Sweetwater Sound, the No. 1 online retailer of music instruments and pro audio equipment in the U.S., has announced that GearFest 2016 was a bigger success than ever, breaking every record established by previous GearFest events. Launched in 2002, Sweetwater’s free, annual GearFest is the nation’s largest customer-focused music and pro audio festival and trade show, featuring exhibits from manufacturers, workshops, clinics, seminars, live demos, special performances, a musician’s flea market, and much more.
This year’s two-day event, which took place June 17 and 18 at Sweetwater’s corporate headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, provided more opportunities than ever before for thousands of musicians, engineers, and producers to participate in the festivities, with customers traveling from all over the world to attend.
Attendance was record-breaking, with more than 12,000 participants, up 20% over 2015, and with sales up by more than 20% over last year.
Sweetwater Founder and President Chuck Surack remarked, “One of the most exciting experiences of my career was to personally greet thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrived. Their enthusiasm for Sweetwater and GearFest was both astounding and humbling. Also, I can’t say enough about our incredible employees and their personal, caring, and welcoming interactions with each and every attendee. All this, plus its continued growth in overall attendance and sales, has made GearFest a unique event in the music retail business.”
GearFest hosted a multitude of musicians performing and in workshops continuously on six different stages. Featured guests included Grammy Award-winning pianist and songwriter, Jim Brickman; guitarist Andy Timmons, who has performed with everyone from Joe Satriani to the Beach Boys, Styx drummer Todd Sucherman; the progressive-metal band Periphery; Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn; Queen Cora Dunham, who spent multiple years as a drummer for both Prince and Beyonce, the Chris Tomlin Band, and many more.
In total, GearFest included more than 200 workshops and seminars, including sessions on guitar, recording, live sound, music creation with computers, acoustics, songwriting, and how to use electronic instruments.
Housed in more than 20 tents, more than 400 manufacturers of musical instruments, music technology, and audio equipment were on hand to provide GearFest attendees a look at the latest gear.
A new special attraction was Sweetwater’s recently completed outdoor pavilion, which played host to events over the two days, including a customer appreciation concert and party at the end of the first day. Music was provided by the Sweetwater All Stars, joined by special guests Queen Cora Dunham, Larry Dunn, Jordan Rudess, Paul Reed Smith, Nick Bowcott, Chad Wackerman, Geoff Daking, and Andy Timmons.
Also new this year, Sweetwater offered free camping for tents and RVs.
GearFest 2016 provided customers the opportunity to experience Sweetwater’s hugely expanded Music Store. Attendees experienced one of the largest music instrument and audio gear stores in the Midwest, with the largest on-site inventory of any music store in the country.
For those who couldn’t attend GearFest in person, videos, photos, and updates were posted on Sweetwater’s popular Facebook page, as well as on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.
For those in attendance, the opportunities for social media interaction included taking pictures in front of a Marshall Amp Wall, two Neil Peart drum kits from Rush’s R40 tour, and Alex Van Halen’s touring drum kit.
Using the hashtag #gearfest, attendees could view their social media posts on a large display in the Downbeat Diner. Estimated total attendee posts for the two days was more than 20,000.
In addition, hourly prizes were given away, totaling more than $88,000 worth of music instruments and equipment.
More than 40 videos, including interviews and product demos, were recorded and posted at Sweetwater’s YouTube channel at:
Chuck Surack added, “Where else can musicians and audio enthusiasts come to see, hear, enjoy – not to mention buy – what is usually reserved for music-industry insiders at your typical trade show. That’s what GearFest is all about.”