NARM's Jim Donio On Today's Music Business: 'It's Not For The Faint of Heart'
NARM's Jim Donio On Today's Music Business: 'It's Not For The Faint of Heart'

In the last six years NARM has had to transform itself to "coincide and anticipate the needs and the reshaped profile of the evolving music industry," the organization's president Jim Donio, said at the beginning of his address this morning at the Century City Hyatt Plaza.

"The association had to make some bold moves," he said. "We dove into the deep end of the pool on some issues and initiatives where it seemed we had to take the lead. Being risk-averse was not an option."

He then proceeded to enumerate many of the initiatives NARM has launched in order to keep itself relevant for the industry.

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Beginning with the convention itself, NARM has moved to help lower costs, first by placing the meeting in Los Angeles, which cuts down on travel, since much of the industry is based in LA. But it also instituted recession registration fees and introduced a junior rate fee for younger attendees.

Moving onto programming and purpose, he said NARM had upgraded its commitment to research and education, offering several dozen free webinar programs from a range of data providers sharing market and consumer insights.

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It also has reached out to the indie community, becoming the first major financial sponsor of Record Store Day; and it has partnered with A2IM on educational initiatives. At the convention, he noted that the NARM board and the A2IM board met to discuss further joint initiatives.

The creation of digitalmusic.org within NARM is creating most of the organization's activity nowadays. As part of that, digitalmusic.org hosted the first International Music Registry meeting in North America on the day before the convention kicked off, he said.

Within digitalmusic.org are six working groups, and the digital supply chain work group is rebuilding the organization's legacy physical EDI database into a robust product platform, Donio said.

He noted that in November 2011, the database was relaunched so that it included cleaner and more complete information. Meanwhile, NARM is ingesting massive amounts of digital product from all of our suppliers to create a centralized music product metadata repository, which will be usable by any retailer as a resource and a base on which to build countless new member services.

That workgroup is also moving to resolving UPC collisions, among other efforts. Another new initiative will allow members to sign up online to subscribe to an automated list of physical and digital product matched to industry events like the Grammy's Coachella and the CMAs. "This will save label and distribution staff countless hours in re-keying and searching to cross promote nominated, winning and performing artist and music," Donio said.

NARM is teaming iup with its sister organization the Entertainment Retailers Assn. for digitalmusic.org/U.K. he noted that digitalmusic.org UK will have its first agenda-setting meeting on May 29 in central London under the chairmanship of 7digital CEO Ben Drury, who also serves as deputy chairman of ERA.

After Donio's speech ended, NARM chairman Rachelle Friedman, who is co-CEO of J&R Music and Computer World, pointed out that this year the organization had presented students with scholarship awards representing a total of $70,000. NARM then presented Epitaph founder Brett Gurewitz with the association's "Independent Spirit Award.

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In the video that preceded the award presentation, A2IM president Rich Bengloff said that he's known Gurewitz for 20 years and always found him to be "fair and pragmatic," adding that ingredients are why people wants to be a business partner with Epitaph and why the label is successful.

In accepting the award, Gurewitz noted that while Epitaph has been an indie label for over 25 years, back in the mid-1990's when the label was exploding he had to make a big decision not to sell his label, a decision which at first he joked he has regretted ever since.

After that award, Donio presented the organization's president award for sustained inudstry achievement to RIAA chairman Cary Sherman.

In a video shown during the presentation, Sherman, who was not present because he had to be in Washington for another commitment, said that RIAA had faced critical challenges on copyright over the years but it had helped shape the laws to protect it, as well as becoming involved in lawsuits that gave favorable outcomes for the industry.

He noted that three important law cases that helped the industry were, the Napster case, the Grokster case and the Limewire decision. Since Limewire has been shut down, digital sales have improved and grown higher every year since, Sherman noted.

He noted that the RIAA and NARM work together often on industry issues, including reviving the "Gift Of Music" campaign. "We can do a great deal when we work together as a music community," he noted.