In several past columns, I’ve written about various aspects of the Summer NAMM Show, and why I think it’s still a viable avenue by which to learn about new products and ways to improve our stores. In every one of these columns, I’ve mentioned the NAMM University Idea Center, and I’ve talked briefly about why I think attending Idea Center sessions is paramount to the future success of independent MI retail stores. However, there’s one topic I haven’t touched on in relation to NAMM and getting involved. When I attend the Top 100 Dealer Awards, like I did in July, I see so many people walk across the stage who regularly participate in NAMM activities. As I’ve gotten to know many of these folks over these last years, I’ve discovered one constant: They all love being involved in NAMM in one way or another — and there are many ways to do so.

When people in the industry talk to me about NAMM, the conversation often quickly becomes, “Is there really a reason to go? I get offered all the same specials in my store anyway.” My answer is an unequivocal “Yes.” The NAMM U Idea Center, if you can find no other reason — and there are plenty — is a great reason to attend NAMM shows. I’ve learned so much from attending and participating in Idea Center sessions. I’ve done solo sessions on search engine optimization (SEO) and using to sell inventory. I’ve been on several panels about web design, among other things, and have been a frequent Best In Show panelist.

My experience with NAMM is tied directly to NAMM U, so it’s been a big part of both the organization and the show for me from day one. The very first NAMM Show I attended, I was asked to participate in one of Joe Lamond’s Breakfast Sessions. I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. I’m pretty sure I did terribly, but I’ve been asked to participate in every show since, and have done so at every show I’ve attended. Each experience with NAMM U has had very positive outcomes in a number of ways.

Some of the individual Idea Center sessions I’ve spoken at have resulted in great conversations, often long after the sessions have ended. At Summer NAMM, I spent more than an hour discussing Reverb with several attendees, and had a great exchange with them. I probably learned as much from them as they did from me. One of them was a sales associate for a small independent store who’d begun using the platform as an experiment to generate additional revenue for his store. He was having difficulty getting other sales associates to engage in participating by selling and monitoring the platform. When he revealed that his position was commission-based, I encouraged him to simply own the responsibility for what he’d started, which would grow a revenue stream for his store, give him a bigger paycheck and make him invaluable to his employer. He hadn’t thought of it that way.

The opportunity to use what I’ve learned to help find a solution, or even just send someone down a path closer to being where they want to go, is immensely gratifying, and so I take every opportunity to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. In talking to new people, and forming those relationships, I’ve directly benefitted from the opportunities NAMM provides to communicate with my industry peers. So many people I’ve met through NAMM have done, and continue to do, the same thing for me, and the relationships I’ve been able to build as a result have been life changing. Because I’ve been lucky enough to meet great people, it’s my responsibility to give back by getting involved. Because I’ve benefitted so much from Idea Center sessions, that’s an area I choose to focus on. But maybe public speaking isn’t for you. There are lots of other ways to be involved with NAMM.

NAMM is always looking for great content for the education part of its website. Maybe you have some thoughts or ideas you’d like to share in a short article, a bullet-pointed set of tips or a quick video clip. NAMM loves these things, and I’ve always found the staff there to be immensely helpful in finding topics, as well as editing my meandering grammatically acrobatic copy (I can’t let my the Music & Sound Retailer editors have all the fun!). But maybe you don’t like being on camera, and don’t fancy yourself much of a writer. That’s OK, the NAMM Foundation can always use your financial support.

The NAMM Foundation is dedicated to funding programs to benefit musicians via donations and NAMM’s various trade association activities. The foundation supports music-advocacy projects that are dedicated to supporting music-education programs and raising awareness about the importance of arts education in our schools, something I greatly value because I work in a store that rents band instruments and because my wife is a vocal music teacher for a local school system. When school systems are hit with budget cuts, arts funding is often one of the first things to go. Validating the importance of that funding and pushing back against the impulse to cut music-education programs greatly benefits our industry, especially for those of us in the band and orchestra side of the business. And that’s just one of the NAMM Foundation’s areas of focus. They also fund research to support the physical and psychological benefits of playing music, as well as education programs designed to introduce music making to everyone from children, to the elderly, to wounded warriors returning from combat.

The one thing I’ve learned more than anything else from these last five years in this industry is that you will get from this industry as much as you put into it. By working together to improve the industry for everyone, be it sharing information with other independent retailers in a NAMM U session, sharing your knowledge via online articles or industry groups, or giving to organizations like the NAMM Foundation that help make sure there will be new generations of musicians to support our stores, there are many ways to give a little back so that we may continue to reap the benefits of this organization for years to come.

How do you get involved with NAMM or the other industry groups you are involved in? How do you give back? Write to me at

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