Musical Instrument, Equipment and Retail Companies in the Spotlight at NAMM | Life

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Personalities from the music equipment industry gathered downtown from Thursday to discuss the savage supply and demand situation the pandemic has presented for those who sell the tools of the musical trade.

At the Music City Center in Nashville, National Association of Music Merchants President and CEO Joe Lamond welcomed Sam Ash CEO Sammy Ash and Martin Guitars Executive Chairman Christian Martin to Summer NAMM to discuss of the state of affairs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. and now apparently getting out of it.

While this is not a uniform sentiment, according to several speakers, many retailers, instrument and equipment manufacturers have actually seen an increase in demand from a newly liberated consumer base, all facing a corresponding lack of supply from closed factories.

According to Rolling Stone, in 2020, music retailer Sweetwater surpassed $ 1 billion in sales for the first time in its history, serving 1.5 million customers, a number of more than 500,000 customers compared to the last year. It also shipped 40% more goods than the previous year.

Meanwhile, Guitar Center sales also doubled from the previous year.

But it was a time of double-edged swords.

As Ash reported, his company had 1,000 days off at one point.

“The stores started to close and then I knew 85% of my stores were closed,” Ash said. “We had to have a positive state of mind. We will get out of this. It will happen. We will take care of it.

It was the first of several phases that the pandemic presented to equipment, instrument and retail companies, taking them on a roller coaster of sorts.

That initial shock of new regulations and closures was just the growing strain on financial positivity that awaited companies lucky enough to be drawn into a national trend.

“One of the saving benefits is that our mail order business has grown threefold,” Ash said. “Can we ship on time, can we meet this challenge?” It was a big problem for us. “

Even then, another plunge loomed.

“It was great until the inventory started to go down again,” Ash explained. “We lived off the reserves.

But despite the shortage, Ash said demand was so strong it held back profits.

“Profits have gone up because transactions have gone down. If you had an instrument, you were selling it, ”Ash said. “Since everyone was buying everything, we moved things that normally wouldn’t have moved.

This created a strange situation for many retailers where the physical instrument and equipment industry seemed relatively healthy in terms of profits, while other industries adjacent to music suffered. The theaters were closed, the artists were not on tour, the employees were made redundant and there was a shortage.

Martin spoke of the unexpected timeliness of the situation.

“I don’t know if any of us who make instruments have the ability to move the market, but if the market moves in your direction, you have to be careful. When ‘MTV Unplugged’ came up, it wasn’t my idea, ”said Martin, noting that this was another external factor that had once driven his business to a boom.

Martin’s 188-year-old company, in particular, has already gone through dire circumstances, including another Spanish flu pandemic, founded while the Battle of Gettysburg raged.

The long-term ramifications of this particular oscillation remain to be seen, he said.

“I’ve seen these booms and they’re usually fueled by music or musicians, usually both. I think this boom is fueled by boredom, and I hope I’m wrong, ”said Martin, stressing the importance of the industry standard“ more to start, less to stop ”.

The short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, although mitigated today, are still being felt to some extent. Ash said he recently visited his Nashville store, which is still down 35% of its typical inventory.

As officials discussed struggle and recovery, the NAMM convention itself played a role in the recovery of its host city. NAMM is one of the first Nashville convention events held in an increasingly post-pandemic world.

According to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, convention traffic accounts for about 40 percent of the city’s tourism dollars.

The shot in city coffers provided by NAMM followed a summer convention event that drew 22,000 Southern Baptist visitors to Nashville.

NCVC officials said in late June that although weekend tourism has been on the rise since the height of the pandemic, they still saw lulls on weekdays from previous years, citing the slow return of conventions and travel. business as the main culprit in maintaining hotel occupancy during the week. numbers down in the 55 to 60 percent range. This is compared to 80% before the pandemic.

NAMM officials said attendance figures would be available on Monday.


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