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Unpacking the MTNA 2009 Exhibitors' Convention

While i didn't get a chance to participate in any of the main MTNA conference or panel discussion events, i still found the Exhibitors' Hall at the 2009 MTNA convention in Atlanta, GA to be a fascinating microcosm of the classical music industry.  My partners Lester and SoYoung were on hand from the first day, and i arrived a day later to help man the AirTurn booth.  This being my very first convention ever, i had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Lester reported that the initial day saw a good bit of foot traffic and some particularly encouraging signs, namely that a good number of folks already recognized who we were and what we were selling.  Of all the companies and products that he's worked on, the AirTurn seems to be achieving the fastest brand recognition so far among our target musician demographics. 

Frazzled from only 2 hours of sleep the night before (had to be picked up at 3 am by the airport shuttle for a 5:30 departure) and a flight buffeted by nasty turbulence, it's a wonder i was able to speak in cohesive sentences, much less make a meaningful sales pitch!  I started out by handing out brochures and business cards, but then received a great tip from the jewelry vendors in the booth next to ours to ask for names and email addresses from booth visitors.  Lester calls this "pull marketing", enabling us to send info and promotions to our clients, as opposed to simply "pushing" our own brochures and hoping for a response that might never come.  Another great bit of advice from my jewelry friends was to try to write little notes about each client as reminders to make future communications more personal.

Boy, some of those first clients were tough cookies!  One lady came over to see my demonstration of ink annotations in MusicReader.  I was showing her how easy it was to add digital ink stamps of music notation symbols with a mouse, and started by adding a flat next to a note.

"No!" she practically screamed.  "Wrong!!"

"Excuse me?"

"Wrong!! You put the flat in the wrong place!!"
I had no idea what she was talking about and took a closer look at the stamp i had just made:

flat1 

I tried to explain that it was easy to erase digital notations and redraw them, and did so like this:

flat2

"No! No! No! That's completely wrong!" she wailed.  Business lesson #1 insists that the customer is always right, so i erased the offending accidental and gave it another go:

flat3

Finally, she exclaimed, "Yes!  Now that's correct!"  My goodness, i thought she was going to have an aneurism and pop a vessel from her forehead!  "You must understand", she insisted, "I have photographic memory!  PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY! I see everything and remember every detail!  If you write it wrong, I can't get it out of my head!!" She brought her hands to her eyes as if to shield them from some visual monstrosity invading her periphery. 

Ooookaaaayy.....moving right along...

Another woman came along and gave a critical squint as i tried to explain the various viewing options with MusicReader - double page views, intelligent half-page views that zoomed the music without cutting staves off, etc.  She looked dourly at my 15 inch HP laptop screen and asked, "Is that the only color for reading the music?"

"Excuse me?" 

"You know - does the music only come in that shade of white?"

Now she had me completely lost.  Assuming i've been reading music for about 37 years or so, I'm pretty sure that most music is supposed to be printed as black ink on white paper, unless i've been horribly color blind all these years...

"Well, it's just that I prefer reading music printed on ivory paper.  That shade of white is just too bright.  And what about an option to have the paper black and the notes white?"

We certainly want to listen to our customers and take their suggestions into account.  I suppose adding a feature to change the background color of music scores shouldn't be too difficult to implement - it's just pretty remarkable to come across such creative suggestions!

Here are some pictures from our booth setup.  I'm really pleased with how our banners came out, if i may say so myself!

The second day was much better in terms of customer traffic.  Booth visitors seemed much more enthusiastic about the AirTurn/MusicReader concepts.  There were a lot of returning folks bringing friends to show off the AirTurn to them.  Several fellow exhibitors stopped by to discuss possible partnerships, and there was plenty of interest in the Exponential Workshop concept as well - in fact, i may be returning to Atlanta in the fall to do a series of workshops for several music organizations and schools in the area. 

I didn't get much of a chance to see the rest of the exhibitors in detail, but it was quite a menagerie of pianos, digital keyboards, music board games, DVD and computer pedagogy courses, musical accessories, and of course tons and tons of sheet music (the paper kind, naturally).  One enlightening aspect was seeing which vendors were able to present clear, concise messages communicating who they were, what they offered, and what value they brought to the customer. 

More to write, but i think the lack of sleep is catching up to me...


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Title: Unpacking the MTNA 2009 Exhibitors' Convention
Date posted: Apr 02 '09 - 20:41
Filed under: General
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