Oh my. Has it really been 6 months since our last blog entry? Well, this will make up for it. We have recently returned from the 2010 NAMM show in Anaheim CA, and wanted to share our experience. This is usually an annual trip for 2 or 3 of us HMT-ers, though we declined to go last year (partially because of the economy, partially because of the Inauguration which happened right around the same time).
NAMM used to stand for the National Association of Music Merchandisers. While that organization doesn't officially exist anymore, the acronym remains as a moniker for this semi-annual trade-only convention (there is a summer NAMM show that happens in the midwest, but by all accounts the winter show in Anaheim is the bigger and better one). It's a time for manufacturers and distributers of music products to showcase their wares, introduce new products, and meet face-to-face with their buyers (i.e. retail music stores, educational institutions, etc). While technically closed to the public, a significant number of "regular folks" do make it in under the auspices of other businesses. Which is important--we want the public to check out these products and create a buzz about what they like. There is also a bit of celebrity factor involved. Artists who endorse certain products make appearances at booths and do performances around the area in the evenings.
According to reports, around 88,000 people registered for the show, and there were 1,373 exhibitors--with a record 250 new exhibitors (showing a comforting surge in market enthusiasm).
Just a bit of background for you. For us, it's a time to meet face to face with suppliers, check out in person some of the products they try to sell us sight unseen (not always an easy task), look at what's new on the market, and generally get excited about being in the music retail biz! Oh, and spending 4 days in southern California in the middle of January ain't bad either.
So let's get down to it! HMT's contingent to the show was owner David Eisner, general manager Kristen Jones, and fretted instrument salesperson rob hinkal.
Here's the entrance to the Anaheim Convention Center, in all its sunny glory.
On Thursday, we started things off at the Breedlove booth. They are one of our main guitar and mandolin suppliers, and we had the opportunity to purchase several unique custom shop instruments. Many of these will head back to our store as "vendor demos" we will be able to offer at special prices. Pictured is the gorgeous koa back of a Revival OM with a slotted headstock. You can see our awesome sales rep Colin to the right.
We also ran into our good friend Marcy Marxer, who was there at the show as a demo artist for Gold Tone and Martin. Breedlove has started to delve into the ukulele market, and Marcy tried out one of their prototype models.
We also decided to pick up a gorgeous koa-topped Revival from Breedlove. We're often wary of koa guitars (they sometimes look better than they sound), but this one wowed us in both aspects..
Speaking of koa, just across the aisle was Goodall Guitars. They have completed the move of their shop from Hawaii to Fort Bragg, CA. James and Luke Goodall have started production again in the new facility. At the show we were able to pick up two "Aloha" models, the last made in the Hawaii shop. Of course, the new-shop guitars won't be any less stellar, but as production is still getting up to speed, these are the last Goodalls we'll be able to have before the summer, most likely. Here's Dave and rob with Jean Goodall, who runs the business side of things.
And catty-corner from Goodall, there's our friends Dusty Strings from Seattle, WA. Ray and Sue were there with a stellar assortment of their harps and hammered dulcimers.
Two Old Hippies, which distributes Bedell Guitars and the slightly lower-priced Great Divide line. We were very impressed by their products, displays and marketing. And we're a sucker for the story of owner Tom Bedell, who sold his fishing tackle business and invested in his dream of creating an acoustic guitar company. It didn't hurt that they were giving away this customized VW bus at the show (sadly, we did not win). We are keeping these guitars in mind for the future...you may see them in our store!
Our friends Mid-East Manufacturing (where we get most of our Indian instruments, dumbek drums, and our lower-priced bodhrans from) usually have a presence at NAMM. This year, their booth was almost exclusively devoted to a new line of ukulele-hybrid instruments. Yep, the uke craze has hit everyone! Up on this wall were lute-ukes, balalaika ukes, and...
...rob is trying to wrap his head around the concept of the sitar-lele. Wow. Just...wow.
Kristen, who had ulterior motives for going to the show (to search out electric cello options), was pleased to discover this one by NS Design. We currently have one of their basses on consignment and are very impressed with it. We checked out some of their electric violins, and may in fact become a dealer for these as well.
Probably the most impressive new product we found was at the LR Baggs booth. They were debuting their new "Anthem" guitar micing system, which somehow manages to create zero feedback. rob held this guitar right up to the wedge with the mic active, and...no feedback!! This may very well revolutionize the acoustic guitar amplification world. Watch out for the Anthem in our store!
We do enjoy checking out Things That Look Cool. The Gliga Violins booth did not need "Booth Babes"--they're right on the instruments!
We closed out Thursday by visiting the Saga booth (best known to us for their Trinity College bouzouki line). In the past we have carried their gypsy jazz Gitane guitars, and we were fortunate that this killer gypsy jazz player (name escapes me!) stopped by to demo some of the instruments for us. These may just pop up at HMT again also...
Kala, in person. There's Dave holding their new "pocket uke" (so tiny!!), and Kala rep Leanne.
There's a Kala artist demo-ing the new U-bass, which we'll be getting in as soon as it's available. Wow--the polyurethane strings are like nothing you've ever played before. Once you plug this baby in, it's a fantastic sounding acoustic bass in a tiny package.
Dave and rob also checked out Luna Guitars, and were impressed enough to pick up a dealership. They have some high-quality but low-cost instruments with some very unique designs.
Friday night, Kristen managed to make it out for some of the top-notch entertainment--John Jorgensen and his band were in town, and Kristen's wise enough not to miss them for the world. First, there was an opening performance of a bluegrass group featuring Rick Shubb (of Shubb capos) on banjo, and some folks representing the Saga company. Good stuff!
Then the main event--John Jorgenson's gypsy jazz quintet. Nothing less than exquisite. They will be making their annual appearance at the IMT series on March 22--don't miss it!
On Saturday, a huge marching band greeted show attendees outside.
Here's Jason Gano, our sales rep for Hanser Music (which represents Michael Kelly instruments) and a great bassist himself, demoing a Warwick acoustic bass. We were disappointed to find out that Michael Kelly mandolins are still going through a factory transition and won't be widely available again until May...but we were pleased to learn that through Hanser we have the opportunity to order Warwick basses.
NAMM certainly does attract its share of characters. Here's Dave buddying up with a Bono impersonator we passed. Definitely DID turn our heads for a sec...
We're just not even sure what this one's about. But it had to be captured on film, don't you agree?
One of the great new products we picked up are Couch guitar straps. They're handmade in southern California out of recycled automotive vinyl. Totally vegan and sweatshop-free...perfect for Takoma Park! Look out for these soon in our store.
There's Marcy Marxer again, this time jamming on a cello banjo at the Gold Tone booth.
We also discovered the fairly new "Hapi Drums" by the Rhythm Earth company. Based on the concept of the elusive Hang drum (which in itself is a mutation of the steel drum), these metal drums are very cool-sounding and should be making an appearance at our store in the not too distant future.
Finally, tired and weary, we made our last stop on Saturday the Music Link booth...distributor of instrument brands such as Recording King, Savannah and Johnson. Great acoustic instruments at great prices. Here's Dave and our sales rep Misha checking out a Recording King banjo.
Well. We came, we saw, we bought stuff, we gawked, we walked...A LOT. It's good to be home again, but it was great to visit with thousands of others in "the biz" and see what's new and exciting in the music world.