Years ago, I was at the summer NAMM show in Nashville, and I ran across an interesting group called the Independent Music Store Owners. They were meeting in one of the smaller meeting rooms off the main floor, and about 40 people were in attendance. That was the beginning of our IMSO membership. Joining was free, but before the night was over, this new relationship was already paying big dividends.
Before we made the jump from meeting to dinner, I had a short conversation with Moe Johnson of Johnson's Music, and we talked about a new revenue stream I'd been mulling over. We wanted to add rental band instruments to our store services but weren't quite sure how to go about it with the least chance of getting burned in the process. Moe stopped what she was doing, and told us how they approached that question at Johnson Music. She told me exactly who to talk to (the company she used was at NAMM), and the next morning we were on our way to new, continuing revenue.
Now, think about our conversation with Moe for a moment. Here we had a successful business owner who was more than willing to tell us exactly what made her successful in the same arena in which we wanted to play. She held nothing back, and even provided contacts and introductions. I don't know how that would strike you, but I was amazed at the generosity and openness of this lady we'd met only an hour earlier.
Now, take that one conversation, and multiply it by thousands. Put those helpful conversations into written form, organized by topic. Imagine being able to search those conversations at will, being able to tap into the combined wisdom of some of our industry's most respected music store owners, owners such as Gordy Wilcher of Owensboro Music and Jim DeStafney of Blues Angel. Imagine even further.... What if you could ask these successful store owners questions about how they operate, questions about how they deal with this situation or that, or even what qualities they look for in new employees? What if.... what if you could ask a general question about life as a store owner, and have multiple store owners contribute answers over the course of days or weeks?
If that sort of comradery and information sharing sounds good to you, and you own a brick and mortar music store, you belong in the IMSO, because the description in that paragraph above is exactly what the IMSO is about. It's a forum where music store owners (owners only, no managers or employees) have access, and we talk about everything that relates to running a music store. I like to think of the IMSO as my personal music store owner support group because the members there understand what I'm talking about. Any problem I run into at the store, chances are someone else has already encountered it and found out what does (or does not) work.
I posted a question early on in my membership about displaying gig bags. We had the hardest time displaying these large, flexible, somewhat bulky items. Within a couple of days, several other store owners chimed in, and a few posted photos of their solutions. Those photos gave me the solution I still use today. Since that post years ago, numerous other new members have asked about displaying bags, and someone always directs them to that post.
Ideas for special events and sales are shared freely. The Strings For Food campaign that happens each November came out of a post on IMSO. IMSO members coordinate their NAMM show trips using our forums, sharing rooms and houses while at the show. Members learn how to deal with collecting on debts and how to pick up instruments from renters who don't pay, all by just asking the question. There's also a lot of humor in our group, as well as unlimited optimism for our industry.
IMSO is a music store owners support group.
There are also a lot of things we are not. We are not a replacement for NAMM. (Most of our members are strong NAMM supporters, and we know nobody else can do what NAMM does.) We are not a buying group. We are not a political action group. We are not legislative advocates/watchdogs/etc.
Membership is IMSO is free for music store owners. Yes, you read that right. Free. But, we do have membership qualifications that have to be met. The applicant has to be the owner of a brick and mortar store, with a minority of his/her sales volume being online. Your store has to be real, and verifiable (i.e., working, manned phone number, maybe a website, a Facebook page with followers, posted store hours. You know. Real.).
You can complete the application for IMSO membership by clicking this link.
Allen McBroom, Backstage Music, Inc.