Taking Memphis Music on the Road: Notes from NAMM
This blog post was written by Music Resource Center Director Cameron Mann about his recent trip to Nashville for the National Association of Music Merchants Summer conference.
Just got back off a trip down “Music Highway,” a.k.a. the strip of Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. I attended the Summer NAMM conference, which is an event for music merchandisers, their distributors, retailers and of course musicians and music geeks such as myself. At a NAMM event last year, our own Catrina Guttery helped MRC member Ryan Peel secure an endorsement from Yamaha. Other MRC members to secure endorsements recently include Trey Jewell, who is endorsed by Samick Guitar and Alex Botwin (Pnuma Trio) who is endorsed by Native Instruments.
This year at NAMM, I spent a lot of time talking to the big boys (MAPEX, Orange, Ludwig, Ernie Ball) but also some of the smaller tube amp companies, luthiers, guitar companies, harp makers, violin makers and ukulele makers. I was representing Memphis on behalf of the Music Resource Center and our artists, but I also wanted to help these businesses connect with our Mom and Pop stores here in Memphis. Everyone loves Memphis, by the way – from Joe Hibbs at MAPEX who was telling me about juke joints I had never head of, to Jason Shuener at Telefunken Microphones who is from Memphis and actually went to Ridgeway High School! A couple of these companies expressed interest in being a part our Plug-In event in February 2011.
In terms of artist endorsements, almost all of these gear companies said the same thing: “We represent artists who are gigging at least regionally, preferably nationally and have more than 100 shows on the road per year.” However, that said, a couple of companies did say that if a musician is the right fit with their instrument and they really believe in that musician’s abilities, they would take a look at them.
I left the conference with a stack of biz cards and some work to do if we are going to help more Memphis artists make connections with guitar, amp, pedal and drum companies who can endorse them, especially in an economic climate where sales of instruments are down more than 20 percent. Our good friends at St. Blues Guitar had a booth that was heavily trafficked and manned by the inimitable Brian Halley, who was wheeling and dealing with the best of them. Thanks again to Brian for getting me into NAMM, and thanks for making your guitars in Memphis! Brian and St. Blues also put on a fantastic showcase at Bourbon Street Blues Club in Printers Alley, where I heard Cassie Taylor (Otis Taylor’s daughter) and Reeves Gabriel. Both were amazing, and Cassie was especially so. The next day Memphis’ own Eric Gales would perform on a star studded stage as well. Good times in Nashville.