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NARM opens up to the public

Confab will meet with videogamers, cell phones

It’s not your daddy’s NARM.

Where the National Assn. of Recorded Merchandisers once focused on lavish product presentations by major music corporations, this year’s confab will feature panel discussions with videogame developers and cellular phone companies. And, for the first time, NARM has opened up its artist showcase performances to the general public.

“The rebranding this year illustrates that our membership has changed dramatically,” said NARM prexy Jim Donio, who notes that 70 companies joined the NARM organization this year. “We’ve added Verizon and Nokia as board members. That wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago.”

While the changes are a response to the tough economic times of a shrinking music industry, some industry execs fear that this year could be NARM’s last. During its heydays in the ’80s and ’90s, nearly1,000 companies participated in NARM. This year, that number has shrunk to little more than 300.

“Nobody thinks of NARM as breaking any news,” says Bruce Resnikoff, president of Universal Music Enterprises and Verve Music Group president/CEO. “It needs some excitement, to introduce something big like E3 does. Who would’ve thought a few years ago that the Beatles, Eminem and Jay-Z would make news at a videogame convention? It shows how we’re all looking for new ways to reach consumers.”

Keynotes will include top execs from firms such as Guitar Hero/Activision, Yahoo! Music, Moderati and Topspin. Panels feature stalwarts Best Buy and TranWorld Entertainment as well as industry research and consumer trend-spotting outfits. The event runs June 6-10 at San Diego’s Marriott Hotel.

NARM at Night will debut at On Broadway Club in the city’s Gaslamp District, with more than 25 artists performing over three nights.

“We wanted to make music dynamic and meaningful, but get it out of the hotel so it’s not in some stale ballroom with a bunch of sales guys standing around talking at the bar in the back,” said Rocket Science president Kevin Day, whose firm is co-producing the Verizon-sponsored event. “This will be a real music environment.”

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