Contemplating the NAMM Release Ritual
To go or not to go, and the perils of the no-show.
“The NAMM Show is quickly approaching!”
That’s either a battle cry or a warning, depending on your perspective, heard biannually in the music industry. (At least in non-pandemic years.) The most universal analogy I use for NAMM is: “Think of it as Comic-Con for music gear.” For many of us in the instrument business, the trade show seems to be constantly looming. In addition to convention preparations always occupying the back of our minds, I feel it has also created pressure for companies to release products around its schedule, if not almost dictated it.
I have lived on both sides of the curtain. I used to be in the audience, wondering how I could gain access to the show as an exhibitor. I have also been backstage, directly involved with most of the aspects of presenting Coppersound’s pedals. So, I’ve got a perspective of NAMM from both viewpoints. And with the latest NAMM show just behind us, that perspective is the catalyst for this month’s column.
As an outsider looking in, a big attraction to attending the event is seeing what new products are going to be released by some of my favorite companies. That hunt rarely requires clues because exhibitors typically plaster their booths with media and signage that promotes their newest releases. For us manufacturers, that also raises a big question: “Should a company present at NAMM without a new release?” That query naturally does a cannonball into the pool of philosophy. But for the sake of this article, I would prefer to keep the focus more in the pool of psychology—most notably appearances and perception.
As an insider looking out, I have had many conversations in the past with industry colleagues about all aspects of attending NAMM. We often discuss booth layout, travel plans, shipment logistics, costs, and more. There is also a specific day that we all wait for: the day the show map is made public, and each exhibitor can see the upcoming floor plan. We can see who our booth neighbors are going to be and take stock of what other companies will be attending. And therein lies the root of the most speculation, along with possible concerns.
“What should drive new products is the excitement of innovation and not the notion of releasing something just to release something.”
The showroom floor is filled with many types of companies within the industry, big and small—from single-owner outfits with a small table-top booth to medium operations with five to 10 employees to large household names occupying a booth the size of a mall food court.
Everybody, regardless of size, attracts attention in one way or another. However, it is not uncommon to worry about a lack of attendance if we see large companies—who tend to attract lots of music-store order writers—not attending the event. That’s especially troublesome if there is a lack of big presenters within our own line of business.
If a large, established company does not attend the show, people will notice and ask themselves, “Do they know something we don’t?” If a small, younger company does not attend, it’s quite possible those who are used to seeing that company’s booth will ask, “Are they not around anymore?” Especially in our Covid-tinted world.
I also wonder if attending the NAMM show is the perceived benchmark of determining if one has “made it.” I often define success by the act of achieving a premeditated goal. For those that do not know, registration for NAMM is many months before the show dates. If you are a company that has presented at these shows in the past, you will most likely not want to attend again without a new product. After all, new products are the big attraction. This brings us back to the release schedule for new products. NAMM is traditionally held twice a year: during winter in Anaheim and summer in Nashville. These shows are about six months apart. If a company decides to present at both shows, that entails a pretty intense product-release schedule—especially for small outfits. For larger companies, that’s typically not as difficult. But for even a medium-sized company looking to place and/or keep their flag in the ground, it can still be very tough.
I am a big proponent of the belief that deadlines create productivity. So, the NAMM release schedule may actually be a good thing for companies like ours. However, I feel that what should drive new products is the excitement of innovation and not the notion of releasing something just to release something.
So, while I deliberate our future NAMM events, here’s another thing that’s under my skin: Does anyone else find that the word biannually meaning both twice a year and once every two years is confusing?
Martin D-28 Rich Robinson Demo | NAMM 2022
Check out the roots rocker’s new namesake dread, which is an exact copy of his father’s flattop.
Rich Robinson D-28Calling all Black Crowes fans! Martin is proud to bring you the Rich Robinson Custom Signature Edition D-28. This model is a guitar player’s dream, and it is the first model that Martin has ever made as a visual and sonic representation of an artist’s personal instrument. The instrument that served as its inspiration is a 1954 D-28 that was handed down from Robinson’s father, who played it on stage at the Grand Ole Opry; as a traveling musician with the Hillbilly Highway; and in his folk band, The Appalachians, during the 1950s and ‘60s. After inheriting his father’s guitar, Robinson used it to write most of the original Black Crowes’ songs from the band’s studio albums. This soulful representation of that beloved guitar is crafted with Aged satin-finished East Indian rosewood for the back and sides and an Aged Sitka spruce top that is finished with a very thin vintage gloss. It also features rearward-shifted non-scalloped bracing, which offers a very balanced tone and added volume. It includes some 1950s style vintage build characteristics, like Martin’s signature dovetail neck joint, authentic hide glue construction, an ebony fingerboard and bridge, and Aged nickel tuners. Another custom feature requested by Robinson is a bridge with the wings slightly softened for comfort. The model includes a specially designed label signed by Robinson and numbered in sequence.
Vola OZ RV TNC | NAMM 2022
These pure shred machines are sleek, loaded with useful features, and give classic body shapes a modern makeover.