March 14, 2024 I Women of NAMM I by Belinda Ligotino

Every Step Counts

In January, I had my first NAMM show experience as an exhibitor and as a woman new to the music products industry. I felt every emotion — from excited to anxious to tired to inspired. Although I’m new to the products side of the industry, I’m not new to the music industry as a whole. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the leadership of the non-profit Women in Music (WIM) for the past five years, where I met Cassandra Sotos, the owner of AmpRx and the recipient of the inaugural NAMM Female Entrepreneur of the Year award (although I’m a fan of renaming it to just Entrepreneur of the Year). My years with WIM have shown me that women of all backgrounds and identifications are capable of superhuman work. Experiencing my first NAMM has only further proven my point to be true.

A Women of NAMM study conducted in 2018 found that only 2.7% of women are CEOs in the music industry and only 14% are executives. This is significantly less than the national average of other industries by about half. While equality in the music industry is on the rise, it’s clear that we have a long way to go. I was concerned about what my experience as a young woman of color would be at NAMM, especially being new to the scene, but if you know me you know I’m always up to the challenge and I’m ready to prove I can add value. Hearing Cassandra talk about how previous and present colleagues and customers have interacted with her despite being the owner and CEO is one thing, but witnessing those conversations first hand and having my own experiences as a representative of the company was another. The reality is that there are always a mix of experiences — positive and negative — and while the takeaway is that we’re on the right track, we still have many strides to make.

Small Actions, Impactful Outcomes
It was inspiring to experience the various opportunities to meet other women in the industry at NAMM, including the Revoicing the Future panel highlighting women-led organizations, Women of NAMM and NAMM Young Professionals networking events, and several of the award ceremonies. However, what was most exciting and uplifting was the amount of women who came to show support for Cassandra and our company at our booth. When it comes to change and supporting our industry, I feel it’s the “smaller things’’ that will be the most impactful. Structured events and organizations are very important, but “unofficial” NAMM interactions and the support we show each other on a day-to-day basis will be how we make a rapid, lasting change in the industry.

Increasing the proportion of women at NAMM and overall diversity in the music products industry will require each of us taking that extra step to support and offer opportunities throughout the year. NAMM and our mission to grow can’t be a one-week-per-year initiative. For every “official” initiative we endorse to promote diversity and inclusion, we need to match or exceed those initiatives in our daily lives, professionally and personally.

When searching for employees, ask yourself where can you find a diverse group of people versus just sourcing an applicant from within or posting on social media. Try reaching out to organizations, such as Women of NAMM or NAMM YP, Black Girls Love Vinyl, Women in Music, She is the Music, etc.

When purchasing your next product, take the extra step to do research to find a minority-owned company to support. Mentoring and offering scholarships or internships is a perfect way to help shape and encourage the next generation through true empowerment — education.

These steps may seem small, but they are truly the key to growing a thriving industry that’s inclusive, innovative and enduring. Every step counts. MI

Belinda Ligotino works with AmpRx and serves as the global vice chair of communications for Women in Music and a member of Women of NAMM.

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