December 18, 2017
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Summer in Music City

Nashville sets the stage for NAMM
YouTube sensation Justin Johnson and his shovel guitar.

Many musicians call Evansville home, making our River City a vibrant music scene. But music lovers and artists of the area aren’t confined to southern Indiana — just a short drive south is Nashville, Tennessee, the music capital of the world. Many take advantage of the close proximity to visit the unique festivals and music events that flock to Nashville. One such event in July — the National Association of Music Merchants’ Summer NAMM — appeals to artists and music merchants from Evansville and around the world.

Here, major sellers of musical instruments and independent smaller companies come together with industry wholesalers and retailers to make connections, learn more about the industry, find out how to increase sales, show off their products, and make or take orders. Summer NAMM is one of three such events the organization annually hosts — there is Winter NAMM in California and an international event in the fall hosted in Russia.

This year, Summer NAMM encompassed all floor levels of Nashville’s Music City Center for exhibition and performance, education and training, group and private meetings, as well as entertainment and award presentations. The exhibit hall can be overwhelming with booth-after-booth of the exhibitors (nearly 600), showcasing 1,650 brands. Fortunately, event organizers created a customizable phone app for attendees that included a floor plan, schedule of events, break out sessions, and information about activities and entertainment.

Before entering the main hall, I recognized two faces from Evansville — Ed Sein and Rob Arnold of Moore Music. Ed mentioned Moore Music was honored by NAMM this year as a top 100 music retailer in the nation (NAMM recognizes products and companies in several categories at their shows). One of the brands the shop carries, Paul Reed Smith guitars, also recognized Moore Music as a top 10 dealer worldwide.

Entertainment abounds at Summer NAMM. Live bands perform out on the terrace, while inside endorsed artists demonstrate products at every turn. One of those artists, Justin Johnson, the electric-shovel-playing Youtube sensation, showcased API’s TranZformer guitar pedal. Another performer who attracted large crowds, including music industry legends Joe Bonamassa and Victor Wooten, was Shaun Hopper. Endorsed by Tonewood Amps, Hopper is a guitar virtuoso who simultaneously can lay down a bass line, strum a rhythm, add a melody, play percussion, and play lead guitar
–– all without using any pedals.

While at the Tonewood booth, I bumped into two more Evansvillians, music purveyors Bob Goldman and Marvin Daniels of Goldman’s Pawn. Marvin said they picked up a couple items at NAMM this year: a new parlor-sized “Recording King” guitar and an innovative new product called the Axe-Handler, which allows a guitar player to lean a guitar on an amp without a guitar stand while keeping the guitar free from scratches.

Industry giants such as Gibson Guitars, Hohner Harmonicas, D’Addario Strings, Martin, Marshall Amplifiers, and many others set up booths next to smaller companies that touted innovations, instruments, inventions, pedals, and accessories. Taylor Guitars, however, encompassed a suite on the mezzanine level that overlooked the exhibit hall.

With a polyester bag full of promotional items, music-inspired trinkets, and guitar-shaped goodies, I exited the center thinking this event is right at home in Music City and Evansville was right at home at Summer NAMM.

IN TUNE Summer NAMM is a unique musical gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, bringing major merchants of musical instruments together. Many artists offer up demonstrations like YouTube sensation Justin Johnson and his shovel guitar, above right, and visual artist Robert Goetzl with his Native American-themed Martin guitar, above.

For more information on NAMM, visit namm.org.

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