Changing Its Tune: Trade Group for Music Retailers Gets New Name, Expanded Vision

Looking to evolve alongside the industry it has served for more than a half century, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers has rebranded itself the Music Business Association.

Remember when Prince changed his name to a symbol? As it turns out, musicians aren’t the only ones capable of wholesale reinvention.

You have to give NARM points for trying something new, as their previous status was looking more and more like a fixture of a time long since past.

Confronted with rapid economic and technological changes, the trade group representing the needs of music retailers and merchandisers, formerly the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), recently underwent a total rebranding effort.

Officials say the new-look organization, now called the Music Business Association, or Music Biz, is better positioned to represent the needs of an industry that looks far different from the one the group was founded to serve back in 1958.

Where music used to be recorded on vinyl—and later compact discs—and sold in brick-and-mortar record stores with posters on the walls and stickers on the windows, the customer dynamic has changed in recent years, with many fans preferring to purchase albums, songs, and other merchandise from their favorite bands over the internet.

“The music industry has changed dramatically over the past decade,” said Music Business Association President Jim Donio in a statement about the change first reported by Billboard. “More segments of the business than ever before now play an active role in the commerce side of the business, so the name ‘National Association of Recording Merchandisers’ no longer reflected everyone who can participate in the organization… . For the first time in the organization’s history, the ‘M’ stands for music.”

More Than a Name

But the changes go far deeper than a simple name change. In an effort to be more inclusive of other music vendors, the association has sought to focus on the needs of six distinct industry sectors, according to Billboard: digital; information technology; physical; knowledge; artists, management, and touring; and legal and business affairs. Each will be presided over by a dedicated board member.

The association’s recently redesigned website states that the goal of Music Biz “is to advance and promote music commerce” through a range of services, including thought leadership, industry resources, and networking opportunties.

“NARM was founded in 1958, the same year as the introduction of the first stereo LP. The Beatles had not even formed yet,” Rachelle Friedman, Music Business Association chairman of the board and CEO of J&R Music & Computer World, told Billboard. “Our organization has grown with the music business, and it’s time that our identity reflects that.”

Writing for Forbes, former music producer Bobby Owsinski said he was impressed with the organization’s overhaul—rebranding is not any easy thing for most associations to do—but that time would tell whether the changes are enough to meet the needs of an industry still struggling to find its footing in a changing economy.

One thing’s for sure: It’s going to take more than a yearly convention and an industry newsletter to get the job done, he said.

“For now, Music Biz talks a good game, but we’ll have to see how they actually execute the new plan,” Owsinski writes. “Still, you have to give NARM points for trying something new, as their previous status was looking more and more like a fixture of a time long since past.”

Not the Only One

Music Biz is hardly the only trade group to rebrand itself in an effort to refocus its mission. Other recent examples:

The American League of Lobbyists earlier this year proposed a change that would drop the word “lobbyists” from its name. Supporters of the move said the rebranding effort was intended to reposition an industry whose scope of work today goes beyond traditional lobbying.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in May consulted its members about a potential name change, which the organization’s leaders said was essential to the continuation of its mission. NAAFA Board Chair Jason Docherty said the use of the word “fat” in the organization’s name has made its work difficult. “Every serious debate, we’re going in with one hand tied behind our back because people don’t want to listen when they hear what NAAFA stands for,” said Docherty. “When they get past the name, the conversations we have are great, but the initial shock is causing problems we don’t really need.”

Does your organization’s name fit its mission? Ever considered a change? Tell us in the comments.


Corey Murray

By Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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