ANAHEIM — From January 21 to January 24, UCSD students and alumni visited with 100,000 other attendees the 2016 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center. Now over a century old, NAMM—the National Association of Music Merchants—is a nonprofit organization whose objective is to buoy the music products industry and spread on a global scale the art of performing and composing music. Every year in winter, NAMM hosts The NAMM Show as a way of promoting music education, showcasing some of the latest music technologies available on the market, providing attendees with the ability to network for jobs, and giving talks on how to succeed in the music industry.
While The NAMM Show is a trade-only event closed to the public that is designed for music retailers, retail affiliates, commercial/commercial affiliates, manufacturer representatives, and service providers; nonmembers can attend the event through a number of NAMM’s programs. One such program offered this year was the Generation Next program, which brings to the convention music students about to enter the music industry and higher education-level music staff.
“…when I looked it up on the Internet and saw that they had the show and that students could go too, I wanted to go to see what it was all about,” said fourth year ICAM Music Major / Business Minor Nicolette Valicenti. She went on to explain her expectations of The NAMM Show. “I thought maybe it’d be just software and hardware, but they had a lot of different instruments and just music products in general…”
For UCSD Alumnus Benjie Genchel, who graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a Minor in Mathematics, his interest was combining his work with music technology. “Though majoring in engineering, I have always been interested in ways that I could integrate art into my practice, and so I was considering music technology. It seemed like NAMM would be a really great way to see what professionals in that field were actually working on.”
Some products that were showcased in exhibits included Aerodrum’s virtual reality drum set for Oculus Rift, IK Multimedia’s iRig Acoustic (a mobile microphone/interface for acoustic guitars), as well as HAPI Tones’s HAPI Drum, and the dualo du-touch.
In addition to showcasing their products, many participating companies also gave away free merchandise on the show floor and in raffles. Jake Tan Espinueva, a fourth year ICAM Music Major, won Waves Gold—an assemblage of audio plugins worth $799—for free.
Espinueva and other UCSD students and alumni also attended a number of classes and panels. “I’m about to graduate, and I wanted to get more of a feel for the music technology industry and the music industry itself,” said Espinueva.
The educational panels offered gave visitors a chance to find opportunities and trends rising within the music industry. Valicenti noted a panel run by Record Producer, Songwriter, and Composer Joe Solo.
“He was pretty much talking about how to produce your music or just getting your music heard by a producer.” Valicenti stated, “…he said, ‘Music producers—they don’t fix things. They find things.’ So I thought that was really impactful. That pretty much as an artist, you know, your material is there and you’re not…going to improve poor material if you go throughout the production. But you wanna take the best parts of it [the piece] and emphasize it or find ways to compliment it. So that’s pretty cool.”
Other panels had appearances from baseball player Bernie Williams, singer-guitarist Annie Clark from St. Vincent, and guitarist Jennifer Batten, who in the past performed with Michael Jackson. All provided insight on the music industry from the standpoint of a performer, a woman in music, or a music student.
In addition to appearing in panels, there were a number of respected musicians walking around on the show floor. Genchel recalled his encounter with a jazz pianist. “I saw this pianist playing; he didn’t know I was watching… After he finished playing, I clapped, and he noticed. I told him that I really enjoyed his playing, and he thanked me and was generally really nice. It turned out he was the pianist for a lot of notable entertainers, like Snoop Dogg and Dave Chappelle. He gave me advice on how to get better [at music], and we had a nice conversation about his time at the conference.”
Many attendees of Generation Next left The NAMM Show with the feeling of both security and fear for the future. With a newfound array of knowledge, these music students about to enter the workforce look for ways to network themselves.
The NAMM Show provides for many music students a source of security for the future by showing what types of jobs are trending and allowing older musicians to provide for the young guidance through explanation of their career path.
Valicenti explained, “You know, I think that’s kind of…a preconceived notion, that, oh in music there aren’t that many opportunities to succeed, but when going to NAMM, I saw that there’s just so many people, so many opportunities to find a career in music… It was a lot of information, but I left feeling really almost more secure in myself because I feel like there’s just so many options out there.”
Still, The NAMM Show demonstrates how music is a competitive field to enter for a variety of reasons.
“Like I really want to work at a recording industry or a recording studio and get better at mixing and mastering music, but that’s like almost everyone in my generation that really loves music. So I learned that it’s extremely competitive, and it’s very scary and daunting,” said Espinueva.
He also noted how the music industry is based around “westernized” culture. “…it’s very daunting for me as an Asian person to come into these kinds of places [The NAMM Show], and that might be because of my personal experiences…”
The NAMM Show does indeed provide a number of educational opportunities for attendees to learn about the music industry, and NAMM has made efforts to expand the diversity of their panels. That said, NAMM has a long way to go in terms of providing a more inclusive environment for all attendees. I look forward to returning next year to see how NAMM moves forward in terms of inclusivity, in addition to ingenuities in the music products industry.