Creating a Customer Base that Advocates for You

Learn how one retailer's participation in the Best Communities for Music Education Program has played a part in his company's success.

Imagine having such a close-knit relationship with your local school’s music department that you are the person selected to present to them an award for Best Communities for Music Education (BCME).

The local school that you supplied instruments, gear and, in some cases lessons, achieves this honor and wants to share the spotlight with you. It would be a relationship-building moment for certain. Now, multiply that experience times the number of schools in your area.  

This is exactly the type of relationship Mark Despotakis of Progressive Music in Pennsylvania has developed with his local school districts and music departments by incorporating the BCME program into his business model.   

Presented by The NAMM Foundation, BCME and its counterpart the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA), recognize the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, students and community leaders at the district and individual level who  strive to ensure access to music for all students in the classroom—a goal is also shared by music retailers, like Mark.

NAMM talked with Mark Despotakis, who is the Director of Market Development at Progressive, about his experience with the BCME program as a music retailer and how recognizing educators at BCME events has helped his store grow.

Tell us about yourself and your music store?

I started in the industry in 2002 as part of an unexpected path.  I studied communication and spent some time at CNN but still worked with high school music programs on the side. Long story short, I ended up at Progressive Music where I handle marketing and finance. Progressive Music is a 70-year-old business that has focused on school music programs from day one.  Our primary customers are music teachers and their students.

Tell us why you participate in the Best Communities for Music Education recognition events in your community? 

We’ve always done everything we could to support school music programs in any way we could. The BCME program is just another extension of that same line of thinking. We want to bring as much attention as we can to the good things happening in our schools. We want to utilize every opportunity we can give a music program to leverage public support.

How important is it for Progressive Music to work with your local schools to advocate for music education?

We’ve branded ourselves as a center for advocacy as well as a business. There is no question in our customers’ minds that we’re here for them and their students. We actively advocate and provide up-to-date information to our customers on advocacy efforts and public policy news that impacts music education. We’re in a relationship with every one of our customers and part of any relationship is trust. We want them to trust us to have their backs when it comes to strengthening their programs.

Do you recommend that other NAMM members participate in the BCME program?

Without question, I would recommend participation in the BCME program. Not only are you supporting your local music programs, you’re potentially building your customer base and marketing your business along the way. Taking the time to participate can pay back dividends far more than you might expect. The program is a win/win for your business and your local music programs.

Progressive music is just one retailer that has benefited from participating in the BCME program. The NAMM Foundation works with retailers all over the country to initiate and strengthen these lasting connections with schools. As a participant, you will receive promotional assets that include templates for:

  • Banners
  • Posters
  • Certificates
  • And other assets to help share the good news

Each of the schools and districts are also given a toolkit but it is not uncommon for the participating retailer to take the ball and run with equipping the school with the printed assets they need to toot their own horn. Since schools and districts are limited on budgets, they appreciate the retailer sponsoring the printing of these assets that are helpful in solidifying support for the music program within the community. At a minimum, retailers are there to present the certificate to representatives from the school, either at the local school board meeting or spring concert.

To learn more about the BCME program, click here and to view the list of winners from 2017 click here.

To participate as a retailer and find out which schools in your area will be honored this year, contact

Playback Blog/ Advancing Music Making