If you’re like me, you travel a lot — and sometimes you get so caught up in everyday life that you don’t think that much about what you’ve learned. But I keep thinking about my experience at the Summer NAMM event in Nashville, just after the flood waters receded. Let me tell you what I learned about both NAMM and Nashville during my visit.
The NAMM people are passionate. Many of them are single-store operators. They’ll tell you they don’t sell instruments; they sell a way of life. In fact, NAMM’s tagline is “Believe in Music,” and everywhere I turned there were folks playing music, on every instrument imaginable. Summer NAMM attracted 12,000 retailers, manufacturers, and musicians to the Music City. (Their January event in Anaheim attracts almost 100,000! It’s like Comic-Con for the music business.)
I was on a panel with Kevin Cranley, who runs a third generation, family-owned business called The Willis Music Company. They’ve been in business since 1899! He was all about learning – he told retailers looking to improve their business to “go out, and get some fresh eyes.” Fellow panelist Alan Friedman, “the musician’s accountant,” talked about expenses, reminding attendees to look at their lease agreements. Alan exudes passion: he plays in a band and his corporate tagline reads: “When your Business is Music.” (He sent me a T-shirt with the slogan “My accountant can beat up your accountant.” Funny guy.)
My husband and I spent some time on the show floor. We found a patented training system called “Chord Buddy,” which allows you to play chords on a guitar with a single press of a button. Get this: an independent retailer invented it! Perry’s Music sells the Chord Buddy to other retailers around the country. I could have used this when I was young, learning on a painful acoustic guitar. The floor traffic included musicians who tried out instruments. Spontaneous jam sessions erupted throughout the day. My father-in-law, at 81, is a committed student of the piano who still plays and writes his own music. My husband kept saying, “I wish my dad were here.” These retailers are inventing new ways to be resilient during tough economic times.
Nashville also knows a thing or two about resilience. Six weeks prior to NAMM, much of the city was underwater. Over dinner that night a waitress at Joe’s Crab Shack walked us through a photo album of the damage, and told us how thousands of residents turned out to help the city within 24 hours of the flooding. After dinner we went to the Big Bang Bar and sang along with Danny Smith’s rendition of “Bennie and the Jets.” Shops, restaurants, and clubs were back in business.
A week later I told Jim Wright of Tractor Supply Company (“TSC,” based just outside of Nashville) that I was impressed with Nashville’s recovery. He told me that TSC employees had chipped in to help six of their fellow team members who had lost their homes or suffered significant damage. Berthold Auerbach said “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Maybe NAMM and the Music City conspired to remind us just how powerful the combination of passion and resilience can be.