by Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, for


NAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants, whose mission is to "strengthen and unify the music products industry and increase the number of active music makers." In addition to many functions within the music industry, they hold a twice-yearly trade show known officially as the NAMM International Music Market, and simply called the NAMM Show. Music product manufacturers and distributors exhibit their merchandise to retailers and wholesale buyers with the intent of writing sales.

NAMM's "Winter Market" is held in January at the Anaheim Convention Center, a little south of Los Angeles. (From 1998 to 2000, it was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.) The "Summer Session" - a considerably smaller event - is held in July, and has moved from Chicago to New Orleans and eventually, Nashville. In 2005, the Summer show was held in Indianapolis, and in 2006 and 07, in Austin, Texas. In 2008, it moved back to Nashville.

Retail music store buyers, music product manufacturers/distributors and their employees and guests, manufacturer representatives of the music products industry, members of NARAS (the Grammy® organization,) employees and guests of NAMM, and invited media personnel.

Everyone attending or exhibiting at NAMM wears a badge with their name and company affiliation on it. The most common are:

Exhibitor or Manufacturing Rep. (marked with a red border for quick identification)
Buyer, Retail Employee, Distributor Buyer (marked with a blue border for quick identification)

Other badges - Visitor, Non-exhibiting Manufacturer, Exhibitor Employee, Workforce Development, Artist and Media - are plain white with no color designation.

The show is closed to the public. However, if you endorse an exhibiting company, know someone in that company, or know anyone else who is attending, you can try requesting a badge. And, if you can show employment by a music-related company that's a member of NAMM, you can fill out a form at the Show and purchase a badge, or register online. Proof of your affiliation is always required, and photo identification is required each time you enter the exhibit halls or other exhibit areas; this curtails the lending of badges, which has been a problem in the past.

You'll see a lot of new products, new finishes, new literature, and some celebrities. However, the NAMM Show is not a giant music store. Some exhibitors sell their products right out of their booth, some don't, and samples are usually reserved for Buyers. You may score a good deal on a large item, but you might have to wait until the last day of the show to pick it up, so they can continue displaying it during the show.

The Anaheim show is huge, so wear comfortable shoes. If you plan to have a snack at one of the concession stands, figure about $13-15 for a sandwich, chips, and drink. Adjacent parking is $18 per day for exhibitors and buyers, visitors are typically restricted to off-site parking lots which are around $15.

If you do get a badge and attend the show, act accordingly. Remember that it's a trade show - not a consumer show like PASIC - and Exhibitors expect to write business with the attending Buyers. Legitimate Buyers would never bang on drums and crank up amps for their personal pleasure, so avoid being conspicuous that way. Don't do anything that would embarass or cause a problem for the company who issued the badge. If a complaint is lodged with NAMM against the owner of the badge - which DOES happen when an attendee is disruptive - the flow of badges slows down, and it's even tougher for the "nice guys" to come back again.

The type of badge you wear may govern the treatment you receive from the Exhibitors. Wearing an Exhibitor badge in a rival manufacturer's booth may earn you a question or two about who you are, while a Visitor badge is fairly neutral. Remember that Exhibitors are there primarily to see Buyers, and may not always be accommodating to fellow Exhibitors or guests. By the same token, if you are seeking products to endorse, you will probably be asked to submit your information by mail following the end of the Show. Exhibitors rarely talk about artist discounts and deals when they're trying to meet with Buyers and generate volume sales.

Going to the NAMM Show should be considered a treat. Enjoy yourself and please respect the business being conducted there.

Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, the drummer with "Weird Al" Yankovic since 1980, has attended every Winter Market NAMM Show since 1985 as the guest of one or more of the following exhibitors: Ludwig, DW, Evans/D'Addario, Impact, NARAS, Rhythm Tech, Sabian, and Vic Firth.

Visit The Official "Weird Al" Web Site and Bermuda's Resumé for more on Al and Bermuda!