NAMM – What’s New in the Business of Making Music

Anaheim recently was the epicenter for folks involved in making music. Whether instrument makers, instructors, players or fans, the annual National Association of Music Merchants was a hotbed of innovation and product launches.

The event included 400 educational sessions, with 115,301 registered industry professionals and over 2000 exhibiting companies. Participants came from around the globe (there was a 14% increase of international attendees). Also present were representatives from The NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students), Music Education Day (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and affiliates) participants.

Here are some of the highlights.

Perhaps most notably, Gibson reasserted its position as one of the most iconic manufacturers of guitars. “The pre-eminent American-made instrument brand revitalized, re-envisioned, and recharged its core mission, paying homage to its storied history as it embraced the next vanguard of musicians independent of generation, gender and genre.” The company’s 125 year history was reflected in an amazing collection of guitars, where players could pick up their guitar of choice in the GIBSONroom and plug in, put on headphones and sit down to play. One of the company’s new guitars, the Les Paul Standard 50s guitar went on to win “Best Electric Guitar of NAMM.” The company had a who’s who of performers, each testifying via the fretboard of their allegiance to the brand. The list of once and future stars included Nancy Wilson of Heart, Robby Krieger of The Doors, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Lee Roy Parnell, Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch, Brian Ray (Paul McCartney), Brendon Small of Metalocalypse and Dethklok, Chris Traynor of Bush and Helmet, Billy Howerdell of A Perfect Circle, Michael Clifford of 5 Seconds of Summer, Lari Basilio, Vivian Campell of Def Leppard, Cam, Emily Wolfe, Frank Hannon, Toby Lee, Striking Matches, Luis Maldonado of Train, Trini Lopez, Michelle Arseneau, Gina Chavez, GianMarco, Austin Sexton, Brooklyn Allman, Spindrift, Leo James Conroy, Monica Valli, Carly Jo Jackson among others.

Nancy Wilson was presented with the Music for Life award, an honor annually given to a musician whose body of work and legacy has inspired music makers. In her interview with Lamond, Wilson spoke of her early inspiration: “As a kid, when The Beatles happened, it was a lightning bolt that struck us, and we were driven to have guitars, to write songs, to be in a band and get up on stage and to just turn it up. We had the work ethic of go get ’em and to not take no. We just went and did it.” Wilson also fondly remembered her childhood music store and the staff who made her feel welcomed and encouraged her: “There was a little music store I could walk to Band Stand East near Seattle, it was a mom and pop. They had really good guitars, and I got to hang around and play them.”

Always with an eye on the future, seminars and speakers covered topics like blockchain, advanced audio applications and new music technologies. The complexity of Google was examined in one session. Pro production, stage lighting and effects were also on offer. Indeed, event technology is becoming a growing sector.

Billy Gibbons and Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton was recognized with the Les Paul Innovation Award, an honor which is given to individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology in the spirit of the famed audio pioneer, inventor, and musician, Les Paul. Prior honorees include Jackson Browne, Joe Perry, Don Was, Slash and Todd Rundgren.

Speaking of guitars, venerated builder Washburn launched the new Heritage Elite HD80 model to its lineup. “The Washburn D10S was the #1 selling acoustic guitar in the world for many, many years,” Washburn Vice President & General Manager Gil Soucy. “This iconic strummer’s guitar is the foundation for the entire Heritage Series of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars.”

Each year NAMM pushes the edge of the envelope, and 2019 was no exception.





Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.