A Musician’s Survival Guide to this Music Extravaganza by Jennifer Corday

Right after the new year, musicians get that tingly excitement of anticipation, almost like it’s X-mas all over again- January is here and that means NAAAAMMMMM! OK NAMM which stand for National Association of Music Merchants and it’s the biggest trade show in the world. Founded in 1901, NAMM has a mission to “strengthen the music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music.” We love to go and sometimes we don’t even have any reason to go-- we just want to walk around with a zillion other weirdos like us and feel like we aren’t crazy for pursuing a life of late nights in bars, endless new learning curves presented by technology, and never quite enough fame or money. Or gear. But that doesn’t matter. We love it. We live it. We breathe it. We are all one big strange family and we make the world sing.

Here's a run-down of my experience at NAMM, and some tips for my fellow musicians on how to make the most of your NAMM experience!

-First of all, try to wake up before noon. This is no time to sleep in, or even plan anything else the entire weekend. This is an athletic event and you need to be fresh. Also, pace yourself. Don’t shoot your wad on Thursday, it’s a four-day event!

-Wear something crazy. I mean super crazy. And not black if you want to stand out. 90% of the rocker dude attendees will be in black. You can try, if you’re Goth or a Metalhead I get it, black is your thing, but at least bling it out. Color your hair. Wear shades. Be interesting. But for Godsake wear comfortable shoes. 

-Uber/Lyft instead of driving! If you’re within a $50 ride from home or your hotel, it could be worth it, and not much more than parking, especially if you split it with a friend. You get dropped off and walk right in. Otherwise, give yourself an hour to park, and it will cost $40 to park a few blocks away.

-You’re in for another wait to register and get your badge, but see if you can avoid the long lines and ask for other points of registration, often spread throughout the property. Better yet, print your badge from home!

-Now that you’re in, get a map. And the App. Get a cup of coffee and make a game plan. You’re about to go into battle. I never really succeeded at this part, but every year I try. If you’re super OCD and have the time beforehand, you will have looked at the list of exhibitors and live performances and starred everything you want to see, located them on the map, and made a strategic route for walking each day so that you hit every booth, in progression as you work through each Hall. But this never happens. You will inevitably get side-tracked, run into friends, pulled in a new direction, or just get plain-old lost. That’s OK, just get back on course as best you can and be willing to skip some things. You have four days after all. 

-Don’t do an edible before entering the Show Rooms. It might be fun for a while but you will get lost, lose track or time, and forget things.

-Go solo. I highly recommend walking the trade show solo, (or with a girlfriend or boyfriend who’s glued to the hip) so you can accomplish what you need to and make one-on-one connections with dealers, exhibitors, other artists. Unless you are in a true band and y’all have a “look,” in which case, stick together, make a presence and put your band name on your jacket. If you are with friends, definitely meet up for lunch or dinner, and to watch live music and party in the lobby, but walking the tradeshow will be as frustrating as herding cats, unless you have them on a leash. Shiny object syndrome will pull people in a myriad of directions. When you’re solo you can go with the flow, attend workshops on a whim, ask questions about software, or hardware, and try to actually learn something. Play with knobs. Touch everything. Play everything. Think, “How can use this?” And if you can’t, move on!

-Go on Thursday and Sunday. But Friday and Saturday are super fun too. Thursday does have the downfall of long lines for registration, since this is the first big day and everyone is registering. However, you will get a jump start on the lay of the land and get to talk to exhibitors while they are fresh. You can set up appointments for later, and be able to plan out the rest of the weekend. Friday ramps up and Saturday kicks into high gear and attendance is at a maximum. If you are there to party, this is the time. Once the trade show closes, everyone meets in the hotel lobbies where you can catch amazing live performance from some top-notch talent. The hotel bars are flowing so there is no shortage of alcohol and if you look hot, guys might buy you beers. You should buy other people drinks too—it’s a good way to network. There are also two outdoor NAMM stages this year and a slew of food trucks so there is no need to leave the property for food.

-Bring money. Credit cards work, but cold hard cash can be handy—especially on Sunday which is the day to BUY! Most of the exhibitors do not want to take everything back home, on a plane. I bought a carbon-fiber cello case last year, which would take up an entire airplane seat. So it’s a good time to ask for a deal, and where your cash might come in handy. Small items also, like guitar straps, capos, and drum sticks might also be an easy grab on your way out Sunday! But don’t feel pressured to buy anything—the important thing is to make relationships. Artist endorsements are hard to come by these days but it’s worth asking. Many small companies are struggling to make ends meet themselves and large companies can be tough to break into when they are already endorsing multi-platinum Grammy-award-winning artists. Still, if you are a great player and you are playing out a lot (two important things they want to know), this is the time to ask. Don’t just ask for “free stuff” and never ask for free stuff that you don’t actually like or would use. Have integrity and talk about how much you love the product, and then ask if they would consider artist accommodation pricing. And if nothing happens, be kind and be patient. It took me years to get in with D’Addario, but I was persistent. They are the only strings I will play.

-Go with the flow, make friends and have a good time! It’s tempting to pressure yourself to see everything and do everything but you will undoubtedly fall short because it is quite simply impossible to be everywhere at once. I accidentally stumbled on the outdoor drum circle Friday night, which was super cool—hundreds of drummers banging out a rhythm together, led by a long-haired drum master who brought in a surprise performer on the didgeridoo. Don’t get buried in your phone, or run in circles looking for celebrities when you are missing moments to actually connect with regular people, and real musicians, possibly standing right next to you. You never know when you might meet your new sax player! I think I met mine in the Hilton lobby! Rock on fellow weirdos!

Jennifer Corday

Corday is a full-time musician; singer-songwriter-guitarist and cellist, known as “the lesbian voice of So-Cal,” performing regularly throughout OC and LB, and throughout the US and internationally at festivals, events and cruises. Catch her February on the Celebrity X Vacaya Gay Cruise, at Desert Legends in Palm Springs as headliner at this legendary Women’s Weekend and September in Greece performing at the International Eressos Women’s Festival 

Corday is endorsed by and uses: Taylor Guitars, D’Addario Srings, SKB Cases, Quilter Amps, QSC Speakers, Ohana Ukuleles. She uses and recommends OnSong and AirTurn for managing music on the IPAD. She uses the Apollo Twin interface and Logic Pro for recording and is in the market for a new studio mic- what does everyone think of the Dachman 87i?