July 05, 2023 I Next Gen Retailing I by Jeremy Payne

Payne — Out!

Hi — I’m Jeremy, and I’m the NAMM Young Professionals president. Well, I will be until July 1. As such, I wanted to take the opportunity to share what has been one of the best experiences of not only my professional life, but my personal life — serving on the NAMM YP board of directors. Got your marshmallows? Because this is a storytelling piece about the recent, yet significant history of The NAMM Young Professionals.

Through sharing stories and my experiences while a board member, I hope this article leaves you with two things: you gain a better understanding of the NAMM Young Professionals (NAMM YP), the people who have helped build it and the incredible resources it provides young people in our industry, and you come away inspired and consider some level of volunteer service to our industry. OK, here we go.

How did I find NAMM YP?
After getting my start at a local guitar shop in my hometown, I joined The Music People in 2010. I was 22 years old, and the youngest member on the sales team by roughly 10 years. In many ways, I felt like an outsider with few people to relate to. During a Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee, a co-worker of mine suggested I attend a networking function held by NAMM YP. The event was held at The Wildhorse Saloon and the focal point was a mechanical bull. “Is this what professional networking looks like in this industry? Drinking and bull rides?” Pretty fun experience for me at 22, but we can probably all agree it was not the highlight of YP’s existence. More on that later. All-in-all, I enjoyed myself, met some cool people and, suddenly, I wasn’t completely alone on “young person island.”

Within a couple years, I came to know a person who served on the board. I asked how I could get more involved. She recommended I throw my hat in the ring for the board and I did. I’m happy and thankful to report that in 2015, I was elected to the board of directors.

I imagine some of you wonder what serving on the board means. I’m happy to oblige. Directors, who serve three-year terms, are responsible for trying to maintain and grow the set of benefits made available to young people in NAMM. New board members are voted in by existing board members. In addition to the directors, the board is led by an executive committee, including a secretary, vice president, president and past-president. Each position graduates to the next after two years. Simple math: an executive committee term is an eight-year commitment. Still with me? Moving on.

I want to highlight that my motivation for joining the board was selfish; I wanted to get more out of this thing, and I figured it could help me sell more in some way. I joined at a pivotal time in NAMM YP’s history because the group was being forced to transform. Remember the mechanical bull? I don’t recall how much, but the rider for that thing was obscenely expensive. At that time, Joe Lamond was the CEO of NAMM. He appropriately threatened to shut NAMM YP down if significant change was not made. I believe he exclaimed something along the lines of: “How can I justify to a NAMM member that the price of a mechanical bull rider is a good use of their NAMM membership dues?” Well when you put it that way …

The group had to transform into something that would allow young people to grow and secure the future strength of the industry. Amro Music’s CJ Averwater, West Music’s Ryan West and Progressive Music Center’s Mark Despotakis would become the executive committee to guide YP away from extinction and give us a chance to become something truly valuable. The first couple years of this rebirth were humble, yet pivotal.

With a refreshed and well-accepted focus on education, we got to expanding the offerings. We had keynote speakers at The NAMM Show and Summer NAMM. We also had secured a column in Music Inc. to share some peer-to-peer education. In fact, my very first responsibility on the board was to manage this column. I found authors and occasionally wrote an article myself. Through the visibility of authoring, I was approached by a lot of young people in the industry. They told me about the value they were getting from this new version of NAMM YP, and they shared ideas on how we could make it even better. I felt responsible for helping to make those improvements that had been shared with me. Suddenly, those selfish motivations quickly shifted to a service-mindset. I decided to use my new platform, not as a resume builder, but to create a more inclusive and beneficial experience for young people in our industry than I had been afforded thus far.

Two years of my board term had passed, and I was out to breakfast with Ryan West when he asked me if I was interested in serving on the executive committee. I gave it some thought and told him I was. He asked what I would change if I were appointed and I responded with three thoughts: 1) We were still in a process of justifying our value to NAMM membership, so I wouldn’t change the progress of the educational components we had successfully added. 2) I thought the core benefit of the group was networking and that we should work to improve that set of offerings. 3) And I wanted to create a mentorship program. All these points seemed to resonate with the excom team. But the latter of the three is what would become YP’s main benefit and calling card for years to come.

NAMM YP Mentorship Program
The mentorship program started fast. The concept was relatively simple: The YP board would use its collective network to play matchmaker between suitable mentees and mentors and connect them together and let them get to work. I provided the vision of the program and saw past all obstacles in getting it off the ground. Ryan complimented my efforts by adding the necessary finesse and restraint to make it more marketable and legitimate. Joe Lamond learned of our plans and shared a tremendous amount of insight and resources from another mentorship organization he was involved in.

Before we knew it, we were pairing mentors and mentees together to embark on a one-year mentorship that would change both of their lives and careers. The first class launched at Summer NAMM in 2018 with eight mentors and mentees. Since then, through Ryan, Mark, Jeremy McQueary, and now my presidency, we’ve paired more than 80 mentees with mentors. I’d be remiss not to mention the impact that former NAMM YP board member and YP mentorship officer, Lindy Campbell, has had on the program. Her time and energy are above and beyond what anyone else has contributed to the program. The mentorship program is the thing I’m most proud of in my career because it helps people in a very special way that I wish I had when I first started out.

Introducing Your New ExComm
As time ticked on, NAMM YP continued to refine the benefits it provides young people in the industry. Until this point, we were in a “If you build it, they will come” frame of mind, and frankly, it worked well as a foundation. However, we were so busy building the framework that we hadn’t done the best job of improving and marketing these benefits. Today, those benefits fall under our three pillars of focus: education, networking and mentorship. These pillars are actively taking huge leaps in quality and the word is being spread better than ever thanks to our current board of directors. Here’s a little on each one.

Michael Santander of Instrumental Music Center is our incoming president. Michael is a true visionary. He puts the high valuation on diversity, equity and inclusion that this industry so desperately needs. I know without a doubt in my mind that he’ll lead the board to keep building on our foundation. I also know he’ll trick this thing out with new bells, whistles and meaningful benefits that I could not have even imagined. Simultaneous executive committee appointments of Maple Leaf Strings’ Erin Kessler as vice president and Eastman’s Scott Rife as secretary will bring experienced board members onto the leadership team. More on them to follow.

While the following explanation of everyone else’s role doesn’t come close to measuring their impact, it’s as concise of an acknowledgement I can give in this short article. Board members Paige’s Music’s Jeremy McQueary (past-president), Tartly Music’s Mason Tarpley, Ted Brown Music’s Garrison Grisaffi and Scott Rife have been keeping our resource machines running. The mentorship, education and networking benefits we offer our community have blossomed under their care and leadership. It’s no small feat, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Our marketing committee, which consists of Brighton Music Center’s Genn Dusold, D’Addario’s Natalie Morrison and Erin Kessler, are perhaps the strongest, young marketing minds in the industry. Their work on getting the YP message out there is nothing short of incredible. We can assemble the best toolbox of resources on the planet, but without their ability to get the information out there, those efforts would be lost. Again, the above is a gross under representation of what these individuals do. The entire board works daily to improve and add benefits. If that level of volunteerism isn’t awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is. To all the board members before this clan: Thank you for your contributions. We wouldn’t have been able to have done what we have without your efforts.

And then there’s me. I’m fading into the background as I move out of the president role and into the past-president advisory position. During the next two years, I will mainly focus on keeping the mentorship program rolling. More than anything, I plan to enjoy watching others improve upon what dozens of others and I have helped build to this point. While I’m still here for a bit longer, it kind of feels like “goodbye.” Being on this board and the executive committee has offered me some of the best memories of my career and life. To wrap this up quickly, but with a little bit of flair, I’ll follow the lead of President Barack Obama, drop the mic and say, “Prez Payne – out!” MI

Jeremy Payne was the president of NAMM Young Professionals until July 1 when he assumed the role of past-president. He also servers as The Music People’s senior director of the MI business unit.

Jeremy Payne is brand director and national accounts manager at The Music People and NAMM Young Professionals’ vice president. NAMM YP, which consists of young professionals in the music industry, focuses on the betterment of future leaders by providing opportunities to connect, learn and grow from one another.

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