NAMM: I attended so you didn’t have to…
I attended NAMM 2022 (National Association of Music Merchants) and as a first timer it was more than I ever expected. The space was filled with booths showcasing equipment and instruments, seminars throughout the day covering music and the entertainment technology industry, and their app is top notch. You can add seminars to your calendar that you’re interested in so you don’t lose them, a search function, and inside each seminar there is a chat/question/poll section. On top of all that, the ‘people watching’ was extraordinary. You had your rockers, pop stars, rappers, techs, producers and production teams all walking around the massive Anaheim Convention Center. I’ll summarize it in the most bite size way possible:
The Floor Show
There is something to look at everywhere you turn. Booths small and large cover the entire convention center with well known names like Martin & Co., Casio, Pioneer, Yamaha, etc. Full displays of incredible instruments that you can pick up and play for fun or if you really fall in love, available for purchase. There are booths for the lesser known tools of the trade such as spatial audio recording devices or custom microphone stands. If you’re into the music scene at all, it’s worth it just to roam around.
There are seminars of all kinds to attend; from speed networking with other music individuals to presentations given by executives of some of the largest recording companies. These are the seminars I attended that I think artists should know about:
As we’ve probably all tried to play from afar during the pandemic, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel! Realtime Audio presented at a seminar all about “low latency” audio boxes that uses AI route optimization and standardizes buffer rates so that musicians can play in real time while apart. But how does it work?!
Your instrument > plug into your interface > interface wires to audio box > audio box connects to internet router > can be mixed through browser or app
Realtime Audio is working on a social network based around music creators and fans for an accessible community to jump into jams, concerts, or writing sessions. They use GPS satellite to sync a metronome for all members to keep accurate tempo. NFT’s will be available to invest the growth of a band/artist as a “I knew the band before they were cool” t-shirt, but actual proof.
Some downsides are that the upload speed has to be at least 10mg as a minimum and no wifi capability yet - the audio box has to be hard wired into the router. The distance between users makes a difference and we are still 5 years away from the U.S. jamming with our friends in China.
Depending on what you want to do, there are other competitors like JackTrip and Elk and it’s important to research what each can do. Some audio boxes are specific to self host / peer to peer / host to peer, some have video and some don’t, some offer better compression specific to guitar tones, etc.
This seminar was great. Hosted by CD Baby’s Kevin Breuner and filled with helpful hints and insights from the distributing industry:
First and foremost, the industry has changed - what used to be a buying economy is now a playing economy. Before, it didn’t matter if someone listened to the song as long as they bought it or purchased the album; now pushing the play button matters. Additionally, playlists are going by vibes/moods/keywords/collaborations/etc. versus fans following only one artist.
So with this information, a ‘release season’ matters to build up engagement for fans during a drought period where you aren’t releasing new music. Instead of dropping a major album, dropping singles from the album will build up momentum.
Pre-release tools and strategies are vital. You need to get fans excited with release activity and feed the algorithm of each platform so they work in your favor and will reach out to potential new followers. If you’re starting with a new band or project it’s helpful to start with a single or a cover to start connecting your artist profiles instead of trying everything on your first release. Before a big release it’s important to apply to playlists (can also try Playlist Push / Submit Hub / Taxi / etc.) because some have strict timelines for unreleased music. On release.cdbaby.com there are answers and recommendations for releasing new music.
Common mistakes include not allowing enough time between music being done and the release date and many artists are hyper focused on Spotify when it’s only 40% of the market. Spotify is the biggest sole entity for the entire distributing market, but the rest of the 60% is missing out if all the attention is spent on Spotify.
For the release, HereNow is a smart URL to focus on a platform and pulls data for you on what your fans are clicking on. Giving out follow-up material is an easy way to keep your music on the top of mind and possibly make money, such as sheet music, charts, & PDFs.
Videos should go along with a release and official music videos are great, but you don’t need to drop a bunch of money on it. They just need a visual component and all platforms are going to start to expect it as it’s key to an explosive reach. Live-streaming is great for people who are good on camera; if you’re not comfortable with it then maybe reconsider going live. If your fans are able to use your footage or it gets them to create video is a great way to push your product. Facebook counts 3 seconds as a “play” so any intro should be cut. GET TO THE HOOK. Subtitles are useful because the algorithm will use the text to know what the video is about. A helpful website to use for making Spotify videos is rotorvideos.com as they have stock footage you can use.
Kevin made a point to talk about TikTok because it is becoming the fastest used app and it’s different from all other apps in that they don’t care how many times you post the same video with small changes. It doesn’t get read as spam, unlike other apps. TikTok wants you to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. An example is The Weeknd had 150 videos to post and send out for a song.
Commercial Facility Versus at Home
Now this one hits home no pun intended! At Pirate, we encourage everyone to jump in a studio because that’s what we do, but I was still interested in hearing out what this seminar was all about. This started out with why do artists choose to stay at home and record?
At home, the creative pressure is off and you’re not paying by hour, plus the technology has caught up to where many home engineers can afford the equipment. Doing it in your bedroom is like doing it behind the curtain and we’ve had “Bedroom Pop” emerge from this phenomenon (like Billie Eilish & Olivia Rodrigo). Plus the anxiety of time is money doesn’t exist because we all have days when we’re on or off and no one wants an off day on studio day.
But what if something goes wrong? This is when it pays to be at the studio. The sound of the room matters. Not everyone has a sound treated room and it can show through a recording. Plus if you’re working with an engineer they can help you with better tone, better takes, and if the equipment starts acting up they usually know exactly what to do.
Besides having the equipment set up with no break-down required after, a studio also has one thing that a home studio will never have… a community. Artists walking through the hallways, bumping into each other in the communal areas, or stepping outside to take a break… inspiring others to get in the studio and churn out some great work. The speakers in this seminar all spoke about the rhythm of the downbeat in a studio building and how there can be pressure, but sometimes pressure is needed. They mentioned that John Mayer will go across the U.S.A. recording his albums in different studios. One of the speakers asked Mayer why he doesn’t record at home since he has an exceptionally nice studio at home. John Mayer told them he needed the fire under him that only a studio can provide.
Studios have lasted this long and will last because they are hubs of community. It’s an evolutionary process for artists, engineers, and producers where young and old, new or seasoned will always be drawn to the studio.
This seminar covered designing studios. They come in all shapes and sizes but should all have one thing in mind: artist development. A studio should be a space where artists can learn, cultivate, develop and grow. They talked about one studio in particular that had specific challenges and used predictive modeling before the final build.
Predictive modeling will help with the sound and how it will be inside the space. The studio they worked on had a massive budget and they were able to implement sound isolation with paneling inside the walls and covering the walls, all fine tuned and calculated. All of the walls were slanted and the room had a floating ceiling and floor. They put in bass traps to bring the bass down to 20 hertz and used hanging linear traps that’s very effective for low frequencies. They treated the corners of the room to absorb the energy and sound as well.
The studio room was also created to be functional for novice artists, but also equipped to serve high end engineers to meet the needs of everyone who walked in. An example of this was the smaller speakers stopped performing at a certain decibel so as to not blow them out. That way if the artist wanted to blast the sound they were forced to use the bigger heavier speakers.
This was a very high end studio that also came at a high price to use, but it’s incredible to hear these feats from the design and construction team. They encouraged anyone who is interested in this field to join the AES (Audio Engineering Society) to keep a pulse on the newest practices for creating a super soundproof room.
To Wrap It Up
All in all my NAMM experience was fulfilling, exciting, and there’s no way to capture the incredible talent I saw performing in different showrooms or stages all around this convention. I learned a lot about the industry and also where I might want to browse my next guitar purchase. So what were your thoughts if you’ve made it this far? Is playing from afar going to be the next big thing? Will you tweak your next release strategy? Have a different perspective about the sound treatment in your home studio compared to what’s out there? But most importantly… will I see you at the next NAMM?