Software.NAMM — New at Summer NAMM

IMSTA (International Music Software Trade Association) founder and music industry veteran, Ray Williams sat down with NAMM to offer his wisdom about the music software sector.

Software.NAMM makes its Summer NAMM debut this year in Nashville, July 18–20.

1. How important has software become to the music products industry?

Software is the lifeblood running through the veins of the music production industry. You cannot make a record or MP3 without software. Your music cannot be heard outside of your immediate surroundings unless you use software. This fact has become obvious to many MI retailers who are determined to serve the needs of their customers. More and more we see digital software sales as the fastest growing sector in MI and certainly one of the most profitable.

2. What should someone expect from Software.NAMM?

Software.NAMM is an exhibit community of like-minded companies. It is a place where businesses can participate in one of the most important promotional vehicles in our industry—The NAMM Show. It is the must-go place for everyone in MI. You can announce yourself as an important part of the industry, state your case and show your wares. There will be other similar companies in the community striving for the same thing—to reach the important retailers and grow their businesses. Everyone is at NAMM. For software companies, the needs are sometimes different from a company making guitars or drums. Software.NAMM understands and caters to those needs.

3. And, how can music retailers benefit from visiting Software.NAMM?

The best music retailers know that to keep a customer you must take care of their needs. Since we know that every musician needs music software, it is wise to make sure your store can cater to their software needs and retain your customers. Some MI retailers are more in tune with digital software sales than most, and for them, they capture a larger than average share of this business. What a music retailer would find at Software.NAMM are the brands that are leading the charge along with some of the most forward-thinking up and comers. It’s a chance to build a relationship early with the next big thing. The next big thing is usually hiding in plain sight among the tables at Software.NAMM.

4. What inspired you to found an organization like IMSTA?

IMSTA was an attempt to form a counterweight to dongles and supply side action against pirates. I believed that it would always be difficult to maintain a technological solution to piracy. On top of that, it was a huge cost. I believed that we should also work on the demand side and make people not want to consume pirated material. This was the galvanizing cause that cemented so many companies together under the IMSTA banner. I took inspiration from the battle to get people to recycle or to not drive drunk—all of which relied on long-term, consistent education. We thought of IMSTA and its “Buy The Software You Use” message as a 20-year project, which if we could just get this message everywhere, we could have an impact. Before this, the music software community did not have a conversation with its customers about this important issue. IMSTA was the start of this. We can see from our annual survey that in some areas we have made a difference, as using crackz (pirated software) is frowned upon. There is still a long way to go, but we have started.

5. Can you describe your journey, both as an entrepreneur and as an educator at York University?

I am my customer. I am a musician, songwriter and synthesist. I still get a thrill when I see a new software tool that does something new and great. I love to use it to make my own music. I feel no different from when I brought home a Korg Poly-800 decades ago. I believe this genuine excitement and love of our industry is something others can see and feel. I began as a fanboy of Steinberg Cubase to running Steinberg Canada, starting in 1991. This led me to meet a ton of people who are at the epicenter of the industry. I was asked by several universities, including York University, to help them set up MIDI labs back in the 90s. I ended up teaching at York beginning in 1999—which I still do today. My current courses are in music history. As an entrepreneur, I have always just done what I thought was necessary to move the industry forward. I can say that it’s been relationships that have propelled me in these directions—people believe I can get things done, and they put me in positions of trust. A lot of the time I take these responsibilities on because I feel someone has to, and I ask why not? I think a lot of what we have done has come from belief and confidence that we can do things and do them well.

6. Do you have any advice for a young professional starting their career in the industry?

Do not try to be the best in your town or your country—strive to be the best in the world. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Don’t always follow the crowd, as many times crowds get things wrong.

Ray Williams • Managing Director, IMSTA