RPMDA Convention Aims to Bring Ideal Mix of Business Opportunity & Professional Development

The 43rd Retail Print Music Dealers Association (RPMDA)’s annual convention is heading to the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay hotel in San Diego, CA from May 1-4, 2019. The RPMDA’s annual convention is a unique event on the MI industry calendar. In its size, focus, and programming, it fits into the sweet spot between big and small, targeted and broad, and general vs. niche.

“There is really no event like this,” says Mike Watson of Toronto’s Remenyi House Of Music and the current VP of programming for the RPMDA. “The neat focus about RPMDA is that it is kind of a half trade and half professional development event. Unlike The NAMM Show, where it is, say, 90 per cent trade plus the Idea Center going on in the corner there, or something more along the lines of a music educators’ conference where it is almost 100 per cent professional development, the RPMDA Convention has always had a nice balance between meeting with manufacturers and publishers and being able to discuss, quite openly and in a casual enough setting, serious issues, whether they are specific to one retailer or group of retailers or more broad industry discussions. And then, on the other side of it, is general professional development, which could include anything from either the retailer or publisher side of the counter.”

When it comes to the professional development programming for this year’s conference, Watson and his RPMDA colleagues revamped the format used in recent years. The last few conventions used a three-track program, designating panels and presentations as being for either print music specialists with less than three years of experience, print music managers and buyers, or business owners and managers; conversely, this year, the organizers focused more on serving up specific topics of interest and importance and just letting attendees decide what’s important to them.

As such, the educational programming this year aims to provide a balance between broader topics of importance to all music products retailers, such as an emphasis on marketing or business culture, and subjects specific to the niche segment of print music. For example, on the marketing end, social media expert Jenn Herman will present multiple sessions on Instagram marketing and Stephanie Copple from black&hue will share tips on utilizing a marketing calendar. Among the sessions specific to print, Tracy Leenman from Musical Innovations will present on copyright and fair use laws.

“In some ways, our proximity to NAMM headquarters has really informed who we’ve been able to get to speak this year,” says Watson. “We have a real tight connection with the NAMM crew, who’ve been great in 2019. Outside of sessions, they’re graciously hosting our group for an evening reception on Thursday, which is going to include a tour of their headquarters and the Museum of Making Music, which is super cool. Also, Joe Lamond is our opening keynote and we’ve got Dan Del Fiorentino, who is going to be showcasing NAMM’s Oral History [initiative], which is going to close down our final day. We’ve also got Frank Alkyer from Music Inc. as our closing keynote.”

In the exhibition space, the convention will continue the format it launched last year, with a few enhancements intended to create more valuable meetings between retailers, publishers, and suppliers and facilitate more open dialogue and a sharing of ideas. Instead of a huge space filled with competing exhibitors vying for the attention of wandering retailers, the idea is to have small groups of retailers rotating through the stations. Termed “Power Hour,” this time allows for personal contact and for exhibitors to meet most, or all, of the retailers instead of just hoping for traffic.

“We’ve actually expanded the time that’s allocated to this particular part of the convention,” explains Watson. “In total, there are five hours of Power Hour time and three hours of what we’re calling ‘Spark Time,’ which is essentially free time where either a retailer can request a particular meeting or audience with a publisher, and a publisher can do the same with a retailer, in advance or even on the show floor.”

And since comradery is a big part of the convention’s appeal, it’s important to not forget the social events. There’s the business-focused social programming, like the aforementioned tours of the NAMM headquarters and Museum of Making Music, but also a boat cruise of the San Diego Bay harbour. As well, the folks at the Neil A. Kjos Music Company are treating attendees to a baseball game between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers at PetCo Park.

For more information and a full program schedule, go to

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician, Canadian Music Trade, Professional Sound, and Professional Lighting & Production magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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