Wander the convention floor at the recent NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show, and you might feel like you’re being jerked through some bizarre space/time continuum. One booth has virtual reality goggles and promises the future of music making will be entirely digital; the next booth displays banjos. Vinyl record manufacturers sit side by side with wireless MIDI controllers; guitars promoted by classic rock legends bump up against sophisticated production software. While the overall effect is somewhat jarring, it’s also refreshing and comforting — rather than fighting, old-school and new-school music makers are finding ways to peaceably co-exist. And though there weren’t any virtual reality ukulele programs this year, that doesn’t mean that there might not be in the future.
The trend at NAMM mirrors a trend we’re seeing among younger consumers — the ability to enjoy old and new technology without feeling limited by or tied to either. Hip stores offer records to an audience that still consumes music digitally; a label powered by social media influencers and their communities called Heard Well does a brisk business in physical and download sales. Father John Misty or Mumford and Sons play the same festivals as Skrillex and Diplo.
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