The Value of Associations

My good friend Zach Phillips sent me a few photos from the recent NAMM Show in Austin, TX.  NAMM is the International Music Products Association.  Zach is the Editor of Music Inc. Magazine – a trade paper that covers the music products industry.  He is also a talented singer and guitarist and loves having the opportunity to get together with his friends and perform.  Fortunately, the NAMM show and other industry gatherings offer members this opportunity – to get together to play, discuss, argue, learn, buy and sell.

In any industry there are natural tensions between manufacturers and retailers.  The music products industry is no exception.  And recently there have been added tensions between one group of retailers – the independent, traditional music stores and another group – the large, multiple location, national chain stores – e.g. Guitar Center.  Rather the problem, from the point of view of the independents is that manufacturers offer preferred terms and exclusive, coveted brands to the national chains and could care less if the independents survive or not.

This may be a simplistic statement of the problem and recently, the trade magazines have printed letters from frustrated dealers offering their simplistic solutions – eliminate the sales tax exemption on out-of-state internet purchases, prohibit cheaply made, low-priced imported musical products, etc. But there is one simple solution to any problem – open communication.

NAMM, to their credit, did a great job facilitating open communication at the July trade show.  They sponsored a Town Hall meeting with an open microphone.  An All-Star panel of manufacturers and retailers answered “hot button” questions from the audience and the moderator.  There were free twenty-minute seminars and question and answer sessions all three days in the idea center.  And best of all, colleagues and competitors sharing ideas and opinions during chance encounters at the hotels, bars and restaurants in Austin.

And yet, the attendance numbers at the show were down by a considerable amount.  Fewer dealers attended and many of those who did attend came with fewer staff.  I don’t get it!

I know that this economy is not the best. Sales for many dealers – and manufacturers – were flat at best last year.  Many dealers like to drive to the summer show and Austin was a bit too far away for many.  But …, if you are having problems you can not solve them by yourself.  Talking to and learning from your industry peers are probably the best ways to discover solutions, insider tips and successful marketing plans.  Getting inspired and trained in improved sales techniques are also compelling reasons to regularly attend professional association meetings – regardless of the venue.

If you want to find out what you missed, I suggest that you check out the daily recaps on the NAMM website –  If you don’t want to miss another sales opportunity don’t miss the next trade show in January 2007 in Anaheim, CA.

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