Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thoughts From The NAMM Show 2017 (Anaheim, California Jan.19/2017):

Well, it has been 18 years since I was at my last NAMM Show which, that year (1999), was held at the L.A. Convention Center because at that time, the Anaheim Convention Center was being renovated. It is much more crowded and noisy than I remember it from before. I don't even know how many people are here, but my estimation would say about 30,000 (and part of me thinks I'm being conservative). I'm just not sure, but it is a "metric shit tonne" of industry people. Ya know, I'm lucky ... I endorse for 3 companies that are in attendance here, and one of them covered the cost of me getting in to the show. Really, I'm very lucky in general when it comes to that. Walking through the endless thousands of square footage of the Anaheim Convention Center, the level of noise bombardment is, at times, borderline unbearable, with many musicians of various age groups, races, statures, male and female, all playing like the company whose instrument or product they are playing is going to take them aside and give an endorsement deal right there on the spot. Well, I suppose that HAS happened before with little known or unknown players, and it just might again...whenever, but I think you'd have a better chance buying a winning lottery ticket. Like I said, I'm lucky. I'm not a household name throughout the music world, but my profile is growing in many circles, partially due to, but NOT only because of, these endorsement deals I have. A few things had to fall into place for these deals to happen, and let me explain how each scenario worked for me with each endorsement deal I have and one that could happen, but won't, due to a demand which I just can't honor (I will explain this too). In 1996, I was doing a concert at an adjudicated music festival with a semi-professional big band in Calgary (where I live), and the band was chosen to back the trio of adjudicators for the final concert. Now, I was playing 1st tenor sax in the band, going about my business, and at the end of the concert, a gentleman came up to me out of the blue, handed me his card, and introduced himself as being from the Boosey and Hawkes music instrument company, and he was there taking care of one of the adjudicators (trumpet), as the adjudicator was an endorser of the trumpet brand of Boosey and Hawkes at the time (Besson Brass). Anyway, he eventually asked me if I'd be willing to play test some of the saxes they distribute (Julius Keilwerth - Fantastic horns by the way, made in Germany), and I said "sure, let's do it". He sent me three to try, I found one I liked more than the other two, and he said "okay, I'll be in town next week, let's have lunch". When we ended up meeting, he eventually asked me if I would be interested in endorsing Keilwerth saxes and be put on the Canadian artist roster. I couldn't believe he chose me, as there are a lot of great sax players across the country. Awhile later I asked him how I was chosen for this endorsement thing, and he told me that he asked staff members at the music store I frequented about who they thought would be good to approach for it. Now, hold that thought while I finish this part. In 2002, I moved from Julius Keilwerth to Yamaha due to Boosey and Hawkes (the parent company) going through a complete corporate restructure, not because I didn't like the product. I was sought out by one of Yamaha Canada's reps. who had approached a few of us after the restructuring, and I agreed but only if I liked the Yamaha saxophone I was playing...I WILL NOT endorse anything I'm not willing to play at anytime and under any circumstance just to have my mugshot on a poster or in a magazine. If I don't fully believe in what I am endorsing, I WON'T DO undermines the whole artist/company relationship, and goes a long way in helping commit "career suicide". It takes years to build a reputation and mere minutes to destroy it. And, as it turns out, I have been playing the Yamaha 82Z model tenor sax since 2002, and I LOVE it. My other two endorsements are much newer than my Yamaha endorsement is, so, here's number two...Theo Wanne saxophone mouthpieces. I have always been willing to try new things as I hear about them, especially reed and mouthpieces, so, when I heard that one of my sax buddies/colleagues was playing one, I started asking questions. As it turns out, another saxophone player friend/colleague I was at university with happened to be working for the company in distribution and artist relations, so, I asked if he could send some to me to try out. Long story short...I was so pleasantly surprised with how these mouthpieces played, that I ordered one a day or two after I first tried it. I called my ex-schoolmate in Vancouver (his name is Bryan) and ordered, and after the order was taken, he said..."if you really like playing these mouthpieces, I would like you to consider being added to our artist roster and endorse them for us".....Uhhhhhhh.....ya.....S U R E!! :) Endorsement number three (this one's a short one) :)...BG Woodwind Music Products (France). For 18 months, I worked for a music retail store that has stores in various cities in the country, so, I was dealing with company product and sales etc. One day while sitting at my desk taking care of some paperwork, my manager put an email in front of me from a distribution company in Markham, Ontario called "Counterpoint Music", and it was addressed to store managers saying that BG Woodwind Music Products (based near Lyon, France) wanted to start adding artists to their roster that are based in Canada, and, if the managers knew of anyone, please contact them. I said to my manager "of course I do...uhhh....ME!!" I had been using BG products off and on for years, so this was a "no-brainer" for me, and, having two other endorsements already in place did not hurt one bit either, in the end, with getting the third. The fourth endorsement, I almost had, but don't have, is for the saxophone reeds I use, which are made by a company called Vandoren. I spoke to the man I needed to speak to about being an addition to their roster (someone who I had known about, and who knew about me for many years), and he was very much interested in having me on board, BUT, Vandoren stipulates that, to be able to endorse their reeds, I must play, and endorse, their mouthpieces as well, and I'm enjoying the Theo Wanne mouthpiece I'm using right now FAR too much, so, I'm good. :) So, what's it all about, Alfie?? I'm sure you are very proud of me and all of that, but, who gives a shit?? Well, what do these four situations have in common with each other?? Well, if it isn't obvious enough to you at this point, let me tell you...I got these endorsements (and almost the fourth one) because of, and through, PEOPLE IN MY NETWORK. Feel free to go to the next 20 NAMM type trade shows and play HIGHER, FASTER, and LOUDER until HELL freezes, and good luck to you. Let's call this next sentence the most important one in this whole post: "Shit happens in this business primarily because of a network and the people you know within it". Now, don't get me wrong...a high level of proficiency on your chosen instrument(s) needs to be there, but, without a network to draw on, you will continue to be the greatest instrumentalist your basement has ever heard, and that's pretty much it. It likely won't fall on your lap, so don't wait for it to, or, wait until you think someone else will do it for you. Be willing to hand out, and accept, business cards and contact information, and then follow up with them later, even if it's a quick "hello" or "Merry Christmas" or whatever. I didn't come to NAMM to try and play my way into another endorsement deal or a record deal, I came to NAMM to build my network, meet people, and hang out...THAT will get you on track to an endorsement deal or record deal quicker with someone here than HIGHER, FASTER, and LOUDER "ever" will. Take care, and always look for the "nice notes". :) PB

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