A Sound Business

By Timo Hulett Photos by John Grafman & Timo Hulett

     Since 1901, a group of piano makers came together to create NAMM, which now proudly claims a membership of over 9,000. While the backbone of the association is to advance the $17 billion global music products business, it also serves as a hub for other related facets, such as music education, PR, legislation, and more.

     The core belief is that everyone should have the opportunity to make music. A channel to release that pent up creativity and energy is a fundamental human need. NAMM is striving to create a world where making music is a part of each and every life.

     Most would agree that music is about being able to share feelings, concepts and ideas. Music is about a mood, be it classical or hard rock. Each nuance and line an artist creates, is there to provoke a response in our brain.

     Creativity takes many forms, and gives rise to inspiring music of all types. A common trait in the arts is the ability to share ideas and communicating those, as well as several of the processes being used to bring those to life.

     The NAMM Show in Anaheim oozes with opportunities to explore, to be inspired, and to innovate. The show is a chance for members to exhibit the goods, buyers to shop, and professionals to network.

     The show has major galas and presentations with super stars, like the Peavey Electronics 50th Anniversary Celebration. There’s also little known musicians that are dazzling the thousands of show attendees that are meandering the hallways. Plus, numerous performances with a broad diversity of talent are creating a civilized version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - meaning, far less drugs and booze. Nevertheless, it’s never a dull moment.

     The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus residing just in front of the convention center makes a big impression. The massive blue bus with a sketchy, white self-portrait of John Lennon is attracting NAMM guests like groupies to the Beatles, yet it’s what’s inside that really makes this special.

     Along similar ideological lines as NAMM, the bus is providing middle and high school, as well as college students an opportunity to express their ideas, and write, record and produce original music and videos, and learn about broadcasting.

     Numerous artists work with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, as those musicians also feel this is their chance to give back and inspire the next generation.

     At the show, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic share many years of experience inside of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. As if that isn’t enough, P Funk put on a brilliant performance on the NAMM GoPro Stage once the convention center closes down for the day.

     The NAMM Show is nothing if not expansive. Roaming the massive Anaheim Convention Center and the adjoining Marriott and Hilton Hotels where the show is held is just shy of running a marathon. Every nook and cranny is filled with one company or another, both local and from abroad, for 31 hours spread out over four days (not including the after-show performances and events).

      The exhibitors are more than companies that sell instruments, although that makes us the bulk of the show floor. Wandering through one can find suppliers of raw materials, like Bradford Dimension with beautiful specialized wood that’s often used on quality musical products. On the other end of the spectrum are companies with production machines. Haas Automation, as an example, stops show-goers in their tracks. The company’s fully operating milling machines are nothing less than astonishing, displaying how complex shapes like guitar bodies and necks can be replicated over and over again.

     Poking around there’s plenty of finely crafted products, such as the guitar straps. One such company, Rali from Poland, has a vast assortment of colors, patterns, styles, textures, and applications it produces that will enhance any axe.

     There’s a vast assortment of knobs for customizing guitars. Various designs allow any guitar player to personalize his or her instrument, and call it their own. Yes, if these companies weren’t in the music industry, they’d fit right in with the hot rod crowd.

      Zymöl, a premium car wax and car care company, also has a presence at NAMM. A few years back, the owner’s son mentioned his friends were using the car care products on their guitars. While flattering, he knew that those products are formulated for automotive finishes, not musical instruments. So, Zymöl went back to the lab and created an entirely new product line for the music industry. Brilliant!

     Pioneer has a large floor presence at NAMM, focusing on DJ equipment. Clearly, the company is carving out this niche as its own. Basically, Pioneer wants consumers to find DJ equipment indispensible, almost in the same way the public was captivated with the Sony Walkman products. But, instead of just listening to the music, consumers can create it.

     While we often overlook some of the basics, some of those products are as essential to music biz as the air we breathe. Take Monster as an example. Cables are a vital part of amplified music. However, the average man on the street would probably recognize Monster in terms of high-end home or car speaker wires. The cables from Monster, a California company, are more than just wires, insulation, and metal. These are quality products, and look the part.

     John Diaz, Product Area and Brand Manager mentions, Lamborghini contracted with Monster to provide assistance in creating the very limited production, $4.5M Veneno Roadster, showcasing audio clarity and best-in-class dynamics. This model features Monster's breakthrough technology Pure Monster Sound™. The point being made, if Monster is good enough for Lamborghini, it’s probably good enough for the rest of us.

     Of course, the ultra-rare Lamborghini Venenos are hard to come by, so Monster wisely opts to bring with several rock-gods to satisfy the masses at the show.

     NAMM is all about the music business, from business insurance to guitar picks. But, without the creative minds this wouldn’t exist at all.

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    June 2015
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