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NARM/VSDA Merger Died Weeks Ago

21 Nov, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

The writing was on the wall.

More than three weeks ago, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers' board of directors delivered a one-two punch to the notion that a NARM merger with the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) had much hope.

First, the NARM board decided not to collocate the NARM annual convention with the VSDA's annual convention. This despite what most industry observers — and indeed most members of both associations — seemed to think was a very valid plan to create a major home entertainment event bringing together the retailers of music and movies.

The short answer, if one reads between the lines of the response from NARM regarding its decision, was that after several years of a somewhat lackluster performance, its most recent trade show in San Diego was a surprising success for them, and the board and staff probably felt that, suddenly, perhaps they weren't ready to give that up for a merged event. An association's biggest revenue stream comes from its conventions and meetings. Holding on to their show was a sure signal NARM leaders felt a renewed sense of financial viability … and perhaps some additional job security.

Immediately following the announcement declining to collocate shows, and even as NARM was saying it was still interested in proceeding with merger discussions with VSDA, the board named Jim Donio president of the association. Donio had been acting president since last March. At that point, it was crystal clear the merger between the two associations was going nowhere. After all, any merger would likely mean a merger of staffs and, naturally, a delineation of management responsibility. Any association seriously discussing a merger with another association would not make such a significant leadership move at such a critical juncture.

So now NARM and the VSDA go their separate ways. Yes, of course, they will continue to work together on various strategic alliances that overlap into their two camps. But the prospect of an association that represents and promotes the interests of a packaged home entertainment retail community that is blending together to deliver movies, music video and video games is going to have to wait.

Credit the VSDA, its board and staff with having the vision and the courage to try and capture that opportunity while it was in their grasp. It's clear from the positioning of their Home Entertainment 2005 event they are going to continue to try and bring that vision to a reality. (And here a qualification: Advanstar Communications, publisher of Video Store Magazine, is a partner with VSDA in producing the event.)

NARM, on the other hand, may be heading down an ever darkening tunnel on its own, as digital downloads — legitimate and otherwise — continue to erode its members' businesses.

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