“Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose?” This is the question Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM, poses regarding Summer NAMM, taking place at Nashville’s Music City Center from July 18 to 20. “The thing about the fourth quarter of any game is often, when a team is behind, they come back to win,” he told the Music & Sound Retailer. “That’s because the team that is ahead is playing not to lose. They are being conservative. But the team that’s behind has nothing to lose and has a much different philosophy.”

Lamond acknowledged there are many strong MI retailers who have been doing well for many reasons and have reasons to protect that success. But then, competition, which has nothing to lose, opens shop nearby. “They are going to try new things. They will try new ways to sell. And if it doesn’t work, they will try something different until they find the right formula. They ultimately can be successful because they have that philosophy of, ‘I will try anything to make sure this business succeeds,’” he said.

Many of the people who attend Summer NAMM are playing to win, NAMM’s CEO noted.

And if you haven’t attended Summer NAMM before, 2019 could be a good year to go, as many MI retailers are coming off a successful 2018 at their stores, with 2019 looking promising thus far as well. “It really comes down to education,” said Lamond. “A dollar invested in education is the best return on investment you can ever make. Invest it in yourself or your employees, because the variable you have is the people. The better they are, the better the business will be. Education and working with your vendors, who are the show, are the biggest reasons to attend.”

Lamond acknowledged that Summer NAMM is stable in terms of attendance, whereby many retailers who have decided to attend in the past keep attending. But there’s another camp of dealers who decide not to go and continue not to attend the show. “The ones who have decided to go are consistent; loyal NAMM attendees. They love going,” he stated. “But for those who have decided not to go, I am trying to speak to them and say, ‘There are things changing in the world, and there is new information, so it might be time to reconsider.’ I think changes are coming down the pike due to cycles in the economy and cycles we are in in our industry. There might be a reason now to attend that wasn’t there a year or two ago. I think now is as important as ever to be prepared for changes in your business.”

As for the non-Summer NAMM showgoers, a popular refrain regarding why retailers don’t attend is they state they get everything they need out of January’s The NAMM Show, relayed Lamond. “That’s a fair argument,” he acknowledged. “It means we did a good job for them at Winter NAMM. That’s what we are up against. But the case for a mid-year gathering is investing in yourself. Investing in your skillset. Investing in your management team. Going once a year is great, but many things, like educational opportunities, don’t stick as long as some may think. It’s a refresher course. Once a year is good [to attend NAMM], but twice a year is better in terms of its impact.”

Beyond education and fortifying business, there is another reason to attend: Nashville itself. Retailers who have not visited Nashville recently are likely to notice major changes in the Music City. Most noticeable is the building of new apartment complexes, hotels and shopping centers. Several new, quality restaurants also dot the landscape. Nashville and the state of Tennessee have done a “tremendous job of attracting business and residents. It is growing like crazy. It’s a great success story,” said Lamond.

As it relates to NAMM members, “It’s a great city to go see,” he added. “You have the museums and the County Music Hall of Fame. There are so many things to do in that city. When I look back on when Summer NAMM moved to Nashville in 1993, it was about what it meant to me and what it meant to my boss, Skip [Maggiora, owner of Skip’s Music]. We went on that trip together, and the bonding we were able to do with ourselves and a couple of other peer stores was something that was very hard to do in Anaheim. We would divide and conquer in Anaheim to see as many vendors as possible. In Nashville, we got to spend a lot of time together, and the commitment to bettering the store and investing in the business was one of the benefits of Summer NAMM. There is a lot of personal time that can be devoted when you go to a smaller show like Summer NAMM. I hope [MI retail] owners can bring their up-and-coming leadership team and have that time in Nashville.”

In fact, Lamond noted NAMM is very cognizant of the fact that retailers like Nashville so much that it doesn’t want to have too many events beyond the Top 100 Dealer Awards on July 19, and the American Eagle Awards on July 18, during which George Clinton will be among this year’s honorees. Other highlights include a performance by Lee Ann Womack on July 20 at 1 p.m. at the NAMM Avid Stage on the Terrace, and the 6th Annual Georgia On My Mind concert, hosted by The Peach Pickers and presented by Gretsch. “There’s actually a push from attendees that says, ‘We are already in Nashville, and we just want to be there,’” noted Lamond. “Nashville has done such a great job of creating this destination. The NFL Draft was held there this year. And it is even the world’s capital for bachelorette parties. Nashville has done such a great job of marketing itself.”

Education Highlights

The educational sessions will be highlighted by NAMM’s opening session on the morning of July 18, the “Breakfast of Champions,” which Lamond will host. “The theme will be disruption,” he said. “The opening session will be about the things that are disrupting us. Of course, people are disrupting with new business models. There are also a lot of trends in business that are disrupting, like the ‘Uberization’ of everything. Every company that comes out is the Uber of something. The third thing we will discuss is what policies are disrupting. Government is creating policies that disrupt, whether it is a labor tax or regulation on the instruments themselves. We will discuss how to be aware of disruption and how to build a strategy around it. [In fact], out of this session, we hope to have some strategies that retailers will be able to capitalize on.”

On the morning of July 19, Shep Hyken, New York Times bestselling author and customer service expert, will share six strategies for creating convenience in the buying journey, sourced from his new book, “The Convenience Revolution.”

Shifting to NAMM University sessions during regular show hours, this year, retailers can check out a new wrinkle. That’s because the Music & Sound Retailer’s editor, Brian Berk, will moderate his first-ever session at a NAMM Show, titled “New Innovations in Music Lesson Programs.” This hour-long session will take place on July 19 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and all Summer NAMM attendees are welcome to attend.

NAMM provided this description for the session: “How do successful lesson studios keep their programs new and relevant? What are some of the latest innovations in the lessons business, and what do they mean to you? Find out at this fast-moving roundup of great ideas, moderated by Brian Berk of the Music & Sound Retailer and featuring a high-powered panel of the magazine’s columnists: Will Mason of Mason Music, Kimberly Deverell of San Diego Music Studio and Tim Spicer of Spicer’s Music. They’ll look at new innovations in everything from programming and promotions to technology and operations — all to help you grow your lessons business.”

For those who arrive in Nashville a day early, NAMM will offer its Retail Training Summit at the Music City Center on July 17, with doors opening at 8:30 a.m. It will feature new tracks on retail management, online content creation and new laws likely to impact MI retail business. Returning education tracks will include marketing, sales and succession. Online marketing leader Larry Ballin, sales and management authority Thomas Post, social media and content expert Jenn Herman, and music retail financial experts Daniel Jobe and Alan Friedman will be among the speakers at the event.

Registration is required for the Retail Training Summit.

New at Summer NAMM

One change at Summer NAMM this year will involve the Top 100 Dealer Awards. This year, three new awards will be handed out: Best Community Retail Store, the Innovation Award and the Top 100 Customers’ Choice Award. Customers’ Choice is voted on by NAMM members’ consumer base and highlights NAMM retail members’ audiences, highlighting its dealers’ social media and community reach. The Innovation Award highlights a retail member’s commitment to excellence in innovation and ability to evolve with the times, and Best Community Retail Store celebrates our industry’s mom-and-pop stores; single-location stores that have made their mark on their local community.

“When looking at the [Top 100] application process, we have been seeing that different things are being valued,” Lamond noted regarding why NAMM added the new awards. “One thing we changed was Best Turnaround because it has a negative connotation. It kind of [connotes], ‘Well, you were horrible before, but now you are great….’ We are still recognizing great retail, and the category changes we made this year are reflected in several years we have had these awards and the applications we have been receiving during the application process.

“The Customers’ Choice Award is really different,” he added. “[Retailers] need to talk to their customers and tell them they are in the running for the award. It’s like an ‘American Idol’ voting process whereby your customers vote for you too.”

As far as visible changes on the show floor itself, Summer NAMM attendees will certainly notice one: Software.NAMM, which is intended to show the importance of software in musicmaking today. Ray Williams, managing director at the International Music Software Trade Association, told NAMM how MI retailers can benefit from this show addition. “The best music retailers know that, to keep a customer, you must take care of their needs,” he said. “Since we know that every musician needs music software, it is wise to make sure your store can cater to their software needs and retain your customers. Some MI retailers are more in tune with digital software sales than most, and for them, they capture a larger than average share of this business. What a music retailer would find at Software.NAMM are the brands that are leading the charge, along with some of the most forward-thinking up-and-comers. It’s a chance to build a relationship early with the next big thing. The next big thing is usually hiding in plain sight among the tables at Software.NAMM.”

Not different is the future location of Summer NAMM, as well as the commitment the trade organization has made to the show, which last year drew 15,010 attendees to the Music City Center. NAMM has already announced the next three dates for Summer NAMM: July 18–20, 2019; July 9–11, 2020; and July 15–17, 2021. “Nashville is the home of Summer NAMM,” Lamond affirmed. “The only reason we left [for Austin and Indianapolis last decade] is because Nashville needed a new convention center. The old convention center wasn’t suitable anymore. That problem has been solved [with the Music City Center].”

NAMM’s president and CEO concluded by taking a moment to reflect on the good times the MI industry has enjoyed recently, with hopes for more success to come in the future. “We will look back on the last couple of years and say how good a run it has been. I won’t say it won’t continue, but now is a really good time to be prepared,” relayed Lamond. “To prepare is to be aware of what’s changing, to prevent it from hurting you, and in fact capitalize on it. You can’t do that by being in your store. You do that by stepping out of the store and being around others. You do that by working on your business, not in your business, which gets you around the bend in the road that’s coming. That’s what happens at Summer NAMM.”

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