A few weeks ago, I returned from a trip to Nashville, where I participated in Summer NAMM as an artist at the Better Audio Booth. This is my second trip to a NAMM show, and each time I find myself returning to the teaching studio with more to offer to my students. If you’ve never attended a NAMM show, I highly recommend going.
NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchandisers. This group organizes one of the largest music trade shows in the world, called the NAMM show. There two NAMM shows per calendar year. Summer NAMM takes place in Nashville, Tennessee. Winter NAMM, which is the larger show, takes place in Anaheim, California. The Winter 2010 show had 1,373 exhibitors and 87,569 attendees.
NAMM is not open to the general public. NAMM shows are only open to members of the music trade and those who have been invited (visitor passes can be obtained for friends and families).
Most of the attendees fall into 4 categories:
1) an exhibitor (normally this is someone who manufactures or sells a product)
2) a retailer (a rep from a music store that sells new gear)
3) an artist (someone who endorses a product)
4) journalists (such as journalists from magazines that cover the NAMM show, such as Bass Player Magazine or NoTreble.com)
During this year’s summer NAMM, the show did open to the general public for the first time during the final day of the show. Summer NAMM had 12,463 registrants for the three day show.
Music educators can request passes quite easily, and are actually encouraged to do so. One of my peers teaches band at a private school. He emailed the folks at NAMM, told them his creds, and they promptly contacted him to see which NAMM show he wanted to attend. The pass was free. To get a pass, all you need to do is go to the NAMM website and fill out the email form:
So packing 12,000 to 87,000 people under one convention center roof can make NAMM a crowded, noisy three day experience. And really, NAMM is a place where folks in the music industry try to get business done. So why on earth would a music educator want to attend? There are actually many benefits to going.
First off, exhibitors are showcasing their product lines for attendees to try out. Exhibitors and manufacturers will often release new products at the NAMM show due to the high amount of press coverage that occurs. So exhibitors want to interact with you, to get their products into your hands and (ultimately) into your students hands. So this is a great opportunity to try out new products and review them for yourself. You will be able to try products that are difficult or even impossible to find in your local area. And occasionally, you may even get some free product samples to try out.
My friend, the band teacher, got to try the clarineo at Summer NAMM. The clarineo is a woodwind designed for younger students. This instrument works as a stepping stone between the recorder and band instruments. It feels similar to a sax, flute, or clarinet. When it comes time to play in band, and if a student decides to do brass, they will have already worked on the concept of breath support. The clarineo is smaller than a traditional band instrument so it fits younger fingers. Now, as a result of finding out about the clarineo at NAMM, there is discussion that these instruments could be used as rentals in the elementary school in his school district.
Secondly, you may be able to form a relationship with an exhibitor, which could lead to an opportunity to sell products in your own home studio. If you are set up with a tax ID number, this can lead to another source of revenue for your home studio. I went to my first NAMM show with a jazz guitar instructor. Due to the contacts he was able to make at that show, he was able to start selling JazzKat amps through his studio directly to his students. He also started selling Thomastik-Infeld products to his students as well. Another teacher I know is selling the method books her students use through her home studio. She made contact with a company that publishes method books at a NAMM show she attended.
Beyond the gear geek out, there are many clinics and great performances that occur during the NAMM weekend. It’s a great time to soak up information, get inspired, and get ideas for your own playing. World class artists are in town giving concert-clinics and taking part in “meet and greets” for their sponsors. Bassist Victor Wooten gave a great clinic on the last day of Summer NAMM. He also hung out at the Hartke booth, and did some free performances.
Beyond the NAMM show booth performances and clinics, there are the nightly shows that start up after NAMM closes down each day. The first night, I attended the Low Notes For Nashville Concert, a benefit concert for musicians who have lost their gear in the Nashville flood. Then I attended a show at 3rd and Lindsley that featured Doug Johns, Bryan Beller, Kira Small and the Adam Nitti band. The next night I hung out at Robert’s Western World, watching the amazing J.D. Simo tear it up with the Don Kelley Band. And finally, I attended a joint house concert in Brentwood featuring two husband-wife acts; UK bassist Steve Lawson and his lovely wife Lobelia, and Bryan Beller with his lovely wife Kira Small. I gained a lot of inspiration and information from seeing all of those great shows!
The NAMM organization will also set up free classes covering topics that address a teacher’s needs and concerns. They offer these clinics under their “NAMM University” moniker. One class was called “You Tube or Your Lesson Program: How to Sell Music Lessons to Your Customers.” That class discussed how to promote and sell your lesson program over other alternatives like Craigslist lessons, the local Parks and Rec department, the guy at church, and even the guy on YouTube. Other classes were “Give Your Lesson Program a Profit Makeover” and “The 2010 Best Tools for Schools Awards”. Since these classes are free, it is worth attending to see what ideas you can utilize to improve your home studio, your school program, or the lesson program at your music store.
Next, NAMM shows offer opportunities for networking and exploring endorsement possibilities. Some companies accept teaching endorsements in addition to artist endorsements. An endorsement is a mutual agreement between a company and an artist (or in this case, a teacher) that consists of the company approving the artist as an advertising vehicle and the artist choosing the company whose products they believe in enough to put their name behind. There are many types of endorsement programs out there. I recommend you check out Tish Meek’s extensive eBook on endorsements to get a better education in this area. You can order her book online at www.gogirlsmusicstore.com/store/meeks.asp
NAMM could be a good time to talk to folks from the companies you are interested in representing. It may be hard to have a conversation due to the overall noise level, but you never know what may happen. At my first NAMM show, I was checking out basses from various manufacturers. I sat down at a well known manufacturer’s booth to play a bass I had an interest in. My jazz guitarist friend grabbed a guitar, and we both started jamming. I did some solo material, and so did he. An older gentleman from the manufacturer’s booth started talking to me after I was done playing. Little did I know, I was talking to the CEO. He had been right there the whole time watching us play. My guitarist friend and I were both offered endorsement deals with that company before the end of the day. Ultimately, after a little soul searching, I did not accept the endorsement, because I felt it was not a good fit for me. But that instance shows that anything can happen.
So, I use some of my time at NAMM to talk to the people building the gear I use, and seeing if these are folks I would want to be in an endorsement relationship with. I’m not having these conversations to necessarily get an endorsement. I’m usually trying to get a feel for how a company handles the “human” aspect of doing business; do I like the folks that work at this company, how they treat people, how do they conduct themselves?
And the last thing to consider; come tax time, your travel expenses from your NAMM trip are probably deductible. Obviously, you should check with your tax adviser to be certain, but for most music educators a trip to NAMM for professional development purposes would be a tax deduction.
So hopefully, I’ll see you in Anaheim in January 2011 at the next NAMM show. More info on Winter 2011 NAMM at www.namm.org/thenammshow/2011
Some NAMM video links to check out: