Prepare to Meet Your Maker(s)

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 13, 2016

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Photo credit: Sterling OrtizThe Summer NAMM Show has just ended, and another year of new products was shown by hopeful manufacturers interested in your band and orchestra program. It’s fascinating to see what many of these companies come up with, especially the smaller, new companies where the owner is on site and his products were a dream stored in his garage just days before they shipped to Nashville’s Music City Center for display.

The most common question I am asked by these hopeful newcomers to B&O product manufacturing is how to reach you with their new wares. I find this cart-before-the- horse mentality of many intrepid entrepreneurs to be a personally interesting combination of charming and naïve, as this particular Summer NAMM Show marked the 20th anniversary of my entrance into publishing, when I released my first book, “Live Sound Reinforcement.” Like these budding businesses with a new product and a dream showing at NAMM, I was not completely informed about how to reach everyone who would want to read this new book, not to mention the dozens of titles waiting in the wings to release. I had so much to learn about working with my distributor, working with retail stores, and ultimately, working with educators to figure out how to get my books into the hands of music and music technology teachers.

Can you imagine spending blood, sweat, tears (and cash) developing products for a band program and not having spent the time to research the market, find out how to meet band directors and introduce them to the products, and planned for this? It happens. Amazingly, it happens. Many of these manufacturers spend a very limited amount of time actually talking to you, the end-user experts, the band directors. Many were not familiar with SBO, and their market research reached out about as far as talking to their own child’s band director. Most had no clue that state “MEA” shows also have trade show floors, nor had they heard of NAfME.

There is an indelible relationship between you and these entrepreneurs, and even the major manufacturers, that supply your programs. These companies need you, and many of them have products you need, or didn’t even know you needed. My to-do-list advice for you in the coming school year is for you to make an effort to spend time on the floor of your state “MEA” show, talking to as many of the exhibitors as possible who have a product of interest. If possible, visit the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA in January, or attempt to visit one of the really large “MEA” shows like the one in Texas in February each year, where you’ll find well over a thousand exhibitors who want to meet you, want to develop products to solve your problems, or possibly already have. Shake hands, meet and greet, exchange cards, and follow up after the show so that your band program, even if it’s in some small town in the middle of nowhere, is able to contribute just a bit of its DNA to the future development of products that serve band programs. The benefits of “meeting your makers” can be enormous. You might find out some company has a foundation program with a mission that matches something you’re involved with, or you might find out that a manufacturer has clinicians that will show up to your classes for free and give your program an awesome presentation. You might end up being asked to be a beta tester for a new software program, or testing ground for a new drum head series or reed line.

I know band directors working with music businesses now who never would have moved to that place in their career after years on the marching field if they had not made the effort to go these shows, hand out cards, and develop relationships beyond the band room. Sure, getting time off is a challenge, getting the costs covered by your district isn’t easy, I really understand that. Apply to present sessions at the “MEA” shows, or even at NAMM by contacting their NAMM Foundation to see what they want to present during the show. Sometimes administrators are more likely to coversome or all costs if you’re doing something “productive” representing the school at the conference you’re asking to attend.

Your participation in the music products industry that serves your program is an investment in the overall future of music products for B&O on a micro level if you just attend and give your opinions to exhibitors, but could also be that chance to meet the right people to influence how new products are made that serve music programs for generations to come. Your program needs these companies, and these companies need you. Make plans to meet them.

And be sure to tell them “SBO sent me.”


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