During his keynote interview today (Aug. 22) at the 2004 National Assn. of Record Merchants convention, Clive Davis, chairman/CEO of BMG North America, urged record retailers to create a passionate co

During his keynote interview today (Aug. 22) at the 2004 National Assn. of Record Merchants convention, Clive Davis, chairman/CEO of BMG North America, urged record retailers to create a passionate consumer experience that will help drive sales.

"You are now on trial," he told attendees. "You have to hire people that love music ... and will help us break our artists."

Davis drew an analogy to dining out. "You can all eat at home. Why do you go out to eat? Because restaurateurs hire articulate, good-looking waiters and waitresses." Davis said that, much like a good restaurant's waitstaff, a good record store has knowledgeable people on the floor at the front line of the retail experience who know their customers and can turn them on to new music.

Davis bemoaned what he called, "The attrition of the old Sam Goody knowledgeable sales person." He called that situation critical and charged attendees with reinvesting back into the business to hire sales people who make shopping fun and "who remember what you purchased last time."

He pointed to several retail chains already doing that, citing Amoeba, ear X-tacy, Newbury Comics and Waterloo.

Davis also turned his attention to independent labels, saying those smaller entities "can come into the business today and flourish and compete very well" if they get the right financing. He made a comparison to the two labels he started, Arista and J, saying he kept those companies vital by essentially reinventing them every three years.

The Davis session was capped by the presentation of the NARM Presidential Award For Sustained Executive Achievement. Acting president Jim Donio presented the honor and noted that it was the first time an executive had received the honor twice. Davis first won the award in the early '70s.

Donio was also on hand to welcome and address the attendees before Davis' keynote. He boasted of NARM's success this year as membership is up by 40% (including more than 60 former Assn. For Independent Music members) and attendance at the convention was "right on target with projections" of nearly 1600 attendees. However, Donio also pointed to more turbulent times ahead -- especially in light of the recent merger of BMG and Sony.

"In the short term, (the merger) will inevitably mean we'll once again be saying good-bye to longtime friends and colleagues, as the personnel cutbacks that are part and parcel to such mergers run their course," he said.

The hope is that the "promised efficiencies" of the combined company will yield "new opportunities" for the industry, Donio added.

NARM will have its plate full in the coming months as the organization continues to explore ways of either merging or forming a strategic alliance with the Video Software Dealers Assn. A steering committee is currently looking into the prospects of such a collaboration.