Acoustic NAMM 2009

By Larry Rosenberg

Exclusive to Folkworks

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On January 15 - 18, 2009, the annual winter NAMM Show was presented to the music industry for 2009 at the Anaheim Convention Center. NAMM stands for "The National Association of Music Merchants" and each year it hosts by far the largest trade shows in the music industry.

There are two NAMM trade shows each year, a winter show in Anaheim, California, and a summer show in Nashville, Tennessee. The upcoming dates for 2009-10, are July 17-19, 2009, in Nashville, and January 14-17, 2010, in Anaheim, but before you mark your calendars, know that NAMM shows are not open to the public. These giant events are trade shows designed to put wholesalers and retailers in touch with each other and to otherwise advance the business of music through a variety of promotional activities and educational programs. The fact that the shows also preview much of what is new in the industry and house fantastic exhibits by industry leaders and future leaders, some of which feature non-stop musical entertainment, makes attending NAMM all the more enjoyable for music insiders or anyone else lucky enough to experience the event.

NAMM does allow access to the press and I attended on Sunday, January 18th, 2009, as a media representative, to see the show and to write this review of my experience as an exclusive to Folkworks. When I entered The NAMM Show main building at the Anaheim Convention Center, I was reminded of what I often tell first-time visitors to that other attraction in Anaheim. "Don't try to see it all in one day," is my usual warning to those who think that they can experience everything in Disneyland at once. It is not possible at NAMM, either. There is so much going on, and so much going on at the same time, that it would take many days, and a crew of several reporters, to chronicle all of it. So, with that caveat, I will tell you that acoustic and folk music are alive and well in the music industry with high hopes for 2009 and beyond.

I visited the booths of some of the major acoustic instrument makers to chat with them about what is new with them and with the industry. I was pleased to learn that no one is resting on their laurels and all of them have projects underway to enhance our enjoyment of, and participation in, the music we love.

Deering Banjo Company is continuing its efforts to produce even more models of affordable Goodtime Banjos, with the most immediate project being a somewhat shorter scale banjo which, while still capable of being tuned to "open G," (especially popular with bluegrass fans), is suitable for children and those adults who want a smaller banjo, perhaps for playing while sitting on the couch with a close friend. As a serious banjo with an appeal to younger people, this should soon be a popular choice for youngsters interested in playing the banjo, and their parents looking to help them with their musical adventures. Carolina Bridges of Deering said they will be donating one of these banjos to The Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, Inc.,  at the Paramount Movie Ranch, for inclusion in the prize drawing. Topanga will be holding on the day of the 49th Festival, Sunday, May 17th, 2009. Since one of my other hats is of a member of the board of directors of the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, let me encourage you to attend that event. Topanga is open to the public and you can see the new banjo, and other contributions there, and have a wonderful time with all-day acoustic music and related folk events. Tickets for this year are still inexpensive and now available online at www.topangabanjofiddle.org.

I also chatted with professional old-time banjo player and instructor Bob Carlin, who was appearing at the Gold Tone exhibit. In addition to their other instruments, I saw Gold Tone's almost complete line of "banjo related" and "mandolin related" stringed instruments. As a banjo player, and a newly aspiring mandolin player, I appreciate that Gold Tone has produced a line of "bass banjos" which, while being played just like banjos or mandolins, are deeper in tone, including a cello banjo now being made popular by Marci Marxer, and others who play on the folk and old-time circuit. I would expect to find some of these hybrid instruments at an Old-Time Jam or Song Circle near you soon. Gold Tone also has now two new models of the Bob Carlin 12" pot banjo, one fancier, and more expensive, than the original, one not as fancy or expensive.

C.F. Martin Guitar Company again had an impressive display of their guitars in all styles and prices, including one listed at $130,000. I also play some guitar and I have long appreciated C.F. Martin as a provider of some of the finest acoustic guitars. I must disclose that I do own a couple of "Martins," which I like very much, although they are not expensive models; but it was the beauty of the overall exhibit that attracted my attention. Taylor, Santa Cruz, Gibson, Fender, and so many other major and minor guitar companies were also represented and this is probably as good a time as any to ask forgiveness for any merchant I have left out of this review. As I have said, there was simply not enough time to spend with everyone, and, no doubt, I have unintentionally, or intentionally due to time and space limitations, omitted some with whom I did spend time. But, the alternative would be to not mention anyone and that would not be as useful to the reader as these partial listings might be.

There is virtually non-stop entertainment at The NAMM Show. This, of course, is no surprise at the music industry's premier trade event. However, that musicians abound at NAMM may not be a surprise but, NAMM President, Joe Lamond, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times last week as stating that 82% of the folks who don't play music, wish they did. That all makes for a uniquely lively and exciting mix of music performances and music appreciation at The NAMM Show. On the Sunday I attended, I was wowed by "Raining Jane," an "all lady" group originally from UCLA, who preformed original folk rock on the Fender Stage, and "The Prayze Connection," on the Roland Stage, who conducted as powerful a Sunday gospel jam as one might ever see or hear.

NAMM has an education campaign called "Wanna Play?" designed to raise awareness of NAMM Members and to inform the public of the benefits of playing music and the many opportunities to become music makers. There was a promotional button available at the show which says, "I play for myself," that I found to be appropriate for my own musical performance level, but, that is the point, there is something for everyone in making music, if not the NAMM Show itself. I encourage readers of Folkworks to visit the NAMM web site at www.NAMM.org at to see photos of these events and to learn more about NAMM as an organization, and about the NAMM Shows.

I am already looking forward to my assignment to cover NAMM 2010. If you have any comments or questions about this review, or anything you might want me to look into at next year's show, you may contact me via email at: larry@banjodogs.com.

So, how big was The NAMM Show 2009? My answer is, "As big as music!" And, that's big.

 


Larry Rosenberg is an attorney at law and editor at large in Van Nuys, California. -- Larry Rosenberg Prize Coordinator Board of Directors 49th Annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest Join Us Sunday, May 17th, 2009 Paramount Movie Ranch Agoura Hills, California

Visit our web site at: www.topangabanjofiddle.org