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What Does a Guitarist Do at the NAMM Show?

Having never been to a NAMM Show before this year, it always looked like the greatest place on the planet.

I’d watch all the gear demos and interviews from various YouTube channels and think, “Man, that looks like SO much fun.” If you’re a Guitar World reader, you probably already know what NAMM is, but in case you don’t, it’s described as "the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products industry" by NAMM’s president and CEO, Joe Lamond.

It’s basically a giant candy store for musicians of all disciplines and instrumentations, where brands and retailers look to forge relationships, and artists like me seek out endorsements and other networking opportunities—not to mention test out and enjoy all the amazing gear.

The buzz of the past few years has been that the “real” NAMM show takes place each winter in Anaheim, California, while Summer NAMM in Nashville is too small and not worth your time to attend. Well, this year at least, that buzz couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’ll get to why that is in a moment.

First, the question arises: What does a guitar player do at NAMM? No matter which show you go to, NAMM is a place where you can test out guitars and pedals. What’s more valuable, in my opinion, is having access to educational presentations from industry thought leaders. Some meetings that were particularly helpful to me were “The Future Guitarist,"“Essential Tips for Successful YouTube Videos" and “Songwriting Tips from Nashville Pros." On top of this, you’re able to meet and network with any brand there, which allows for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for endorsements and relationship building.

What some people don’t understand about the two NAMM shows is that the purpose of each show is different. While Winter NAMM provides for the same business opportunities for the various companies involved, it’s three times as big as Summer NAMM. The winter show features many more performances and big-name artists, which attracts a huge amount of spectators not looking to actually buy anything. Summer NAMM is about deals getting done. There are still performances and special events, but the vibe in the room is one of commerce and networking. Neither show is better or worse; they’re just different.

There are many ways to get to NAMM, whether you’re a business looking to purchase a booth spot, a spectator looking to survey the floor of gear paradise, or you’re like me and you’re invited by a brand to represent them. I’m endorsed by a company called Re-Axe Products (they ended up winning Best in Show for the Accessories category). If you’re a guitar player looking for a free ride to NAMM, you’ll want to establish a presence either online or in your local music community in order to prove to companies you’ll be a valuable ambassador of their brand.

At the end of the three-day Summer NAMM show, I emerged with more than 50 business cards with actual potential, a few new relationships with highly respected musicians (such as Nick Johnston) and most importantly, an understanding and appreciation for the amount of work it takes to find success in music.

Here's my 2016 Summer NAMM Vlog:

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric website Music is Win. His entertaining guitar-related content receives hundreds of thousands of video views on Facebook per month, and his online guitar courses tout more than 1,500 students with a cumulative 4.7 rating on Udemy. Get in touch with Tyler on Facebook, watch more of his guitar lessons and vlogs on YouTube, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.