Thursday, January 27, 2005

The NAMM Show: January 20-23, 2005 - Anaheim Convention Center

Every January NAMM holds it's winter trade show for music merchandisers in Anaheim, California. Every July is summer NAMMwhich is held somewhere in the middle of the United States, in cities such as Indianapolis, Indiana, and Austin, Texas. NAMM is the largest trade show for music merchandisers and the crowd at Winter NAMM keeps growing and growing. The Anaheim Convention Center was filled to capacity with a record attendance this year. To do the show properly you really need to set aside a few days to be able to cover it all. Besides the exhibition halls, there are scheduled, and impromptu, performances happening throughout the day. Tons of stars wade through the convention halls with their entourage in tow and stop for their scheduled autograph-signing tours of duty at their sponsors booths. Famous musicians made appearances, including Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Kelly Clarkson, Carlos Santana, Peter Frampton, Dave Navarro, Giovanni Hidalgo, as well as R&B musician/songwriter John Legend, who performed on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus stage.

NAMM is closed to the general public as this is the time for NAMM members to show off their new gear, instruments, and products. Each year more and more software companies are joining NAMM and showing off their computer-based software developed specifically for the music market. 2005 was no exception.

One of many annual events at NAMM that the Southern California drumming community looks forward to is the Remo-sponsored Community Drum Circle held outside the NAMM convention hall (and thus open to everyone even if you couldn't make inside the hall for the show) facilitated by the Father and Founder of the Modern Drum Circle Movement, Arthur Hull.

The African Beat can't say enough good things about Arthur's contribution and committment to recreational drumming. A Master Drummer himself, Arthur focuses on inclusion, anyone at any skill level can participate in his drum circles. His sponsor, Remo, supplies drums and percussion for everyone attending the drum circle, though they always run short since the crowd that shows up to drum inevitiably exceeds the instruments available. People can, of course, bring their own drums to play in the circle, but after a day of trawling through the huge NAMM show, lugging a drum around with you is the last thing you want to do. Other Remo-sponsored drummers also facilitate, such as Paulo Mattioli and Christine Stevens. Occasionally big stars show up to join in. In 2003 Stevie Wonder showed up and the crowd couldn't restrain themselves from running over to him and trying to get in a photo with him. Stevie, of course, didn't have a clue of the crowd's behavior, he just had a jammin' good time.

NAMM is the best opportunity for everyone to show off their new products, and that's the reason The African Beat shows up loyally each year. 2003 was the year of the influx of the Bali djembe's and 2005 is the year that finally just about every hand drumming company now has recreational drumming collection. The swag was not at it's usual level, most exhibitors at trade shows lately seem more cautious these days, and The Beat wonders if it's due to the unstable US ecomony. After all, since GW Bush became president the US Stock Market has been trending downwards and is still around the same level as it was when he was first elected. These days more money is going into product development than towards copious swag. But swag does not a convention make, it's just a perc. What really interests us are the new products.


The new Remo double ring djembe with metallic finish Posted by Hello

One interesting development is Remo's focus on improving the sound of their Paulo Mattioli line of signature djembes and dun-duns. Their new line of Paulo Mattiolo Metalized Floating Ring Djembe (photo above) features a second floating ring making this product more closely resemble a traditional West African djembe. It is tuned as you would a traditional djembe, by pulling diamonds. Their line of matching dun-duns are tuned the same way. They are made of composite materials and use Remo's "Nuskyn" drumhead, making these instruments lightweight and almost indestructable. Sound quality is much clearer than previous efforts.

Another interesting product that hand drum educators might find useful is from the Educational Music Accessories Company (EMAC) called "Removable Conga Hands." Their website is not active yet so check back. But basically their product can be placed on top of any hand drum or even a table or a bucket. It shows correct hand positions for teaching and practicing music using a color-coded system to show hand placement to get the proper hand position and pitch to make the sounds a hand drum can make.

Many companies are entering the drum bag market, including many from Asia and even a surf wear company, Body Glove. Body Glove's drum bags were shown by Sonic Sales who are working on perfecting some interesting drum bags particularly suited for cymbals, frame drums, and most cylinder-shaped drums.

More interesting products were the latest improvements to the Stick and a new style of stringing an acoustic guitar from Babicz Guitars. The Spider features a torque reducing split bridge and an unusual way of attaching the strings at the body. One of the coolest new products we saw were the guitar picks called the Pikcard which come with 4 guitar picks on a handy business card that can be popped out for use. Another great innovation in picks were the Ice Pix which have a small material that will stick to any surface (with some space-age suction material). This is a great product for performing guitarists who are always losing their picks on stage. Just attach a few Ice Pix to your guitar and off to the stage you go. Both these new styles of picks worked just perfectly on the new Strumstick The Beat bought at a great show price. Sometimes called a "backpack guitar" the Strumstick has three strings and a diatonic tuning making it easy to play and versatile for most any situation.

Another stand-out product that is just being imported the past few months from Asia (from mostly South Korean sources) is a Roll-Up Piano which comes in a midi version and covers about 4 octaves. Just imagine taking a piano and all your midi sounds with you in a handy almost-pocket-size pouch. The mind boggles!

The Beat spoke to Jimmy Church the resident audio-guru at West L.A. Music who found some new products at NAMM that he thought were worth mention: the Audio-Technica AT892 Micro Set which is an omnidirectional condenser headset performance microphone that comes in black and beige at a great affordable price ($250) and Miroslav™ Philharmonik™, a powerful orchestral workstation based on the legendary orchestral and choir sample collections of Miroslav Vitous.

All in all, the NAMM show never fails to dissapoint those of us forward-looking thinkers with music on our minds!

One of many official Press Releases from NAMM:

103rd NAMM SHOW OPENS IN ANAHEIM
Record Number of Exhibitors Show Hottest New Musical Instruments To Buyers From Around the World

ANAHEIM, Calif., January 20, 2005—The music products industry’s new sales year reached a crescendo today as the 103rd NAMM Show got underway in Anaheim bringing thousands of NAMM Member retail music store buyers, celebrities and guests to see and play the latest musical innovations from a record 1,426 exhibiting companies.

The four-day event, produced annually by NAMM, the International Music Products Association, is the largest non-consumer show for musical instruments and the site of most major new product launches, sales meetings and networking for the $16 billion global music products industry.

Judging by strong pre-show registration numbers, the show is on pace shatter last year’s all-time registration record of 74,236. This year, the association is reporting an increase of 13 percent overall and 23 percent in international registration.

Although the show is 103 years old, the products inside are anything but. From keyboards with built-in karaoke machines to the latest in home recording technology to a tiny guitar amplifier the size of a roll of breath mints, the NAMM Show is known around the world as a giant “toy store” for musicians, and every year attracts a strong celebrity presence.

“The NAMM Show isn’t just another convention, another trade meeting,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM. “This very un-conventional show is a launch pad for the latest, coolest gear. And even though these products will soon be in music stores, many artists like Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Wonder and others often stop by for a sneak peak, adding to the show’s excitement and energy.”

ABOUT NAMM

The International Music Products Association, commonly called NAMM in reference to the organization’s popular NAMM trade shows, is the not-for-profit association that unifies, leads and strengthens the $16 billion global musical instruments and products industry. The association’s activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of nearly 9,000 Member companies. For more information about NAMM, interested parties can visit http://namm.com or call 800-767-NAMM (6266).