Are You Playing to Win? Or Not to Lose?

Making the case for attending your industry’s mid-year gathering.

Recently, some industry friends and I were pondering this seemingly simple question. Like many things in life, it began by watching football. We talked about the numerous occasions where a team entered the 4th quarter with a commanding lead, only to have the opponent dramatically come back from behind to win the game. It happens so often, it is almost predictable!

Giving this some thought, it occurred to us that the team with the lead wasn’t playing to win; they were protecting the gains they had earned —playing not to lose. The underdog, in contrast, had little to lose, so they were trying everything in their power to change their situation. In other words, they played to win.

We considered this question in terms of our own business lives, and it triggered some interesting responses. It made me think of the recent NAMM Board meeting where we carefully analyzed a 42-year trend in NAMM retail membership. While our retail membership is up 135% during that period, we have noticed a decline in this category since the peak in 2001.

Notably, a similar number of overall stores exist today, but they are held in fewer hands. This trend is due to many factors, including the expansion of chains and industry consolidation. There are likewise some new and innovative startups in the retail space. These young MI entrepreneurs are exciting to watch as their ideas are changing the face of the music industry.

But this contrast between innovation and contraction brought me back to my question. If you’ve been in business for a long time, it makes sense to want to protect your hard-earned gains and keep doing what got you there in the first place. And for those who are just starting out, what is there to lose? Newcomers tend to experiment, to try new things and keep iterating until they arrive at a successful formula.

We are seeing these differences in strategy play out at Summer NAMM. The retailers that are attending are the folks who seem to truly understand how fast the world is changing. They know that the clues to their future growth can be found by attending as many NAMM U sessions as possible and by keeping their ear to the ground, fully involved in the countless conversations occurring in and around the show.

In my opinion, our retail members are the ones on the front lines, bringing music to their communities, and as an industry, we should all be encouraging them and cheering them on. But we know one thing for sure: Summer NAMM will be another waypoint to success for our retailers who are playing to win.

Won’t you join them?

Joe Lamond

NAMM President and CEO