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Best In Show Highlights Top Products at NAMM

The NAMM Show 2009 culminated on Jan. 18 with NAMM University’s Best In Show. During this panel discussion, seven industry experts offered their views on the best products and services they saw during The NAMM Show.

More than 650 attendees were treated to Best In Show. The panelists were asked to discuss their choices in four specific categories:
• Something Small — A great product that’s either small in price or small in size.
• Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers wished they had last Christmas.
• Companies to Watch — An exhibitor who is making a difference with trend-setting products or trend-setting services.
• Best In Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM.

This year’s panelists included:
• Zach Phillips, editor, Music Inc. and UpBeat Daily.
• Victor Salazar, general manager and event coordinator, The Drum Pad in Palatine, Ill.
• Greg Billings, owner, Steinway Piano Gallery in Bonita Springs, Fla.
• Pete Gamber, owner, Alta Loma Music in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
• Liane Rockley, co-owner, Rockley Music in Lakewood, Colo.
• Ted Eschliman, co-owner, Dietz Music in Lincoln, Neb.
• Alan Friedman, partner, Friedman, Kannenberg & Co.

Their selections are listed below with comments.

“Once again, our panel combed the show floor at NAMM and came back with some great picks,” said panel moderator Frank Alkyer, publisher of Music Inc., UpBeat Daily and DownBeat magazines. “Best In Show has become an incredible platform for discussing great products and services. My only regret is that this industry is so creative, we cannot begin to note every product deserving of this kind of recognition. Still, it’s a very good start and bodes well for gear in 2009.”

Something Small
Phillips: Couch Guitar Straps
“These guys are the ultimate socially conscious, green, save-the-world type company.”

Salazar: HQ EcoPad From D’Addario
“The rubber playing surface is made from recycled tires, and the base is made of residual wood waste. It feels great, and no trees are being harmed.”

Rockley: Mel Bay Lick Library
“In this day and age when things are so tough, we have to focus on accessories and small things. People may not have enough money to buy a guitar, but they have enough money to buy these DVDs.”

Billings: My First Baldwin Piano
“It is the cutest thing. It comes with an iPod dock mounted to the top of it, and it’s about the same price as an average starter keyboard. There is a real problem in the piano business with entry-level [instruments] and getting kids to play the first time. This is really a breakthrough product.”

Gamber: Facelift Reusable Guitar Body Overlay
“You can have one guitar and 30 different looks with the Facelift.”

Eschliman: Mel Bay Children’s Chord Books
“We need this sort of product as a bridge, as a catalyst to music exploration and to reclaim our role as music stores where you get your music education. This is the type of stuff that will do that.”

Friedman: Samson Go Mic
“This is a USB mic, no drivers required. You can use it for voice-over-Internet, podcasting, Webcasting, a whole variety of different things. It’s a great little product and high-quality.”

Gotta Stock It
Phillips: Tonium Pacemaker Pocket-Size DJ System
“This product does so much. I am pretty overwhelmed by it.”

Salazar: Alfred Todd Sucherman Methods & Mechanics DVD
“It’s a tremendous, inspiring, entertaining DVD. We had 24 [in my store] go in a week.”

Rockley: Hal Leonard Rock Band Guitar Method and Twilight, The Score
“If you don’t have Twilight [books] in your stores, you’re really missing the boat. This is a really big thing, especially among teenage girls. You will sell this book.”

Billings: Web Only Piano Player Piano CDs
“The only bright spot in the piano business is player pianos, and the biggest problem with player pianos is that almost all the CDs that have been produced have been produced by the manufacturers of the systems. If customers buy more music from this Web site later, [Web Only] will pay [the retailer] gross profit on the transaction.”

Gamber: Hal Leonard Rock Riffs series; Kazoobie Humazoo and Electric Kazoo
“[With Rock Riffs], instead of sounding all band geeky and the guitar guys wanna give you a swirly, you can jam. Why do you think no kids want to play the trombone? Thank you, Hal Leonard, for putting horn licks in the guitar key. When you’re in seventh grade you can jam with your guitar friends.”

Eschliman: Latin Percussion Shakers: VariTone, Cyclone and Wah
“Drummers like bright, shiny things. You can never have enough toys. They come in nice point-of-purchase packaging and hang really nicely [on your displays].”

Friedman: Hercules iStand From Kaman
“With travel and weight restrictions while traveling to gigs, it would be really cool to have a really portable guitar stand, and here it is.”

Companies to Watch

Phillips: Voyage-Air Guitar for its Songwriter series of travel guitars
“They play and feel like good, mid-priced guitars. And they fold down into the size of a carry-on.”

Salazar: GMS Drum as a boutique drum manufacturer that has launched lower-cost models
“They’ve been around for over 20 years [as a company] that does high-end, custom drums. However, through the years, they’ve been expanding their lines so more people can buy a GMS kit. They are creating less-expensive lines, while still maintaining tremendous quality.”

Rockley: Freehand for Sheet Music On A Stick
“The really cool thing about this is that you plug them into your home computer, and the music pops up on the screen and you can change the key on it or add that trumpet line. I’m really excited to see how they develop this product.”

Billings: QRS and Story & Clark for their new video player piano system and USB connections on all acoustic pianos
“On every piano they make — at no additional charge — they include a USB port. This is an amazing breakthrough that bridges that gap. There is some really good software for kids and learning programs, but if you have an acoustic piano, there’s a huge bridge [to get it from the computer to the piano].”

Gamber: EMD for its broad line of value-priced products
“This year, I’ve found so many niche products that they carry. This stuff here is what I would call your alternative music line. Everything is packaged and awesome for your wall. If I were to open my retail store today, this is the company I would have dropped some money with.”

Eschliman: Roland for its HD-1 Drum Tutor
“I think it is important that we find things that bring us back into the public light again. We are where music starts. So we are looking for products that do that. So, here’s the drum tutorial software for the HD-1. I’m really excited about this.”

Friedman: Yamaha for its Financial Advantage Course
“This is a company that gives an awful lot back to this industry.”

Best In Show
Phillips: Paul Reed Smith Tube Amp Line
“I just thought the amps sound phenomenal. Its a major event for Paul Reed Smith dealers.”

Salazar: Pearl Eliminator Demon Drive pedals
“It’s unbelievable what this pedal can do. Usually on a left pedal — no matter what you do — there is a little bit of a delay. The left pedal doesn’t always feel as good as the primary because it’s not direct. It’s amazing how precise the left feels to the right on this pedal.”

Rockley: Roland Digital Harpsichord
“When my husband said he ordered a digital harpsichord, I said, ’Are you nuts?’ As chief financial officer for our company, it’s my job to make sure we’re not spending money in places that are a little bit weird. So this harpsichord comes, and it is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Roland really got it right. It feels like a harpsichord. We only had it in the store for 48 hours before the Boulder [Colorado] Chamber Orchestra bought it.”

Billings: Roland V-Piano
“This is an unbelievable sound. The first time I heard it, I said it’s like sticking your head inside a Steinway D. If you thought the V-Drums revolutionized electronic drums or the V-Guitar [revolutionized guitars], this is beyond.”

Gamber: Antigua TR3580BN Black Nickel Trumpet
“This is a killer horn. It has a versatile tone. This is something that will differentiate you from other people because this is not your band director’s trumpet.”

Eschliman: Stringnet MP3 Guitar, Mandolin and Ukulele Lines
“They’ve got some really innovative things. I think it’s a great idea, integrating the iPod or the MP3 player with an actual instrument. It’s a great look to the future.”

Friedman: Ernie Ball’s 25th Anniversary Guitar
“I’m really nominating the whole company. There is so much innovation behind this company.” MI