NARM President Jim Donio Addresses 'Music Biz' Conference on the Future of Retail

NARM Jim Donio 2013 L

"An explosion of subscribers and traffic to subscription services [has] contributing meaningfully to the industry's growing digital music revenues," said the NARM president, who celebrates 25 years with the organization.

With NARM president Jim Donio now enjoying his 25th anniversery with the organization, he kicked off the opening session for the "Music Biz," held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza this week, by noting that NARM has revinvented itself many times during its 55-year existence.

"As formats have evolved," he said, "our membership has expanded, the marketplaces has been upended; technology has exploded; sales have ebbed and flowed and leaders have come and gone."

Looking at new additions to the NARM meeting, Donio noted that first time attendees include companies like Blackberry, YouTube, Pledge Music, and Triton Digital, as well as major consumer brands like Coke and Hertz, throught leaders from the metadata space such as Peer Music, Movielabs, and the Associated Press, and non-traditional music retailers like the Home Shoppi ng Network. "This underscores the value of our event," he explained, "and that we have continued to broaden our profile year after year.

One of the reasons that helps NARM continues to grow is the organization's ability to "foster 'competition," which adds to the trade association's value proposition, he said.

He noted that while the industry has been proactive with all of the industry's transitions, NARM is "not physical or digital; we are the music business."

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He pointed out that while the industry commemorates the first decade of iTunes, it also is simultaneously celebrating the 6th anniversary of Record Store Day.

According to an Nielsen Entertainment analysis, even though the music experience is evolving at an astonishing pace, and CDs sales will continue to slide, CDs will still be a significant part of the mix for about the next five years, and probably longer.

Yet by 2015, the digital album is expected to surpass the physical album as the dominant album format. On the other hand, Donio noted that on-demand streaming is the fastest growing part of the music business. "Last year has seen an explosion of both subscribers and traffic to subscription services, and the business is now contributing meaningfully to the industry's growing digital music revenues," he added.

NARM, throught its initiative, is working hard to clear the roadblocks in the digital world. He noted that the organization had just issued its "Music Metadata Style Guide," which is aimed at helping to establishing standard ways to identify artist, songs and albums so that digital reports offer cleaner data that will improve payments.

Moreover, a high point during pre-convention meetings has been the two day Metadata summit, according to delegates attending the convention.

After Donio's sppeach, it was onto the award presentations, with Record Store Day being hailed with the Independent Spirit Award Presentation and Performance, followed by Ted Cohen receiving the Presidential Award for sustained industry achievement.

In between, von Gray, an alternative folk band consisting of four sisters (see photo below), played a high-energy set.

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Finally, Donio himself was presented with a plaque for his 25-year anniversary by Universal Music Group Distribution CEO Jim Urie, who pointed out that when Donio joined NARM in 1988, it was the first year that CD outsold vinyl, as he added, "a trend that may be reversing itself, even as we speak."

The opening session concluded with "The Future of the Biz" session, which focused on four of Billboard's 40 under 40 looking ahead.

During that session AEG Live/Goldenvoice latin division head Rebeca Leon told attendees that there are not enough arena level acts, and less every year. "How do we create more of that," she asked. She answered that her country takes chances on new acts that may not be worth more than a couple of hundred tickets. But when they see ones with potential they work with label and media partners to help develop them.

"Sometimes, it means sitting down with managers and saying we are going to spend less on the guarantee and more on marketing because that is what you need,' she said.

After they break them out of clubs, they might get them an opening act slot in front of a big act, which could lead to the developing acts own theater tour, which might lead to an arena package tour, she explained.

While some think that the labels might no longer be so important, Epic Records' Tricky Stewart noted that labels still have the ability to not only help artist achieve monetary success but also help make them famous. "Labels can help make the artist's dreams come true," he said.

Coca Cola global music marketing for worldwide sports entertainment & partnership marketing head Joe Belliotti noted that Coke is in the beverage business and has no interest being in the music business. "But how do we play a role in the music eco-system and help create a shared value to build both business," he asked?

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