2012 Winter NAMM Show – Day 4
Things pretty much wound down for me on Saturday. Sunday, the slowest day, was spent mostly in saying hello to people I hadn’t had a chance to visit with yet and to take a second look at a couple of things, some successful and some not. I wanted to play with that Line 6 digital mixer a bit more, but the two units that were open for playing with on Friday were under plastic covers Sunday. I hope they didn’t break!
The highlight for me Sunday was watching the movie The Wrecking Crew. It’s a documentary about the loose group of session musicians in Los Angeles who made up the band for just about every pop record that came out of California from the birth of rock and roll in the late 1950s through the late 1970s, by which time bands had become self-contained and didn’t need backup musicians for recording. These were the people who played behind The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Jan and Dean, Glenn Campbell (who was a Wrecking Crew member himself), Elvis Presley . . the list goes on.
There were, in the words of a few of the members of the group, 20, maybe 30, maybe 40 of the regular gang who were called in for sessions, and in those days there was full time work for all of them. It’s very different today, of course. Mostly these folks were invisible to the record buying public since their names didn’t appear on the records. Some that you may have heard of because they’ve become legends in the later years are Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey, Glenn Campbell, Hal Blaine, Plas Johnson . . .
The film was produced by Denny Tedesco, son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy and is full of interviews, photos, film and video clips, and lots of music. While the film has been essentially finished for a few years now and has made the rounds of film festivals and private showing such as at NAMM and received wide acclaim, there’s still about $200,000 needed to clear (and pay royalties on) all of the music. At the moment, they’re in a fund raising phase, with the plan to put out a DVD with the full film plus a lot of bonus material and hopefully get distribution. They’re under the umbrella of the International Documentary Association, which gives donations tax deductible status. Visit the Wrecking Crew Film web site, check out some clips and background information, and send ‘em a buck or a grand and help get this show on the road.
NAMM has always been about music, and music is frequently the vehicle for social commentary. There was an action group (with music, of course) from Mozambique outside the convention center bringing the “Gibson Guitar Raid” story to the public. They’re losing their forests to wood harvesters and they recognize that their own government is too disorganized to control forestry and export of native woods, so they’re encouraging the US and other countries to do it for them. Although the Lacey act doesn’t specifically target the instrument building business, that’s where a lot of the wood goes. NAMM is indeed concerned both for the state of the native forests and the security of the industry that they support and has their own lobbyists working on Capitol Hill. They don’t want to get the law repealed (as most musicians do), they want clarification on what it covers and how it’s enforced. Obviously raiding a major instrument manufacturer and confiscating tons of material makes a point, but doesn’t solve the problem.
If this year’s musings seem to be kind of shy on gear reports, it’s not that there wasn’t any new gear, it’s just that there’s so much that’s so little different from what’s already out there that it hardly matters, in certain categories, what you buy. The new microphone this year that looks just like the new microphone last year except perhaps for a different case color and “slightly smoother response.” If you want some particular preamp, equalizer, or compressor in a 500-series package, it’s probably there by now and all you have to do is ask for it.
The industry certainly isn’t dying, it’s flourishing. The exhibit halls were pretty full this year, and all of the vendors who I know well enough to ask about how they’re doing have responded very positively. People are buying stuff, and while each year there are more newcomers buying new entry level gear, more of them are maturing and looking for, not necessarily the $10,000 D/A converter, but they’re starting to recognize that they can hear their mixes better through a $1,000 converter than what’s coming out of their $300 I/O box, and they’re spending the money. That has to be a good thing.
I’ll be consolidating these quick notes and filling in some details over the next week or so. I’ll post again here when the full report is up.