To NAMM And Back

At the end of January 2018, the INNOVA Music team set up shop at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in Anaheim, California, to publicly show off the WalkaBout Drum for the first time. It was an amazing, productive, surreal experience. Many of my musician friends had been asking about it, so I thought I would share my thoughts and reflections.

If you’ve never been to a NAMM Show before, it’s like Disneyland for musicians. NAMM is probably the largest show of its kind in the world, an industry-insider convention of musical instrument manufacturers, distributors, retailers, educators, press, and a lot of musical crazies. I’ve been a number of times and always had a blast. But this year was different. As I explained to a friend, it was like being at Disneyland, but this time, I’m selling balloons.

Picture the largest room you’ve ever been in and quadruple it, then imagine it filled with nothing but incessantly loud drums and drummers. Now picture that next to the second largest room you’ve ever been in (and quadruple it), all filled with incessantly loud electric guitars and guitarists. Et cetera. Three floors of it. Five buildings of it. From electric harps to contra bassoons, from smoke machines and lasers to the most exquisite grand pianos you’ve ever seen. That’s NAMM.

We sat in the middle of the loudest part of this craziness, in a corner booth, demonstrating the WalkaBout for four straight days. We signed endorsers, met with manufacturers and distributors, schmoozed with the press, and most of all, played music with some amazing musicians.

One of the most delightful things about this experience was watching people’s responses when they strapped on the instrument for the first time. They would tentatively tap around the front face of the drum, exploring the sounds—and then an “a-ha!” moment would suddenly appear on their faces. Then they would start jamming with abandon, like a little kid unleashed in a ball pit. But this was perhaps the coolest thing. We had two demo stations set up at the booth, and many times, two separate percussionists—who never met before—would slowly turn to one another, lock eyes, and sync their drum patterns. Suddenly a jam would start—heads bobbing and feet dancing—and a crowd would form around them, like a spontaneous concert erupting. People would smile, point, and pull out their phones to post the video.

Despite having never met, the WalkaBout would bring two complete strangers together and form them into a band.

I had many takeaways I brought back with me, but maybe one of the most personal was the reminder that what we do is supposed to be fun. What we do as musicians—and for any kind of artist for that matter—is to intrinsically, whimsically, and fundamentally create joy.

We must never, ever forget that.

Here’s an article on the WalkaBout from the March 2018 edition of “Music & Sound Retailer Magazine.” Enjoy!

[Photos: (1) WalkaBout endorser and “Minister of Groove,” Zoro, draws a crowd. (2) Tabla virtuoso and our newest endorsing artist, Salar Nader. (3) Just one of the fun people we met at NAMM.]


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