NASMD 2010: Catching ‘the Wave’ in Hilton Head
In the wake of a decidedly more upbeat Winter NAMM show this past January and taking place concurrent to a similarly encouraging Frankfurt get-together (see page 20), this year’s NASMD Convention continued the trend of an industry showing distinct signs of life.
This March, the tagline was “Catch the New Wave” – appropriate given the scenic Oceanside setting of Hilton Head, S.C. – and if the “new wave” was one of optimism and cheerful buoyancy, then: consider it to have been caught.
While the numbers never tell the full story, there’s no arguing that the data for 2010 is a welcome improvement over last year: companies represented at the NASMD gathering were up 20 percent, compared to 2009; the total number of attendees (315) represented a 15 percent boost over last year; and there were 19 new memberships this year (14 dealers, 5 manufacturer/supplier members).
While there were the standard lineup of keynote speeches, lectures, workshops, and opportunities for socializing amongst peers at industry-sponsored breakfasts and cocktail parties, new for the 2010 convention were product display rooms for top sponsoring companies Jupiter, Yamaha, and Eastman.
On the first full day of the gathering, NASMD held its Annual Business meeting which, among other things, formally acknowledged outgoing board members Liz Reisman from Creative Music in Monroe, Conn. and Russ Beacock of Beacock Music, Vancouver, Wash. Incoming board members for 2010-2011 are Barry Draisen of Draisen Edwards Music in Marietta, Ga. and Peter Sides of Robert M. Sides Music Family Music Centers based in Williamsport, Penn.
The aforementioned sessions and lectures on the Convention schedule were distinguished by a keen focus on what to actually do in today’s retail climate in order to survive and, indeed, thrive. While there were plenty of speakers who offered valuable insight as to philosophies and broad-stroke mindsets that enhance a retailer’s relationship with his or her customers and larger community, just as many spoke in detail of specific areas of attack business owners can target and offered a number of resources to do so: sessions covering social media, store design, e-marketing, and participating in music advocacy spoke to the need to embrace new and emerging avenues, while still maintaining a foothold in traditional school music business models.
Additionally, during the Convention The Music Distributors Association (MDA) appointed Universal Percussion president Tom Shelley as new MDA president. Shelley noted, “We partnered with the NASMD for this year’s convention because we wanted to offer our members the opportunity to take advantage of that organization’s great educational presentations, as well as the chance to network with key suppliers and dealers who are NASMD members. Our business has always been a challenging one, and that’s the case now more than ever. But by working together, we can pool our experience, our imagination, and our determination in order to overcome those challenges.”
All in all, a productive and spirited get together. As opening day keynote speaker Tim Lautzenheiser said: “Right now, for school music dealers, is the best it’s ever been. You may say, ‘Oh, he’s just trying to put a positive spin on things.” No – it really is true. If there was ever a time that music teachers need you, it’s right now; if there’s ever a time that you need them, it’s right now. We have a real great chance now to make a difference.” NASMD 2011 will be held at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Indian Wells (Palm Springs), California, from March 30th to April 2nd.
Voices from the Convention:
The final numbers were up and the vibe certainly seemed to be one of optimism and hope, but to get more detailed feedback, MMR got some specific reactions from a number of attendees: ‘Do you agree that things are looking up? What are your expectations for the coming months?’
“I feel the attitude is ‘upbeat’ and excited about the future. I also felt there was a “back to basics” vibe among attendees acknowledging we all pretty much “know what we’re doing,”‘ but need to do it more regularly and more systematically. For example, see our customers (school band directors) and their kids more – especially our key customers and long-time producers – and help them in any way we can, as they are in some tough times, but also feel optimistic about the fairly-near future. Regarding customers coming in our stores, it’s the same thing: What do they need? More financing options? More accommodations regarding trying [gear] before buying? More encouragement or opportunities to “step up?” Whatever it is, we must listen and do it. Whatever obstacles we may face, it is not price- or brand-specific product. It comes from us, the dealers, who need to create the opportunities and understanding for kids in school band and orchestra that the time is now to be a better player – and buy a better instrument.”
—Russ Beacock, Beacock Music and Education Center, Vancouver, Wash.
“I think in general the school music business has been healthier than the balance of the industry, particularly since school music dealers are able to recognize revenues for several years following the time that the transaction takes place. That said, collections in a downturn can sometimes be challenging.
The biggest concern right now, whether real or just district posturing, is the threat of programs being cut or reduced. We’ve heard of some programs that are on the fence, some being cut altogether and some starting [music programs] a grade later. At the same time, the new administration’s education agenda actually appears to be more music/arts friendly, taking a somewhat broader approach to educating the whole child and somewhat de-emphasizing the tests on measured subjects (math, reading). Of course, we’re in the early stages of this so this too could look drastically different once the NCLB rewrite is finished.”
—Joel Menchey, Menchey Music Service, Hanover, Penn.
“I think it’s been a great convention. Grayson and the board brought everything together. The sessions had a good variety with excellent presenters and information. The road rep Olympics was a great new addition, and both the opening and closing speakers were excellent. All of the events were organized and well attended, and everything was very positive.
The State of Illinois is in a huge financial hole, so we are experiencing a lot of teacher cuts. There has been talk of cutting programs; however, so far, the majority of programs seem safe for the upcoming year. There are still meetings taking place though, so it is really too soon to tell what 2010 will bring.”
—Beth Houlihan, Kidder Music, Peoria, Ill.
“Personally, I had a great time at NASMD. As a first year Educational Representative, it was my first experience at an NASMD convention and I found it to be a wealth of resources. Dr. Tim was a very motivational speaker and provided an extensive supply of advocacy materials to use in the schools I visit. The individual lectures were also very well done. It was great to hear experiences of some of the other Ed Reps that have been in the business 20+ years. As a newcomer to the business, I enjoy learning from the past experiences of others. What I have noticed in the past year is that most of the schools in my area have had drastic cuts in the budgets they are provided. I think part of my job is to help them decide what is most needed in their programs and help them to get the most bang for their buck.”
—Gloria Sutter, Portman’s Music, Savannah, Ga.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see the turn out this year. I saw the list about a few months ago and it wasn’t looking great, but when I got to the opening reception I couldn’t believe how many dealers were there, which just goes to show that despite the economic challenges we all have, the school service music dealer is very resilient.
I thought the content of the sessions was right on the money for the conditions we’re working in. I was especially pleased to see social media getting some attention. As you know, Yamaha has been using social media for a number of years and we look forward to participating in the sessions when the convention moves to Palm Springs, Calif. next year.”
—Gary Winder, Yamaha Corp.
“I did four sessions on Thursday and I [left] at noon on Friday, so my time at NASMD was limited, but fruitful.
I’ve spoken with a number of suppliers and dealers at the various receptions. Each expressed the feeling, and sales to show it, that things have definitely turned the corner. There still is an acute concern that many of the school budgets and programs will be cut and possibly eliminated in the months ahead. That is one reason that my session on advocacy (Grow Your Business, Grow Your Local Communities) was well attended.
I was really pleased with the reception that I received for my morning session – Customers for Life. (Relationship Selling) That one struck a chord of recognition with the audience.
All in all, I think that this was one of the better NASMD gatherings in my recent memory.”
—Danny Rocks, The Company Rocks