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Percussion Council Hosts Drum Industry Panel

...retailers Randy Pratt, Musician’s Friend; Jim Rupp, Columbus Pro Percussion; Rob Andre, Chicago Drum Exchange; and Shane Kinney, Drum Center of Portsmouth as well as manufacturers Remo Belli, Remo Inc.; Don Lombardi, founder of DW and Drum Channel; Andy Zildjian, Sabian Ltd.; and Alan Vater, Vater Percussion. The discussion was moderated by Kevin Kearns of Modern Drummer magazine.

The panel was divided on electronic drums’ long-term benefits to the market, but some participants suggested that electronics don’t provide the same visceral gratification as acoustics and therefore may miss the chance to “hook” the novice into a lifetime of drumming. “Let’s move some air,” said Drum Center of Portsmouth’s Shane Kinney. “Let’s make some noise. There’s nothing more fun and gratifying than pissing off your neighbors.” However, Pratt suggested that electronic drums are ideal for serving the vibrant DJ market.

On the value of artist endorsements, which have traditionally played a significant role in drum products marketing, panelists sparred over their direct impact on sales. However, all conceded artists’ bump to brand awareness and the effect’s significant amplification by the recent social media explosion. Vater cited the drummer from Five Seconds of Summer sending out a tweet extolling Vater drumsticks—and inspiring 278,000 “likes” in four hours.

Panelists discussed the relationship between the currently thriving drum corps, B&O, and marching percussion markets and the drumset market. Rupp cited his own informal data on the nearly negligible percentage of corps drummers who also play kit. Forging connections between these distinct but related worlds, it was agreed, could inject significant life into the greater drum and percussion segment.

Asked about the impact of the recent percussion sector consolidations, panelists extended enthusiastic well wishes to DW in its new role as steward for the former KMC Music brands Gretsch, LP, Toca, Gibraltar, and KAT. Several panelists highlighted the value of people with knowledge and passion for percussion, especially as preferable to banks, venture capital interests, and other “external” actors, which historically have not fared well in the music products industry. However, Kinney expressed the importance of backing up all the warm feelings with solid support and reliable, timely supply of product.

Remo Inc. founder Remo Belli suggested that market growth through more of the same “vertical” approach, i.e., pursuing market share and wooing drummers, would be dwarfed by the “horizontal” application of drumming and appreciation of rhythm outside the realm of music making. “My [target] demographic,” he said, “is everyone who’s alive.”

Following the panel discussion, PMC board members provided a brief overview of the organization’s major ongoing initiatives: the Drums Across America free drum lesson program; International Drum Month, held through May, which this year will focus on the Roadie for a Day campaign featuring Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin; and the Roots of Rhythm cross-curriculum school education program.


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