw you into experiencing this year’s latest in equipment.

But don’t overlook the smaller vendors who bring unique products and craftsmanship for people to demo. Discuss with reps, meet and hear performances by sponsored musicians, and hear their take on the best features and benefits of the products they endorse.

And if that is not enough, pack into the agenda workshops, meet-ups, performance showcases, product demos, and awards. As for shopping, whether you are a tech nerd, gear head or beginner, you are sizing up a wish list against your budget. “But Honey, I had to get it.” Browse and try out instruments.

If only attending workshops and presentations at The Idea Center, there are topics for everything with a full agenda each day: how to build followings on social media, Power Tips for indie musicians, strategies for selling on Amazon, improve your Google presence, podcasting or how to start a nonprofit. NAMM brings in experts in the field to get you started and unveil some “how-to’s.”

Beyond the expected, there are countless opportunities for supporting artists such as the Behind The Scenes Foundation whose mission is to provide support to self-employed tech and production professionals. Their booth featured a gallery display of famed rock concert photographer Neal Preston (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Fleetwood Mac). Preston autographed his books for fans and took his time to chat, wax stories and take pictures. The proceeds support the foundation and were worth the wait in line.

If attending for the first time, it’s best to stick close to your interest; don’t overbook your schedule. Keeping up with so many activities can get complex fast. Travel the aisles with a mission to get to your destination. Otherwise you will be engulfed in a cacophony of sounds and visual overwhelmingness. Keep to a specific objective, as it is too easy to sidetrack, and be sure to pad your time to read the daily UpBeat show publication. The downloadable phone app with customized agenda was essential for us when organizing the day.

Goran Ivanovic & Fareed Haque

Adding to the excitement is a back-to-back schedule of artists performing at booths bringing the best out of the equipment and instruments they are representing.

Michael Bruce (Facebook)

This often includes a chance to meet your musical hero, ask questions, and get an autograph or photo.

Delightfully, some of the greatest products were hidden in plain view at small, unassuming booths such as James Trussart Custom Guitars out of Los Angeles. A musician himself, Trussart has taken unmatched artistry to his custom guitars finishes. According to his website, his guitars have become the ‘must-have’ instrument in the arsenal for many influential artists including Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Joe Walsh, Jack White, Joe Perry, Tom Morello and many more. These four days were worth the time, membership and investment to attend. Well worth it.

So the next time you see a NAMM Membership sticker at a music retailer, know they are really committed to quality, health, and welfare of musicians and the tools of their trade. 

*All photos © Philamonjaro

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