November 28, 2006


by Chris Randall

So we have a bit of a connundrum. I'll be attending NAMM this year, and I wanted to be wearing an Audio Damage badge instead of another company's, just as a point of pride. So, we go to join AD up with NAMM, and hit a brick wall of sorts.

See, it seems the National Association of Music Merchants is technically only open to retailers and the companies that sell to them. Since Audio Damage doesn't sell boxed copies to retail or a distributor (because, quite frankly, for a 1 meg plugin it's just a stupid waste of plastic and paper, sort of like a CD longbox, and it's, like, 2006 and stuff) we don't qualify for NAMM membership.

I spoke at length with the person nominally in charge of such things, and was told we could have a Provisional Membership, where we could join now, get the badges I want, and in six months they would check back in on us to see whether we were selling to retail or not. I assume this is to provide new companies with a way to hock their wares at the show.

Since I am, at heart, an honest person, I pointed out that (a) it was 2006, and there was no need for a company like ours to go to retail at all, and (b) it was unlikely that Bob's Country Banjo Shoppe was going to want or know what to do with our products, so we'd just be stuck with the mass-market retailers like Musician's Friend and Guitar Center, which we didn't have any interest in working with in the first place.

This was something of a surprise to the lady I was speaking with, I think. She just couldn't get her head around the idea that a company would be happy with selling less product if it meant not dealing with the Wal-Mart and Target of the music industry, respectively. Apparently, in this business, principle and making money are mutually exclusive.

In any case, fuck all that shit. I don't have the time or energy to try and get the board members of NAMM to understand that yes, we are Music Merchants, and no, we don't need a retail store to sell our shit. So I guess I have to go begging for a badge. Whee.



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Nov.28.2006 @ 9:58 PM
Chris Randall
I left out a lot of the conversation for dramatic purposes. She was actually somewhat understanding of our position. She suggested I write a letter to the board of directors of NAMM and detail our situation.

The one funny thing is that she repeatedly stated that it was "in the bylaws" that we had to sell to retail or distributors to be a part of NAMM. She couldn't understand why we wanted to attend if we didn't want to sell to retail or distributors. I was like "well, you've turned this trade show over the years in to the one place where everyone goes to see and talk about new shit. If that one place wasn't NAMM, but something else, I'd be talking to the person in charge of membership of that. So it's your own fault."

Aside from that, I can name about 30 companies off the top of my head that are members that only sell direct to customers, and don't do retail or distribution. One modular synth manufacturer in particular that we're all familiar with. So my question is thus: do those companies lie on their applications, or was my big mistake to inquire in the first place, thus bringing attention to myself?



Nov.28.2006 @ 10:24 PM
Adam Schabtach
This didn't particularly come as a surprise to me, given my observation of the activities at the NAMM shows I attended in the past. The raison d'etre is basically to let the owner of Sweetwater be escorted around and be shown stuff by the marketeers of larger companies. Everything else is sort of peripheral.

The other thing that's difficult for small companies is that you have to pay your dues for awhile before you get booth placement in a good location. If you happen to be new to the show, you get stuck in one of the basement halls, in between Chinese guitar makers and makers of replacement buttons for accordions. After you put up with that location for a few years, you get promoted to a hall more appropriate to your product (e.g. music software).

NAMM is not changing with the times, and that's no surprise. NAMM exists to serve the 20th-century model of retail: brick & motar stores, authorized dealers, regional representatives, etc. etc. When those layers between the manufacturer and the customer are suddenly removed by digital distribution--Audio Damage's sales mechanism as one example--NAMM no longer has a reason to exist. If anything, we actually threaten its existence because we demonstrate that distribution via Guitar Center, Sweetwater, et al are not essential to a 21st-century business's success.

Actually it's an interesting question re that modular synth company and some other NAMM attendees, including the one I used to work for. Let me make some inquiries.



Nov.28.2006 @ 11:13 PM
Oh, and downpressor... Recycled doesn't mean free. The very process of recycling paper takes energy to accomplish, and this energy typically generates Carbon emissions. I hate to nit-pick, but pointless is pointless, and wrapping 1.2MB of data in a plastic disc in a plastic case in a plastic wrapper in a recycled cardboard box (or any iteration thereof) is still unnecessarily invoking the second law of thermodynamics.

Just in case I didn't sound like a completely arrogant ass, hybrid cars aren't "good" for the environment either... just a little worse for the oil business.


Nov.29.2006 @ 12:08 AM
I don't know... maybe NAMM is trying to prevent every basement plugin developer using Synthedit from showing up, and the legit download only companies are collateral damage from their war on the busters.

However, from my point of view, the fact that NAMM is shrinking the pool of products that I would be able to see at NAMM, lowers the value of NAMM to me. If I were paying to attend NAMM (which I most certainly will not be), I would want to make sure that as many companies as possible were represented. I would rather deal with a few busters, than miss the opportunity to find out about good products, know what I mean?


Nov.29.2006 @ 1:14 AM
Fuck themain floor. Who wants to stand in a crowd to see dodgy blokes dressed up as pirates or an incredibly curvy harlot plugging comic books (she is the main character) and guitars? Haven't you seen Adrian Legg or Dick Dale & his poor kid enough? Most of the software presentations have the same corporatized sheen and are very borrrring.

Screw the upper levels. Who wants to attend boutique salons where embarrased-looking female artists shill for acoustic guitar companies? Why don't these people just hire the corporate guys you profiled on your website awhile ago? Oh well, at least you can stuff your face with licorice and candy; Yum!

The basement is where it's at! That's where most cool music originates from anyway. Where else could you meet krazy professor types who drive flaming VW buses and invent continuum Keyboards? Where else can you see volatile Canadian-Croatian guitar makers and picks made of some exotic space alloy? Or eastern european vacuum tube companies that look like KGB fronts? Personally, I think that's where all the synth stuff should be, because it's the most interesting floor of the show.


Nov.29.2006 @ 3:49 AM

Did you mean someone else? I dont know what you are talking about at all. I myself just wish they could make a vehicle that ran on distilled Al Gore, then he would be of some use to us all.


Its not that downloads replace retail, its just that its a vertical which retail oriented companies is still hesitant to embrace for obvious reasons. I'm all for the download/direct sales model myself, but I bet almost all of us here still go buy gear somewhere. As much as I'm no fan of big box discounters, they are a hell of alot easier for me to deal with than the small stores here in Japan which have shit selection and sky high prices. I'd just hope that trade shows do learn to accomodate both sales models someday. Oh and I'd like to go to a trade show someday too just to see what its like.


Nov.29.2006 @ 9:17 AM
The NAMM show exists for one reason: to connect manufacturers to retailers. The entire point is to collect purchase orders. It is that simple.

There are other peripheral reasons to attend, but this is kept in check by the fact that it isn't a public show. If you sell direct to the public, then ask yourself, why are you there?

Once you're in the door, just stick your business card in your badge holder.


Nov.29.2006 @ 11:18 AM
> The NAMM show exists for one reason: to connect manufacturers to
> retailers. The entire point is to collect purchase orders. It is that
> simple.

Given that NAMM's stated mission is "unifying, leading and strengthening the global music products industry and increasing active participation in music making" one would think that at least a partial part of the NAMM show would be connecting manufacturers to other manufacturers, not just to retailers. Which is something that would benefit companies like AD, as in b2b transactions, for example bundling plugins with major hardware/software products.


Nov.29.2006 @ 1:44 PM
now that DUENDE is pc also .. when will yours arrive ?

Nov.29.2006 @ 2:17 PM
Chris Randall
My NAMM problems are solved for the nonce. I just got off the phone with Glen from Avant Electronics, and they have agreed to give me a badge. So, thanks to Ken, Sue, and Glen once again.



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