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Chicago-Based Music Product Manufacturers Strut At 2014 NAMM Show

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - In Anaheim's summer-like climate, several Chicago-based manufacturers of musical equipment rushed to show off their newest technology to the music industry in hopes of grabbing the attention of the 96,000 registrants, including artists, manufacturers, and dealers, from 90 countries at the 113th annual NAMM Show.

The National Association of Music Merchants Show occupied all 1.2 million square feet of the Anaheim Convention Center and was only open to NAMM members. They included Shure Microphones, Sensaphonics, Gepco, Hammond, Black Lion Audio and nearly 40 other Chicago based companies.

"The show has always been very important for Fender -- 60 years ago the Stratocaster was first introduced to the world at NAMM" said Chicago native Del Breckenfeld, author of the music marketing book "The Cool Factor" and Director of Entertainment Marketing at Fender.

"It is a unique opportunity for us to have our entire team, product line and our vendors under one roof. There's something magical about being able to see and touch the products that you just can't get from reading product sheets."

Breckenfeld also sits on the board of the Fender Foundation, a not-for-profit that has assisted in providing over 200,000 music instruments donated to schools around the country. On display and up for charitable auction at the show was the guitar set ablaze, a la Jimi Hendrix, by Bruno Mars in the music video for his song "Gorilla."

Other show attractions included educational seminars conducted by NAMM-U, a program geared towards educating music equipment dealers on a wide range of sales and marketing concepts.

There were also daily live tapings of the weekly YouTube series Pensado's Place, a wildly popular show hosted by Grammy winning mixing engineer Dave Pensado (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Michael Jackson) featuring interviews with top music industry artists,engineers, producers, mixers, and record executives, as well as in depth tutorials in engineering and mixing.

"NAMM is important to my team at Pensado's Place for a number of reasons," said Herb Trawick, co-host and executive producer of Pensado's place (whose credits include Brian McKinght's "Back at One" and other hits).

"Our show is about audio, and this convention is a one-stop opportunity for new products, innovations, and a chance to actually test drive the new stuff.  Additionally, its a huge watering hole for the community to gather, see each other, and catch up.  That is vitally important."  

Trawick continued, "We shoot our show live from the NAMM floor... and every year we love, LOVE that the fire marshall tries to shut down our show because the crowds are so big.  Yeah!!"

Graeme Watson of Chicago-based Saints and Sinners Audio Video and Lighting, a NAMM regular, shared, "The show is one of the ways I keep my ear to the ground on the latest technology in sound and lighting, my customers don't want last year's technology."

Steve Simmons of Hammond Organ Company in Addison, Illinois was on hand to accept the Hall of Fame award commemorating their 80th year at the NAMM Show. "As if the award wasn't amazing enough, Stevie Wonder stopped by for a chat. What a great show for us!", said Simmons.

Even with its members-only admission policy, seeing all of NAMM's wares is virtually impossible -- especially on the weekend when attendance is at its heaviest. Here are some of the products that caught attention at the NAMM media preview:

Universal Audio
New product: Apollo Twin
Hook: High quality, latency free and extremely portable interface for performance or studio recording through the full range of UAD Powered Plug-Ins including titles from legendary gear emulations from Neve, Studer, Manley, Lexicon, API and more.
Suggested Retail Price: $899

Slate Pro Audio
New product: Virtual Microphone System
Hook: 3 part system that enables professional studios and home recording artists to flawlessly replicate classic microphones and vintage preamps that would cost over $30,000 to buy.
Suggested Retail Price: TBD

Black Lion Audio
ew product: B173
Hook: Respectable clone of Ruppert Neve's legendary 1073, a mic preamp heard on 1000's of songs for over 30 years, at one tenth of the price.
Suggested Retail Price: $449

New product: Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster guitar
Hook: A very special recreation of the "Hitmaker"—the well-worn 1960 Stratocaster played by Chic co-founder and revered session ace Rodgers on countless chart-topping songs and albums like the Grammy winning Random Access Memories by Daft Punk, including the multi-platinum hit, "Get Lucky."

New Product: 3D AARO in-ear system
Hook: Known as the go-to in-ear monitors for Steven Tyler, deadmau5, Dave Matthews, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Chris Cornell because they allow the artist to hear ambient noise from the audience in addition to their monitor mix, the new version allows for recording of a concert performance exactly from the artist's perspective.
Suggested Retail Price: TBD

New Product: Piano Mania
Hook: The ultimate practice tool that allows users (targeted towards children) to practice the piano with their smartphone or tablet - no wires required.
Suggested Retail Price: FREE

In addition to seeing the latest and greatest products from 5,000 brands on display, attendees were very likely to bump in to A-list artists like Stevie Wonder, a regular who has been dubbed the Mayor of NAMM.

Wonder is just one of many celebrities who head to Anaheim each January. This year's stars included guitar legends Eddie Van Halen, John Mayer, Tom Peterson (Cheap Trick), Don Felder (The Eagles) and other A-list artists like Smokey Robinson, Todd Rundgren, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Crystal Method, "The Sing-Off" host Ben Folds, and, with the Grammy Awards being held the same weekend, an abundance of other artists were in attendance.

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