Indie retail, Music Monitor Network and more.

Music label exes, retailers, distributors, merchandisers and artists flocked to San Diego Thursday for the opening day of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) convention held at the Marriott Hotel & Marina.

The afternoon indie panel "How to Deliver the Goods in a Changing Retail Market" had attendees debating downloading and CD burning kiosks, which have yet to win over the independent retail world. Thus far, the 26-store Newbury Comics chain has been unable to find a way to make money utilizing kiosks, said Newbury COO Duncan Browne, who moderated the panel.

Browne, who is the chair of NARM's media-on-demand task force also unveiled a list of possible solutions to make kiosks more attractive to the indie retailer. Among the ideas Browne presented were the next day availability of live shows, in which a customer could purchase an artist's CD and receive a bonus live disc, either by download or burn, as well as a free offering of music, such as a “buy-five downloads get one free” program.

Browne added that traditional independent retailers are not necessarily competing with such industry-sanctioned services as iTunes and Napster. "Our competition are the illegal downloads," Browne said, adding that the in-store kiosks need everything - outtakes, live cuts, etc. - to drive people into their stores.

The panel - which included Michael Fitts, president of Denver-based Touch Media; Bob French, president of St. Paul, Minn.-based Mix & Burn; Randall Harper, executive VP of Virtual Music Stores, which has offices in New York and London; Don Rose, acting president of the American Assn. of Independent Music; and San Francisco-based Independent Online Distribution Alliance founder Kevin Arnold - sought to discuss the ways in which retailers could better equip themselves to a serve customers weaned on iPods rather than CDs.

There was plenty of skepticism in the standing-room only crowd. Mix & Burn's French declined to reveal statistics on the success of his company's kiosks, but noted that of the 120 machines in 14 stores, the outlets that fared best were generally larger suburban retailers. Some independent retailers in the audience expressed concern about investing thousands in a device that would simply give every outlet the same inventory.

"It does level the playing field," Browne said. "Best Buy will have the same crazy independent bands [as everyone else] … Point of difference will be less about product selection than the presentation."

In other news, independent retail coalition, the Music Monitor Network (MMN) announced that it has expanded with the addition of another retailer, Sound Garden. It also appointed Michael Kurtz as president; Jon Tueller, of Salt Lake City, Utah-based Graywhale, as chairman; and Chris Brown of Portland, Maine-based Bull Moose, as vice chairman.

Sound Garden, which has two stores, one in Baltimore and one in Syracuse, N.Y., brings the network's store count to 96 stores, with combined revenue of over $100 million.

Kurtz was previously running MMN's day-to-day as the executive director.