Music Inc Magazine June 2024



JUNE 2024 I VOL. 35, NO. 5




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June 2024

Andy Powers


Taylor Guitars’ CEO Andy Powers talks 50 years, woodworking and his SoCal roots.

The NASMD board celebrates during the 2024 convention.


Marshall Music’s Jimmy Edwards

36 I THE ONLINE RENTAL MASTERS How Marshall Music in Lansing, Michigan, said “good-bye” to chaotic, in-person rental nights and successfully transitioned to a 100% online school rental process.

In-depth coverage of the NASMD 2024 convention in Bonita Springs, Florida, including three of the best sessions we attended.


26 I IN THE TRENCHES X Cyph Shah shares five things about your customers you don’t know.

20 I NEWS X Sam Ash to Close All Stores X  Make Music Day Returns This June X Woodwind & Brasswind Joins Music & Arts X Donner Opens Showroom in Indonesia X  Twisted Wood Guitars Gets U.S. Distributor X Hal Leonard’s Rick Walters Passes Away 14 I INDUSTRY PROFILES X How TeachMusic is changing the music education landscape. X NAMM’s John Mlynczak breaks down July’s NAMM NeXT event and reveals why you shouldn’t miss it. X DR Strings celebrates 35 years of dedicated string making.

28 I NOTES & CENTS X  Amanda Reuter details how to spot sneaky scammers posing as employees or customers.

30 I THE RETAIL DOCTOR X Billy Cuthrell gives tips for being an effective negotiator.

RETAILER ASK THE 62 I ASK THE RETAILER X  Retailers share their store design ideas.

31 I WOMEN OF NAMM X  Jenna Day advocates for prioritizing music education in your local area.

Cover photo by Jena Hovey.



O n May 2, a week before going to press with this issue, it was an- nounced that Sam Ash Music would be closing all of its stores. The New York-based business, which turned 100 this year, made the announcement via its social media platforms to the shock and disappointment of customers and fans worldwide. “Sam Ash was a tremendous hub of inspiration for me, and I met dozens of local musicians from the bulletin boards, many of which are still lifelong friends,” said one commenter on Instagram, while another shared, “Sam Ash was a huge part of my upbringing and crafted me into the person I am today.” While reps at Sam Ash Music could not be reached for comment (as of going PERSPECTIVE I BY KATIE KAILUS A SAD DAY FOR MI

to press on May 9), the effect of the closure of the company’s 40 some stores no doubt extends beyond its customer base and is felt across the MI industry. Competition is good for business. Rising tides lift all ships, and a strong MI market is good for the industry as a whole. We spoke to several MI leaders to get their thoughts on the closures. Here’s what they said. “It’s certainly sad news for the industry; Sam Ash has been an iconic brand for musicians’ worldwide for over 100 years, as well as our neighbor and our friend,” said Joe Castronovo, Korg USA’s president and CEO. “There are countless stories of customers walking into a Sam Ash for the first time, their lives forever changed as they walked out with their first

instrument. Sam Ash was always focused on the community and, thanks to [its] bulletin boards, so many musicians were able to connect with other local musi- cians and form bands. Their hometown service and dedication to fostering and developing music-makers has enriched the lives of so many it simply cannot be measured. On behalf of everyone at Korg USA, thank you for being a great partner.” “It’s just a really sad thing,” said Brian Reardon, owner of Monster Music in Levittown, New York. “It’s like the reinforcement of the message that nothing is forever. Everything is temporary, and for companies that have been around, in this case for literally 100 years, when you consider what they’ve been through in terms of good times, bad times and really challenging times, to have made it through everything, and then this confluence of variables puts them out, it’s like, wow, if that can happen to a company of that size and that [caliber] it makes everybody feel a little more vulnerable.” “The news about Sam Ash is very sad for us on many fronts,” said John D’Addario III, D’Addario’s CEO. “Our family’s relationship with the Ash’s goes back to the early childhood days of my uncle Jim D’Addario who regularly visited one of their stores as a young boy. In those days, Jerry Ash himself always took good care of him. We have all witnessed monumental changes in the music retail environment, particularly in the last decade, mostly due to channel shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. However, given our family’s relationship with the Ash family, this one is the saddest of them all.” “We’ve been partners with the Ash family for generations,” said Chris Martin, Martin Guitar chairman. “The stores had a vibe that amateur and professional musicians alike appreciated, [and it] worked for 100 years. They will be missed.” MI



‘The Wild West of MAP Pricing’ I n your May 2024 issue, in the Letters to the Editor section, there was a comment about the industry and MAP policies from Mantova’s Two Street Music’s owner Anthony Mantova. I wholeheartedly agree with Anthony’s comments. MAP poli- cies seem to be a thing of the past. There is zero enforcement, so why even have them? With manufacturers selling direct and setting up their own Re- verb shops, the focus seems to be just selling product at any cost. I have seen numerous big-box retailers blatantly violating MAP policies on their own websites and the manufacturers who set these policies just don’t care. You don’t have to go to Amazon for good deals anymore. During this post-COVID hangover, I assume the manufacturers are a little hesitant to create any waves with their larger dealers for fear of some blow-back. It’s all about moving product. It’s the Wild West for online pricing.

industry. In particular, I wanted to express my appreciation for Katie Kailus, your editor, for her participation as a panelist at our recent Zoom event, the “School, Band & Orchestra Executive Roundtable: Trends, Educational Techniques, and Technologies to Retain More Renters.” The panelist discussion brought together B&O retailers and industry experts, providing a platform to explore the evolv- ing landscape of music education and technology. As the CEO of Blustream and moderator of the panel, I was thrilled to witness the overwhelming turnout and enthusiastic engagement from both panelists and attendees. As a panelist, Katie high- lighted steady industry growth mirrored by pre-pandemic rental numbers and the signifi- cant adoption of online rentals. Other panelists, including Jeff Bertrand, emphasized leverag- ing transformative technology, such as Blustream’s product ownership AI, to enhance the customer experience and reduce rental returns. Garrison Grisaffi shed light on trends in music education, and Bill Steppan from AIM Tri-Tech emphasized the crucial role of technology in fos- tering connections and meeting customers’ preferences in today’s music retail landscape. As the industry evolves, embracing innovation and pri- oritizing customer-centric ap- proaches will be essential for driving success.

don’t take the extra time to cre- ate that community atmosphere. Smaller independent stores need to use this as a way to help them stand out above the others. When I created AmpliTeach, one of my main missions was to create an all-in-one music school platform that music stores can use to run their music program. Music store owners know a lot about selling instruments but most don’t have the experience to set up and run a successful lesson program. AmpliTeach is a soup-to-nuts music school solution that includes schedul- ing, payroll, teacher training and certification, reports, email and text lesson reminders, teachers’ resources, and more. But the most important thing included is the Rock House Method Cur- riculum, which is included free. I embrace the challenge and

hope that I hear from many more music store owners on what their needs are and how I can help them get the results they want. I’ve owned and operated successful music schools my whole life. I have a passion for music instruction, and I hope I can help many music stores “stand out” and be success- ful. The more people learning to play music will make the world a better place. John McCarthy Founder AmpliTeach West Haven, Connecticut Embracing Industry Innovation I am writing to extend my grati- tude for Music Inc. magazine’s continued dedication to show- casing the latest developments and insights within the music

Paul Tobias President Tobias Music Downers Grove, Illinois

‘Stand Out’ with a Music Lessons Program I know many music store owners and after talking with them, I realized most need additional income to make ends meet. Com- peting with chain stores is a daily challenge. Everyone I talk to says they need something to make them “stand out.” A success- ful lesson program can be a real savior! It’s additional income, it brings customers into your store weekly and it creates a commu- nity in your store, which is prob- ably the most important thing. Chain stores usually have young, inexperienced sales people who

Ken Rapp CEO Blustream Worcester, Massachusetts




INSIDE NEWS > Page 20 Shiloh Music Center Turns 50 > Page 23 Sam Ash Music to Close All Stores Nationwide > Page 24 Woodwind & Brasswind to Join Music & Arts

Aiming to respond to this crisis is the Teach Music Coalition, a collective impact campaign formed to address short- and long- term challenges facing the music educator workforce. Its mission is multifaceted; aiming to retain experienced educators, support and mentor new educators, and attract diverse talent to music education. By providing re- sources, advocating for policy changes, and fostering partnerships between educational institutions and communities, Teach Music strives to ensure that every student has access to high-quality music education. BRIDGING THE GAP Teach Music emerged from the pandemic in 2021 as Bob Morrison, a nationally rec- ognized arts education leader and founder of Teach Music, started receiving reports from college educators across the country that they were seeing a rapid decline in student enrollment. “The National Association of Schools of Music identified that there was a 14% decline in the number of students entering college to become music educators over the past decade,” Morrison said. “[The] second issue is that experienced teachers are leaving the profession at an accelerated rate coming out of the pandemic. The other thing that became apparent was that there’s a lack of diversity in our music education field. Cur- rently, about 93% of all music educators in the U.S. are white — and that’s not reflective of the diversity that exists in our community.” Morrison’s vision was clear: to harness the collective expertise and resources of national organizations to construct a plan aimed at increasing the number of quali- fied music educators, while also providing support to current educators. “What we’re talking about is addressing the traditional undergraduate music edu- cation majors,” Morrison said. “We have to identify early stage students that show promise in becoming a music educator, so that support and resources are provided for those

The Teach Music Coalition seeks to ensure that every student has access to high-quality music education and aims to inspire the next generation of music educators. — By Kimberly Kapela TACKLING THE MUSIC EDUCATOR SHORTAGE Bob Morrison

I t’s no secret that schools in the U.S. are grappling with a shortage of music educators. This shortage is the result of multiple factors, including the departure

of experienced educators from the field, a lack of diversity among music educators and a decline in the number of students pursuing careers in education.


students to help them navigate the pathway to get through high school and successfully into college. The third area is alternative pathways, so folks that have gotten a music degree in another area and are interested in coming into education.” BREAKING BARRIERS Over the last year, the Coalition’s work, research and collaborative initiatives — which include some 40 organizations including the NAMM Foundation and the Save The Music Foundation — have resulted in the release of Teach Music’s website that houses all of its information. “We’re focusing on additional strategies in the future, including collaboration with the American School Counselor Association to get our information in front of school counselors so they can be better informed and encourage students to come into the area [of study],” Morrison said. “We work collaboratively with NAMM on the number of resources to help get the word out, and to empower local retailers to be able to become advocates in not only in recruiting more mu- sic educators, but actually recruiting more people to come into music as a profession.” Central to the website’s mission is the accessibility of information that empowers educators, policymakers and retailers to support and promote music education in their communities. From evidence-based strategies for enhancing student engage- ment to guidance on curriculum develop- ment and program implementation, the website offers resources tailored to address the multifaceted challenges. Music retailers can use the website’s digital assets, which include talking points, press release templates and advertisements that they can customize and use in their own communities. FOSTERING FUTURE GENERATIONS Currently, Teach Music is working on developing additional assets including a job finder where it’ll regularly list music education jobs and resources to support students as they’re applying to colleges, as well as creating a system to help students match themselves with colleges based on their interest. “We’re working on developing an interim teacher program, where we can have at least some teachers [who] can fill in for people at school districts [on] a short-term basis that maybe aren’t able to find somebody,” said Morrison, adding that he’s already seeing changes occurring at universities.

“Montclair State University — one of our members — has created a new program to assist students [who] graduated with performance degrees and want to get into education with a pathway,” Morrison said. “John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State created [the] Cali Pathways Project that’s designed to identify students [who] come from low-economic communities that show promise to become music educators and get them instruments, free lessons and a mentor to help them through all the dif- ferent barriers and roadblocks.”

Through its initiatives, Teach Music seeks to inspire the next generation of music educators, empower current educators, and cultivate a vibrant and inclusive community. “It’s really about getting our entire in- dustry behind the idea that it’s our respon- sibility to go out and make sure we have a robust pipeline of not only students wanting to become music educators, but we have a robust pipeline of people who want to come in and be involved in all aspects of our broad and diverse music community,” Morrison said. MI


WHY YOU SHOULD GO TO NAMM NEXT N AMM NeXT — it’s the MI event on everyone’s lips since it was officially NAMM’s John Mlynczak on the importance of attending MI’s first immersive educational event. — By Katie Kailus

JM: We’re seeing an amazing mix of both manufacturers and retailers. It’s actually equally balanced, which is what we wanted. We need both in the room because NAMM NeXT is going to be all about the customer. So far, we have seen, on average, companies are sending two-to-three people — typically an executive and an emerging leader. It’s funny because during The NAMM Show, we usually see about 15,000 people register the week of the show, so we don’t want people thinking, ‘Oh it’s NAMM, I can wait to register.’ With NAMM NeXT, space will fill up. We only have about 700 seats, and we’ve had probably about 1,000 people show interest through different campaigns we’ve done. So, if you’ve been thinking about registering, do it now. MI: Where do you see NAMM NeXT going in the future? JM: This is the first year, and, for me, it’s all about that limited, smaller attendance. The reason it’s going to sell out this year is because we have to keep it small. We want keep everyone in the same room, and we want to control the experience the first year to really learn that we’re fully ready for it to grow larger in year two and three. But, our other dream is potentially mak- ing NAMM NeXT a brand globally. Can we hold a NAMM NeXT in Europe? Can we do one in Tokyo? Can we do one in Latin America? That’s a pathway we’re really strongly considering because the companies in these other continents really need to unite. We’re not sure if they need a trade show per se as The NAMM Show is already the global gathering of the music products industry. But, we need an opportunity to come together and figure out how to survive in the world in which we live and NAMM NeXT is that gathering. MI

announced during January’s NAMM show. But what is it and why should you attend? We sat down for a one-on-one with NAMM president and CEO John Mlynczak who answered these questions and more. Music Inc.: Can you start by sharing the vi- sion for NAMM NeXT, and why someone should make the investment to attend? John Mlynczak: NAMM NeXT is the invest- ment in the MI industry at large. The rea- son we’re doing NAMM NeXT is based on years of feedback from the board and our members. We want to do something that will grow our industry, and take the busi- nesses in our industry and the people in our industry to the next level. The “next” puns are really hard to avoid, but even the name’s really intentional. Most other in- dustries have leadership events and dedi- cated leadership conferences. Our music products industry does not. We do tons of education at The NAMM Show, but the challenge at The NAMM Show is that the executives and emerging leaders are busy having meetings and doing business, and can’t spend two days really immersed in the educational sessions. So, the purpose of NAMM NeXT is to bring in outside-the-industry knowledge to help accelerate our industry’s growth. I think, especially in this inaugural year, it’s something that every company should be part of because it’ll set the stage for what’s next. MI: The schedule is out. What are a few events that you want to highlight? JM: Well, obviously the keynote by Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank who’s also the founder of FUBU, on the second day will

John Mlynczak

be a can’t-miss moment. But another event I’d like to highlight is “Recording Industry Trends That Are Driving Our Future” by Randy Goodman, CEO and chairman of Sony Music Nashville. The purpose of that ses- sion is to understand how the music labels are trend forecasting for artists for their growth. And that embodies a next-level connection we’re trying to create, because if we as an industry could understand how one of the largest record labels looks and predicts what music is going to be hot in two years, the trickle down effect into the music products industry will be obvious. For example, if everyone’s going country right now because of Beyonce’s new album, we could see a boom in acoustic instruments, right? But will digital be affected? All of the record companies’ trends ultimately affect MI’s trends. MI: Sounds like an interesting way to look ahead at the next few years. What do you hope attendees walk away with? JM: My dream would be that attendees walk away with a three-to-five year business plan. I hope when they’re heading home they think, “I can’t wait to go back to my office and set the stage for where we need to go.”

MI: Who have you been seeing registering?



A DEEP DEDICATION TO QUALITY As DR Strings reaches the 35-year mark, its foundational principle remains the same: upholding its commitment to refining the quality and tone of each string it produces. — By Kimberly Kapela

W ithin the walls of DR Strings’ West- wood, New Jersey-based facility, skilled string winders take a minimum of six months to learn the craft of making the company’s strings. Every twist, every turn, every wind is executed by hand, guided by a serious understanding of the materials and techniques involved. Often hailed as “the handmade string,” it’s DR Strings’ focus on the human touch that sets it apart in an industry dominated by mechanical processes. Through countless hours of practice and refinement, DR’s winders have developed an intuitive sense for the adjustments nec- essary to produce quality strings. Founded in 1989 by Mark Dronge, DR Strings remains a proud family-owned busi- ness. Dronge’s vision was simple: to create strings that not only sounded exceptional but also stood the test of time. “Our company, supervisors and fac- tory managers have been with us for de- cades,” said Annika Dronge, DR Strings CEO. “That’s a testament to how my father [Mark] treated his people and the values he had. He always said to put people first and then the business will follow. There’s a joke with our factory managers that we’re bonded by battle, and we’re very close and we have a lot of respect for each other.” In 1989, Mark re-introduced the hand- made round core string to the general mar- ket with all materials being sourced from the U.S. According to Annika, the brand’s current flagship string, its Hi-Beam Bass String, is a round core steel-string known for its comfortability. “We’re constantly reinventing as we re- introduced our round core strings to the market, but we didn’t stop there,” Annika said. “We brought out Pure Blues, which is a vintage, pure nickel string and then

WHITE GLOVE SERVICE When entering DR Strings’ facility, one can expect to be met with workers wearing white gloves. The significance of these gloves goes beyond aesthetics, as they represent a principle of no metal is touched until it’s in the hands of its owner. “If you come to our factory at any time, you know everybody’s wearing white gloves,” Annika said. “Nobody touches the metal until the person who bought the string puts it onto the guitar. The person who buys that string is the first person to touch that metal, so it’s their own chemistry on that string. It hasn’t started to deteriorate by anybody else touching it. People ask us, ‘Why do your strings last longer?’ Well, it starts with the materials, but it’s also how we handle them.” This age-old practice is a testament to DR Strings’ dedication to preserving the purity of its products. While it may slow down the manufacturing process, the company refuses to compromise on quality. After all, as they say, the proof is in the sound. Its dedication to quality has lead the brand to strike a major partnership with an industry leader along with releasing a full lineup of new products — all to be announced later this summer. “Another mantra my dad lived by was, ‘We make something different and we hope you can feel and hear the difference,’” An- nika explained. “We hope musicians find the strings sound as great as we think they do and feel as comfortable to play as we do. We just would love to see the whole industry elevate and continue to inspire new players, and we want to be part of that creative process. We want to inspire that whole next generation of players.” MI

DR Strings’ vice president Dave Avenius with Annika Dronge.

he brought out special strings called DDT (drop down tuning) that’s geared towards metal players. Then of course the Hi-Def Neon strings have been really fun colors that pop on stage.” DR Strings’ reliance on the human touch enables the detection of inconsistencies that may evade mechanical processes. With their trained eyes and skilled hands, its winders strive for perfection in every string they craft. “What’s interesting about wire and metal, even though we source our wire from the U.S. and it’s medical-grade, sometimes there are inconsistencies that are difficult to ac- count for when it comes to the machine- made string,” Annika said. “Our winders get a feeling for that over time and they can adjust some of those inconsistencies. It’s a myth that all metal is uniform. Metal is almost like wood, so making small adjust- ments, I think, is part of the secret to our string making.”



SHILOH MUSIC HONORS 50TH ANNIVERSARY N estled in the heart of Mt. Juliet, Ten- nessee, Shiloh Music stands as a testa-

also taught music lessons throughout the 1960s. “When we hit the 50-year mark, I stopped and looked back,” George said. “I’m amazed and proud of the way it’s grown from two tiny teaching rooms and 30 students to 500 students a week and nine rooms that are full all the time.” For sons James and Paul, Shiloh Music has been more than just a music store. “We’ve seen the ups and downs with the store and the economy — it’s our life,” James said. “We owe the last 50 years to our cus- tomers and resilience and determination.” To celebrate Shiloh’s 50 years, the Hedges’ held a birthday party on April 1 that was open to the community and included a visit from the mayor of Mt. Juliet, who presented them with the proclamation that April 1 is now to be known as Shiloh Music Day. “What we’re going to do in the future is what we’re doing now, because we love the music business and our customers,” George said. “We treat customers as friends and staff as family.” MI — By Kimberly Kapela

F or years, people have brought used instru- ments into Mike Risko Music, a retail store and music school in Ossining, New York, that only deals in new gear. But owners Mike and Miriam Risko said they hated the idea of playable guitars and keyboards ending up in a landfill. So, they suggested people donate their gear instead and when they did, the couple refurbished each item to give away to a worthy recipient. The initiative started as a holiday drive, but has since turned into a year-round program that saves amps, guitars, banjos, keyboards, mandolins, speakers and P.A. systems. “We’re trying to get the right instrument to the right person,” Miriam said. “Great matches can change lives and the donors really appreciate it.” Nikita, a young refugee living in Ossining, found solace in music after enduring loss in Ukraine. He received an electric guitar, an amp and lessons, all free of charge. Another young immigrant, Elizabeth, from Colombia “expressed a deep longing to develop her musi- ment to the Hedges family’s passion and dedication to music retail and education. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in April, Shiloh Music is owned and operated by the original owners, George and Karen Hedges, alongside their two sons Paul and James Hedges, who have embodied the spirit of familial commitment to make their store a cornerstone in its community. Alongside its diverse retail selection, Shiloh offers guitar and amplifier servic- ing and repair facilities. Yet, perhaps the true heartbeat of Shiloh lies in its dedica- tion to music education. Welcoming more than 500 students to its lesson program each week, Shiloh Music teaches musicians of all ages to learn, grow and master their craft in one of its nine teaching studios, which are overseen by Karen. “We have 13 teachers and we teach guitar, piano, banjo, bass, violin, fiddle and drums,” Karen said. “I really think that one of the

Karen Hedges, bottom center, with some of the store’s teachers.

great things with our store is our customer service. We want everybody to feel comfort- able, and we take pride in our teaching and sales staff. Having Paul and James running the store is absolutely amazing to me to see the third generation of the store and that doesn’t happen a lot.” As exciting as it is to look ahead, George explained why it’s important to reflect as he attributes his father, Fred Hedges, as an instru- mental impact to the business’ inception. Fred not only crafted signature guitars models, but

Mike Risko Music Donates Used Instruments to Local Community Members in Need

cal abilities and communicate her emotions through music,” according to the agency that helped her adjust to life in the U.S. A few days later, someone brought in a keyboard and since then, she’s been tinkling away. Mike Risko Music has also donated a guitar to a nursing home patient with dementia, along with a full band’s worth of gear to the Taconic Correctional Facility for women in Bedford, New York, and the Sing Sing Fam- ily Collective, named for the historic prison located only miles from the store. Fostering the next generation of musi- cians, the Risko’s said they’ve given around 10 guitars to the Ossining Children’s Center, a daycare and after-school facility. “They let the kids just keep them and experience their own musical journey, which is so different from the school band,” said Claudia Berk, the center’s assistant executive director, adding that Mike Risko himself has stopped in to show the kids how to play and support them during their gig. “We had a little recital at [public plaza] Market Square.

Children benefitting from the Mike Risko Music-donated instruments.

[The kids] practiced and took it seriously.” Some day the program might become a non-profit, but for now, the Risko’s said they mostly deal with the random instruments that come into the store. “The other day a woman brought in one of her husband’s electric guitars, which he bought here,” Mike said. “He was a regular customer who passed away a few years ago. She wants it to go to a girl who needs to rock out, and we will find the person who was made for this instrument.” MI — By Marc Ferris


Make Music Day to Ring in Summer with Global Event M ake Music Day, the worldwide festival of making music held annually on the summer solstice, has announced the return of its vast program with more than 5,000 live and free music-making events across the U.S. scheduled for Friday, June 21. Launched in France in 1982 as the Fête de la Musique, Make Music Day has become a global event, celebrated by millions of people in more than 2,000 cities around the world, including 154 cities in the U.S., where it has spread widely after debuting in New York in 2007. Held on the longest day of the year, the world’s largest annual music event celebrates and promotes the natural music maker in everyone, regardless of age or skill level. Last year, 117 U.S. cities organized 4,791 free Make Music events on June 21, with more than 100 concerts each in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, Madison, Wisconsin, and Salem, Oregon. In 2024, another 50 U.S. communities will join Make Music Day for the first time. New Jersey is launching new Make Music Day initiatives in Englewood, Newark, Ocean City and Paterson, sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, while Wisconsin has grown to encompass 24 Make Music chapters throughout the state and Texas, through its Music Friendly Texas initiative, will feature 14 celebrations from Laredo to Dallas. Other cities like Orlando and Tallahassee in Florida and Salt Lake City are also beginning this year, bringing the total to more than 150 Make Music celebrations across the country and over 2,000 around the world. Make Music Day is presented in the U.S. by the NAMM Foundation. “We are thrilled with the continued growth of our Make Music Day partnership that celebrates the joy of making music worldwide,” said John Mlynczak, NAMM president and CEO. “The collaborative efforts of NAMM member companies and local partnerships all over the globe reach hundreds of thousands of music makers and deliver an amplified message that creating music is a precious element of daily living that unites communities around the world.” {}



Cris Behrens general manager. “Cris’ appointment marks a sig- nificant milestone for our company,” said Ryan Murdock, president and CEO of Bert Murdock Music. “His exceptional leadership in school rentals, sales, community engage- ment and team development aligns perfectly with our vision. His track

Cris Behrens

record in Utah is nothing short of remarkable, and we are confident that his expertise will propel Bert Murdock Music to unprecedented heights.” “Joining the Bert Murdock family is a privilege,” Behrens said. “Our shared commitment to nurturing music education in schools is a strong foundation for future growth. I am eager to collaborate with the team to enhance the musical journey for students, educators and musicians alike.” With more than three decades of experience in the MI industry, Behrens was also recently named president of the National As- sociation of School Music Dealers (NASMD) after spending the last eight years serving on the board. {} C.F. MARTIN & CO. ADDS NEW STRINGS BUSINESS LEADER B rian Hall has joined C.F. Martin & Co. as senior director, strings

Gary Clark Jr., center, cements his place in Guitar Center’s RockWalk.

Guitar Center Inducts Gary Clark Jr. into RockWalk O n May 1, Guitar Center inducted four-time Grammy-winning guitarist Gary Clark Jr. into its RockWalk, which is located at the entrance of GC’s flagship store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, where the private ceremony took place. Gary Clark Jr. performed at Guitar Center’s flagship following the ceremony. “We are thrilled to welcome Gary Clark Jr. into the esteemed ranks of Guitar Center’s RockWalk inductees. His extraordinary talent and contributions to music make him a perfect fit for this honor,” said Gabe Dalporto, Guitar Center’s CEO. “Gary’s induction is a testament to his incredible impact on the world of music, and we were pleased to celebrate his achievements at this year’s ceremony. His handprints are a prestigious addition to Guitar Center’s Rockwalk, alongside the legends who have shaped the industry.” The RockWalk ceremony made a return to the city of Los Angeles after six years. Renowned Los Angeles broadcast music journalist Nic Harcourt hosted the evening and presented Gary Clark Jr. with the prestigious recognition. “I am honored to be the latest inductee into Guitar Center’s RockWalk,” Clark Jr. said. “This recognition holds immense significance for me, as it not only reflects my unwavering dedi- cation and love for music but also acknowledges the respect and admiration of my peers and fellow musicians, who I also equally love and admire.” Guitar Center’s RockWalk is dedicated to honoring those art- ists who have made a significant impact and lasting contribution to the growth and evolution of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and R&B. As the latest RockWalk inductee, Gary Clark Jr.’s handprints now reside alongside the handprints, signatures and faces of other accomplished musicians, such as Eric Clapton, George Martin, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Carlos Santana, Johnny Cash, Van Halen, AC/DC and Queen. {}

business segment leader, filling a newly created position and signal- ing the company’s renewed focus on growing its strings business. Hall has worked with and con- sulted for numerous consumer brands in his 14-year career, including Gen- eral Mills, Steinway, Whirlpool and

Brian Hall

Kawai Musical Instruments. A multi-instrumentalist with a strong business background, Hall brings the creativity of a jazz musician and acumen of a data scientist to this role. “For more than 50 years Martin has been manufacturing strings,” said Thomas Ripsam, Martin president and CEO. “As the largest maker of acoustic guitars, it only makes sense for us to do so, and strings remain an important part of our business that we want to continue to grow. I’m confident that Brian’s extensive experience, creativity and passion for the brand will help us take strings to the next level.” Hall earned a Bachelor of Music from Brigham Young Uni- versity and an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Stephen Ross School of Business. {}


Sam Ash Music to Close All Stores S am Ash Music has announced it will close all of its remaining stores, according to posts made on its social media pages on May 2. The news of it closing all stores comes after an announcement in March that it would initially just close 18 of its locations. The 100-year-old company operates some 45 locations nationwide. The statement on Sam Ash Music’s Facebook page read: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce that all Sam Ash Music store locations will begin store closing sales today ... thank you for allowing us to serve musicians like you for 100 years.” Sam Ash Music was founded in New York in 1924 by musician Sam Ash. As the business grew, all of Ash’s children — Jerry, Paul and Marcia — played an active role in the business, along with the third generation, Richie Ash, and Sammy Ash, who passed away last fall from cancer. Throughout its 100 years in business, Sam Ash Music became the largest family- owned music chain in the country. Representatives at Sam Ash Music could not be reached for comment. For the industry’s reaction on the closing, turn to page 10. {}

HAL LEONARD VP WALTERS PASSES AWAY H al Leonard’s Rick Walters, long-time

vice president of clas- sical and vocal pub- lications, has passed away. He was 68. Walters was a key figure at Hal Leonard

for 39 years. He began his journey as a keyboard editor and ascended to the role of vice president of classical and vocal publications. In 2011, he pioneered the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, the industry’s first all-YouTube contest for vocal students. This initiative earned widespread respect. Walters’ dedication was evident as he per- sonally reviewed tens of thousands of vid- eos until the competition concluded with his retirement in 2023. Even after retiring, he continued to make a difference in the music community, particularly with the Mil- waukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, where he served on the board. {} Rick Walters


Woodwind & Brasswind to Join Music & Arts M usic & Arts (M&A) has announced that, after four decades of serving pro

LPD Music Set to Distribute Twisted Wood Guitars in U.S. T wisted Wood Guitars, based in Alberta, Canada, has announced that LPD Music International is its new exclusive distributor in the U.S. According to a statement, this partnership signifies an exciting new chapter for the two companies, bringing together LPD Music’s extensive distribution network and Twisted Wood’s selection of instruments. The statement continued: “With LPD Music’s commitment to excellence and expertise, this collaboration promises to enhance accessibility and satisfaction for musicians nationwide. Get ready to experience the exceptional craftsmanship and unique sound of Twisted Wood instruments like never before.” {} Shure Achieves its Sustainable Packaging Goals in 2023 T wo years ago, Shure announced aggressive goals to increase recyclable and/or renewable packaging for new products. Now, Shure has reported that it has achieved its goal to convert to 75% by 2023 and is on track to grow to 90% by 2025 and 100% by 2030 for new packaging. The goal for existing product packaging in 2025 is 75% recyclable and/or renewable. As part of its continuous environmental improvement efforts, Shure is a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. With more than 1,500 different packaging pieces for a variety of different products, converting to sustainable packaging is a significant undertaking, especially for high- performance electronic equipment which is shipped to various locations globally to reach customers all over the world. {}

players and beginners alike, sister brand Woodwind & Brasswind (WWBW) is join- ing M&A. The two organizations — both part of the Guitar Center family of brands — will now be operating solely as Music & Arts, offering an enhanced musical experi- ence for educators and musicians across the country. WWBW has served as an e-commerce platform, and its customers will now ex- perience a more seamless integration be- tween the e-commerce and in-store retail experiences, along with lessons services, personalized assistance from a knowl- edgeable sales team, the nation’s largest band and orchestra repair network, and educational content geared toward musi- cians of all levels. Additionally, WWBW customers new to M&A are now able to complete transactions online and pick up (or return) their purchases at any of M&A’s 250-plus retail locations. And as WWBW joins M&A, the customer service call center will consolidate, offering addi- tional expertise and availability. Existing WWBW customers will be encouraged to

migrate to with personal- ized assistance and incentives to help aid in the transition. “Our goal is to create a more unified customer experience, and the time is right to combine the brands and offer the same benefits to WWBW customers that Mu- sic & Arts customers have enjoyed for years, such as our physical retail loca- tions, lessons program, in-store hands-on experiences and events, and our repair network,” said Jeff Gottlieb, president of Music & Arts. “Woodwind & Brass- wind has been working alongside Music & Arts for 17 years. With our combined expertise and resources, we know we can create a harmonious new future that al- lows musicians and educators to access the products, resources, and support that they need.” {}


ner’s entry into the Indonesian market is a momentous occasion. We believe that their innovative range of musical instru- ments aligns perfectly with the needs of the Indonesian market—a country with a rich musical heritage and a burgeoning de- mand for quality musical instruments. Our collaboration is underpinned by a shared vision to empower musicians by providing them with the tools they need to realize their musical dreams.” The partnership between Donner and Galestra is expected to leverage the latter’s extensive distribution network and market insight to make Donner’s instruments ac- cessible to musicians throughout Indonesia. Additionally, Donner and Galestra have announced the opening of the Donner flag- ship store located in downtown Jakarta. This flagship store is a significant milestone for Donner in Indonesia, serving as a hub for musicians to explore, experience and purchase Donner’s range of instruments. {}

Donner’s new flagship Indonesian showroom.

DONNER EXPANDS TO INDONESIA WITH NEW FLAGSHIP LOCATION D onner has expanded into Southeast Asia by launching its flagship retail

president of brand marketing at Donner. “We are poised to break new ground in the Indo- nesian market. Our partnership with Galestra enables us to offer products that embody the latest innovations, exceptional quality, and stylish designs at accessible prices, thereby fulfilling the aspirations of young musicians across Indonesia and eventually, the world.” Pak Franky, general manager of sales at PT Garuda Lestari Tradisi, added, “Don-

showroom featuring its range of musical instruments in Indonesia, through an ex- clusive partnership with PT Garuda Lestari Tradisi (Galestra). “The landing of Donner in Indonesia marks a pivotal chapter in our journey to become a global influencer in the musical instrument industry,” said Yiming Wen, vice


> Page 28 Notes & Cents

> Page 30 The Retail Doctor > Page 31 Women of NAMM

IN THE TRENCHES I BY CYPH SHAH 5 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS A s retailers, we spend an awful lot of time focused on what we need to accomplish to keep the wheels

proach this? Be humble. Let the customers who are brave or bold enough to offer you ad- vice know you’re always open to improvements and that you welcome their feedback. Don’t drum up excuses, take it on the chin. An extra set of eyes are a valuable asset to learn about the cracks in your citadel that could silently erode the reputation you’ve worked so hard to fortify. Then actively investigate each ticket. Create a track- ing system to ensure follow through. Delegate to your team so they understand the impor- tance this procedure plays in your day-to-day operations. Maybe it’s that Pioneer DJ controller station that needs a firmware update or perhaps it’s that rarely checked voicemail inbox that leaves customers’ questions unanswered. Either way, use the opportunity to put a system in place that feeds a communal “to-do” list. Frame that list as fodder to keep your crew actively engaged in putting your best foot forward. This is especially helpful during slow moments where they may feel tempted to reduce their productivity. And when that same customer returns to your store and sees

turning. Wrapping your mind around the macroeconomics of it all is a huge task, but make no mistake that the microtrans- actions occurring every day at your store are the backbone of it all. That’s where understanding your clientele can ensure both you and your team are able to engage your target audience in a way that encourages promoting growth where the roots touch the soil. 1. Customers know your shortcomings just as well as you do — if not more so. This may come in the form of frequent inventory errors with your website, lack of phone sup- port when they call in or demo displays in your showroom that sit pretty but aren’t functional. At our DJ shop, Astro AVL in Glendale, California, we have to invest a substantial amount of time and energy into mini- mizing the occurrence of these very same issues. Things only get fixed if we know they require attention. We have dozens of active displays for customers to interact with and our shop is constantly evolving in layout

“An extra set of eyes are a valuable asset to learn about the cracks in your citadel that could silently erode the reputation you’ve worked so hard to fortify.”

so tending to our garden is a daily practice. We want to be recognized as the best DJ shop

in Los Angeles, and we con- stantly fight for that privilege. So, how do you best ap-


you valued their input enough to act on the information they’re going to feel in- tertwined in your success. 2. They’ve formed opinions about each person on your team (including you). Whether they realize it or not, the micro- impressions your customers receive from each interaction with you and your staff creates an imprint of what they think of your shop’s moral character and general vibe. Maybe they’re willing to look past one or two passively disgruntled employees, but when that number hits their threshold, they’re out the door. Therein lies the key to the crucible of trust and respect you so vehemently work to build. Be cognizant of this fact. Put yourself into their shoes before you let your other encumberments muddy the waters with the impression you left on a fresh face. 3. They’ve dated around and know your competition. They’ve chosen to come back to you and your store for a reason. It might be your killer customer service or your stock avail- ability of highly sought after gear, but make no mistake that repeat customers are shoppers keen on walking avenues in their best interest. By stepping in the door again they’re validating you’re a strategic part of that process. Use that perspective to embolden your team to the point of feeling pride and value, but not hubris. That will translate to more confidence when making follow up calls and closing sales. They’ll be less insecure in interactions, which means they’ll be less likely to default to unnecessarily offering a discount in an attempt to garner favor from the client. Be sure to calibrate this as needed. No one likes a braggart. 4. Not all of them are interested in what you have to say ... And that’s OK. Most of your customers won’t know as much as you and some customers will know vastly more than you on a specific tech or product. Just be comfortable with the fact that if they’re not asking you for an opinion, you don’t have to give one. Know the difference between empowering your customer and intruding on their decision-making process. Heck, pipe down, listen up and you may even learn something new. 5. Just because they don’t say “thank you” doesn’t mean they’re not thankful. Maybe it’s the follow-up email you sent

that you never got a reply to. Maybe it’s the voicemail you left with a tracking update on their time-sensitive DJ equip- ment. Customers may not always respond to you or give feedback but those are the types of effort that tip the scales for a one-time customer to become a life-long patron. Don’t rely on validation. Make sure you and your team stay consistent with that practice. Like most sage advice given, it’s only worth a dime if it’s actualized through

daily practice. So, take from this col- umn that which appeals and applies to you and find a way to integrate it into the roots of your customer relations mindset. See if it serves you well and, if it does, feel free to buy me a drink at the next NAMM show. Cheers! MI

Cyph Shah is the manager of Astro Audio Video Lighting in Glendale, California. He’s also the lead instructor of the DJ School, Astro Mix Lab and designs AVL systems as Astro AVL’s installation foreman. He’s toured the country as a DJ for more than 20 years.


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