Our 2013 NAMM Show Diary
Some people think that the NAMM Show starts in January, but theyʼre only partially correct. At ESP, we start planning for NAMM months and months before the actual event. Back in summer of 2012, work was already well underway to go through the process of creating the new guitar models weʼd be showing off months later. Putting together all the plans for our big demo room inside the Anaheim Convention Center also takes a long time. But all the hard work is well worth it, as anyone whoʼs visited our NAMM booth can tell you.
What is the NAMM Show?
We sometimes assume that everyone has heard of NAMM. It stands for “National Association of Music Merchants”, and itʼs the trade organization for every company that makes and sells instruments or audio gear. Every January, they host a really big trade convention in Southern California. The bad news for most people is that NAMM is not open to the public; you need to work for a company or store in the industry to attend. Other people go as guests of these companies, and even then, passes to the show can be hard to come by. However, that doesnʼt stop it from being a huge show. In fact, NAMM is the West Coastʼs largest trade show of any kind, with about 100,000 people attending from all over the world each year.
Clinics with Amazing Players
Throughout the four days of the show, we had live clinics featuring three different players. Andy James, a UK-based guitarist with Sacred Mother Tongue, is a highly respected player with chops for days. We were introducing his new LTD Signature Series model, the AJ-1, at the show, and Andy performed flawlessly at each of his clinics. Another great player, Prashant Aswani, handled more guitar demos. Prashant was performing on the new LTD Elite ST-1, and his fluid playing was the perfect complement to the ST-1ʼs performance abilities. For bass clinics, we were delighted to have Pancho Tomaselli and his own LTD Signature model, the PT-4. Pancho regaled the crowds with both excellent bass chops and highly-entertaining stories about being a working bass player.
Also, we had the benefit this year of having a new dedicated product manager, Eric Oppenheimer, at the show, who helped to give out information on our new guitars and basses to the dozens of magazine writers and camera crews who visited.
Dozens and Dozens of New Models
What NAMM is really all about is the new gear, and ESP kicked it up a notch this year with 145 new models and finishes for 2013. Hereʼs what had people talking at the show:
LTD Elite: Our dealers and booth visitors were very excited by the new LTD Elite models, which included the ST-1 (Duncan), ST-1 (EMG), Eclipse-1 (Duncan), Eclipse-1 (EMG), M-II, and Horizon-III guitars, and J-4 and J-5 basses. Since LTD Elite is a new line of premier-quality instruments that are built in Japan by our ESP luthiers, people quickly understood that they represent an opportunity to get the world-renowned ESP quality at much more affordable prices.
Signature Series: In addition to the aforementioned Andy James model, our NAMM visitors seemed very stoked about the new Stephen Carpenter baritone 7-string models, the ESP STEF-T7B and LTD SCT-607B. We also heard plenty of compliments about George Lynchʼs amazing new GL-J1ES acoustic/electric models, the Alexi Laiho “Greeny” models, the addition of new ESP and LTD signature basses for Tommy Stinson (Guns Nʼ Roses), and Will Adlerʼs (Lamb of God) new “Warbird” models.
Vintage Series: Many of our dealers and international distributors were very happy to see our new huge variety of instruments in our LTD Vintage Series, such as the expansion of the ST and TE guitar line, and J and Vintage basses. While they might not represent the most revolutionary instruments we make, these guitars and basses are both affordable and high in quality, and thatʼs something every music store likes to offer their customers.
330 Series: We greatly expanded the LTD 330 Series at this NAMM Show. These guitars and basses, available in a variety of styles and finishes, all use ESPʼs own active pickup design to keep the prices reasonable in an otherwise finely-appointed instrument. At NAMM, people were loving the see-thru-sunburst finishes (in Black Cherry, Green, Blue, and Purple) on the flamed maple tops of the EC-330FM, H-330NTFM, M-330RFM, and MH-330FMFR guitars.
EverTune Series: Two of our new models, the LTD EC-1000ET and MH-1000ET, are two of the first guitars from a large manufacturer to offer the EverTune bridge system as factory equipment. EverTune is a fascinating bridge that has constant-tension springs in the guitarʼs body, and results in guitars that stay in near perfect tune (and excellent intonation) in nearly all conditions.
Graphic Series: ESP has long been known for incredible graphic finishes on our custom and signature guitars. At NAMM, we showed a batch of new limited edition comic/horror-themed guitars, as well as three new limited edition Vampire Biotech graphic models from artist Mister Sam. In addition to the guitars themselves, people enjoyed the graveyard display at the ESP booth!
Thanking our Dealers and International Distributors
At its heart, the NAMM show is about doing business with the people who sell our guitars, and we always like the opportunity to thank them for their support. We hosted a dealer appreciation cocktail party in our booth after the first evening of the show, and on Saturday, we presented our Dealer of the Year award for their outstanding performance and support to Studio Gears.
Also, throughout the show, we met with out ESP/LTD distributors from around the world. Did you know that our instruments are sold over over 70 different countries? We enjoyed meeting with and talking to people about how we can better serve our customers from Argentina to Venezuela, Ecuador to Egypt, Iceland to India, and beyond.
Always one of the highlights of NAMM is when ESP brings our artists up for a signing session. We had some amazing groups of musicians this year, and theyʼre all incredibly generous to have accommodated us and the thousands of fans who stood in line to meet and greet with them.
We started our first signing of the show on Friday January 25, when we hosted a cornucopia of bass greatness. Frank Bello (Anthrax), Tommy Stinson (Guns Nʼ Roses), Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power), and Pancho Tomaselli (War/PHILM) sat down together, and hundreds of people came to hang out with these bass greats.
Later that day, it was a combination of DevilDriver (Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick) and Suicide Silence (Mark Heylmun and Dan Kenny) who brought the rock to our little signing table. Somehow, we seemed to run out of the entire weekendʼs worth of beer in our little artist lounge while that group of signees was present. Hmm.
Saturday is always the busiest day at NAMM by far, and this year was no exception. The ESP booth was packed all day long, and our two artist signing sessions borderedon insanity for awhile. It started with a great combination of killer guitar players: Gus G. (Ozzy Osbourne/Firewind), Andy James (Sacred Mother Tongue), and Will Adler (Lamb of God). It just happened to be Willʼs birthday on that very day, and we had fun toasting his birthday with cake (and more beer).
The last signing of our NAMM show was with three musicians who all have deep roots with ESP. Stephen Carpenter (Deftones), Michael Wilton (Queensrÿche), and George Lynch (Dokken/Lynch Mob) all took their spots at our signing table, and the lines to meet them extended out the door and down the hall. Still, each of these guys were as amazing as usual, and patiently made sure that everyone got through for handshakes, photos, autographs, and chatting.
A Great NAMM Show... Thanks to You!
There were a few things that made this yearʼs NAMM show particularly good. One was a cool change in the way that IDs were checked only on the outer perimeter of the convention center, so ESP fans didnʼt have to cross a security checkpoint every time they went up or down the escalator to our booth!
But more important than that, we were very happy about the way our dealers and friends were truly excited about our new guitars and basses. NAMM might be hard work and a lot of effort for us at ESP, but seeing our booth filled day after day with people who love our guitars makes it all more than worthwhile.