Pianos, Road Warriors and NAMM

In 1901, fifty-two members of the National Piano Manufacturers Association of America formed the National Association of Piano Dealers of America (NAPDA). In 1919, after several successful trade shows, NAPDA was renamed The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). The National Piano Travelers Association (NPTA) has been a long-term collaborator since these early days of our association.

NAMM recently sat down with Al Slivinski, President of NPTA, to discuss this history and upcoming plans for The 2020 NAMM Show:

What is the National Piano Travelers Association’s mission in the piano industry?

The original mission of the NPTA was to provide assistance, advice and other services to those people who traveled the highways and byways of America, generating sales orders for their piano companies from networks of musical instrument retailers. Back then, business was transacted face-to-face, ergo “Travelers Association.”

How has it evolved from the early 20th century?

Over time, the NPTA has evolved to a non-competitive arena for piano industry people, including today’s road warriors, to dialog with each other about issues and matters that impact the industry as a whole. The annual NPTA membership dinner meeting, held each year during The NAMM Show, provides a face-to-face forum for such dialog. The NPTA newsletter, called "The Piano Rag," is another communication link for our membership. Another dimension of the NPTA mission is to promote the traditions and to preserve the history of the piano industry itself: people, products, manufacturers, etc.

Can you discuss the long history between NPTA and NAMM?

Piano retailers organized what would be recognized as a trade show in 1901. This event was held in New York City, a convenient location for piano manufacturers; the American piano factories were clustered, for the most part, within the crescent formed by Boston to the North and Baltimore to the South. It was in the Spring of that year when piano manufacturers were invited to display samples of their products for this gathering of retailers in order to promote their merchandise and solicit sales orders. It so happens that NAMM was established in that same year. The NPTA was formally organized in 1904 from the roots of that first piano trade show in 1901. It became the first trade group to be sanctioned by and affiliated with NAMM that same year. The relationship between NAMM and the NPTA will mark 116 years in 2020.

How valuable is the act of connecting? How does your annual dinner at NAMM help to advance the industry?

Nothing in the digital long-distance communication systems of today can replace the real-time face to face interactions of people with shared experiences, interests and aspirations. Add in an adult beverage as a social lubricant, and all of a sudden, piano professionals, who just finished a day of competing like hell with one another on the trade show floor, can relax and renew old friendships and enjoy each other’s company. That, in a nutshell, defines the annual NPTA dinner during The NAMM Show. These interactions remind attendees that all piano companies, employees and affiliates do, in fact, share one common challenge: to create more piano buyers.

As an international organization, can you describe the process of incorporating global piano professionals?

The NPTA solicits and welcomes memberships from all piano companies around the world. We have several international members. The NAMM Show provides the best opportunity for us to introduce the NPTA to those companies that have not yet joined.

Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your future plans?

On behalf of the NPTA board and all NPTA members, we invite everyone in the piano industry who might read this article, regardless of position, to join the National Piano Travelers Association. Our invitation extends to piano retailers as well. We welcome everyone who works within the complete piano industry marketing channel, from the point of manufacturing to point of retail sale. Please email us for any additional information: ads@rbsolution.com.

We're looking forward to hearing from you. See you at The 2020 NAMM Show!