Given how dynamic and fast-evolving the music marketplace can be, very few manufacturers or distributors in the music products industry are content simply to rest on their laurels. Nevertheless, it is somewhat rare to find a company that takes self-betterment and continual improvement as seriously as The Music People (TMP), based in Berlin CT. Last year was a big success for TMP, and 2013 is on track to be a seminal one for the nearly 35-year-old company. The Retailer spoke to Jeremy Payne, On-Stage Stands Sales & Marketing Director, for an expansive conversation about recent structural changes, TMP’s continuing commitment to excellence, its corporate culture and its robust growth.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Let’s start with your background. Touch on the highlights of your story as it pertains to the music products industry. Tell us about the path you’ve traveled, bringing us right up to the present day.
Jeremy Payne: First, Dan, thank you for this opportunity! “Five Minutes With” is one of the articles I always read each month, so it is exciting to be able to take part. I suppose one could say I worked my way through the trenches to where I am today. I started off in music retail teaching guitar, bass and trumpet at a small independent music store. I actually was working as a cashier at a clothing retailer in a mall when, one day, this new music store I had never heard of, Generations Music, opened up just across the way. I walked across and asked if they were hiring, and the Owner behind the counter laughed at me and said, “You and every other kid that has walked in here wants to work here.” If you haven’t already guessed, he wasn’t very interested. I asked if he needed instructors, as I had been teaching on my own. I learned very early on that, in order to get what you want in life and in business, you have to be persistent. I was only about 17 at this point, so he reluctantly said “Yes,” and then asked me to give him a lesson to test my teaching chops.
I got the gig and took on as many students as I could by hanging out at the store and greeting people as they walked in the doors. Eventually, I started helping the Owner sell enough product to my students that he welcomed the idea of having me in the store to help with sales. Within six months, I had organically taken over day-to-day operations of the company; I was doing everything from sales to mopping the floors each night. Within four years of existence, the business had opened up a second location and relocated the flagship store to a higher-traffic area. I learned a lot working at Generations Music, and had a great staff working beside me. Plus, the Owner really valued me as an employee and a friend.
After graduating from college, I was freshly engaged to my beautiful wife and seeking other opportunities in the music industry to fulfill the well-known financial obligations that come with an education and a marriage. I began asking all my vendors if there were openings at their companies, and my sales rep at The Music People (TMP) said that they are always looking for good people. Within a week, I was on a plane flying to Hartford CT to meet with the Owners of TMP: the Hennesseys. Two weeks later, my wife and I packed our bags and moved to Connecticut.
My role with TMP was to manage the top-generating accounts from a sales and relationship perspective. My official title was “VIP Accounts Manager.” My core group of customers included retailers from industry buying groups, including AIMM, IMMG, iMSO and NORCAL, as well as some of our distributors. What made my position unique from our other sales team members was that I was specifically tasked with increasing business on our proprietary products, including On-Stage Stands. The remainder of our sales staff at that point also sold On-Stage Stands, but they are certified in, and have a passion for, the pro-audio products we sell through our distribution division, TMP Pro Distribution. We boast a line card of more than 170 brands.
I am happy and proud to say that, within my first two years of being the VIP Accounts Manager, sales on our proprietary goods increased by more than 40%. I successfully expanded relationships with customers and buying groups. I attribute much of my success in that position to understanding customers’ needs from my experience as a buyer in the retail world. At Generations Music, I developed a very strong understanding of what a “good” rep was and what a “not so good” rep was. Aside from sales and relationship management, I also focused some of my efforts on trade show planning. The NAMM show is our opportunity to showcase our products (new and old) and interact with our dealers face to face. This is a very important initiative for our team.
Through my sales success and the implementation of certain processes and standards of doing business, the company saw a potential for me to create and lead a new department focused on our proprietary brands. With this humbling and very much appreciated recognition, I accepted the role of On-Stage Stands Sales & Marketing Director.
The Retailer: What are your key day-to-day responsibilities and duties as OSS Sales & Marketing Director for The Music People? What’s your favorite part of your job?
Payne: My responsibility is to increase…