Interview with NAMM’s Joe Lamond
by Dan Daley
Joe Lamond is a numbers guy — besides leading the National Association of Music Merchants as President and CEO for the past 15 years, guiding its constituency of more than 10,000 manufacturers and retailers of musical instruments and pro-audio products through two recessions, he also played drums for Tommy Tutone, who made “867-5309” the most famous phone number ever. So he’s the perfect choice for GAMA’s first quarterly Q&A interview for our new newsletter. Lamond strongly emphasizes NAMM’s “Circle of Benefits” business model: reinvesting the proceeds of its successful trade shows into grants, scholarships, scientific research, industry promotions and public and government relations programs. These efforts have contributed to increased support for music education in our schools and greater awareness around the world of the benefits of active music making for people of all ages. Here, Joe talks about how guitars, retail innovation and education all fit together.
GAMA: Guitar sales have shown continued strength in recent years. What, in your view, are guitar makers and marketers doing so right? What have the big trends been in the last few years that can be further cultivated?
Joe Lamond: Good question. In my opinion, it comes down to the basics: more people are starting to play guitar and fewer are quitting. There are as many reasons for that as there are guitar manufacturers and designs. Thanks to GAMA and NAMM there are more guitar players in our classrooms, and the allure of the guitar has followed the baby boomers throughout their lives. I believe another reason for the growth is that new and existing NAMM members are coming up with innovative products that people want to buy. For example, there are over 60 companies [new to the Show] exhibiting guitars and related products in Nashville. Nothing excites a market like cool, new instruments.
GAMA: This is an election year, and education issues like Common Core have been part of the debate. How do you see this impacting MI retail, keeping in mind that guitars are still the number-one instrument in terms of sales and lessons? Is there any legislation, recent or pending, that you think GAMA members ought to pay special attention to? Do you see the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness Act, aka the Relief Act, being resurrected anytime soon?
Joe Lamond: Every GAMA member would benefit from learning more about the recently passed ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ (ESSA). ESSA was signed into law by President Obama in December, and is the biggest overhaul to arts education in my lifetime. The bill specifically mandates music and arts as part of a well-rounded education, provides funding and protects students’ music and arts class time. NAMM and our members spent years meeting with Congressional leaders and the White House on the importance that every child has access to music in schools, and now that it has passed, we are engaging state leaders on state-by-state level with NAMM member involvement for implementation and updated standards for the arts. All music product makers should take note, as this will open many doors for school-based music education.
As for the other rules and regulations impacting the industry, the NAMM site is also the best resource. Spend some time there and get up to speed, pretend your business depends on it, [because] it actually does!
GAMA: Makers of guitars, amplifiers and accessories are some of the most entrepreneurial members of the MI community— boutique products in these categories have become ubiquitous. How do we nurture this cohort of manufacturers in an increasingly consolidated business environment?
Joe Lamond: The NAMM Show provides a platform for all businesses to have their shot in the marketplace. Every major buyer, large and small, as well as the musical trendsetters, is there, including the global media. In that crucible of ideas, some will succeed beyond their wildest dreams and others might not be so fortunate. The marketplace will decide, as it always has. To me, the biggest disappointment would be if a good idea never got the shot. Anaheim and Nashville provide every company that opportunity.
GAMA: Joe, you’re a drummer, but we’re happy to overlook that. Who are your favorite new guitar players these days?
Joe Lamond: My favorite guitar player is New York Yankee great Bernie Williams. After an 18-year career with the Yankees and four World Series rings, Bernie has honed his guitar chops, been nominated for a Latin GRAMMY, went back to school and graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a degree in Jazz Guitar. He’s also been a staunch supporter of NAMM’s efforts to strengthen music in our schools. He’s gone to Washington D.C. with us for years, lobbying for the ESSA and just performed last week at the White House for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is a true hero and worthy of all our respect, both as a guitar player and as a human being!