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Sweetwater GearFest Draws Record Crowds and Sales, Highlights Expanded Music Store

Touchscreen for customers to browse the Sweetwater Music Store digital warehouse, with effects pedal wall in background

Fort Wayne, IN (June 16, 2015) -- Sweetwater Sound, the No. 1 online retailer of music instruments and pro audio equipment in the U.S., has announced that their GearFest 2015 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, featuring exhibits from more than 400 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 12 and 13 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 10,100 participants, up 27% over 2014, and with sales up by more than 35% over last year.

GearFest hosted a multitude of musicians performing and in workshops continuously on five different stages. Featured guests included guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Deep Purple vocalist and bassist Glenn Hughes, bassist Nathan East and jazz guitarist Mike Stern. Sweetwater's Mitch Gallagher hosted an historic panel discussion with three pioneers of synthesis and electronic instruments: Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith.

In total, GearFest included more than 200 workshops and seminars on guitar, recording, and live sound, music creation with computers, acoustics, songwriting, and how to use electronic instruments. Housed in 19 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.

Sweetwater Founder and President Chuck Surack remarked, “This year’s GearFest was one of the most exciting and humbling experiences of my career. I personally greeted thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrived and was astounded by the enthusiasm everyone seemed to have for Sweetwater, GearFest, and, in particular, for their interactions with our incredible employees. That, along with its continued growth in overall attendance and sales, has made GearFest a truly unique event in the music retail business.”

GearFest 2015 also served as the Grand Opening of Sweetwater’s hugely expanded and recently completed new Music Store. Now four times the original size and one of the largest in the Midwest, the Sweetwater Music store is backed by the largest on-site inventory of musical instruments and audio gear of any music store in the country.

Visually striking, warm and inviting, the Music Store layout allows the shopper to see virtually the entire store from the entrance, reassuring customers that they will find what they’re looking for.

The Music Store has vastly expanded demonstration areas, including a completely stocked drum room with interactive displays allowing musicians to simply pick up and play. Unlike most stores, electric guitars and bass guitars have been separated into individual rooms, allowing more space for both kinds of instruments. The acoustic guitar room has also been greatly expanded. These changes now allow customers access to more than 10,000 guitars.

A huge pedal wall has been built for customers to test out hundreds of effects. The live sound room contains numerous demo capabilities for comparing PA and lighting systems. The recording room boasts an extensive, interactive microphone display and a significant functioning collection of state-of-the-art recording gear.

“We’ve worked very hard to elevate the customer experience,” store manager Thad Tegtmeyer said. “We have more product out than ever before, more space than ever before, and unique features you won’t find in any other music store.”

For example, if customers can’t find what they’re looking for in the store, they can find it with the proprietary Sweetwater Digital Warehouse system, an innovation unique in the music retail business, and created entirely in-house. The customer can now interact with any of nine huge touchscreens located around the store to browse, view, and compare literally all of the gear Sweetwater has in its vast warehouse. Any item that is not in the store can be requested, using the Digital Warehouse touch screen, and will be brought out to the customer in five to seven minutes.

Following up on the GearFest event and Music Store grand opening, Sweetwater is sharing exclusive video footage with musicians worldwide. More than 30 videos, including interviews, product demos, and the Synthesis Pioneers Panel, were recorded and will be posted throughout June at Sweetwater’s YouTube channel at:

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