The 2023 NAMM Show: Craftsmanship and Artistry

The 2023 NAMM Show: Craftsmanship and Artistry

Written by B. Jan Montana

The National Association of Music Merchants or NAMM Show takes place annually in Anaheim, California at the Anaheim Convention Center, and is one of the largest music trade shows in the world. The event attracts numerous musicians, engineers, and manufacturers.

It is a trade-only show catering to domestic and international dealers and distributors. The product exhibits are an integral part of the show, allowing the dealers and distributors to see what's new, negotiate deals, and plan their purchasing for the next six to 12 months. Exhibitors are allowed to bring a specific number of attendees based on the size of their booth. Retail members are allowed a certain number of attendees based on their full-time employee count.

The NAMM Show took place from Thursday, April 13, through Saturday, April 15, 2023. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the MIDI standard (the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which enables digital instruments and other devices to communicate with each other), lifetime achievement awards were presented to or posthumously awarded to Don Buchla, Ikutaro Kakehashi, Tsutomu Katoh, Roger Linn, Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, Alan R. Pearlman, Dave Rossum, and Dave Smith.

But this show is more than just a technology, instrument, and equipment show; it’s also an exposition of craftsmanship and artistry. The most creative expressions came in the form of electric guitars. Here are some examples: 

There were many conventional stringed instruments at the NAMM Show as well.

And a booth exhibiting the materials from which they’re made.

Pianos are both stringed and percussive instruments. I thought this Chinese model was the most beautiful one at the show.

This Italian manufacturer built the most convincing facsimile of a piano in its natural environment.

There were many opportunities to try out various instruments.


Including loud ones. This is not a show for those prone to headaches.

This manufacturer made sure to include his name prominently in the display. Most didn’t.

This guy had all his accompaniment at hand.

Some musicians had a whole orchestra at hand, very impressive.

There were many countries represented at this show, both in terms of attendees and exhibitors.

But most of the exhibits (by far) came from the Far East: China, Taiwan, or Japan.

Amazing how much sound can come from two musicians with modern equipment. These guys put on a show worthy of a 10-piece band, very energetic, dynamic, and well-received.

The electronic equipment at the show was mind boggling.

There were many demonstrations of how it worked, along with a big screen for those in the back.

I didn’t feel warmly received at the Cerwin Vega booth. Maybe the exhibitor on the left thought I was trying to steal trade secrets, whereas the guy on the right was probably the real industrial spy.

However, it’s nice to see Cerwin Vega is still in business. Gene Czerwinski, the founder of this company, made a big splash at the 1972 Toronto Audio Show (held at the Airport Hilton) by going out into the field and taping the sound of the jets taking off. During the show, he’d demonstrate his system by playing that tape – frequently. It rocked the whole floor. The attendees were convinced there was a jet taking off every 30 seconds.

Maybe these two were the real industrial spies. They were certainly more friendly.

These guys from Dayton Audio (the house brand of Parts Express) were also very friendly. I’ve used a lot of Dayton drivers over the years and they were all excellent products with high value. The technicians at Parts Express have been very helpful in designing and building my systems (some of them are still used in local university sound studios).

No club would be complete without a light show, and there were lots of them at NAMM. This is the best photograph I could get.

I’m not sure what this booth was about, but it pretty well summed up how many felt by the end of the show. Seemed like I’d experienced 25,000 songs, walked 25,000 miles, and talked to 25,000 people.

But I had a great time, and anyone in the music business ought to make a serious effort to attend. It’s the perfect event to learn from the masters, experience cutting-edge products, make business connections, and enjoy exciting music.

All images courtesy of the author.
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