"No one's worn cargo shorts since 'nam."
Not that 'nam. We just got done with our first day at the National Association of Music Merchants. This is the mecca, the biggest music gear event, the biggest tradeshow, the show that every musician dreams of attending.
After we got inside attendees immediately started jamming. Keyboards lit up, effects pedals lit up, and one of the more interesting things I saw was a guitar that lit up. One of the recurring themes of the show was various forms of smart technology for musicians. The light-up guitar (and ukulele) at this booth would light up to show you where to put your fingers on the fretboard to help you quickly learn chords and songs. For those of you familiar with the very popular video game "Guitar Hero" it's a lot like that but brought to life on a real guitar. What a cool way to learn.
Another piece of smart technology that was pretty cool is a musician's version of a smartwatch. Aside from telling time, this watch also can keep a beat with a metronome, check your sound levels, and functions as a contact tuner. That last feature sounds especially convenient as I carrying around a dedicated tuner can be inconvenient. This is a very cool tool for musicians on the go.
Throughout the day I interviewed a handful of musicians to get their take on the process of buying instruments and gear and a few key takeaways were pretty interesting. First and foremost, it is apparently very difficult to find and purchase a specific instrument. Musicians tend to be at the mercy of whatever items a local store decides it will keep in stock.
Nearly everyone I talked to makes a decision on what they want based on seeing an influencer use it. Whether it be on social media or youtube or a famous musician using it. The problem with that is the musician wants that specific product and if a brand doesn't sell direct, being able to buy the specific product leads them to scour the internet in a desperate search.
Ultimately musicians rely heavily on large retailers like Guitar Center, Reverb, and Sweetwater when a brand doesn't sell on their website. Every musician talked to said they go to one of these large retailers hoping to find the item they want, but often either can't find it or buy a competing item that fits the bill.
This is a dangerous game for music brands not selling direct. All that marketing effort getting their product in front of musicians is completely wasted when consumers go to these large stores and e-tailers and are exposed to sale items and competing product. There is a tremendous need for brands to sell direct without upsetting dealer networks. So off we go to spread the word. A lot of meetings set up for day two and we think many of these brands see the light!