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Monday, January 19, 2009

NAMM 09 Overview - Part 1

The annual National Association of Musical Manufacturer's (NAMM) trade show in Anaheim last week was the anti-CES. It was almost like there was no recession/depression, credit was easy to get, and everyone had more money than they knew what to do with again.  Indeed, the mood was very upbeat with lots of energy, and the crowds were at least the same amount as last year and perhaps a bit more.

As opposed to CES, there were very few booth cancellations and in general, everyone seemed in good spirits and oblivious to the economy. In fact, I actually came down an extra day just to soak up the positive vibes, since it's so rare these days.

A little overview for those of you who've never been to NAMM. It covers the entire Anaheim Convention Center as well as a few of the surrounding hotels. Hall A contains mostly audio and music software, Hall B has many of the larger manufacturers and distributors like Peavey, Kaman, and Ibanez as well as most modern instruments and accessories, Hall C contains traditional band instruments, Hall D is mostly percussion and Hall E in the basement contains  the newer NAMM members, which are mostly the smaller Mom & Pop manufacturers. The concert hall connected to the convention center is dedicated to DJ and stage lighting.

But there's more. Floor 2 contains a variety of instrument manufacturers but centers on pianos, and Floor 3 is taken mostly by Fender and Gibson. The convention center of the adjacent Marriott is occupied by Yamaha, and many of the rooms in the Hilton have private invitation-only demo rooms.

It's a big show. Not CES big, but large enough that you can't see it all properly in a day.

Some quick hits:
  • This year you needed a picture ID along with your badge to enter the show in an effort to deter the badge lending that's been so blatant in previous years. As a result we saw some long lines at each entry point, but no one complained. At least it kept the kids out.
  • There were lots of other security as well, like random ultra-violet checks to authenticate badges, a bomb-sniffing dog, and even some undercover cops, which seemed odd for a show of this nature.
  • The Gibson booth was open to the public this year after 2 or 3 years of dealer-only policy. I'm told that one of the highlights of the show was a mini-concert with Brian Wilson at the booth on Thursday, which unfortunately I missed.
A Dark-Fire Demo At The Gibson Booth
  • DJ's were ever-present again. Last year the trend seem to wane, but DJ gear was back with a vengeance at this show.
A Live Show In One Of The Fender Rooms
  • There were actually more booth-babes at CES, believe it or not.  Usually CES is very staid and professional and NAMM is very Rock & Rock.  NAMM is still pretty R&R with a lot of groupie-style young ladies around the various booths, but CES had NAMM beat for total amount of cleavage this year.
  • There seemed to be more booth shows than usual this year, with a lot more of them featuring full production.
A Full Production Live Event In The Taylor Room
  • As usual, there were no products that set the show buzzing, just the usual evolution and upgrades.  Why can't anyone make something new for a change?
Mountain's Leslie West At The Dean Guitar Booth
  • Along that line of thinking and just like CES, products are either getting a lot smaller or a lot larger.  I guess the middle ground is already saturated. I heard some pretty crappy audio again from so-called audio manufacturers.
  • One trend I did see was that every SR manufacturer had small line-array models available for small venues, which is a great trend.
Outside NAMM Between The Convention Center And Hilton
  • Inventors-Row in the basement is still the most fascinating area of the show. We won't see most of these exhibitors next year, but at least there are people taking chances on their ideas. I'm going to dedicate an entire post to what I saw down in Hall E, because it always seems to get overlooked.
  • Manufacturers were indeed booking orders, by all accounts, a good sign for the industry.  The MI industry hasn't quite felt things like the rest of the country, at least not yet. But by the looks of the show, perhaps they'll dodge a bullet.
I shot lots of video, so Parts 2 and 3 will include lots of moving pictures.

1 comment:

Digger said...

Woah! Did Leslie West lose a lot of weight? Or am I remembering the wrong guy.

I still can't get enough "Missippi Queen" in my diet.


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