NAMM 2015 Report
I have worked in the MI and Pro Audio industry for nearly two decades now (all with the same company) and have played guitar for almost twice as long. Yet, in all that time, I have never worked – or attended – the NAMM Convention, the industry’s second largest tradeshow – much less any other tradeshow – until now.
To many of you, NAMM is old hat, having worked them year after year after year. For others, you have never been, either, and would like an inside scoop on what takes place. And perhaps, the annual NAMM-goers might get a kick out of this commentary while reminiscing about “their first time”.
Initially, my goal was to write this more like a daily/hourly timeline, but my schedule leading up to (and during) NAMM was packed, no instance to time-stamp the days’ events. With that said, I have pictures, receipts and – most importantly – my memory. As the saying goes, “you never forget your first time”.
For the uninitiated, what is NAMM? NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants. It is the world’s second largest music products tradeshow, surpassed only by the Musikmesse tradeshow, held each March in Frankfurt, Germany. Like Musikmesse, NAMM is also annual, held over a four-day period each January in Anaheim, CA.
In a nutshell, NAMM (and Musikmesse) is where music industry professionals gather to showcase new products to domestic and international dealers, distributors, rep firms and the press. Also present are musicians and other celebrities, whether to promote and demonstrate signature models, do signings, check out new gear, or perhaps all of the above. NAMM’s annual attendance is just shy of 100,000.
So just how did I get invited to work NAMM 2015? And what did I do while in Anaheim? What were my thoughts at the time? What are my thoughts now? I’ll do my best to answer all of these questions and more…
November 2014 – January 2015: NAMM preparation.
NAMM is arguably the most important tradeshow for anyone remotely involved in the music industry. As one might expect, a considerable portion of the annual workload is weighted heavily near year’s end since multiple new products are showcased at NAMM.
The annual onslaught means working long days, late nights, weekends and holidays as we prepare each Fall/Winter for the upcoming NAMM show. The stress and tension between co-workers is always at its highest during this stretch. Everyone is pushed to the limit and – with so many moving parts – dependent on each other to “get the job done.” It’s a double-edged sword, really: on one side it’s a lot of work, but on the other it’s always exciting to unleash new products out into the world!
Besides “experiencing NAMM” this is perhaps (even if subliminally so) the one reason I have wanted to attend the show: the payoff. Seeing all of the hard work come to life can’t be matched.
December 9th, 2014: The email and booking the flight.
Not much to report here. I received an email on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 stating that I would be working this year’s NAMM show. I was shocked, surprised, elated, dumbfounded…why now? Ah, no matter. I’m going and I will crush it!
My only travel obligation was to book the flight and transportation, while everything else was handled by our tradeshow coordinator. Flight booked: Wednesday, January 21st, Alaska Airlines, flight #504, 6:15 AM, arrive at 8:52 AM, be at the booth by noon. Ooh, that’s gonna be a long day, but…co-workers told me that I was lucky I wasn’t heading down earlier in the week, befuddled that “the new guy” wasn’t a part of the setup. Apparently setup is the worst day (or three) of NAMM with tear down being the second worst day. Whew, lucky me!
December 10th, 2014 – January 19th: Various NAMM meetings, emails and more.
It’s hard to put into words just how excited I was to be going to NAMM. It was the lift I really needed, as we were in the midst of yet another dreary, overcast Seattle Winter. Here it is, the company showing faith in me and my ability to be one of the faces for the organization. Of course I wanted to show them that they made a good decision and do my absolute best.
While there may have been an extra spring in my step, there was still A LOT to take care of before heading south to SoCal. In addition to my usual day-to-day grind, here are a few more “memorable” moments during this month-plus stretch:
*Internal emails detailing NAMM preparation.
*External emails from NAMM detailing anything and everything NAMM-related. Personal favorite was this one:
Subject: Bring this to any Badge Will Call location to get your NAMM badge.
*NAMM prep to discuss my role and what to expect.
*I would be working the loudspeakers section. Sweet!
*I need to bring (and wear) pants and shoes. Not sweet. For those that don’t know me, I wear shorts and sandals year-round, regardless of weather. Yes, it rains a lot in Seattle, but no, I won’t melt like the witch in Wizard Of Oz. I’m indoors 95+ percent of the time, anyway, right?! Eh, alright, pants and shoes it is <sigh>…
January 20th: The day before.
My last day in the office included lunch with my boss to go over any last minute details about NAMM. His suggestions included: (1) wear comfortable shoes and (2) you’ll know everything you have to do by 12:30 on Thursday [the first day of NAMM]. Not much more than that, though. The “shoes” thing was mentioned multiple times by multiple people.
After work I headed into the city to have dinner with my mom. Siam Thai on Eastlake, of course. We parted and I headed off to my buddy, Kyle’s place. Kyle was interviewed in OLM’s first issue for JAM Recording Company!
It’s always great hangin’ with Kyle, but I had to be up at 3:30 am. So I went upstairs and crashed for a few hours (my mind spinning a hundred miles an hour at the excitement that awaited me).
January 21st: The day of.
3:30 am – holy crap, it’s early. And dark. And cold. And wet. But I’m going to NAMM!
4:30 am – Black Crown Car arrives. Twenty minutes and $55 dollars later I’m at the airport.
4:50 am – First things first. Coffee. Everything else after that – egg and cheese bagel, water, gum and mints – were also important, but secondary to the almighty java. Must fuel up.
5:30 am – hang out at the gate with fellow co-workers also headed to NAMM, all first-timers like me!
5:45 am – boarding. Headed back to my seat and who do I see? None other than photographer Mike Savoia who was interviewed in the September 2013 issue of OLM! Lo and behold, I am sitting directly behind he and his wife, Stephanie! The guy sitting next to me was Rich Williams, owner of Seattle’s Lunchbox Audio. We exchange a few pleasantries before trying to catch a few zzzz’s on the flight.
6:15 – 8:52 am – relatively uneventful flight which is not only fine, but preferred. I listened to Richie Kotzen’s The Essential while trying to sleep. In addition to the great songs, I was pretty excited to finally be heading to NAMM, so sleep was minimal.
9:00 – 11:30 am – John Wayne Airport [SNA], Santa Ana, Orange County, CA. Grab our luggage, get in our reserved van and head to the Best Western Stovall Inn. Everyone checked in [one person to a room] and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading over to the Anaheim Convention Center.
Oh, hey look, I can see Disneyland [aka measles outbreak central] from my room. Speaking of “The Happiest Place on Earth,” I worked there one Summer in my early 20s; think they’ll remember me, ha?!
11:30 – 12:00 – the walk. The Anaheim Convention Center was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel, but we didn’t know that, giving ourselves half an hour to get over there. That turned out to be a bonus as we wandered through the halls, checking out all the companies there setting their booths up. Look at all this beautiful gear, I am in heaven!
12:00 – 1:00 pm – We arrived at the booth, but were told to grab a bite and be back by 1:00. The six of us walked over to the food court at the Anaheim Hilton across the street. I had a Submarina meatball sub and Gatorade.
Note: I showed up at the booth wearing shorts and one co-worker said, “dude, you’re supposed to be wearing pants!” I said, “oh, no worries, I’ve got a pair in my backpack.” Co-worker: “no, no, don’t change! If anyone says anything, then change, but other than that, shorts are cool, shorts are you.” I heard my shorts mentioned about 3-4 more times with everyone saying some form of “keep ‘em on and only change if someone [e.g. CEO, CFO, Sales] says something.” In the end, I never wore pants. Not a single day. Nice!
1:00 – 6:00 pm – A lot of “hurry up and wait”.
1:00 – 3:00 pm – ISF Only Sales Session. Speeches by Product Managers, Sales and more. I wasn’t on “picture duty”, but I did take a lot of photos!
3:00 – 5:00 pm – Distributor Only Session. Same as above, but anyone not involved stayed outside and helped with any last minute set up needs (which wasn’t much at this time).
5:00 – 6:00 pm – Time for a late afternoon snack and drinks! This occurred simultaneously with the Awards Ceremony for ISFs and Distributors. Of course I grab a beer and sat down for all of one minute before someone asked if I could take pictures of the entire Awards Ceremony. Woe is me, of course I can…beer can wait.
6:00 – 10:00 pm – Set up, part deux. The majority of the booth had already been set up, but because of the speeches and awards ceremony, there was a stage and lighting truss that had to be taken down and removed before we could set up the rest of the booth. This definitely sucked as it was more “hurry up and wait” as we waited on local help with these union jobs before we could do our set up.
January 22nd – January 25th: NAMM
7:30 am – 8:35 am – Rise and grind. Wake up, get showered, dressed and prepared to kick ass!
8:40 am – 9:00 am – Grab a banana and bagel downstairs and walk to Anaheim Convention Center.
9:00 am – 6:00 pm – Shake a hundred hands, answer a million questions, explain the differences between our multiple loudspeaker series’ lines and most importantly: don’t stop smiling no matter how bad my feet are killing me. Oh yeah, and sneak in a quick lunch, if possible.
Thursday, January 22nd – lunch at 2:56 pm: Sbarro: Slice of pepperoni pizza, Caesar Salad, Gatorade.
Friday, January 23rd – lunch at 3:23 pm: Hilton Anaheim Mix Restaurant with my friend Zane: 50/50 Chicken Caesar Salad, Stella Artois beer. Actor/Musician Michael Chiklis showed up at the booth when I was out at lunch…damn, missed him!
Saturday, January 24th – lunch at 3:47 pm: pulled pork sandwich from food truck, picked up by Larson so I could keep working…BUSY day!
Sunday, January 25th – lunch at 3:29 pm with the band Saint Ridley [not familiar with the band, but they were very nice, funny guys]: Grilln’ Express: Chili Cheese Dog, Chili Cheese Fries, Two Gatorades.
6:00 pm – 12:00 am – Post-NAMM activities. This typically consisted of dinner and drinks with friends followed by a little hotel time to rest and relax – elevating the legs/feet – before crashing.
Thursday, January 22nd – dinner at 9:08 pm: Marri’s Pizza & Pasta: Sausage Verrenzano Tortellini [I highly recommend this dish, it is excellent], Two Stella Artois beers.
Friday, January 23rd – dinner at 10:30 pm: Mi Pueblo Restaurant with Gil: Paid for, can’t remember what I had!
Saturday, January 24th – dinner at 9:46 pm: Marri’s Pizza & Pasta: Yep, return visit! Mozzarella sticks, Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich, Two Amber Bach beers.
Saturday, January 25th – dinner at 7:00 pm: Marri’s Pizza & Pasta: Not my choice! Pizza was delivered so we could tear down and grab a bite in between packing gear up.
Speaking of tear down, it was hard work (as expected), but went fairly quickly with everyone busting ass to get everything loaded and wrapped up in a timely fashion. The booth closed at 5:00 and tear down was finished by 9:00, including our “dinner break”.
January 26th: Time to leave.
10:30 am – Catch shuttle to John Wayne Airport for 12:20 pm flight.
11:00 am – Print boarding pass, check luggage and…find out that the plane is delayed several hours, gah!
12:09 pm – Time to kill. May as well grab lunch. Chicken Caesar Salad, Goose IPA and ½ price shot of Fireball.
4:49 – 5:49 pm – Sound Transit rail from SeaTac to Westlake Nordstrom. $2.75, a steal! Except I wasn’t home yet.
5:54 – 6:14 pm – Taxi to Kyle’s house to get my car.
6:20 – 7:15 pm – Drive home, woo-hoo!
Questions, comments, other musings and wrap-up:
- Cool shit:
- Bar none, the absolute coolest thing about NAMM was seeing and hanging out with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many, many years. Too many to list, but it was great seeing everyone!!
- Met and spoke with dUg Pinnick, Tony Levin, Rudy Sarzo, Juan Alderete and Bernie Williams, among others.
- Shared an elevator with Craig Anderton where he told me that he refers people to the OLM interview regularly. Wow, so cool!
- I was cut loose for three hours on Sunday to check out as much of NAMM as I could. It was amazing, so much awesome to see!
- Passes to see Steel Panther (with guests Marty Friedman and Tommy Thayer) at the Grove of Anaheim, Friday, January 23rd, 2015…and missed it. Fuck!
- Passes to see In This Moment and Escape The Fate at the Grove of Anaheim, Saturday, January 24th, 2015. Not really my thing, plus I was hella beat.
- Not cool shit:
- I met a TON of super-cool people, but there were 4-5 total douchebags. I was told that there would be some in the booth, but I only dealt with one guy whose sole purpose was to try and pick a fight with me. Needless to say, I didn’t take the bait. I smiled and nodded until more people came in who wanted to learn more about the products instead of dissecting a bunch of bullshit with this loser. There were a couple of people in other booths who were also not-that-friendly. Like I said, though, it was 99% hella cool people!
- I was told that I would get sick: “Everyone gets sick at NAMM.” They call it NAMMthrax. About 10 days before NAMM I started pounding Airborne and Emergen-C. I never got sick until about 2-3 days after I returned home…and it was nasty. I suppose the silver lining is that I didn’t get sick during.
- My feet were on fire. I wore very comfortable shoes, but being on your feet for 10+ hours a day for 5-6 days straight takes a toll. Some people take multiple pairs of shoes, but I like what my friend Ben does; he brings an extra pair of insoles and switches them every other day. I need to remember that for next time.
- Yeah, missing that Steel Panther show kinda sucked, too, but oh well…next time.
Fun Fact: I made it a point to not ask for business cards and still ended up with 32 of them…what?!
Most asked question (and answer): Would you do it again? Today, no. Next year, in a heartbeat!
One of my favorite movies is Almost Famous. Great flick! One of the lines is “It’s all happening.” That is how I felt the entire two-month stretch, from when I was first told I would work NAMM until I returned home…and even for several days after my return. I can’t hit that home enough. It truly was a special event and I was honored to represent my company at NAMM 2015!
My friend Dino (who just worked his 30th NAMM) summed it up best: “NAMM is the one show where you have as much fun working the hardest you’ve ever worked!”
Yup, that’s NAMM…see ya next year, Anaheim!
If you have any questions, comments, or just want to share your NAMM experience, drop me a line!