Elizabeth Dale

Submissions for the 2022 Top 100 Dealer Awards are now open, and NAMM Members worldwide are invited to submit their stores for a spot on the list of Top 100. The Top 100 Dealer Awards will be held at The NAMM Show on June 2, where all NAMM retail members will be honored, and the winners will be recognized - an event you do not want to miss.

Now in its twelfth year, the annual awards hono retailers who have demonstrated a commitment to best practices, creativity, and innovation in music products retail.

Top 100 Dealer Awards - Call for Submissions

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The Top 100 Awards will celebrate retail innovation across nine award categories, including the “Best Community Retail Store;” “Best Customer Service;” “Best Store Design;” “Innovation Award;” “Best Marketing and Sales Promotion; “Best Online Engagement;” “Music Makes a Difference Award;” and the “Customer’s Choice Award” which at press time is currently underway.

All submissions will be evaluated for effectiveness in marketing, customer engagement, and innovation in retail by a panel of independent judges. From the winners of these categories, one store will be recognized with the coveted “Dealer of the Year” Award.

While there may not be a secret to winning one of the top awards, past honorees are pulling back the curtain to give us a sneak peek into what it took them to take home this impressive distinction and what being a Top 100 Dealer has meant to their business.

Dietze Music earned the title of “Best Marketing & Sales Promotion” at the 2021 Top 100 Dealer Awards. When the pandemic hit in 2020, retailers worldwide were forced to think creatively for marketing and sales promotion. With traditional means of sales coming to a grinding halt with stay-at-home orders, Dietze Music decided to take what could have been a tragic turn of events for their business and use it as a platform to reinvent their marketing strategy.

2021 Top 100 Dealer Awards - Best Marketing & Sales Promotion

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Cue the Dietze “Days of Deals” campaign featuring Larry Landers and his daughter, Anna Mae. This light-hearted yet well-crafted campaign harkens back to the days of the 1980s infomercials.The spots featured big and purposely low-budget graphics shooting across the screen and promises of a deal of a lifetime from a carnival barker-like character that Larry has developed, Anna Mae took on the role of disinterested teen, absorbed in her phone. No bit of description can do the campaign justice, so here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Dietze Days of Deals Campaign

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We sat down with the owner of Dietze Music, Tim Pratt, to discuss the campaign, the importance of fresh marketing, and how Dietze Days of Deals clinched a win for Dietze Music at the 2021 Top 100 Dealer Awards.

What inspired your “Dietze Days of Deals” campaign?

The idea was presented at a creative team meeting by the video's two main characters. We wanted it to look like an old promotion, something I could help with since I lived through that time!

How important are new and fresh sales promotions and marketing to running a successful retail operation?

Customers need to see new material. You can't become complacent thinking that people will come to you just because you have been around a while.

What impact did this campaign have on your operation?

Dietze Days of Deals brought people from every aspect of our business together and created a huge buzz. We have multiple departments, so finding a way to bring people of varying interests together to work toward a single goal was a big focal point. I highly recommend a campaign that brings your team together.

How difficult was it to execute a daily social media video?

We scheduled posts and used paid ads accordingly, which turned out to be an immense help in the process. The biggest challenge was that every day was something new. The return on investment is hard to measure, but the response to the videos was overwhelming. In the end, if our customers are happy, we have succeeded.

What advice do you have for retailers who may be considering a unique and more approachable marketing/promotion approach?

Go for it! You must shake things up and step out of your comfort zone. We took a lot of time to talk through how these videos might land with customers of different interests and decided we could pull off a fun yet informative campaign. If you become complacent, you will become replaced!

How has winning the Top 100 for “Best Marketing & Sales Promotion” impacted the business?

It was an honor to win this award. The win fired up our team to try and be better. It helped cement the mindset that we want every customer to have a wonderful experience, even if it is just through a video on social media. Winning Top 100 cemented our team’s commitment to the campaign and our brand even further.

Why is submitting for the Top 100 Dealer Awards important to Dietze Music and other retail stores?

It is simple. Seeing the ideas that our employees and even our competitors produce and the work that goes on is amazing! There are so many great ideas, and everyone in the industry faces similar challenges. Every year at Top 100, I see ideas that I can use in my own store. If no one were to submit for the Top 100 Dealer Awards, stores like ours and other stores across the industry would miss out on some truly inspirational and innovative ideas. You never know where inspiration for your next big idea can come from.

Are you submitting for The 2022 NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards?

ABSOLUTELY! We talked at length about this category and continued with the same theme. Submitting every year is a way to measure your progress and will help you increase your overall bottom line. Every Top 100 category that you improve on in your store equates to increased positive customer perception of your business. It is a can’t lose situation. 

Dietze Days of Deals - Cyber Monday

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Are you hoping to take home an honor? Be sure to submit for the 2022 Top 100 Dealer Awards by visiting https://topdealer.namm.org/. The submission period closes on March 18, 2022. Retailers ranging from mom-and-pop stores to retail chains are encouraged to participate to be recognized for their achievements, inspire other retailers, and showcase their staff’s fantastic talent.

Elizabeth Dale

The Mellin sisters, Kerry, Merrily, and Wendy invented the EaZyHold to help “maintain independence through adversity.” The adaptive accessory has limitless applications to provide its users with the means to remain and gain independence to continue to play a musical instrument. The invention will make its NAMM Show debut this June in Anaheim.

In 2014, Kerry was working on her ranch in Simi Valley, California, when a thumb injury prevented her from completing the tasks at hand, namely sweeping out a barn. As a self-described lifelong cowgirl, it was shocking to Kerry that something as small as a thumb injury could hinder her entire way of life. Determined to finish the job, Kerry grabbed some duct tape and made a loop across the broom’s handle, slipping her injured hand inside. The new alternative setup allowed her to sweep while maintaining control of the broom with minimal grip, and more importantly, she was able to work pain-free. Like most inventors, a proverbial lightbulb went off for Kerry, and she began thinking of all the people who may be encountering a similar problem.

While the EazyHold may have been developed to aid people in accomplishing some of the most basic tasks, its customers quickly began sharing photos and videos showcasing how the product adapted to have applications in assisting them in playing their instruments. Kerry and her sisters became convinced of the product's further applications when they witnessed the EazyHold assisting musicians. The EazyHold was being used to hold everything from violin bows to ring bells, increase participation in drum circles, and helping children play rainsticks to maracas, shakers, xylophones, and more. Through application, it has become apparent that the EazyHold was providing easily adaptable solutions to retrofit musical instruments to allow people with grip disabilities and finger and limb loss an opportunity to make music.

EZ Hold

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  • As a stroke survivor, I lost the ability to play my violin, so my therapist suggested I try EazyHold. I am now, slowly, able grip the bow and relearn to play.”


  • I've used the EazyHold with a number of clients - from children through adults - and it really is fabulous for helping them grip mallets, shakers, rhythm sticks(etc.) independently. It's so versatile and comfortable. They're easy to carry with me, easy to sanitize, and hard to break. I am really grateful they're available!

    Rachael Willeke (West Music, Director of Music Therapy

  • EazyHold has been a game-changer in music education classrooms, music therapy practices and services, and for practicing musicians. In my role, I look for products for the general music/K-8 music realm but also, I search for accessories that will allow more players the ease of accessibility for percussion and other instruments to help them play now and play for life. The Eazyhold does just that!

    Tereasa Evans (West Music, Music Education Consultant for Percussion)

  • “I’m really proud of my child for choosing to try something new and not giving up. Thanks to tools like EazyHold, Grayson can participate in Orchestra lessons at school, something she has looked forward to all year.”

    Kira Charlton (Parent)

EazyHold and the Mellin sisters will be participating in their first NAMM Show this June, and they are determined to bring inclusive, all ability products to the mainstream marketplace. Kerry says, “I am so looking forward to attracting this new community of musicians, buyers, distributors, and retailers who would benefit from supporting an inclusive marketplace. Our goal is to represent all children and adults more fully in the industry and help grow the marketplace year after year. Inclusion is not a hard thing to accomplish when adaptive tools are accessible. That is what is going to be great about The NAMM Show - we will have the opportunity to have a booth solely dedicated to music tools that make playing instruments possible for everyone.” 

As a new exhibitor, Kerry has been blown away by the outpouring of support from the industry. When asked for advice for new exhibitors considering attending the show, she shared her experience working alongside NAMM for the first time. “When I have had questions or concerns about the process or an event, all it takes is a quick e-mail, and all my questions are answered. It doesn’t feel like we are just one of many at The NAMM Show, but it feels like we are being welcomed into a big musical family. There is nothing to be intimidated about exhibiting at The NAMM Show. What are you waiting for? Join NAMM and exhibit,” says Kerry.

For more information on the EaZyHold, please visit https://eazyhold.com/ and be sure to attend The 2022 NAMM Show to see all of the amazing products. For information about attending or exhibiting at The 2022 NAMM Show, please visit https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2022/attend.


Ben Factor, Contributing Writer and Lighting Director for Umphrey’s McGee

Umphrey’s McGee tour is back after a scary end to 2021, which saw the Omicron wave cancel our New Year’s Eve and New York City run of shows.

The New Year’s Eve cancellation was a particularly big bummer since those shows are one of our marquee events each year and the budget for lighting is double that of a standard tour. In fact, the NYE show is a chance to introduce the winter tour design concept but on a much larger scale. I spent a lot of time preparing, workshopping, and programming the NYE design, so canceling really hurt.

Despite this, I am enjoying the opportunity to introduce these new ideas on tour.

My intention for this design was to continue growing through experimentation. So, I posed myself this question: ‘Is there a choice I can make that will be significantly different from both my past works as well as my contemporaries?’ I looked toward indie-rock - a genre of music that I love and that is different from jam bands for some inspiration.

One indie-rock production designer who blows my mind is Michael Brown. He works with bands like Bon Iver, Death Cab For Cutie, and the National, to name a few. Recently, Bon Iver did a run of shows celebrating the 10th anniversary of their self-titled record. Brown’s utilization of scenic drapery at those shows served as a huge spark of inspiration for this Umphrey’s tour design. It looked so spooky, ethereal, and cohesive.

Through slightly aimless and general internet dives, like a search for “stage lighting” on Pinterest (shoutout to Rebecca for the suggestion), I came across the company SewWhatRentWhat (SWRW), which fabricates custom materials and backdrops specifically for stage productions. They were immediately responsive and supplied the exact material I had in mind. We now travel with five 10’x23’ pieces of aluminum mesh material for backdrops, all thanks to SWRW.

Once I committed to incorporating this material, the next step was designing the lighting around it. Next, I had to figure out what types of lights and their placements on stage to ensure the backdrop, for lack of a better word, shines.

The first element of the previous designs that had to be updated was the ground package of lighting, which sits behind the band. This consists of lights on cases or truss behind the band. It has become a staple of jam band shows over the past decade, thanks to my predecessor, Jefferson Waful. Nearly every jam band features some variation of this approach. Beams shooting up from behind the artist is an iconic look. However, the backdrop and ground package together would become too busy and get in the way of each other. If I were to prioritize beam-focused designing, having the backdrop would not be worth it. The solution was to move the ground lights to the edge of the stage in a vertical ladder formation. A decision that put me well outside of my comfort zone. I don’t have traditional training in lighting. I am primarily self-taught through studying shows that I love. I could imagine more experienced designers rolling their eyes at this but removing a horizontal ground package felt like blasphemy at the time.

Sticking to the prioritization of the backdrop, I kept the rest of the lighting package as simple as possible, using only a few spots, beams, side light, front light, and strobes.

Here are some reflections on this design after six weeks of touring.

  • First, the stage looks cleaner, especially from the balcony.
  • Close-up photographs of the band have extra texture and depth.
  • The rig is flexible. It can go from dark and moody with just side-lighting and the backdrop to bright and high energy with the addition of all the beams.
  • The backdrop takes the show to a specific yet abstract place. I’ve heard people say it looks like the band is performing in a “pretty cloud,” in front of a “spooky wall,” and on a “different planet.”
  • My fear of removing the traditional ground package has been silenced! In fact, I like it better. I find it easier to focus on the band members. Additionally, the show does not suffer from a lack of movement or beamage. The songs “Wappy Sprayberry,” “Triple Wide,” “Nothing Too Fancy,” and “Cemetery Walk II” all have the same rainbow chaos that I, and fans, have come to expect and love over the years.

Umphrey McGee - House of Blues Boston

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I’ll end with a bit of a cliffhanger. An unexpected opportunity the backdrop brings is the potential for video projections. Since backdrops take light so well, pointing a projector at it creates a very cool look. During our shows at the Fillmore in Detroit, I got the chance to try this out by using the in-house projector. It was AWESOME. When our NYE and NYC Shows were canceled, I spent a lot of my time learning the TouchDesigner and Resolume program, with the long-term goal of developing a system that connects lighting, video content, and generative visuals altogether. I am looking forward to using this new backdrop as a canvas for future endeavors!

Ben Factor is the lighting director for Umphrey’s McGee. He explores the ever-changing relationship between technology and music through his work. While operating the show, Ben leans on his background as a musician to help ensure the lighting is as tasteful and dynamic as the music on stage. He is based in NYC.

About Umphrey’s McGee
The music of Umphrey’s McGee unfolds like an unpredictable conversation between longtime friends. Its six participants—Brendan Bayliss [guitar, vocals], Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, piano, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals), and Ryan Stasik (bass)—know just how to communicate with each other on stage and in the studio. A call of progressive guitar wizardry might elicit a response of soft acoustic balladry, or a funk groove could be answered by explosive percussion. At any moment, heavy guitars can give way to heavier blues as the boys uncover the elusive nexus between jaw-dropping instrumental virtuosity and airtight songcraft.

Umphrey’s McGee is a touring powerhouse, performing 85+ shows per year, headlining annual shows across the US, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, and the Beacon Theatre in New York. Umphrey’s is a constant US festival staple, with performances at major events including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Rothbury, and Bonnaroo, as well as international festivals Fuji Rock Festival (Japan) and Byron Bay Blues Festival (Australia). The band hosts their own festival in Illinois, Summer Camp Music Festival, where they perform three nights and have hosted the likes of Primus, Jane’s Addiction, Thievery Corporation, and Willie Nelson, to name a few. Umphrey’s McGee has also hosted and headlined Jam in the Dam (2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010), a three-night mini-festival at the Melkweg in Amsterdam.

Cover Photo by Tara Gracer


Elizabeth Dale

Iconic amplifier brand, Orange, has launched a new online learning platform, Orange Learn. From aspiring to professional, musicians of all levels are encouraged to hone their skills courtesy of Orange.

A pioneer in the revolution of sound since 1968, Orange CEO and Founder Cliff Cooper has continuously experimented and pushed boundaries to produce new and innovative ways sound is perceived. It is in this spirit that the NAMM Member was motivated to expand its offerings to include education to help its customers grow their musical talents.

Orange Amps 50th - 2018

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The journey to Orange Learn began in 2016 with the launch of the Orange Rock Guitar Foundation course. Cooper has always been a proponent of education, so he wanted to give back to the community and encourage his customers to learn music. The Orange Rock Guitar Foundation course was provided, free of charge, to anyone who purchased an Orange Amp as a motivational tool to “start learning” and acquire a solid foundation in music.

While this was a great start, Cooper still desired more, so he sought a partnership with Online Music Exams. Online Music Exams is a UK government-accredited exam platform where students are recognized for their achievements. Upon completing a course, students can take an optional exam on the Online Music Exams platform, a site regulated by The Learning Machine, a government-regulated entity. Pupils are then awarded grades on the National (RQF) and European Framework (EQF) and translated to credits within the two systems.

Seeing the success and the reach of the initial curriculum, Orange Amps added intermediate and advanced courses to its catalog. As the interest in the content continued to grow, the team at Orange saw the evolution of a new entity on the horizon, officially creating “Learn the Orange Way.” The manufacturer saw an opportunity to expand its courses to include other instruments and genres to reach a whole new segment of musicians, further expanding the accessibility to music education. Orange Vocal performance exams quickly followed and targeted guitarists who doubled as vocalists as a natural next step.

Orange Learn officially launched in early 2022 as an independent entity with its debut release of the Graded Guitar Series, which offers digital and physical books, online courses, and optional qualifications through online exams. The addition of the vocal performance course will be launched this year, with plans to expand to include more instruments in the future. Orange Learn still maintains its partnership with Online Music Exams, providing students an opportunity to earn recognition for their achievements which can help to further their education or take up a job in music.

  • “I used to try to learn guitar by myself, and I gave up after not having a structured course. Orange Learn and the courses you offer are amazing, and I have made an insane amount of progress so quickly.”


  • “I passed my exam! What a great sense of achievement. The lessons are great and are easy to follow with clear material and videos. The ‘play-along with the band’ is a great feature.”


  • “I would recommend Orange Learn to anyone thinking about picking up a guitar. It’s not like you are just learning songs. It has helped me start to learn music, the instrument, and the essential techniques required.”


We spoke with Orange Learn Course Content Creator, Alicia Lyons, who noted the massive increase in student signups since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also reflected on the relationship with the UK charities Youth Music and Take it Away that Orange Learn benefits. “Both Youth Music and Take it Away have endorsed what Orange Learn aims to achieve in music education, which is to improve the accessibility of music education globally. Respectively, Orange Learn endorses them, as they are both important organizations that help increase access to music education. It is important to not just help students with education but also to help guide them on what options they have to further their careers. So we are working with partners such as The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP), a music college in the heart of London that assists students in their learning journey and helps them find a path to a career in music," she said.

In January 2022, Orange Learn provided over 15,000 eligible students, free access to all materials needed to support their learning journey and earn a qualification. Lyons encourages anyone that knows of a project that could benefit from what Orange Learn is able to achieve, to reach out to see how Orange Learn can help.

For more information on Orange Learn or Online Music Exams, please visit them at https://www.orangelearn.com/ and https://www.onlinemusicexams.org/.


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Elizabeth Dale

NAMM Member KHS America has donated $100,000 worth of musical instruments to Waverly Junior High and High School to revive their school music programs after a devastating flood swept through their Tennessee community.

In August 2021, heavy rains culminated in a flash flood across western Tennessee. In 12 hours, five counties received up to a quarter of the normal annual precipitation, totaling ten to 15 inches. Much of the torrential rainfall flowed along the Trace Creek, causing swells to fall on the city of Waverly and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses, and flooding Waverly Junior High and High School. With the surge of floodwaters sweeping through the schools, officials have commented that the only saving grace of the disaster was that it had not occurred on a school day, as rescue efforts would have been nearly impossible.

In November, KHS America, alongside 22-time GRAMMY® Award winner Vince Gill, singer/songwriter Alex Hall, and the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation, visited Waverly Central High School to present students with new instruments. The project arose from the long-standing collaborative efforts of KHS America and the CMA Foundation. The duo has worked on endeavors that supply quality musical instruments to support music education including, supporting charitable organizations like Little Kids Rock, United Sound, Save The Music, and the W.O. Smith School. When Gill heard of the efforts from the CMA Foundation, he felt it was important not only to get involved with the project but to personally meet and talk with students about the importance of music and the difference it makes in students’ lives.

“One of the core values of KHS America is that as a company, ‘We believe that music is an essential part of life for every individual and that it provides a contribution to society as a whole.’ This donation mirrors our core value, and it is the reason we do what we do”, says Rick DeJonge, KHS America Artist and Educator Relations Manager. The relief efforts in Waverly are just one of the long list of donations KHS America and its partners have made. Past charitable projects include $15,000 worth of woodwinds to replace instruments that were destroyed by a truck, a $60,000 donation with Harry Connick Jr. to Central High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after floods destroyed their instruments; $55,000 worth of instruments provided alongside the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Foundation to schools in the Bahamas who were impacted by a hurricane; and a $40,000 endowment of instruments to Paradise, California after a fire ravished the community.

KHS America hopes to inspire other NAMM Members to get involved with communities impacted by disasters. DeJonge offers this advice, “We encourage others wishing to provide support to partner with a local retailer. Their existing relationships will make it easier to work closely with the school and affiliated parent organizations to create a well-rounded effort for supporting music education in the community. At KHS America, this is a fundamental aspect of our ‘Academic Alliance’ program and is critical to facilitating such endeavors.”

For more information from KHS America, please visit them at https://khs-america.com/.

Images Courtesy of Stephanie McKendrick

Elizabeth Dale

In July, four major music trade publications welcomed new owner, Mike Lawson. The change in ownership of School Band & Orchestra (SBO), Musical Merchandise Review (MMR), JAZZed, and Choral Director became effective with the August 2021 issue of each publication.

For over 30 years, Lawson has served the music industry by publishing numerous books, videos, periodicals, directory, and software works, working with publishers like Alfred Music Publishing, artistpro.com, Hal Leonard, MIXBooks, Thomson Learning, and Thomas Nelson. Despite his lifelong desire to become a musician, it wasn’t an easy road. As a child, his family could not afford an instrument for him, so Lawson worked at an early age cutting grass and performing odd jobs to save up enough cash to purchase a guitar. As he grew, he studied music magazines and books to learn as much as he could about gear and the art of musicianship.

Lawson honed his skills and spent years performing in clubs, colleges, frat houses, and other venues around the southeast of America. In 1991, he relocated to Nashville and opened an office on the famed “Music Row” and was intent on applying his unique history studying music publications as a child to try to break into music publishing.

Mike Lawson

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By 1992, Lawson introduced “The Entertainment Source Library,” an industry legal contract software, and founded the “Music Industry Forum,” the first digital promotional downloads of 30-second sound bites of music releases from top record labels. During this time, Lawson worked alongside icons like Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane), Thomas Dolby, Robbie Kreiger (The Doors), Lou Reed, and Bob Welch. In late 1993, he sold the rights to his software product to Act III Media, the publisher of MIX magazine, transitioning to product marketing for Gibson.

In 1996, Lawson was recruited to MIX magazine and its related entities to help establish MIXBooks. While working for MIX Lawson found success outside of the office, serving on the Board of Governors of The Recording Academy, rising to serve as a trustee for the national organization. He also had the opportunity to continue performing, playing with local legends Merl Saunders and members of the Grateful Dead, Tower of Power, Jerry Garcia Band, and Legion of Mary.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Lawson acquired book imprints and a catalog of works by partnering with CMG, Recoding Industry Sourcebook, and Publicitas to launch artistpro.com. The website became the first to host community forums hosted by GRAMMY® winners who advised members on audio production. Before his June 2021 purchase of School Band & Orchestra (SBO), Musical Merchandise Review (MMR), JAZZed, and Choral Director, Lawson was part of the editorial staff.

Lawson has also shown substantial achievement in his philanthropic endeavors. In 1997, he became involved in Technology in Music Education (TI:ME), a non-profit funded with a grant from The NAMM Foundation. While on the organization's advisory board, Lawson published books by educators which addressed how to modernize how music was taught in schools. He also volunteered with The Recording Academy as part of the A&N Committee until 2009 and served on the Board of Directors for The TEC Foundation before it joined The NAMM Foundation. In 2011, Lawson joined TI:ME as its executive director and helped the organization grow its professional development opportunities, a position he still holds.

For additional Oral Histories, please visit www.namm.com/library, and to learn more about artistpro.com Publishing, please visit https://artistpro.com/.


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