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Sweetwater’s GearFest 2017 Draws Record Crowds and Sales

Free Music and Pro Audio Trade Show Continues to Grow
GearFest completely takes over the Sweetwater campus with parking, camping sites, gear tents, a performance pavilion, the retail store, and the massive interior of the Sweetwater building.

Fort Wayne, IN, June 30, 2017 — Sweetwater Sound has announced that GearFest 2017 was a bigger success than ever, breaking every record established by previous GearFest events. Launched in 2002, Sweetwater’s free, annual GearFest is the nation’s largest customer-focused music and pro audio festival and trade show, featuring exhibits from manufacturers, workshops, clinics, seminars, live demos, special performances, a musician’s flea market, and much more.

This year’s two-day event, which took place June 23 and 24 at Sweetwater’s corporate headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, provided more opportunities than ever before for thousands of musicians, engineers, and producers to participate in the festivities, with customers traveling from all over the world to attend.

Attendance was record-breaking, with more than 14,000 participants, up 20% over 2016, and with sales up by 44% over last year.

Sweetwater Founder and President Chuck Surack remarked, “One of the most exciting and humbling experiences I enjoy every year is personally greeting thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrive. Their enthusiasm for Sweetwater and GearFest is astounding and they really appreciate our incredible employees and their personal, caring, and welcoming interactions with each and every attendee. All this, plus its continued growth in overall attendance and sales, has made GearFest a unique event in the music retail business.”

Here are some of the many hundreds of comments Sweetwater received from attendees:

“From the first person I was in contact with at check-in, to the nurse who helped me with an injury, to all the staff members who showed me the way I needed to go, the lunch staff, and to the amazing concert you did Friday evening, everything showed epic appreciation of your patrons.”

“Your company is indeed in a class by itself. Sweetwater continues to redefine the concept of customer service on a daily basis, and GearFest was no exception. From the guys directing us to park, to the employees I talked to throughout both days, I was totally impressed with how well organized the event was. Your people were friendly, eager to help, and a pleasure to deal with. I wasn’t able to see everything I wanted to, but it didn’t matter. I told a musician friend of mine it was like being at a music gear version of Disneyland.”

“This was my 11th year at GearFest and it really does get better every year. You guys make dreams come true. I met guys that I have admired and looked up to since the very first time I picked up a guitar. But never would I have dreamed, that I would get to meet so many of them. Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa, Carl Verheyen, Andy Timmons, Greg Koch, Don Carr, Paul Reed Smith, Brian Wampler, Dave Friedman, and Fred Gretsch, just to name a few. I’ve been a customer for almost 20 years, and have spent thousands on gear, without one ounce of worry that I would get a good deal and the best service in the world. I love everything about GearFest, and I have enjoyed it every time I have gone.”

Featured guests include Grammy Award-winning producer/engineers Al Schmitt, Chris Lord-Alge, and Chuck Ainlay. Famed musicians include virtuoso guitarist Eric Johnson; Dweezil Zappa discussing and performing Frank Zappa’s music, Steve Stevens, guitarist for Billy Idol and Michael Jackson; guitarist Andy Timmons, who has performed with everyone from Joe Satriani to the Beach Boys; Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn; bassist and vocalist Rhonda Smith, who has toured with Prince, Beyonce, Jeff Beck, and many others; renowned blues/jazz guitarist Robben Ford, who in addition to being a founding member of the Yellowjackets and successful solo artist, performed with Miles Davis, George Harrison, and Joni Mitchell; Terry Bozzio, drummer for Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Duran Duran, and Deborah Harry; and Omar Hakim, drummer for countless A-list artists including Miles Davis, Sting, Weather Report, Madonna, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson.

In total, GearFest included more than 200 workshops and seminars, including sessions on guitar, recording, live sound, music creation with computers, acoustics, songwriting, and how to use electronic instruments. 

Housed in more than 20 tents, more than 400 manufacturers of musical instruments, music technology, and pro audio equipment were on hand to provide GearFest attendees a look at the latest gear. 

Surack added, “The commitment of our vendors to GearFest is remarkable. They not only dedicate significant time and resources to our event, but have begun to see GearFest as a great venue for publicly launching new gear.” 

Sweetwater’s outdoor pavilion played host to a customer appreciation concert and party at the end of the first day, with music provided by the Sweetwater All Stars, joined by 21 of the visiting artists. Also, pavilion performances by Dweezil Zappa and Eric Johnson were, respectively, Friday’s and Saturday’s concluding events.

For the second year, Sweetwater offered free camping for tents and RVs.

For those who couldn’t attend GearFest in person, videos, photos, and updates were posted on Sweetwater’s popular FaceBook page, as well as on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. 

For those in attendance, the opportunities for social media interaction included taking pictures in front of a Marshall Amp Wall, and drum kits owned by Terry Bozzio and Eric Singer of KISS. Using the hashtag #gearfest, attendees could view their social media posts on a large display in Sweetwater’s Downbeat Diner. Estimated total attendee posts for the two days was more than 20,000.

In addition, hourly prizes were given away, totaling more than $50,000 worth of music instruments and equipment.

More than 45 videos, including interviews and product demos, were recorded and posted at Sweetwater’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/SweetwaterSound

Chuck Surack added, “Only at GearFest can musicians and audio enthusiasts come to see, hear, enjoy — not to mention buy — what is usually reserved for music-industry insiders at your typical trade show.”

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