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Update: NARM Pulls Back From Show With VSDA

28 Oct, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

Mixed feelings and emotions followed the announcement stating the music and video retail associations will not hold a collocated trade event in 2005.

The decision by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) board of directors was met with disappointment and surprise by those who had been working on the proposal, as well as some exhibitors and retailers. Meanwhile, executives from the two associations said they are still in discussions over the possibility of a merger.

NARM announced it would go it alone Aug. 10-14, 2005 at the San Diego Marriott, also site of this year's NARM event. The Video Software Dealers Association's (VSDA) show dates for 2005 are July 26–28 at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.

NARM's chairman Glen Ward cited the inability to hold a collocated event in San Diego due to a lack of necessary facilities in addition to “significant issues in terms of scheduling, programming, logistics and finances,” as NARM's reasons for deciding to forgo a joint event, according to an announcement issued by the association.

“While we were encouraged, we determined that in order to fulfill our mission and responsibility to our members, it was more important to ensure a successful event in 2005 and build on the momentum of 2004's highly-rated convention,” Ward said. He noted that based on the lack of available alternatives to San Diego, “… the choice for NARM's board became either to return to San Diego as a NARM stand-alone event or to collocate in Las Vegas with the VSDA.”

He added that a possible collocated convention in later years would not be ruled out.

“We are governed by a confidentiality agreement and the letter of intent, and, given that, we are unable to comment,” said Bo Andersen, president of the VSDA.

The staffs of VSDA, NARM and Home Entertainment Events (HEE) had been working on the development of a collocated show. HEE is a joint venture between the VSDA and Advanstar Communications to produce the VSDA's sponsored events. Advanstar is also publisher of Video Store Magazine.

Alex DeBarr, EVP at Advanstar, said he was “disappointed and surprised” at the NARM announcement, which positioned the decision based on San Diego being unable to accommodate an event.

“Some of the NARM staff and board preferred San Diego as a venue for a collocated event, but we agreed early on in the collocation discussions that Las Vegas was the only option for '05 for a number of reasons,” DeBarr said. “At that point, NARM, VSDA and Advanstar worked together to build financial and pricing models, concurrent event schedules and operational plans right up to the day before NARM's announcement. From our view, the collocation was not only feasible financially and operationally for '05, but presented some exciting opportunities for the event attendees and exhibitors.”

DeBarr added that he was surprised to hear NARM declare that they had “significant issues” with the collocation plans developed. “Working with NARM and the VSDA team, we felt we had addressed most of the key issues and identified a few open items that we felt could be resolved,” he said. “We have not been told of the specific issues, nor were we asked to help resolve them. We were just informed — indirectly — that they voted not to go forward.”

Susan L'Ecuyer, senior director of marketing and communications for NARM, said there were a number of operational and site issues the NARM board members were grappling with, “that by themselves we might have been able to handle, but together were too much to try to accomplish in such a short period of time” before the next event, she said. Location was one example, according to L'Ecuyer, who said that while NARM members supported the concept of a collocated event, suppliers have historically expressed a reluctance to go to Las Vegas because there is too much high-powered entertainment in town competing with the emerging musical talent NARM makes an effort to spotlight with special appearances during its show.

“There was just too much uncertainty,” L'Ecuyer said.

At this year's NARM show in San Diego during August a number of retailers and exhibitors told VSM (Aug. 15 – 21, 2004) they generally supported a collocated event, as well as a merger of the associations. Don Van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Retailers, said he saw “…a lot of synergies that we could really capitalize on” in a merger of the two organizations and their respective trade shows.

“I think it would make for a great show,” said Marc Oringer of Champagne Video.

Ed Seaman, VP of sales for Music Video Distributors said a merger of the two associations “would make a ton of sense” and that the NARM event “would surely be revitalized.” He speculated at the time that, “The only reason that the merger wouldn't happen is because some administrative people in the organizations may lose their jobs because of redundancies created by a merger. This would be a real shame.”

“We believe this joining of two formerly standalone conferences in a ever-shrinking word of retailers and record labels will bring focus in the future to all of us who continue to sell prerecorded DVDs and CDs,” said Mike Carden, president of operations, North America for Eagle Rock Entertainment.

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