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Finally Found a Home

by George Petersen • in
  • Editor's Note
  • February 2019
• Created: February 12, 2019

I’m a traditionalist. Yeah, one of those guys who wistfully recalls the old days, like the personal touch of those good ol’ NSCA shows or the intimacy of the New York AES shows back when they were held at the New York Hilton. The vibe was different then as well.

The exhibit floor of the AES reflected all aspects of the industry, including displays of live sound speakers, and even the clattering banks of cassette duplication loaders, record mastering gear and eventually the arrival of CD replication equipment — all alongside the usual microphones, preamps, consoles, tape machines and racks of signal processing of every persuasion. Besides a limited number of larger spaces showing off speakers, the hotel’s fourth and fifth floor rooms were allocated as individual demo rooms, making for some comfortable, personal spaces to show off gear and actually have a conversation in a (mostly) quiet environment.

NSCA had its own personality — back in its pre-InfoComm merger era, it was a tabletop show, where every exhibitor was limited to a 10×10-foot booth space with an 8-foot table, and unless you were against an outer wall, no part of your booth space could be taller than 54 inches in height. Of course, if you wanted to rock out, you had to rent an additional space for a demo room, but overall, the show had a small, hometown kind of aura that was a perfect complement to the sound reinforcement industry. Besides, it was “our” show that reflected “our” business, without visual or spatial competition from video walls, digital displays and other distractions from audio.

‡‡         Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Back in the 19th Century, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli was attributed to have said: “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” And that same philosophy applies both today and for the future. The NAMM show is a good example of that. Once mostly a massive summer show held in the Midwest to spotlight new band instruments right in time for music dealers to order inventory to cover the annual surge of sales and rentals of trumpets, clarinets, oboes, marching drums, etc. for the fall school season, NAMM eventually evolved with the times and became a West Coast show driven by the increasing interest in rock music. Electronic keyboards, drumsets, electric guitars/basses and amps were the thing, and that continues to this day.

Along the way, NAMM also helped drive the home/project studio revolution, and more recently, the organization’s big winter show has embraced the entire pro audio community, offering educational programs with NARAS, AES, ESTA, TEC Tracks, Audinate (Dante training), PLASA, Pro Production at NAMM Live (sponsored by PLSN and FRONT of HOUSE), the TECnology Hall of Fame and more. Additionally, providing a home base for major industry events — including the TEC Awards and the Parnelli Awards — also helped lift NAMM into must-attend destination status for audio production and event pros.

Of course, there are some NAMM side effects that can cause one to either shake one’s head or enjoy (depending on your viewpoint). These include the nonstop 130 dB droning of overamped bands in the Hilton lobby, or certain attendees who feel the need to test snare drums in Hall D or play their own version of “Smoke on the Water” (turned up to 11) in the guitar halls for eight hours straight. Thankfully, things were far saner in the new North Hall that houses two floors of pro audio, where ironically — despite being surround by sound gear — attendees could actually have business conversations without having to shout.

‡‡         Timing is Everything

Another clear advantage that NAMM offers has to do with timing. For one, it is nice to have a shirtsleeve destination event in the middle of winter, but in terms of the live event industry, having a January tradeshow makes a lot of sense. First of all, coming after the holidays and before the touring and festivals kick off, January marks the slow season for sound companies — a perfect time to plan for the year ahead and check out some new gear. Speaking of timing, January is also the month when churches are planning system upgrades (audio and video) before the busy Lenten and Easter seasons — traditionally a time of high attendance — so any new gear debuts at NAMM are right on time for that market.

It seems that the sound reinforcement industry might have finally found a home in perhaps the unlikeliest of places — the NAMM Show. Is it perfect? Not quite — given the crowds, the traffic, parking and hotel availability situation can get somewhat randy. Yet other than that, it’s a close-to-ideal locale that sound and event pros can call home, especially when you’re talking business while sitting by the pool at the Marriott, something that probably won’t happen in Buffalo.

For George Petersen’s video introduction to the Feb. 2019 issue, go to:

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