It was hard to know what to expect. Nashville had recently been devastated by flooding. What would we see when we arrived in the Music City on June 17, one day before Summer NAMM began? Right after touching down in Nashville, a tremendous thunderstorm rolled through the city, deluging it with water. However, the skies quickly cleared up. A couple of hours later, you would not know it had rained at all.
From the outside, there was no way to know Nashville had been devastated by flooding. Clearly, a tremendous amount of work was completed to return to normalcy.
But questions about the show remained. Would Summer NAMM’s atmosphere be different this year as compared to previous shows? Would it be business as usual?
Before arriving, we knew one thing would change at the show. NAMM-invited guests, including students and teachers, roamed the floors on June 20, the last day of Summer NAMM. Was the industry open to such a change?
There were several questions to be answered this year. Perhaps the most questions we’ve faced since Summer NAMM’s location was at the forefront of the conversation. Remember our questions in this magazine about whether Summer NAMM should take place in Austin, Indianapolis, Nashville or some other city, such as, perhaps, New Orleans?
NAMM registration reached 12,463 at last month’s show. More than 380 exhibitors showed off their latest products. The attendance was close to a 4 percent drop from 2009’s 12,967 figure. The attendance has dropped 30 percent since 2008’s show.
Now the question is whether Summer NAMM will take place next year. NAMM will certainly contact its members for extensive feedback before making any decisions. “For us, we’ve always done well at Summer NAMM,” said Scott Davies, general manager of the American DJ group of companies. “We always have supported, and always will support, the industry. We have products that always fill a particular need and will always be there for our dealers. The dealers we saw at the show were more confident in their futures than they have been in previous years. However, with that said, how one company views a show is much different from how a show in general is viewed.”
For the people who did attend the show, reviews were mostly positive. Many applauded NAMM for doing everything it could to keep Summer NAMM a worthwhile event. Dealers glowed when talking about the face-to-face time they received with manufacturers, as opposed to the hectic atmosphere in Anaheim. Retailers to which we spoke also were excited to get business done at Summer NAMM. But one change was noticeable when talking to a number of retailers: animosity toward manufacturers that did not exhibit at the show was present. As one dealer said to us, “I took the time and effort to come to Nashville, so why can’t they?”
Members of the public could be spotted right away on the last day of the show via purple wristbands. The number of public guests was not huge, but the ones who walked through the doors were unanimously excited and happy they came in, at least according to our straw poll. One, who asked that his name not be printed, teaches lessons at a music store and received a voucher to attend the show. “It’s pretty cool to see all of this [gear],” he said. “I can’t see this stuff normally. I talked to the guys in all of the bands I play in and they are coming to the show. I get the feeling out here that I’m kind of getting ‘inside’ information that other people can’t get. It’s a really cool feeling.”
Mark and Christian Kincaide purchased half-priced tickets through their local music store. They own a production company and said they are considering joining NAMM. Mark Kincaide said paying $10 for each ticket was well worth the expense. “I was very excited to come to the show,” he said. “I can’t make it to Anaheim (even if I could get in). It’s just too far to travel. It’s nice to be able to come to one place and see so many things. That provides a huge advantage. I’m a drummer and I play Tama drums. Tama is here as part of Hoshino. I want to see their products. I also want to check out the guitar products, since there are many more guitar companies than drum companies here.”
NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond kicked off the show with his annual State of the Industry NAMM University Breakfast session. Before Lamond took the stage, Victor Wooten and his family put on a memorable performance. Lamond discussed Nashville’s recovery efforts with area resident Wooten and Mayor Karl Dean. “During a 36-hour period, we had 13-and-one-half inches of rain,” Dean said. “That broke every record. The city suffered about $2 billion in damages and many lives were lost. We had 14,000 volunteers right after, helping others to recover.”
Lamond proceeded to bring out a panel, including Denise Brassé of the National Retail Federation, Mark Dobosz of the Score Foundation and Kevin Cranley of Willis Music, to talk about retail strategies, whether your store is improving, declining or staying the same in 2010. “When you think about the state of the industry, it’s very risky territory,” said Lamond. “…But it’s not about the industry. It’s about the individual companies. I’m sure you take an interest in how the industry is doing. But, at the end of the day, I’m sure the thing you think about most is how you’re doing. Economically, we’re probably stuck in a range for the next couple of years.”
Marketing consultant Jon Schallert led the Saturday morning breakfast session with plenty of ideas for retailers. Schallert pointed out you need to have what he called a “destination business.” “You have to make a business so compellingly different that consumers will deviate from their typical buying patterns,” Schallert said.
He discussed strategic and tactical steps needed to be successful as a business owner. “You have to think bigger. You need to draw consumers in from what is called five time zones. Think about consumers who live more than three hours from your store and ask yourself how different you need to be to get them to come to your store. Even if they never come to your store, your differentiation must start with that consumer. You need unique positioning. I’m not talking about a unique selling position. I’m talking about the need for you to have a two- to four-paragraph statement with a killer first sentence. When someone hears it, they will say, ‘I want to go to that place.’ The way to develop that first sentence is with something like, ‘We’re the single source or the home of something.’ Don’t try to write this stuff down. You want to record it.”
Schallert added that terms like “super service,” “great selection,” etc., are phrases not to use because consumers don’t remember them. “A consumer will judge or misjudge your store within seven seconds,” he said. “Seventy percent of the time, when a consumer walks through your doors, they unknowingly glance to the right. We don’t know why. They will look at what’s called your ‘dominant wall’ first.”
Schallert also advocated putting something behind your register that truly shows you’re different. “Make sure there’s something there that makes you one of a kind,” he said. An example is to frame a large classic photo from your store’s early days, assuming you’ve been in business for many years. This will prove you’ve been committed to your community for a long time.
In With the New: Always a highlight at Summer NAMM is the host of new companies looking for retailers. Perhaps making the biggest splash was Oriolo Guitars, many featuring Felix the Cat designs by Don Oriolo, the owner of the cartoon character. For much more on Oriolo Guitars, see next month’s issue.
Among the other new companies was Awesome Musical Instruments. Thomas Wnorowski, founder of the company, was one of those searching for a dealer base. “We wanted to attend the NAMM show to find manufacturers, reps and dealers,” he said. “We want buyers who want to shore up their sagging sales. Sales were down for electric guitars about 29 percent in the first quarter of this year. We wanted to give dealers the opportunity to have something truly new and innovative….Our product gives any three-pickup electric guitar 35 unique pickup tones, which is 700 percent more pickup tones than anything that exists. It gives you more choices…We have also drop-in hot-rod mods that let you modify your existing instruments to produce the amazing functionality of 35 pickup tones.”
The product is available now. There are two models: Prices of the guitars range from $799 to $999.
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