Happenings of NAMM 2023
Updated: Apr 22
The playground of the music industry.
NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is like the music industrys' Disneyland (for me). Some may think of it as a yearly chore and merely a work thing. However, I look forward to it every year!
This year NAMM took place April 13-15 at the normal location, Anaheim Convention Center. It usually happens in January but with the pandemic, NAMM got a tad displaced - last year it happened in June. It's rumored to go back to the normal January dates in 2024. I've been attending NAMM for many years now, and every NAMM presents different and unexpected joys. Whether it's seeing a new musical act that blows me away or seeing giants like Stevie Wonder roam the halls checking out new gear. This NAMM had bits of it all.
On Thursday the first treat I got was seeing Ron Artis play with his lovely 7 year old daughter Ida. They were simply adorable together. They sang a tune together onstage and Ida was positively beautiful! Afterwards I chatted with Rons wife Julia, and mother of his five children - Ida being the eldest. The baby, and newest member of the Artis clan is Ron Artis the 3rd. Their only boy in the five, (pictured below). Ron is one of my favourite contemporary artists. The first time I saw him play was on a NAMM stage a few years ago, and I've seen him perform several times since. He's always good, and he and daughter Ida helped begin my NAMM 2023 weekend with a smile and brought joy to my heart.
NAMM is usually Thursday through Sunday but this year the final day was Saturday. What that did is it kinda made everything be pushed up a day. The nights of live music at both the Marriott and Hilton lobbies happened on Thursday and Friday nights and by Saturday night the stages were dismantled and the lobbies were uncharacteristically quiet.
This year I got to witness and capture Stevie Wonder trying out a new keyboards. It was about fifteen minutes of what I can only term as a vibe of 'godliness'. Stevie Wonder has been at every NAMM I've attended. One can always see Stevie coming because he travels with an entourage surrounding him. Add to his personal security all the people following him to get a glimpse of the musical genius and Stevie can always be noticed when he appears in the halls at NAMM. Last year he was at the Roland booth trying out a drum kit. This year I saw him mostly at the keyboard booths. He attended both Friday and Saturday. On Friday I was permitted by his security to stand next to him at the keyboard to capture him thru my lens. Saturday was even crazier than the Friday entourage and after a few minutes I opted out of the chaotic Stevie Wonder cluster fuck.
Roaming the aisles this year I noticed there were more young kids playing the drums than I had ever seen at previous shows. Also some of the biggest vendors were absent. I didn't see Fender, Gibson or Orange. Perhaps they'll be back in January. Also there are several NAMM friends I see every year from Australia and the UK that also didn't come in because they were expecting the turnout to be much lower than normal. So I made lots of new friends this year. NAMM even has its very own twelve step meeting on campus. As you can imagine life in the music biz can be a challenge for recovering addicts, so these meetings can provide a real sense of comfort to those who may be needing a meeting. The NAMM show has it all!
My favorite annual NAMM event is the drum circle. Sponsored by REMO, the drum circle is held outside, between the Convention Center and The Hilton. The drum circle is usually one hour in duration but this year it was two whole hours! Sooooo much fun! In fact I would drive down to LA simply for the Drum circle! The annual NAMM drum circle is an event that attracts between 300-500 people all drumming together lead by Arthur Hull. (Shown below). All hand drums, djembes, bongos, cowbells and any hand percussion instrument you can think of are provided to all who desire to participate. Every year for the last 30 years, Arthur Hull has lead the drum circle and it's sponsored by Remo. Ami Belli, the owner and CEO of Remo was a participant this year. Shown here with Arthur Hull:
All three nights had live music on the Hilton, Sheraton and Marriott stages. I usually walk back and forth throughout the evening to catch as much live music as possible. I noticed more classic rock cover tunes than other years, for some reason. There were a few nice surprises such as a duo from France called, Rosaway. Vocals, flute, and drums...an unusual Pop-Jazz sound hailing from Paris, and distinctly French. They played on the Marriott stage. Many others played on all the stages over the three nights. Also the outdoor stages in the center of it all. In true NAMM style. Music was everywhere. Chaotic and loud as it may seem to some, it feels like home away from home to me. One of my highlights of the weekend was being introduced to Heartbreaker drummer, Steve Ferrone (interview coming soon). Then I had a chat with Will Gretsch (grandson of Fred Gretsch - pictured below). In the halls of the convention center I saw Albert Lee, Gretchen Menn, Jules Leyhe, Doug Wimbish, Victor Wooten, and countless more. There was even an identical double of Bono (if it wasn't Bono himself) roaming the halls of NAMM too, causing quite a stir. So many familiar faces and many new people too. Attorney and old friend, Michael Saltz lead a couple discussions about your legal rights as a songwriter. Discussing contracts and copyright laws for artists. So much good info and education goes on at NAMM. From how to market your music, to new advances in technology, to getting more hits on social media. Its all there! Below are my photos from the event. The audio you will have to leave to your imagination!
©Cheryl Alterman Photography