Jim Donio, the president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), has a tough role to play. As NARM is a trade association comprised of many different types of music merchandisers, Donio is tasked with navigating the trade association through various agendas, which sometimes align and sometimes conflict, whether that's indie versus big box; retailers and wholesalers versus labels and their distributors; retailers versus wholesalers; or brick and mortar versus digital. Sometimes interests align and sometimes they don't.

Donio, who joined the NARM staff in 1988 as director of creative services and has been president of the group since 2004, sat with Billboard just prior to NARM's annual convention. The convention will be held in San Diego, June 6-10.

How is NARM serving its various constituencies?
Its actually very stimulating. We feel we are right at the nexus of commerce and content, regardless of the delivery system. We are unique in that we are the bridge between commerce and content so we can bring many different voices to the table. We hired Bill Wilson, who previously was at Atlantic, to oversee digital and he has formed a digital think tank that will meet at the convention. It will focus on key operational issues that are vital to digital's growth and it will look at addressing issues like data portability and licensing issues.

We have a broad representation of digital music services and we can bring different people together and put together an agenda and then meet with the supplier community.

We have Nokia and Verizon on our Board and companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Topspin, Audiolife, Rhapsody and Echonest are members. We have various members in the digital and mobile space-innovators who are bringing new ideas to the table-and they find NARM is valuable as a nexus. Everyone is working to achieve successful business models. At this point in time, we need experimentation, innovation and dialog. Data has never been more important.

What is NARM doing in the way of helping to supply data?
We have a database that we have worked on for more than a decade and we are looking to expand its scope. Historically, the database has covered CD releases and we are looking to cover all digital and mobile content. We are working with a variety of companies to test ways to move the database forward so that we can have a more robust representation of digital and mobile content.

But what about the indie retailers and the chain retailers, from whence NARM came?
Our meetings and summits appeal to all constituencies. Whatever framework we provide is usually across all constituencies, whether that be physical, digital or mobile. For example, we had a consumer focus group at our summit in March. Companies do this internally all the time, but here it is done in a group with competitors and trading partners. This is different and instead of reading a focus group report, you can experience it live with competitors and trading partners and discuss it with each other on the spot.

So, some things we do appeal across all constituencies and then something like our involvement in Record Store Day appeals to the indie store. Our role was very helpful to extend the reach of the event's promotional effort; to improve the Web site and to expand public relations into the latin community.

So, yes, it is challenging to have a diverse constituency, but it is also the best we can hope for so that we can all interact with one another and each brings a different perspective.

How did Record Store Day play out in your view?
The sales uptick was encouraging; it would be a great if there could be a halo effect. Some discussions are taking place to see how this might be achieved. The event itself has taken on a life of its own. It got global media coverage.

Did NARM make a mistake by not merging with Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA)? Will it eventually have to merge with Etertainment Merchants Association (EMA)?
I think what is important to focus on is that NARM will always consider alliances that benefit the membership. We will always look for those opportunities, not only with other trade groups, but look at this year where Verizon is a sponsor of the live shows and where DiMA is using the NARM convention to conduct its own meeting. We already work with EMA on various issues and we would never rule out any business opportunity that would provide real benefits for members.

How do you see the packaging issue playing out?
We partnered with the RIAA on the study; we released it, the companies have it, and now they have to digest it. There are other industry groups interested in the study. We have been invited to present the findings at a Digital Entertainment Group conference in June.

For more on the convention, see the June 6 issue of Billboard.