LATE ADDITION, SATURDAY, JANUARY 18...
Reporting live from NAMM, we are in so deep we need a snorkel. We've got interviews, reports on new music gear and other products for musicians, venues, riggers, and on and on... we've watched and heard and done demos... We've experienced performances that would be hundred-dollar tickets or stand-in-the-mud at a festival to hear. Right at this very moment, we are thirty feet from CARL VERHEYEN, lead guitar from SUPERTRAMP and still a performer for whom you feel like genuflecting and doing the "We are not worthy!" shtick.
Point is, if we stop to write about all this, we must stop doing it. And that'd be dumb. It would not be adding more to what we already have share with you. Which isn't exactly an appealing notion.
SOOO, we are happily, hecticly, and immersively "doing the NAMM" and we will tell you allll about it in a series of dedicated editions and follow-up features. If you haven't read our "Day One" coverage, keep going, 'cause It's right here in this edition. Now we need to get back to enjoying the incredible CARL VERHEYEN. Oh, yeaaaah.
|You didn't think we'd leave you empty-handed now, didja?|
Here's CARL VERHEYEN on the main stage at NAMM 2020 in Anaheim, CA.
Keep on keepin' on. We are, and you'll see the results, coming up reeeeal soon.
(Here's our first report from 2020 NAMM, as originally published.)
Greetings from the 2020 return of the world's largest music industry trade show and all-around most super-duper convocation of its kind.
☆ For news of ALL that's happening out 'n about this week beyond NAMM (through the weekend) click our annotated events edition.
AND, there's the additional photos, too!et's get started!
We are indeed back again, as we are every year at the vast, huge, sensory-overloading, exhaust-all-your-superlatives meeting of all things musical, simply called "The NAMM Show."
Over the next four days., we'll make sure you gain the best understanding we can impart of what that means.
We're limiting today's intro to a heads-up about a Friday night, after-hours concert. Tickets are FREE, and the folks on stage command the big bucks everywhere else. It's a performance of some of the world's best Djangostyle Gypsy Jazz, by
The John Jorgenson Quintet
Friday night. Doors at 8 pm, show at 8:30, in the Doubletree Hotel Ballroom, 2085 S Harbor Bl, Anaheim CA
Get tickets at the Shubb Capos booth at NAMM, or if you can't do that? Then just arrive early at the venue and ask for 'em. They'll still be free, as long as they last. (This, and the hotel lobby stages, are about the ONLY concerts you can see without presenting a NAMM badge.)
Now, on to our feature stories.
We found BRIAN GRILLI -- the current Billboard #26 "emerging artist" -- just before he began performing his originals on acoustic six string on one of the hotel lobby stages in the 11 am first-day opening set. We didn't know he was, and he hadn't begun to play. At 11 am, purt near everyone is in the exhibit halls. These lobby stages get the traffic late in the day, when the bar libations beckon and people want to get off their feet.
We soon learned he's from Virginia Beach, VA, and does a clear-voiced, melodious Americana that used to be considered Country before that descended into rappy-pop with "thet fahke tew-wang."
Now, seeing Brian and his guitar before he played a note, we expected acoustic hard rock, given his dual full sleeve lightning-bolt tattooery. But there's substance and versatility here. When he begins to play his plaintiff, heart-rending song that he wrote for the TV show, "Sons of Anarchy," appearances start reconciling with what you're hearing, and this ain't rock 'n roll.
His last album, "Deep South Symphony" is all over the Billboard charts (EIGHT of 'em), reaching #21 on the Top Americana/Folk Album Sales, riding their Top Country Album Sales at #25, and their #8 Indepenfent album, and the album is at #18 on Heatseekers (National), after hitting #2 there.
He also dipped into his previous album, "Damn Good Day," to bring his little audience "Crazy" -- not the Willie Nelson/ Patsy Cline classic, but his energetic original.
Grilli definately brings some creative riffs, especially impressing us with his "Keep on Keepin' On," and "Honey You Fit Like a Glove."
Those at NAMM can catch him in some booth performances, instrument-makers and other exhibitots for whom he is an endorsed artist. But that's just Thursday and Friday. Catch him at Reverand Guitars at.1 pm and Hiwatt at 2 pm. Those who aspire to making their hard work achieve his kind of success should pay attention to all the endorsements he's cultivated. They include Gibson, G-7, Soldier Audio, Dunlop, Greer, and Origin Effects. But you can only catch him Friday. Saturday he tin-birds East to play a gig closer to home, in D.C.
Whether or not you're at NAMM, check him out, including his music vid links, at:
DAY ONE: THE "BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS" THEME, "CROSSROADS"
In today's world, 75% of musicians' income is from touring. At the start of the 2000s, it was 35%. That, alone, illustrates how music has changed in response to free downloads and other avenues that have arisen to prevent artists, labels, and music biz hangers-on from extracting revenue from traditional music distribution.
|Cynthia Lin plays the Ohana instruments booth on Thursday|
to celebrate release of her signature model ukuleke.
While we are reeling from the fact it happened, we tend to forget how suddenly the digital revolution changed music. Turns out we should take an even broader view, beyond the recent past. In the 5,000 or so years of advanced human civilizations, it's only been about the last 100 years that have enjoyed recorded music. Only in that brief increment of history has sharing music as a mass cultural phenomenon -- or an individual experience in solitude or an isolated locale, greater than what you could play alone -- been possible.
NAMM's opening morning session laid that out. Then it sought to bring perspective to it, and to interpret it -- as they do so well here -- in terms of competition producing innovation that drives creativity. At NAMM, those things are applied to the creative domains of music makers; to mom-and-pop capitalism at the local musical instrument store with its offerings of lessons; and to the "used-to-be" sense of publicly-shared responsibility to include music and art in every child's education, Then it is all connected to the makers, large and small, of the instruments and the attendant gear.
In making that confluence of ideas congruent, NAMM President JOE LOMANO demonstrated once again that he is the right guy for the job he holds. Everyone seems to learn sonething when he brings his guests to the stage, partly to be interviewed, partly to impress Joe as much as every one else.
|Laura Bean and Dylan Olds play the alfresco Traveler Guitar|
booth, located in and around an Airstream travel trailer on
an Astroturf campsite with LED campfire.
A pantheon of engaging guests joined Lomano, exploring the role of, and opportunities for, knowledgeable arts-business entrepreneurs through what has been two decades of uncertainty. Lomano is always adept at identifying elements that characterize common experience, and even unnoted trends, based on what the audience learns as the tales unfold from the guests. Somehow, even in years when overall economic and small business trends haven't looked especially rosy? Joe, like all good keepers of the faith, always leaves his audience feeling hopeful and inspired about something in the crazy, seemingly irreconcilably diverse world of the music business.
In his quick list from the opening session, Joe Lomano even managed to breach a previous taboo at NAMM. He mentioned politics. That's a very big deal, when you consider progressive and peace-glorifying folk songs, rah-rah comin'-to-kick-yer-ass pro-war country songs, anarchic rock songs, and NAMM's important newest constituent, the ultraconservstively political gospel music universe.
Lomano wasn't speaking off the cuff or committing some gaffe for later correction. His context was deliberate -- today there is unprecedented need for quality sound to enable inclusion of musicians in events that are not ostensibly concerts. Right away, he cited the development, through the past decade, of church / religious functions -- and in NAMMspeak, sophisticated sound systems marketed to meet the new needs of "Houses of Worship" -- and how the dimension of entertainment in that environment is now an absolute expectation.
Similarly he noted, musical performances are now part of political rallies. Implicit in what he was saying is that the right song, with lyrics the crowd can understand, is fundamental to warming-up that crowd for the political wannabe or incumbent mucky-muck. (Our characterizations of the political class, not Joe's.)
Being a contentious and polarized election year, it needed acknowledgement -- whether or not it has occurred to every maker of mics or mic stands, amplifiers or mixing boards, and effects-laden LED stage lighting rigs -- to market their best systems to the religiosos and the politicos alike.
It should be noted that NAMM holds a night of massed church choirs and music-makers from that sector. What was an outreach just a few years ago is now an important component in marketing and sales of a full spectrum of gear.
|Dreams proliferate (and are sometimes|
profligate) at NAMM. Breanna Thomas,
who hopes to achieve multigenre
success as a recording artist,
celebrates her "17% Native American"
heritage wearing homemade regalia.
So now, you expect to hear that he stabled a gaggle of gold-chain-bedecked rappers and thus got rich. Nope. What he did was pioneer an educational approach to marketing. Lee says it was about teaching retailers how to sell premium product. Uhh, selling his product, of course. And he did it by creating the market demand for it. His company "turned out to be a billion dollar company that got sold for three billion dollars," said Lee.
"The customers are looking for that little something, that premium edge," Lee told the audience. To develop his customer base, he went after musicians who, of course, care how they sound. He made sure they knew they could only find "it" -- that perfect sound they get when they play in intimate settings -- with instrument-to-amp cables that were better than what anyone already had.
"Nobody knew that cables are detrimental, that they erase part of the sound as it travels through them. We figured out out to wind them to prevent that. Then it was about developing a relationship with our customers, the musicians, so they did know it. Cables are not expensive compared to your rig, but they make the difference whether your rig delivers to its potential," he said.
Lee spoke of that in terms of the morning's theme, the idea of crossroads. "Do you have the knowledge as well as the people, the money, the wherewithall, do you have the desire to make it happen?" he asked. Importantly, he didn't play guruistic motivator without considering expertise.
From there, Lomano got him focused on connectivity in the literal sense -- cables -- both figuratively and futuristically.
Lee responded "The connectivity of where we're going to go is digital. But don't think WiFi. It's fiber optic, 4k, 8k and beyond. But it's still cable. Wireless is always behind. That [disparity] is not going to go away. It's up to us to communicate to musicians that tonality is lost without quality cable. We're transmitting band width and harmonics. You can prove to yourself right here at the show how it works. Go to the piano booths and hit the same note on different instruments. Every one will create sound that you perceive differently. The best instrument is between our ears."
And therein is how his educational marketing succeeded. The perception of sound that is disappointed by crappy amplification or lost signal quality s left wanting. It becomes embarrassing and unacceptable. You can change the world by replacing monaural with stereo, or with cables that don't erode quality through signal loss.
Then Lomano welcomed a fourth guest, DAVID SCHWARTZ.
Schwartz immediately won the audience by saying, "After college I decided I wanted to get this great job that paid nothing. I walked in one day to this studio in San Francisco."
It was Wally Heider sound. Wikipedia is illuminating here: "Wally Heider was an American recording engineer and recording studio owner After a distinguished career as an engineer in the 1940s... and 1950s, he was instrumental in recording the San Francisco Sound in the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Heider hired Schwartz as a gopher, and told him to let his hair grow so the fifteen major acts recording there could relate to him. Those clients included JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, and BERNIE HANCOCK.
Of course, things in music are seldom static (sorry for the pun). "They moved the studio to L.A., so I was left there looking around for what to do next," said Schwartz. "It was 1976, in Marin County, where dreams come true. We decided to build our own studio."
He continues, "Since a studio is never really fully operational because it is always being built, we had to find a repertoire of five or six other studios we could use. It kind of evolved that we went looking and developed a list of 110 studios, with specific capabilities of each. So we went to BAM magazine, then the dominant music publication in town. They agreed to publish our studio directory. Then other cities -- Nashville, L.A. -- said 'you gotta come here and do one of those!' It became 'Tech Tracks,' then 'Hot Zone.'"
All that led Schwartz and his associates to creating an awards show to recognize recording studio excellence of the ones who really went the extra mile for their musician clients. "The first one, in New York City, lasted seven hours," he remembers. Soon they decided to see if NAMM would do their awards. That evolved into the NAMM TECH AWARDS, in its 35th year when it happens as Saturday night's annual gala.
Schwartz recalls, "It represented a whole additional market for NAMM. Now we were able to focus before an invested industry audience, and we asked, 'what do we want to do, what does our audience want to do, what do we want to talk about?'"
That's been the premise for these annual awards ever since.
Lomano and Schwartz concluded with a preview of Sunday night's Tech Award recipient. It's JONI MITCHELL, and she will receive the coveted "Les Paul Award."
Schwartz is excited "Because she is so innovative, she changed the world, her musical sensitivities were like nothing ever heard before."
Lomano's final guest was musician JASON MRAZ, who recalled, "We had a piano at our house when we were kids. We could sing to it and feel its vibrations. I was fortunate to have a good public school music education program... starting in 2nd grade. By 5th grade you could connect to band or chorus... It was so important to me. That's why I advocate so strongly for music education in every public school."
Mraz's passion is well-known. He continued, "I spent Thursday with my nephew, telling him how to approach music and an instrument: "Don't just look at it. Really wail on it. See what it can do!"
When it comes to Mraz's central role advocating for a return to universal music education, he said, "We're trying to breathe life into the arts, [and] art, period."
Lomano replied, "You tell us stories where the presence of music education meant everything. You're able to try to change one person's life just because you were there."
Mraz replied, "We don't have a government that funds a lot of these programs. It comes from donors and entrepreneurs and inventors. It's like agriculture, like farming, it takes time and nurturing. And the harvest is our future customers and our future music makers."
|A future music-maker is going strong, even though mom and a friend are napping outside the exhibit halls|
at the end of the first day. Three more days to go at the enormous NAMM Show!
features in the works, and they'll
be along as we get them dressed,
shoes tied, cowlicks combed down,
bowties cranked straight,
and strings tuned.
Find a comfortable spot by the
wood stove, play a round or two
of checkers, and we'll be there...
in this new decade...
"Hee Haw" voice: "THAT's all!"