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Mix Blog Studio: Happy Feet

Mike Levine checks in virtually for NAMM Believe in Music Week and sets out to sate his appetite for new products and expert panel presentations.

Normally, at this time of year I’d be getting ready to fly out to Anaheim for the NAMM show. I’ve probably attended 15 NAMMs, covering them for various publications and websites. I’ve always been tasked with finding new products to report on, so I spent most of my time walking the show floor all day, and in some years, shooting video stories.

For me, NAMM has always been an all-consuming experience that combines schlepping, new gear, tedium, fun, video editing, battery charging, eating unhealthy food, drinks with friends, exhaustion, more schlepping, and, by the end of the week, aching feet (even though I was wearing sensible shoes. Go figure?). After I returned home, I’d frequently come down with a flu-like virus, famously called the “Rocking NAMMonia,” which anyone who has attended at least a few shows has probably had, as well.

Thinking about that and our current Covid crisis makes me glad that this year’s show is virtual. With the virus everywhere, there’s no way NAMM could have had an in-person convention this year. There was initially some talk of trying it, but the folks at NAMM smartly nixed it.

This year’s show, which they’re calling Believe in Music Week, is entirely virtual, and it’s already happening. It began on Monday and runs through Friday. Anyone can register, and it’s free. If you’ve never had a chance to go, this is an opportunity to get kind of a sense of what a NAMM show is like, from the safety of your own home. And trust me, you’ll eat a lot healthier not being there.

Looking through the Believe in Music Week schedule, it appears that the NAMM folks and the exhibiting companies have put together a ton of streaming content. Some of it will be live and some pre-recorded, but all will be available to watch at a later time, so you don’t have to miss anything you want to see. These events include manufacturer gear demos, speeches, presentations, interviews with well-known musicians (such as Garth Brooks, Melissa Etheridge, Dave Navarro and Jackson Browne), and more.

Read more Mix Blog Studio: Pro Tools 2020.11.

Because it’s a virtual show and there’s no limit to who can attend a streaming event, you have better access for certain evening functions than at an in-person NAMM, where you’d need an invitation or hard-to-get ticket.

Two of this year’s highlight events are Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night (Thursday) and the TEC Awards (Friday). The former always features a stellar lineup of acoustic guitar players, including the incredible Tommy Emmanuel, among others. If you like gear and awards shows, the TEC Awards will be a fun watch, and you can even vote for your fave products in advance of the event.

Some things will be almost the same as at an in-person show. NAMM will be “distributing” issues of the Upbeat Daily, the tabloid-sized publication that they normally hand out free in the morning at the convention center. The Upbeat Daily was something I’d often read over a cup of coffee in the press room in the mornings before the exhibit halls opened.

They’ll also have Gear TV, featuring nonstop stories about companies and products. I never paid it much attention, but it was hard to avoid entirely because they always show it on TV monitors near the entrance doors to the exhibit halls. Maybe I’ll actually watch some of it this year.

Attending companies have their own “Virtual Booths,” which are mostly web pages that show new products, offer downloadable product info, and provide schedules of events you can attend virtually. The booths also feature lists of company contacts. Like in the past, many manufacturers are announcing new products, so if you’re a gear-head like me, you’ll want to do some browsing through the virtual aisles.

Although it will be missing the social aspects of a typical NAMM show, attendees will be able to customize their experience like never before. You can attend when you want, and where you want. And no schlepping. My feet are happy.