By: Park Butterworth
Like many musicians, artists and gear junkies, going to NAMM has been on my bucket list for a long time. Every year I watch the videos that flood YouTube with all the new music gear that gets introduced at the NAMM shows. Everything from effects pedals and new guitar models, to innovative percussion instruments and microphones.
There is no shortage of new gear to get your hands on each year. What I didn’t realize I would get to experience at NAMM was all of the great “NAMM U” sessions. These are 30-minute learning intensives taught by companies from all around the country. During these sessions, I learned a variety of skills to help me excel in the industry. I learned how to leverage social media for artist/store promotion, the current state of the music business, and how to inject music back into our community through local businesses like Mason Music. Whether you are in the business or just have a passion for your instrument, everyone has an opportunity to learn something at these sessions.
In between these sessions was the best time to hit the show floor and see what’s new for 2017! Let me just say, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I’ve always been a Fender fan. I got to play their American Professional Series guitars, as well as some of their new Vintage Offset Reissues. I found myself partial to the Shell Pink Mustang (pictured).
Creation is dropping a brand new line of boutique amps this year that look, sound and play like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I know the picture doesn’t do it justice, but just wait. When these amps come out, you’ll want to be first in line!
Some other companies that I was really impressed by were Walrus Audio, Remo’s Rhythm Lid, and TheoryWheel.
Walrus Audio is another effects pedal company that has grown from a cult following to a strong competitor in the pedal industry. They have a large presence online and are enjoyed by artists from around the globe. If there is a unique sound you are looking to create, Walrus Audio’s effects pedals will be able to do the trick. I would love to see these pedals on Mason Music’s shelves in the future.
Remo’s Rhythm Lid is an acoustic drum “lid” that is designed to fit on top of most regular sized buckets/pails. The guys at Remo have created a sealed acoustic drum head that turns any old bucket into a working drum! I was stunned to see and hear how well this system worked. Don’t underestimate this incredible innovation.
TheoryWheel turned out to be a fantastic accident. On the way out of NAMM the last day, our team stopped by a booth that was displaying this unique-looking colored wheel. We struck up a conversation with the owner and creator who designed this device to help teach students music theory in an interactive, memorable way. I had seen similar products to this in the past, but nothing that isolated “bite sized” pieces of music theory like the TheoryWheel. Most other options try to serve you the entire 5-course dinner. After a few minutes of conversation, their owner gave us a few to bring back to Birmingham and try.
And that’s what leads me to my last point: the people. We all go for the gear, but stay for the relationships. NAMM isn’t just an opportunity to play the best and brightest instruments; it’s a chance to build friendships with like-minded people in the industry. Twice a year, we all get up from our desks and travel to NAMM to share our passion for music with each other, and help each other share that passion within our community.
Let me wrap this up with my favorite example of these relationships. I love Reverend Guitars, I’ll be the first to say it. Impeccable quality instruments with an innovative design, original pickups, all packaged at an affordable price. I’ve owned my Limited Edition Reverend Charger 290 (pictured) for a few years now. When this model came out in 2015, they were shipped with a special case and a limited edition strap made by a brand called Souldier. Since I found my Reverend at a used instrument store, it didn’t have the Souldier strap with it.
While we were at NAMM, I saw the Souldier Strap booth and decided to stop by and ask about my missing strap. I got to meet Jen, the owner, and she showed me exactly which design I was looking for. About that time, the CEO of Reverend Guitars, Ken Haas, walked up and gave Jen a hug and said hello. He and I got to chat for a few minutes and I explained my story about the missing strap to him. He immediately pointed to the design of the strap and told me the exact serial number of the specific one I was looking for! We shook hands and he went on back to the Reverend booth. I had hoped to meet Ken on this trip since I knew this was a special year for Reverend. 2017 is Reverend’s 20th Anniversary! They even released some anniversary models, only available this year. After Ken left the booth, our Mason Music team stayed to chat with Jen and we actually bought some straps to bring back to Birmingham with us. They’re now available in our studios and are truly one of a kind!
The NAMM show certainly exceeded my expectations. I left NAMM excited and refreshed. I am excited for all the new products that will be out this year and I am refreshed to be a part of an industry that values relationships and community. Rock on!
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