NAMM 2016: The Products, The Culture, The Progress
For those who haven’t attended the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) at the Convention Center in the heart of Anaheim, CA, the annual four-day trade show can be described in four words: Gear Head Freak Show.
Founded in 1901 as a way to solve trading problems in the music industry, NAMM has grown into a four-story conglomerate of hundreds of manufacturers, distributors and affiliates from all over the world that come together to showcase the latest products to almost 100,000 private attendees. Historically, the NAMM show is meant to foster relationships for trading purposes between those in the instrument manufacturing industry while also giving general attendees and media partners a sneak peak into the evolution and innovation of music gear.
With the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, and later hair metal, the last 40 years of NAAM shows reflected a shift in guitar culture which can be seen through advertisements depicting half-to fully-naked women straddling instruments—a marketing move that was extremely popular and effective with men up through the 21st century. While guitar culture may have once perhaps been silently and privately sexist, now it was aggressively, publicly and shamelessly misogynist. Subsequently millions of gear nerds, enthusiasts and fans followed suit, and women musicians and consumers were largely ignored.
And now we’re here—trying to shift the industry once again by burying old marketing ploys, and ideals while creating new ones that speak to both men and women.
As a convention that hosts those companies who move the industry into what is and isn’t guitar culture—through advertising, language, and product display—NAMM also plays a pivotal role in answering questions like, “What are companies doing to ensure that their products, and the way they advertise those products, aren’t geared for men only?” and, “What kind of efforts are these companies making to represent women within their companies?”
These results are answered by the amount of banners seen showcasing actual women musicians, the amount of women demoing at booths, and the kinds of discussions that are being held through panels and between companies.
While the guitar industry has shown leaps of progress evident in just the four short years She Shreds has attended, it also has a lot of work to do to implement the simple idea that women are musicians too.
2016 saw Ernie Ball and St. Vincent’s new STV guitar model, The Evolution of the Producer hosted by Women’s Audio Mission and featuring an all star line-up of women including tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, not to mention our partnership with companies such as EarthQuaker Devices, Reverb.com, Dwarfcraft Devices, PRS guitars, Loog guitars, and Catalinbread to bring in as many women as possible and demo all over the building. To say the least, it was nuts and wonderful and clearly a breath of fresh air to us and those seeing the industry shift for the past 40 years.
We asked LG from Thelma and the Sleaze to take us around the four story convention and show us some of her favorite products. Check out the video to find out some of the other weirdness she found!