The Drum World in 2015

Russ’ Blog - Dec. 2015


The Drum World in 2015

I want to discuss one of the most concerning things facing the drum world: Less

and less people playing and supporting the drums. More important, our roles in helping

with this issue!

The biggest hurdle the drumming industry is facing, is the diminishing number of

people playing the drums. I hear the same comment(s) from the instrument

manufacturers. Statements like, "The market isn't getting bigger, so all we can do is take

each other's market share". I believe this is due to a few things. First, our attention

spans are shortening dramatically. This is surely due to the fact that we can acquire

things quicker and easier than before. The internet is a perfect example. If a web site

doesn't load in 15 seconds, the user gets frustrated and moves on. Another example of

the “I want it now” philosophy, is the Guitar Hero video game. Young people would

happily invest money and hundreds of hours playing (and becoming amazing) at the

game. They could have spent the same amount of money and time on an actual

guitar.....and now be a guitar player! But, Guitar Hero got them "playing" and

experiencing being a part of music, instantly. This fed directly to that growing loss of

attention span. These days, people have a hard time investing into any long-term

endeavor like playing an instrument. But, with playing, nobody can squeak through

without the time investment. Similar to sports, just having the information isn't going to

get it done. Second, people have begun to think they don't have to invest into

something for it to become successful (ie: visible). Social media has helped to create

the "false celebrity". Before, you needed to do something exceptional to gain

recognition globally. Now, your little brother can pick the dog's nose and have 20 million

people watch and know who he is. This instant recognition for no investment, has

started to create a culture of mediocrity and a lack of ambition to really work on

something and excel at it. Third (as I've spoke about in previous columns), as amazing

as the exposure outlet of YouTube is, it has confused the issue of music performance. It

removes value from performance. It also gives mediocrity the same visibility as

greatness. Now, we hope that the greatness rises to interest. But we've seen that the

ability to "work" the Social media outlets can be an asset that pure greatness cannot

compete with. As a result, people are not always exposed to the best levels of

performance. This confuses a players idea of what "great" is, thus affecting their long

term inspiration. Also, arts programs in schools have suffered in past decades, which

leads to fewer students being exposed to playing an instrument at an early age.

To the Instrument manufacturers and retailers…inspire.

As far as the instrument dealers are concerned, they are one of the first

connections to the inside of the industry, that most people have. A retailer gets

someone to invest into the "dream" of playing an instrument. Rather than focusing on

advancing player's abilities and interests, some of the biggest instrument retailers have

adopted the, "sell them the cheapest drums we can and get them out of here" mentality.

This might be the most damaging approach a retailer can have. If they don't foster that

dream, it can do more damage than good. A player needs to be constantly fed

information, inspired, and pushed to further their "investment" into playing the

instrument. This is why supporting the great drum shops we still have, is so important.

The great drum shops create an atmosphere of development with lessons, clinics and

direction. Often times, the companies that make the instruments lose sight of what they

are selling and who they are selling it to, as well. I have had multiple conversations in

the past with the marketing departments, about a five-piece drum set in an ad

campaign. It’s sitting in a room by itself. This loses the human connection to playing

the instrument. It reminds me of my friend Abe Laboriel Sr. We would be on a gig

together and someone would say to him on a break, "Abe, your bass sounds great".

Abe would look back at the bass guitar sitting on the stand and say... "How does it

sound now?". A great player's touch and musicality are 75% of the sound coming from

the instrument. I want to see and be influenced by a great player with their presentation

and prowess. I'm interested in how the instrument relates to this. It makes me think of

what might be possible for me, with that instrument. No one cares that this kit ships

with "an extra cymbal stand". This is the company selling to the dealer and not the end

user. Retailers and manufacturers need to stay focused on always inspiring the players,

as well as selling them gear.

Players….support and be supported.

Players need to inspire other players, not just with great playing but with support

as well!. Recently, one of the most popular live music clubs in L.A. closed after 30-

years. It was an upscale restaurant that had live bands, five nights a week. I played

there once or twice a month for years. It was a small venue and there was never a

cover charge. Usually there was just local level musicians playing there, because it

didn't pay very much money. But, being in L.A., you would also have world-class

musicians play there between tours and sessions. So, you could go see many of the

worlds greatest players for no cover charge! This was great but you had to understand

what it was. A local gig that occasionally, you could luck into something great

happening there. Of course, I don't like to see any venue close. But, in the weeks

preceding the last shows there, many of my friends and colleges were saying , "it's a

drag this venue is closing, I could always go see somebody play for free". I immediately

thought, 'are you sad the venue is closing or that you might have to pay a few dollars

somewhere else, to see something really good happen?' This attitude by fellow

musicians (where they don't want to invest into other music, players or even

themselves) is disturbing. Yet, these same players, want everybody to pay them top

dollar for what they do. Also, I have talked to several younger musicians about Spotify.

They proceeded to tell me how awesome it was and they hadn't have to buy CD's or

downloads for a few years. These same people are training to be in the Music

Business. If us consumers who are educated in music, involved in its creation and

focused on music daily, don't even support our industry, how can we expect everybody

else to support it? We need to buy music, DVD's, CD's, downloads, pay to see others

play and help create the commerce surrounding music and its creation. Don't help in

any way to foster the "music has no value" mindset. Support and be supported.


There is no substitute for the "Real Thing"

There is no substitute for seeing a great player, play the drums. YouTube videos

and Facebook doesn't get it done! Not even going to a big concert and seeing a band

does it. Although you will get the "majesty" of a great show, you need to experience the

power of a great player, first hand. Only smaller environments, such as clubs and

clinics will get you face to face with great drumming. Pending your location, going to a

drum clinic or the regional "national act" theatre or club, might be your only chance of

experiencing a high level of playing close-up. Living in a music hub, like L.A., New York,

London, Paris, etc. gives you the opportunity to see national and international level

players all of the time. They will turn up around town, maybe just for "fun" gigs at small

local venues. Everywhere else in the world, you will have to most likely go to a bigger

venue to see them. This is one of the reasons why playing levels are always much

higher in these big city music hubs. You are exposed to the "competition" much more

and at its highest level. Remember to support companies who are constantly investing

into clinic programs for you to attend. These are manufacturers investing into your

inspiration and should be supported for it!

Getting the right info, from the right people!

YouTube has created an awesome outlet for exposure to performance and

education. The issue is (as with everything on the internet), there is no filter for

accurate, well advised information. Anybody can start an online lesson series, talk

about approach and/or demonstrate a form of playing. But, from what perspective does

this information come from? What gigs, tours, records, movies, T.V. Shows have they

done? Do they have any more information than you do? Or just the money or

brashness to film it for the world? There is great information splattered about on

YouTube but don't forget that the order in which you learn things is crucial. There needs

to be guidance and direction in your studies. You can get frustrated, as easily as, you

can get inspired. This is the core reason for me starting the Percussion Pathway!

This industry needs to foster inspiration to play and keep playing. In this current state

of affairs, magazines, retailers, manufacturers, other players, educators and record

labels all need to step back and reflect. We all need to think about something rather

than the next dollar and look at the big picture. The key is educating players of all

levels, pushing the envelope of instruments to foster artistry and staying focused on the

original reasons we all started playing in the first place-- The love of music, drumming

and drums!

Russ Miller