A Beginner’s Guide to The NAMM Show
I don’t remember many moments in my life - my first taste of ice cream or my first time driving a car. But I sure remember my first time attending The NAMM Show.
Standing in line outside on day one to get our badges and wondering if I’m even in the right line. The NAMM Show is like being at a movie theater on the opening night of the next big flick, not knowing what to really expect, but the buzz is real, and the crowd is bubbling with personalities.
I’ve been a recording and performing artist for 20 years, and for the last nine, I have also worked full-time in the industry. I’ve performed at The NAMM Show a few times as an artist for Roland and had a hand in shaping their DJ products. As a result, I’ve taken my skills as a DJ and producer and rolled them into a role that also encompasses driving business development, music education, and managing Los Angeles’ first DJ Shop, Astro AVL. While I could explore finer topics, like how NAMM has influenced my strategic partnerships and overall positioning of Astro AVL, for now, I’ll stick to the nostalgia of that first show. It’s a feeling so many of us have logged in our memory and haven't paused to think about in a long time. And it’s a feeling so many others have yet to experience.
When I first started attending the show as an employee of Astro AVL, I was still in the early phase of my career with the company and could afford to be a bit more liberal with my time. I was free to browse booths at will, absolutely oblivious that my future would include back-to-back vendor meetings. Back then, gaining entry into the show was through a retailer or manufacturer, but recently, NAMM has expanded access to the show through a few newer paths, such as its individual membership category.
In those early days, I wandered, sometimes with a colleague and sometimes totally alone, but primarily in the mindset of an audio artist looking to explore new tools of the craft and interact with the things I’ve only seen in magazines.
That was the charm of The NAMM Show. Hopping from booth to booth, filling your brain with information as you consider the possibilities of what the product in front of you could do for your sound. I went around in no particular order, stopping as I liked to sometimes catch the last half of a tutorial or presentation already taking place. There’s so much to explore but only so many hours in the day so you have to choose how to spend your time wisely. I made a point to visit all the top DJ/production equipment manufacturers I already had come to know but half the fun is also finding things you’ve never seen before. As I drove the hour-long trip home the night of my first show, I was a bit exhausted and partially overstimulated by both the wide range of noise and influx of new information. But, in that same decompression period, I was determined to start the next day even earlier.
For those planning to attend The NAMM Show for the first time, I offer the following advice that stems from the experiences I am about to share.
I didn't bring much with me, packing mostly my curiosity and hopes of expanding my network of peers. My advice, if possible, is to get your badge the night before from a badge pickup center at one of the designated locations. If you can’t grab your badge the night before the show opens, get there as early as you can on the first day, as day one brings a high traffic of people getting their badges for the first time. Also, and maybe most importantly to keep you in the game, get a jump on lunch. The food trucks outside have never disappointed me, but if you wait for peak hours, you’ll spend more than an hour chowing down.
Having reflected on my shortcomings during my freshman year, I made sure to bring a thumb drive with music in multiple formats, including Rekordbox and Serato files. As a DJ, I was disappointed the year prior that I couldn’t test all the DJ consoles at different stations, so I wanted to be self-sufficient. There tend to be the largest crowds around the stations that are most readily available, but because I was prepared, I found more opportunities to interact with the DJ gear. So, wherever your interest lies, bring the accessories you would need to use the demo products.
I also was a little bummed that I missed the Breakfast of Champions the first year, especially because people talked about the session in some facet, whether it was an artist or guest speaker. So, if you want to attend the Breakfast of Champions, don't be a schmuck and think you can just waltz in when it starts. There’s a line, and that line punishes those who don't get there in advance.
Before arriving, I put a set of gel pads in my shoes. This seems small but trust me - it makes a difference when you’re standing and moving all day on a carpet that’s hiding concrete underneath. You don’t want to get pinned down because your feet decided to call it quits, so take care of your body.
I was again prepared to attend Breakfast of Champions, but this time arrived even earlier, so I could get a good seat to enjoy my meal. Previously, I had resorted to quickly eating in the hallway before sitting down. Learn from my errors, don’t be me, and remember that the early bird gets the scrambled eggs.
I wanted to bring home better recorded content from my experiences so I brought a camera, audio recording equipment, and a video tech to capture those moments. Over the years we explored the Show with 360 cams, Go Pros, Tascam field recorders, and even battery-operated line mixers for our wired Shure mics. We tried it all to see what would get us the best shots and audio quality. It seems obvious that there is going to be a lot of ambient noise taking place, and yet still, it’s easy to underestimate just how much that will impact the quality of your content and what ends up being usable.
My final piece of advice
If you don't want to look like a New York City tourist fumbling with a map on a busy sidewalk, download The NAMM Show App. It will give you quick access to educational sessions taking place and where to be.
I can’t spell out the feeling you will get walking The NAMM Show Campus for the first time. This is simply my beginner’s guide and perspective for the Show. However, I’m keen on sharing with our community the things that make the gears turn for the industry. What primarily stands out are the elements that have been key to developing meaningful relationships, the lessons learned from years of growth with Astro AVL and its Founder/President, Craig Merrick, and the feedback from the people who have also grown alongside us. Stay tuned for more.
About Astro AVL
Astro AVL has been a landmark resource in the entertainment industry since 1974. As L.A.’s first and original DJ store, it has helped legendary and local artists launch their careers and provided Hollywood's top production studios with the tools they need to bring their sets to life through visual artistry. Beyond sales, Astro offers a rentals & repair service department and a school for educational instruction in DJing, Music Production, and Lighting Programming. The company also designs and executes customized systems across hallmark L.A. venues and nationwide chains. If you find yourself in L.A., Astro AVL invites you to check out its award-winning showrooms. To learn more about Astro AVL, please visit https://astroavl.com/.
About DJ Cypher Shah
Cypher has 20 years of experience as a DJ and as a producer, he has released music on five record labels internationally. Along with performing for venues from NYC to LA he designs audio systems and is a lighting programmer, giving him a wide base of knowledge of products in the entertainment industry. He is the Manager, Lead DJ Instructor, and Installation Foreman of Astro Audio Video Lighting in Glendale, California.