I know many of you are making the trip down to NAMM this weekend, and for many of you APU students, it will be your first trip. You should know that NAMM is a vapid, soulless wretch of a trade show, carefully designed to make you feel alone in the world and bereft of value, not unlike the Amsterdam redlight district. It’s also the biggest music nerd field trip of the year, so enjoy!
To help you navigate the treacherous waters of the trade show, here are a few guidelines.
WHAT TO WEAR
Don’t wear swag. Just don’t do it. Unless you’re getting paid to be there, and the company you’re repp-ing insists, don’t drag out that awesome Pearl Drums shirt to shown everyone that you’re a drummer. Everyone there is a drummer.
The only exceptions to this rule are faded Fender swag (Fender has reached a level of awesome that transcends all rules) and vintage swag (if you have an emagic logo cap from the late 1980’s, do it!).
Everyone else, there are three NAMM outfits.
1) Black t-shirt, jeans, TOMS shoes. This is the standard outfit for anyone under 30 who has no reason to be there, but bribed their local music store for extra passes.
2) Rockstar casual, dark sunglasses. This outfit will be worn by people you recognize from their one hit 10 years ago, who are there to play on small stages in front of banners promoting the instruments they are shilling, while they try desperately to figure out what catastrophic career decisions led them to this point.
3) Polo, khakis, dirty tennis shoes. These are the people who actually make the gear and write the software.
Nobody there cares who you are or what you do. Don’t let that stop you from passing out your demo and card to everyone wearing outfit #2 or #3. If you’re looking for an endorsement deal, by all means, bring your Grammy with you.
SWAG VS. GEAR
If it’s on a table in a bowl, it’s swag.
If it’s on a table and bolted down, it’s gear.
If it’s being handed to you, it’s swag.
If it’s being handed to you and it’s plugged in, it’s gear.
If it’s edible, it’s swag.
If it’s wearable, it’s swag.
If it’s stickable, it’s swag.
If it’s edible, wearable, and stickable, it’s probably some new bread-based modeling guitar from Line 6. It’s gear.
If it’s swag, take it.
If it’s gear … take it. Just don’t get caught. If you do get caught, see the section below titled “EYE CONTACT”.
If you are handed an instrument to play at any point during the show, please show taste and musical discretion. Ask yourself this question, “Is there perhaps some way I can test the expressive tone of this new guitar string polish without resorting to an Yngwie Malmsteen solo?”
THE BACK ROOMS
Everything interesting at NAMM happens in back rooms that you are not allowed to enter, and that you probably can’t even find. This thought will haunt you throughout the entire show.
If you are wandering through the exhibit halls and you happen to see someone who looks like your music tech prof, wait patiently for him to make eye contact, and then respond with a subtle head nod of recognition. Then, do not go over and interrupt him because, dude, we’re not gonna hang out.
When the shows shuts down for the night, the sickest players on earth pack into the clubs and theaters surrounding the convention, and music gets made. This is where you want to be. Do anything, anything you can to get into these shows. Bribe the Yamaha drum guys to find out where the superband session is happening, sneak in to the club through the kitchen, stand against the back wall the whole time if you have to. You will hear things that you didn’t think humans could do. It will be staggering. Thank me later.
These are the rules. Enjoy NAMM.