The National Association of Music Merchants last week brought to the Nashville Convention Center 372 exhibitors eager to show their latest and greatest products to retail owners and buyers.
NAMM, a not-for-profit group with more than 9,000 member companies in 87 countries, says the number of retail buyers here last week increased 20 percent over 2011, while the number of exhibitors rose 9 percent. Numbers aside, the real question that many were hesitant to ask — or answer — pertains to the overall health of the music industry. How far did we slide during the recession? And, in the aftermath, have we recovered?
Sam Bush, a Nashville-based musician, offered the perspective of an artist who depends on touring revenue.
“It had already taken a slide before the recession,” he said. “During the recession, it was easy to get weekend work but hard to get work throughout the week to tie the gigs together. [The nightclubs] were not hiring touring road bands as much as local, cheaper groups. It affected how long you could stay on the road.”
Merlin David, publisher of M Music Magazine, which launched in the midst of the recession, experienced a big drop in advertising revenue but noted that subsequent growth has offset some of those losses.
“I think it slid a good 40-45 percent for [print] advertising. It took a big dive, but anyone who has weathered the storm is doing well,” David said. “We launched three years ago, and we’ve seen a 22 percent increase each year.”
As for the recovery of the industry, the businesses that have survived the recession have adopted more forward-thinking business models.
“Artists, labels, publishers, etc. have not really ‘recovered’ from the collapse of physical media sales, but they have gotten very creative,” said Ethan Opelt, audio category manager at Nashville-based Griffin Technology. “These days, artists focus much less on CD sales and much more on TV and film opportunities to place music, merchandising and distribution, iTunes, viral marketing campaigns and touring. I believe there are actually more revenue streams for artists with this new industry model than there used to be. They have just changed dramatically and rapidly.”
David also noted that M’s business is boosted by its partnership with Sweetwater, an online retailer that ships more than a thousand products to consumers. A copy of M is included in every order and the magazine is also available through more traditional models, such as newsstand and subscription. David attributes his team’s increasing success to this broad business model, stressing that “collaborative partnerships” between companies provide better access to musician consumers.
Bush, who relies on local company Lotos Nile for online marketing, said that show attendance is up in general compared to a couple of years ago. Dave Pomeroy, musician and president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 257, noted that innovative local companies such as Thirty Tigers are implementing new, successful business models that larger corporations are noticing.
“Independent companies that were careful with the bottom line have survived,” Pomeroy explained. “It’s a reality check.”
While the sheer amount of new technology being showcased available at NAMM suggest that a new piece of equipment could “save” the industry, some of the people we spoke to insist that the old-school combination of artistry, collaboration and effectively managing relationships are the keys to success.
“The next hot thing will be changes coming in the ways record labels will manage the relationships with their artists,” Opelt said. “Instead of acting like a bank that fronts money at an extremely high interest rate to the artist, the labels may begin treating the artist like an employee with a salary, benefits, retirement options, investment opportunities, etc. This would be a very radical change to the industry, but a much needed one.”
From its Sawtooth Building home to its recently unveiled — and visually impressive — Third Man Records iPhone case, Griffin Technology consistently finds a way to grab the attention of gadget-savvy consumers.
And GT did just that at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show 2012 in Las Vegas, capturing three major awards.
Perhaps most noteworthy — and definitely interesting for trade show nerds — the Nashville-based company won an iLounge Best of Show award for its display booth (pictured here), which was conceptualized and designed in house. iLounge, which focuses on manufacturers that make accessories for Apple devices, partnered with the Consumer Electronics Association to offer the display booth award in what was called the iLounge Pavilion.
“Our booth was modeled after our building,” said Jackie Ballinger, the company’s public relations director. “We had a lot of people comment on how nice the booth looked, and we were proud to tell them that it took a lot of visual cues from our Nashville home.” (Read about the aforementioned Sawtooth Building here.)
In addition, Griffin’s StudioConnect won an iLounge Best of Show award, while the company’s recently released Twenty received an Editor’s Choice Award from Popular Mechanics magazine. Twenty is an audio amplifier used with Apple’s AirPort Express.
The most recent iteration of the four-day Consumer Electronics Show concluded Friday, Jan. 13. It featured approximately 3,100 exhibitors covering 1.86 million square feet of exhibit hall space. The event recorded the largest attendance in its history, as more than 153,000 people — limited to trade, industry and media officials — attended.
Tech accessory company Griffin Technology is moving beyond the world of hardware to begin developing mobile applications. WPLN reports that the Nashville-based company — which is known for its device cases, cords and adapters — is trying to tap into the "slew of opportunities" in the software market.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS