Happy New Year! Today, the MIA’s Executive Director, Anthony Short, reflects on 2020 and looks to the year ahead.
It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but I think that 2020 would have been a year of evolution for the MIA however it had panned out.
We began the year with a plan to hold a number of networking events. Over the course of 2019 events focussing on The State of the MI Industry, Music Education and Brexit had been staged at the Victory Service Club in Central London. All had been well attended and the debates had been engaging and informative.
The same venue had been already been reserved for April and possible topics were being mulled over. We had also arranged a drinks reception for UK delegates attending Winter NAMM, the first time such an idea had been put into practice by the organisation. (As it happened this part of the plan turned out pretty well…)
So there it was, 2020 was going to be a year of the MIA encouraging people to get together in a variety of locations to network, discuss and develop ideas.
I travelled to London in early March to have a meeting with Paul McManus (CEO). I didn’t realise it but what was about to become the new normal was already evident. I walked from Kings Cross down through Russell Square, and via the British Museum to Covent Garden. It could have been early on a Sunday Morning it was that quiet, but it was 10am on a Tuesday.
Two weeks later and we were in lockdown. The reservation at the VSC was moved back a couple of months. One step forward and now one step back.
As the dust settled on Lockdown I, the organisation started to consider how best it could support Members. A small group was formed, consisting of the core executive team and representatives of the board, to develop a response. All options were considered, we talked about various support mechanisms, including financial, professional and advisory.
We concluded that getting pertinent and targeted information out as fast as possible was going to be key to helping Members make the right decisions for their businesses.
The first support webinar was broadcast on the 1st April, and over the next few months a further 8 were broadcast covering topics including Business Support, HR, Mental Well being and IP. These were also made available as podcasts.
Questions were pouring into the office around issues of staff, contracts and the furlough scheme. We decided to pick-up the cost of allowing Members to have an hour of one-to-one time with HR expert Nicky Gledhow. This proved really popular and was taken up by a cross-section of the membership.
The period from March to May had been manic, it hadn’t been what we had planned but we had tried to get as much relevant information out to the industry as we could.
On Friday 5th June we held our first virtual live event, we assembled a panel to field questions about what and how retail would look like when non-essential shops were allowed to re-open. With the help of industry professionals we tackled questions around Health & Safety, Risk Assessment and HR as well as hearing from a number of MI Retailers about the specific measures they had put in place.
It felt like a corner was about to be turned.
Summer brought a little relief, provided you weren’t trying to get a refund on an airline flight or a pre-booked foreign holiday, and the industry started to re-group.
Maybe, just maybe we would be able to get people back together face to face and we pushed our scheduled event back into October.
In the foreground we were reporting on the CMA, and trying to decide if we could pass comment on the matter. In the background we were re-evaluating how the organisation was structured and what the future for the MIA would and should look like.
Change was coming.
After 18 years Paul was leaving as CEO of the organisation at the end of the December, Clare Sayers would also be retiring from her part time administrative role after 22 years.
Alice Monk would continue her role as General Manger and assume control of day-to-day activity.
The decision was made to move away from having a physical office, we had managed for six months without it and who knew when it could be used effectively in the future.
We hosted a virtual AGM, and informed the industry of our intention to hold a number of ‘Town Halls’. These would be virtual get-togethers to discuss what members wanted to see form the organisation in the future.
My term as President came to an end at the AGM, as did the role of the President. The title has always been a difficult one to come to terms with and I wore it somewhat uncomfortably. The MIA reverted to the guidance of its Articles of Association, and instead appointed Steven Greenall as Chair of the Board for the coming year.
We began the process of looking for a full time Marketing & Admin Assistant to support Alice, and I agreed to take on the interim role of Executive Director to help in the development of a strategic plan.
I am sat at my desk reflecting on the year.
There is no doubt that for many in the world of MI, 2020 has been a difficult and challenging year. But at the same time there have been success stories as well. Whilst the requirement for live-sound product has been been badly affected, the growth in interest from new or lapsed musicians has been a real positive. Premium instrument sales are also buoyant, as are products that support the creativity of content creators or help with online communication.
Demand has certainly shifted in terms of its focus, but crucially it hasn’t gone away.
With regards to the MIA, I began by saying that 2020 would had been a year of evolution for the organisation irrespective of the events that transpired and I still believe it would. The fundamental question of relevancy for the Trade Body was there at the turn of the year, as it is still there now.
After being a part of the Town Halls, as well as the numerous one-to-one meetings that Steven and I have undertaken over the last few weeks, it is clear that there is a unique space for the to MIA operate in, and in a way that can make a difference to the industry. We just need to be clear on that purpose, and focussed in our delivery.
So we will start 2021, in the same way we finished 2020 – listening to you, and doing our best to bring the industry together.