As you read this, I am headed to Los Angeles.
For the past few years, I have been doing presentations at the annual NAMM Show. NAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants. Their annual show in Anaheim is a beast. 7000 brands are exhibiting. There over 500 sessions and networking events, with over 115,000 people registered (from over 120 countries). That’s not a typo. Have you ever been to conference/trade show with over 115,000 people? The trade show floor is so big that I have never been able to walk it in its entirety. I dare say that I’ve only ever managed to see a small fraction of it. NAMM is the biggest (and most awesome) event for the music, sound and event technology industries. What started off as an event for the manufacturers of music instruments to show their wares for the coming year with music instrument retailers has morphed and grown into this behemoth.
NAMM is actually Bizarro World. That’s what I call it.
For the non-comic book nerds, Bizarro World was the creation of DC Comics. It was a planet where everything was inverted (or, as Wikipedia defines it, “opposite to expectations”). See, in the real world, the ratio of human being to rock star is very small. At NAMM, it’s inverted. Almost everyone you see is a rock star (either literally, or in their respective fields). If you follow my Instagram or Facebook feeds, you will see what I mean. Every step you take at NAMM puts you face to face with another rock star. For a music fan like me? Sounds like heaven. For a music fan like me with a podcast like Groove – The No Treble Podcast? Sounds like heaven. For a music fan like me with a podcast like Groove – The No Treble Podcast and a background in rock music journalism (which I did for over a decade)? Sounds like heaven. In short: Yes, it’s heaven.
You can mix business with pleasure.
Being able to present and connect to the leaders in those industries about how they can decode the future, and understand what’s next for their business is a true pleasure (and that’s no humblebrag). Getting to spend my days walking the NAMM trade show floor, and talking up bass players with the crew from No Treble is a true pleasure (“where you at, Kev?!?”). I also get to see what’s next in that industry’s technology. For me, It’s amazing to be able to say that you truly can mix business with pleasure. It’s nothing that I have ever written or talked about all that much, but as I prep to give a session on what some of the best YouTube channels do to get it so right (Ultimate YouTube Hacks for Music Retailers) and a live recording of the No Treble Podcast with Van Halen’s Michael Anthony, I realized that one of the main things I’ve done when choosing clients, jobs or even the vocation that I’m in, was based on the question, “will this be fun?” All of my work has been things that I would do as a hobby if it were not my job. From writing in the music business to fiddling with nascent technology, to helping brands do better at marketing – it wasn’t money-driven or career stature-driven… I did it because I thought it would be fun. Not in a goofy/fun kind of way, but in a stimulating/“I would really enjoy this” kind of way. It hasn’t always worked out. I’ve quit jobs. I’ve been fired from jobs. Some of it was my own doing, and I’ve been in situations where I would have stayed, but I was let go. With that, it’s hard to be mad or upset, when you really do love the work that you’re doing, and the industry that you serve.
Maybe that’s the real happiness trick?
We hear so much about “finding your passion” or doing that “one thing,” but maybe it’s more about doing work that gives you pleasure. Being in an industry that you’re genuinely inquisitive and excited about. That seems more like a reasonable (and possible) path for those to take who don’t get that kind of satisfaction from the work that they’re currently doing. Is business and hard work important? Of course it is (I’m writing this article at 9 pm on a Friday night). But just because it’s work, or business or a job, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be a total pleasure to do. It won’t always be a pleasure (that’s unrealistic and impossible), but in your heart of hearts, you know what inspires you to grow and move forward. For me, NAMM is a great personal case study and the perfect microcosm of how I define success (for myself): My ability to do the work that I do, for the industries that inspire me, in front of professionals who are appreciative of my work (and I’m compensated accordingly), while being surrounded by people I work with (and for)… and they are truly friends.
If you can find a better definition for success, I’m all ears.