In January, I went to my first National Association of Music Merchant (NAMM) trade show in Anaheim. Early winter tends to be the slow season for anyone working in live sound, and with a few weeks that were looking pretty empty, I decided to go to California for a vacation. Once in LA, I met-up with a group of audio technician friends from Minneapolis to make our way to the show.
As this was a last minute decision, we missed out on the NAMM accommodation deals. It would have been nice to stay within walking distance of the conference center, but at upwards of $200 a night, this wasn’t within our budget. We also rented a car, thinking we would drive from our motel (roughly 7 miles from the show), but we ended up realizing using an Uber or Lyft to get around was easier and cheaper than trying to park at the show. As none of us had ever been before, we decided to come for the full four days: in retrospect, two to three would have been enough. There are only so many laps you can do on the show floor, and for me, the real highlight of NAMM was meeting new people.
I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular when I decided to go to NAMM, but once I realized all the major In-Ear Monitor manufacturers had booths with test models, it was hard not to be tempted to invest in a pair. After much consideration, I settled on a pair of JH Audio 10×3’s. I’m happy to report that they’ve proven to be a great purchase! It also felt like a waste to be at an audio trade show and not pick up a single microphone… And that’s how I ended up leaving with a Telefunken M80 in my bag.
I was most excited about seeing what was new in the pro audio world. Regarding seeing some of the new consoles on display, it was nice to be able to walk around and have the different reps explain their new products. I was expecting to see more than one model on display, but most companies only had 1-2 in their booth, which was a slight disappointment… There is not a lot of technical training offered by the big console manufacturers in Canada, and I was hoping to spend time on boards I hadn’t had much of a chance to work on. Still, it was cool to get to see the new Digico S21 and the Avid S6.
Perhaps the best part of the NAMM experience for me was meeting up with fellow Soundgirls: members came from all over (including as far as Copenhagen, Denmark) for the show! Although everyone was quite busy, many Soundgirls volunteered for the She Rocks Awards. It was nice to be able to watch the show while sharing a table with women from across the world. We also had a group supper on Saturday, which was a blast. I’m fortunate enough to work with some talented Soundgirls in Toronto, but it’s still always a pleasure to meet more women that work in audio!
If you’re doing any shopping (whether for yourself, an artist you work for or your venue), do as much as you can on Thursday. The show is less busy on the first day, and reps are willing to talk to you. By Saturday, most look like they’d rather hide under their table than try and sell you on a product!
Do your research: for this year’s show, an app was available ahead of time. It allowed you to check where manufacturer booths would be, mark them on your show map, and add events to your calendar. This app was a useful way to plan my day, and I wish I had made more extensive use of it.
Attend talks & panels. There are a variety of topics covered, so there’s sure to be something that interests you.
If networking is your thing, meet as many new people as you can. Are you part of tech groups on Facebook or other social media platforms? Many people travel to the LA area for the show, so it might be worth making a post and seeing if others want to browse with you or simply get a coffee.
Maxx Brunet is a freelance sound engineer based in Toronto, Canada. She is the FOH Engineer KEN mode and works as a monitor engineer at The Mod Club. Her past times include writing for zines, drinking coffee, volunteering for Rock Camp for Girls, and teaching audio basics. Maxx is the Co-Head of the SoundGirls Toronto Chapter.