While the Music Biz convention in Nashville is now in its third day, on Wednesday morning (May 16) the organization had its coming out party with Music Business Assn. president Jim Donio announcing that attendance had reached 2,200, the largest gathering for the meeting in 16 years.
During a morning of awards and commemorations, Donio reminded a packed ballroom that the trade group was celebrating its 60th anniversary.
“For 60 years of musical styles and commerce evolutions, we continue to provide value to our members,” Donio said. “We’ve outlasted the 45, the 8-track, the MiniDisc — and depending who you ask — the digital download. So, I guess we’ve been doing something right. Our goal has always been to be a platform where music — as a business — is taken seriously.”
Others noted that during the industry’s downturn, the organization had to revamp itself so that it could continue to thrive, but almost as important was relocating the conference to Nashville in 2015, because the city and the music industry companies located here have welcomed the meeting with open arms.
The annual meeting — which began Monday and concludes on Thursday — is committed to remain in the city through 2020 with next year’s event being held May 5 through May 8 and the following year being slated for May 11 through May 14, Donio reported.
Earlier, Nashville Mayor David Briley told the gathering that just this morning he had begun negotiations with Donio to keep the convention in Nashville beyond 2020. The conference “seems to grow … at the same pace we are building hotels in our downtown,” Briley said.
Looking back at the Music Biz’s founding in 1958, Donio said that the then-named National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) was formed by a bunch of wholesalers and distributors who wanted to partner with the labels to advance their cause and get music into drug stores, which were the main retail outlet for 45s and albums.
He noted that the late Russ Solomon founded Tower Records in 1960, after beginning his career in the music business as the record buyer for his father’s business, Tower Cut Rate Drug Stores.
“The industry was in its infancy as new companies, organizations, programs, and initiatives were created to help the industry to develop and grow,” Donio said. In fact he noted something must have been in the water that year because in addition to NARM, the Country Music Assn. was formed; the RIAA launched its gold and platinum awards by presenting Perry Como a Gold award for his hit single, “Catch A Falling Star;” and Billboard initiated the Hot 100 chart. Also, the Grammy Awards was conceived that year and Warner Bros. Records opened its doors.
Sixty years after its founding, the Music Biz “continues to execute a strategic plan that is built around three pillars: events, education and engagement,” Donio said. “Our top priority is providing the industry with great events to offer access to information; exposure to new music, products and services; networking; and new business opportunities.”
Meanwhile, he reminded attendees that its annual meeting has been the site of many great purely musical events too. In 1986, Whitney Houston was introduced to the industry at the NARM convention, while in 1990 Mariah Carey was launched at the meeting. Also making their industry debuts at the annual meeting were Josh Groban in 2002 and Taylor Swift in 2007.
Other superstar artists also came to the convention to thank the music merchandisers for helping to sell their records, including The Four Seasons, Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, Tony Bennett and B.B. King, Donio noted. Wednesday morning’s event ended with a well received performance from country artist Kelsea Ballerini.
Others from outside the music business also played roles at the annual convention, including former president Jimmy Carter and activist Jesse Jackson, both of whom actually addressed the convention.
Moving back to the present, Donio gave the audience more reasons to recognize industry companies, noting that Merlin was celebrating its 10th anniversary; CD Baby’s 20th; Alternative Distribution Alliance’s 25th; SoundGarden record store’s 25th; Newbury Comics’ 40th; Rhino’s 40th; and Smithsonian Folkways’ 70th anniversary.
Donio, who was presented a plaque by the Music Biz board of directors for his 30 years of service at the organization, also congratulated the Record Store Day organizers for the event’s “11 amazing years of priceless service to this industry, not only for its commercial contribution, but for the tremendous global goodwill generated” by the event.
Donio then presented the organization’s Indie Spirit Award to the Radakovitz Family the seven-store Dimple Records chain they own and operate in Northern California. Founded in 1974, the local chain remains a family affair run by its founders John and Dilyn Radakovitz — who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary — and their sons Oliver and Andrew.