Today, I’ll be talking about trade shows, conventions and exhibits.
First, we should differentiate the difference. Trade shows such as NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) are held twice a year, Los Angeles in the winter and Nashville in the summer. They are usually of not much value to a hand builder. They are big business and designed for retail stores to see what’s out there and place their orders for the year. That’s not to say they can’t be great fun but realistically not something to count on to increase your revenue.
The second are conventions such as the Guild of American Luthiers and the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans. They are held about every other year and are great venues for sharing ideas and learning new techniques in guitar building. While you can exhibit your guitars (they typically have one day open to the public for viewing), they are not really geared for selling. Having said this, I picked up a major dealer by having my guitar in a listening session. He heard one of my guitars and liked it enough to take me on.
I can’t say enough good about these events. You get to see other luthiers work in a non-threatening manner and get to meet some of the pioneers of modern lutherie, Ervin Somogyi, Charles Fox, John Greven and Harry Fleishman to name a few.
The third category is the exhibition. These are shows like the Healdsburg Guitar Festival and the Montreal Guitar Show. These are shows that have to be applied for and accepted to or invited. While they are not juried shows on the face, they do try to have a certain degree of diversity and skill level.
As with the conventions, these are great venues to expose your instruments to the public. Even if you don’t sell them at the shows, you can meet future clients and dealers. This is another great way to meet some of the finest makers in the world and every time I go I’m both humbled and excited to get back and make new inroads in my lutherie.
The bottom line is that all of these are worth the time on one level or another, and I look forward to all of them.