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NARM REPORT: SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!
Clive Davis Keynote Kicks Off Retail Confab
The 46th edition of the National Association of Retail Merchandisers officially got under way Sunday morning in San Diego with the annual keynote address, this year in the form of an on-stage interview with label legend Clive Davis, and opening remarks by Acting President Jim Donio. There was also a very poignant speech by outgoing NARM Chairman David Schlang as he passed the torch to the new Chairman Glen Ward, CEO of the Virgin Entertainment Group.

Davis was in fine form, waxing nostalgic about his past NARM experiences, such as the time he introduced Janis Joplin and the Electric Flag at a convention in the ’60s.  He recounted stories of his rise to power from humble label attorney to head of Columbia, evolving the label from the “middle of the road” juggernaut it had been with Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams through discoveries such as Joplin and Santana.

But Davis also had some advice for retailers and commentary on the retail scene, insisting that in spite of the ongoing digital revolution, he believes retailers "have a substantial and meaningful future in the business." But he warned, "You're going to be tested. You are faced with a threat and you must reinvest in you businesses." Davis compared the shopping experience to going out to eat at a restaurant. Whereas anyone can save money by fixing food themselves and staying at home, restaurants make it a pleasure to eat out; Davis says record retailers mustt achieve that same sort of entertainment value.

Davis further stressed that clerks need to be better informed, because "people don't know what to buy. Standards of who to hire must be raised." He lauded stores like Amoeba, Waterloo, Ear Exctasy and Newbury Comics and said that he was glad to see Tower getting back to the standards the company had set decades ago. 

When asked by Billboard's Geoff Mayfield, who conducted the interview, if he felt vindicated now that he was coming full circle to once again work with Columbia following the merger of Sony and BMG, he said that he indeed did, adding that his departure from Columbia was a “McCarthyesque” experience and that "the label was totally exonerated" of all the "trumped up charges."

Responding to questions from the audience, Davis allowed that he doesn't believe we are entering an era in which single song sales will replace the album. Rather, CDs are still the best value in entertainment. Davis also noted that the current era is simply not one marked by long careers for artists, and we shouldn't expect that to change anytime soon.

Following the interview, Davis was presented with NARM's President’s Award for executive achievement, making him the only label exec to win the honor twice.
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