For one weekend a year, the talk in Anaheim, Calif., is less Mickey Mouse than Deadmau5 as nearly 100,000 producers, engineers, DJs and gear heads converge for music’s largest trade show, the National Assn. of Music Merchants. And though it’s turning 113, NAMM is showing no signs of slowing. The industry is back to pre-recession highs, according to NAMM president/CEO Joe Lamond, thanks largely to popular culture and technology. To wit, there’s a first-ever EDM component (see story, right).
That means you’ll likely find veteran rock engineers (think Christopher Walken in the “Saturday Night Live” “more cowbell” skit) sipping Mai Tais poolside with buzz-topped, barely pubescent DJs. You’ll also see the NAMM regulars, a surprising mix that includes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, actor Gary Sinise and Alex Skolnick of metal band Testament.
With an almost never-ending schedule of panels, the Technical Excellence & Creativity (TEC) Awards, workshops and performances on-site and at the adjacent Marriott and Hilton hotels, it’s a good thing NAMM makes a mobile app to help attendees navigate the show. Barring that, consider this your wireless guide.
“Fly into John Wayne Airport [in Santa Ana, Calif., 12 miles from Anaheim].”
-Scott Emmerman, director of marketing and sales, Hohner
“From Los Angeles, just head south down Interstate 5 and take the exit for Disneyland. I bike the whole way.”
-Chad Smith, drummer, Red Hot Chili Peppers
WHERE TO STAY
“The two main hotels are the Marriott and the Hilton, both about a 30-second walk from the convention center. The Hilton has live rock bands at night and a more rocker vibe. The Marriott is more lounge-y or singer/songwriter.”
-Joe Solo, producer
“Some of the best hotels are hidden away. The Anabella Hotel is a quiet, reasonable spot with a great pool and hot tubs right around the corner from the convention center.”
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS
“Show up around 8 a.m. every day for the early morning breakfast/keynote called NAMM U. Expect Saturday to be the busiest. It’s when celebrity musicians show up to sign things.” -Solo
WHAT TO BRING
“Hand sanitizer and vitamin C. With the long hours and close contact, you’ve got to stay healthy to avoid the dreaded ‘NAMMthrax.'” -Justin Norvell, VP of marketing, Fender
“Try the Hilton bar. It’s loud, it’s crazy, but it’s a lot of fun.” -Emmerman
“The Uva Bar in Downtown Disney is outdoors, right in the middle of all the hubbub, and their calamari is insanely delicious.” -Solo
“Felix in downtown Orange does great Cuban food. Spicy Thai on Chapman Avenue doesn’t disappoint.” -Norvell
“There’s an amazing Peruvian restaurant about a mile away called Aires del Peru. It’s a quiet place to recover from or plan your day.” -Cheche Alara, musical producer/director/conductor
“Eat at the Napa Rose inside the Disney Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. I’ve never had a less than stellar meal there. They do this thing called the Chef’s Counter where the chef makes a custom meal for you. It’s the perfect place to impress a client.” -Solo
“Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Festival is a cool hang for the offbeat and esoteric.” -Norvell
“Audio Technica, Yamaha and Korg have had some amazing parties and concerts at the TEC Awards.” -Alara
Chandra Lynn [CEO of Glow Marketing] and Sara Griggs [senior PR/social media manager at Avid] have a party by the pool at the Marriott on Saturday night. This is where everybody goes, and you meet so many high-level executives just chit-chatting by the pool.” -Solo
“Find cool shows around town. I’ve seen Social Distortion and Quicksand [while there].” -Norvell