Over the years, The Music & Sound Retailer has covered a lot of anniversaries in our industry—recent headline-grabbers have included Yamaha’s 125th anniversary and Zildjian’s remarkable 390th birthday—but now it’s time to turn inward and celebrate a major milestone in The Retailer’s own estimable history: three decades of striving to inform, entertain and “cheer on” the music products industry and those independent retailers who represent its lifeblood. If you’re either a retailer or a manufacturer working in MI, you know all about fierce competition and the challenges involved in working your way to—and keeping your position at—the top of the market. The same is true for publishers covering the industry, and we are very proud of the leading position The Retailer has attained through the support of you, our readers. We thank you for that.
Let’s reminisce a bit about how The Retailer—the brainchild of Publisher/President Vinny Testa—came to be three decades ago, in an age when MTV was in its infancy (and actually aired music videos), Ronald Reagan served in the White House and Justin Bieber was more than a decade from being born. The Retailer emerged on the scene in 1983 as an evolution from what had been Sound Arts. In his 2007 NAMM Oral History interview, Vinny Testa recalled the development process. “At the time, I wanted to do an educational journal, teaching retailers some marketing ideas and some merchandising ideas,” he said of Sound Arts. But, he admitted, that magazine did not do that well. “Many of the guys in those days—and even today— who opened music stores were musicians. It’s out of a love,” he explained. “In most cases, people don’t wake up when they graduate with a master’s degree and say, ‘I’m going to open a music store.’ It’s the nature of our business…at that time especially.” An educational journal like Sound Arts wasn’t quite the right fit.
“So,” Testa continued, “one day, I woke up and said, ‘Why don’t we make it like a newspaper? Why don’t we make it a tabloid?’” The idea was to produce something edgy…the quintessential industry “news rag,” with new products, provocative opinions and a distillation of the water-cooler chatter being heard every month. The idea came to fruition with the debut in 1983 of The Music & Sound (Electronics) Retailer (shortened to our current name in January 1989). The formula was a winning one and the magazine gained success rapidly, growing alongside the industry it served. For a bit of perspective…