Day One: Descending On Anaheim [NAMM 2013]

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By Andy Patrizio

ANAHEIM, Calif. – If it’s late January in Anaheim, that means one thing: the North American Music Merchant’s (NAMM) convention turning the area around Disneyland into an even bigger madhouse. NAMM is for musicians what CES is for consumer electronics junkies; just a lot more hair and tattoos. More than 90,000 people will descend on this modestly-sized convention center best suited to hold about 10,000 max.

NAMM has run continuously since 1901, making it one of the oldest trade shows in the country. For the last 35 years it has come to Anaheim and has clearly outgrown the modest convention center, but NAMM is reluctant to leave.

“The city and hotels are great partners. Some people bring their families and go to Disneyworld next door, the hotels are very accommodating,” said Lora Bodmer, a spokesperson for the NAMM group.

The show is nothing short of a madhouse, with show floor space extending all the way up to the third floor of the build in rooms normally used for conferences and meetings. Security is tighter than any tech show I have attended. You have to show your badge and a photo ID to get in and your bags are checked when you leave the show floor.

And why not? There are millions of dollars in gear in this place, everything from limited edition 8-string guitars (yes, eight) to rare violins to drum kits worth as much as a house. All in all, the goods on display here are as valuable, if not moreso, than at CES.

While CES was once a show about TVs and home audio and video that was more or less taken over by the computing industry following the demise of Comdex, NAMM is a show where computing has crept in thanks to the increasing use and dependence by musicians on technology.

Where once a band or artist would need to rent studio time, which can run up to $10,000 an hour, the advances in technology now make it possible to turn your MacBook Pro into a recording studio.

“You can’t separate technology from music at this point and it’s opening up the ability for more people to get started playing music,” said Bodmer. “We did a survey with Harris Poll and found one in four young people ages 8 to 21 are learning to play music in large part thanks to the accessibility technology brings. They are using YouTube and apps and websites to get started.”

And Apple to take them to the next step. This show is as Apple-oriented as MacWorld, with a whole pavilion of Mac and iPad apps for musicians, and a separate one for the DJs who use them. Why have musicians embraced Apple? Because Apple embraced them with sound processing applications like Pro Tools and DJ apps. Apple wooed the musician market in a way the PC side never did in any organized way, and it shows.

So, stay tuned for some of what we’ve seen.

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