Happy New Year, Happy New Gear!

Here it is… 2018 is finally here!

Some of you might still have the taste of the champagne in your mouth, others may only have the hangover part; and of course, some of you have been more reasonable to celebrate this numerical change, wishing to start this new year on some new good resolutions: quit smoking, eating healthy, start working out, losing weight to be fit, learn something new, spend more time in family, travel more, be less stressed, drink less, pursue happiness and earn more money to get out of debt…

That’s generally the most common new year wishes. But amongst the guitar world community, we often see three others: practice more, hoping to stop buying more gear, and finally hoping to buy more new gear. Not to say, those three resolutions can’t mutually be respected.

So, if you’re just like me and mainly shooting for the third resolution, you might already have a long list of gear you’d wish to buy if you’d become a millionaire overnight by winning the lottery (which, by the way, could also be another wish for the new year). Sometimes, the gear list could even be very long… very very long! At this very moment, mine already contains 81 electric guitars, 40 acoustic guitars, 11 basses, 32 guitar amp heads, 24 rack Preamps, 4 Bass amp heads, 21 Cabs, and over 400 Pedals. I said “millionaire”? Correction, I meant Billionaire!

It’s already more that I would ever need or use in a lifetime; and let’s be honest, as much as all this gear would actually be cool, fun, creative, collectable, etc… it wouldn’t make me play any better. For that I’d need to go back to the first resolution: Practice, practice and practice even more! But if I couldn’t get it done properly by now after playing music for 30 years, I probably need to come to the conclusion that I’m more a gear enthusiast than a good skilled musician. After 30 years, I finally accepted that fact and can live with this fact; and I use the word “enthusiast” but you can pick another word you like better: geek, addict, collector,…

However, even for a gear enthusiast, always more gear isn’t always good for us. More is more, no doubt about that Yngwie… but more is not necessarily better. Sometimes, more gear might be too much gear; we buy it for no particular reason other that it was cool and received some hype at the time, we play a little bit with when we got it, and then it did collect dust in a corner of the room until we decide to resell it to buy the new hyped one. So maybe it’s not such a bad idea to avoid hype in 2018 and try to buy less gear and focus more on practicing and playing with what we already own, right?

Unfortunately, the New Year celebrations generally mean that Winter NAMM is right around the corner; therefore some fresh and brave resolutions might already be in trouble and might be broken in less than a couple of weeks. Winter NAMM is a world music TRADE show and like its name might indicate it, it was initially created for the music “traders”: the manufacturers, suppliers, importers and dealers…

It was an opportunity to introduce the new product(s) that may come out during the year, maybe get some product feedback from artists, get some pre-orders from dealers, let know the dealers on what products they may want to get rid off before the new ones arrived, or even educate them on the big bullet points of the new products and what will be the message to communicate to the end customers in stores or in the press. And that was also why the Press was also invited to have some sneak peaks and organize some loaned products to be reviewed and let the printed press to prepare their next magazine edition. So it was mainly about Music professionals meeting other professionals.

But with the progress of technologies such the internet, social networks, smartphones with cameras, etc… the whole Winter NAMM trade show slightly changed. Now manufacturers might be reluctant to even show any concept ideas, because it might end on the internet and people will expect it to be released; when in fact, they might never be on the market for many reasons. Also, now everyone can see what’s going on, and therefore we expect any videos coming from a Trade show to be done by some professional cameramen and demoed by some professional gear demonstrators. At first, the people on the booth of a Trade Show such Winter NAMM was often the engineers that did the product and the sales people that would communicate with the dealers. At no point it was really in purpose to be a proper “Product Demo”. That part would have been done in stores and/or by professionals in the media.

However, today, anyone with a camera and a social network account can actually report the “news”; and since a lot of sales are now done directly from internet, we can’t deny that events such Winter NAMM are more and more designed for the end users/customers. Professionals from all over the world can now have face to face meetings with Skype. There’s many ways to confidentially share the latest news and products info with a simple private mailing list and a part of the manufacturer website only accessible by approved dealers. So the whole concept of Trade Shows is not really useful for that matter; and that’s also why many manufacturers don’t even show up for those expensive events anymore.

But that’s also why, the Trade Shows now changed to target and communicate to the end customers directly. So Winter NAMM becomes more and more the event for manufacturers marketing teams to bombard the internet with hype for their new products. It’s all about making sure to catch the maximum of attention from the customers, to create more desire for them to spend money in the new products, in other words: create the demand. For that matters, there’s nothing more efficient than always more: more videos, more interviews, more website articles, more forum posts, etc… the more people will talk about a brand, the better. But it doesn’t guarantee to anyone that it would be any good; nor that anyone would take the time to breath, step back and really wonder if this new “hyped gear” will actually be very useful for us… or if it will just end up collecting dust in the corner of the room until next year.

Of course, many of us can always find a way to justify it. Sometimes we even convince ourselves, even with some very unfunded arguments to the point we believe it and start to think we can’t even live without it; and that’s how we can end up with a wish list that never stop growing and to which we keep adding every year always more new gear from every new trade show. That’s also how we generally break a very fresh new resolution we just took couple weeks earlier. So, this year, just like I came to conclusion that I’m more a gear enthusiast than a skilled musician, I think I must also come to the conclusion it would be completely useless to take any new year resolution that I couldn’t keep; But instead just embrace the fact I like gear and Winter NAMM is coming… so it will feed my GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and will probably make me add couple of new things on my wish list.

So, I wish to everyone of you a Happy New Year and Happy New Gear!

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About the Author: French by birth but Texan by heart, I had different careers in multiple areas that don’t really make sense when they’re all laid down on my resume. Amongst them I’m a former military officer (mainly confidential stuff I can’t talk about) — I’m a former network architect (the stuff with switches, routers, optical fibers, satellites and wireless things that allow people to be connected) — I’m a former R&D engineer and product designer (mainly for electronics instruments in the Music Industry) — I’m also a former sound engineer that worked in professional recording studios (but nobody cares about that anymore) — and I even thought once in my life I was someone almost important doing things almost awesome... Now I’m just a professional amateur spreading my 2 cents online about anything and everything to anyone with too much time in their hands — and if you’re reading this bio, you might be one of them that just wasted 2mn of your life you will never get back. Sorry...

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