The Drum and Percussion Industry Continues to Hold Its Steady Beat

This year, we drew a panel of four standouts in the field to tell us about the state of the drum and percussion industry: Steven Fisher, marketing manager for Yamaha Drums; Drew Armentrout, product and artist relations manager, drums and percussion, for Roland Corp. U.S.; Kevin Packard, combo marketing manager for Pearl Corp.; and Luis Cardoso, marketing manager for Sabian and brand manager for Gon Bops. We asked this quartet these four questions:

1. What’s the hottest recent trends you’ve seen in the drums and percussion industry?

2. There’s been a lot of talk for years about an alleged lack of guitar heroes in MI. Does the same hold true for the drum industry, regarding a lack of heroes? If it is true, is it a concern at all?

3. For smaller MI stores, drum sets and related accessories may be tough to display due to space concerns. What’s the best way for them to show these products in their stores?

4. Can you provide any advice for MI retailers who choose the internet to sell their drums and percussion products? What pitfalls should they avoid when doing so?

Here’s what they had to say.

Fisher noted, regarding drum percussion trends, that he’s noticed a “rise in interest in products to help drummers practice with something similar to their acoustic instrument in feel and sound, like the Zildjian low-volume cymbals. Also, drummers looking for solutions to make their own YouTube videos. For acoustic drums, we’re experiencing good sales, in general, of our high-end series of drums, and we’ve also seen an increase in 13-inch toms in all of our series of drums. Not that 13-inch toms are ‘hot,’ but it illustrates the delicate balance for manufacturers and dealers catering to drummers that are always looking for something unique, but at the same time want to get in on rising trends. Additionally, we get a lot of calls from drummers wanting to put together hybrid set solutions. Since hybrid drum sets have been gaining in popularity, there are few dealers who have the right products plus a knowledgeable staff who can help drummers put a solution together.”

“Trends obviously come and go, and what’s old sometimes becomes new again,” responded Armentrout. “With acoustic drums, smaller setups like four-piece kits or five-piece kits (with one up, two down) are very common, as well as using different materials (acrylic or exotic woods, for example) with a wide variety of finishes. And with advances in electronic percussion (including Roland’s breakthrough digital triggering technology), the use of electronic drum kits is also a hot trend.

“The increased use of a hybrid setup (integrating electronic percussion within acoustic setups) has become the norm,” Armentrout added. “Our TM-2 trigger module and RT triggers are a big hit and are used by many of the top touring bands throughout the world as a way to enhance their live drum sounds. With electronic drum kits, the market is moving away from a ‘race to the bottom for the lowest price’ trend of the last few years to more feature-rich products at the mid-range price point. To make this point, our TD-25, TD-30 and TD-50 kits (which range from $1,999 to $7,499) make up the volume of our sales. This not only creates more choices for the consumer, but also further validates the continuing strength of the electronic percussion market.”

Armentrout continued, “Additionally, the strength of e-drums is supported with the number of drummers, like Butch Vig with Garbage and Jimmie Paxson with Christine McVie/Lindsey Buckingham, who have traded out their acoustic kits for our TD-50KV kit for their current tours.”

Packard added, “Whether they are buying a cymbal felt or a high-end snare drum, a personal, direct approach is what most players are looking for. With as many choices as there are for the modern drum buyer, Pearl is seeing a move to higher-end, traditional, boutique-type drum sizes and finishes. The standard ‘out-of-the-box’ preconfigured drum set is still definitely a factor, but most drummers want a very personal experience from the gear they play and buy. This is prompting buyers to move to higher-end offerings to get the features and personal feel they are looking for. This has been excellent for our Music City Custom Shop and Masterworks Sonic Select drum offerings, as these instruments feel more like a collaboration between the drummer, the dealer and the builder. We are also seeing a move to minimalist setups with multiple voices, so our Modern Utility snare drums are a simple, low-cost option for the player who wants a wider palette for less money. And, we are grateful to say that there are still plenty of new drummers out there purchasing their first kit, and our all-in-one Roadshow series kits are in constant demand for students and first-time drummers.”

“We are finally seeing renewed interest in conga drums, which is a welcome development, as this market has been flat for so long,” stated Cardoso. “More importantly, we are seeing this at all price points, from high-end to budget drums. Drum set accessories continue to be hot.”

We Don’t Need a Hero

Panelists all agreed there is no lack of “drum heroes.” In fact, social media is adding to the number of drum celebrities.

“In my opinion, there is no concern, but rather endless opportunities,” Armentrout told the Retailer. “Many of the ‘drum heroes’ of the past are still inspirations to both older and younger players. I see many younger players seeking out the legendary players, while many young players with amazing talent and skill continue to emerge in their own right, influencing players of all ages and skill levels. Between YouTube, other social media and other drum-specific sites, there is a wealth of product information, knowledge and inspiration from every style of music, from any era, past or present. In the electronic percussion arena, these resources are invaluable, especially for consumers who may reside hundreds of miles from a store that carries and displays electronics.”

Packard held a similar sentiment. “If anything, social media and YouTube have made everyone a hero!” he asserted. “In previous generations, we had fewer and more specific ‘heroes’ of the instrument because there were fewer stages on which to see them shine. Giving every drummer a media platform to make their voice heard in the modern age has opened the door to an unprecedented field of amazing players that are elevating the art form to new heights. But with so many remarkable drummers springing up every day, the new drumming heroes are the ones that are taking a different approach to the instrument to make their voice stand out. This platform has also allowed the drummer to take the spotlight, and move away from the ‘drummer joke’ clichés to being true entertainers. This is a tremendous thing for new players because it gives them plenty of inspiration out of the gate and a desire to push the art even further, so it is truly an exciting time to be a drummer.”

“Jojo Mayer, Chad Smith, Tony Royster, Matt Chamberlain, Mark Guiliana, Chris Dave, Alex Acuña, Luisito Quintero, Eliel Lazo, Eric Hernandez — and that’s just a quick, short list off the top of my head, taken from our artist roster. But I think it answers the question!” responded Cardoso.

“Drummers as an instrument group are very communally minded, and always interested in what other drummers are doing,” noted Fisher. “I think there are just as many, if not more, drum heroes out there as ever, and with the advent of YouTube and the huge followings some of those popular YouTube drummers have, the drummer community has become at the same time farther-reaching and more tightly knit.”

Out of Space?

Space concerns when it comes to displaying drum and percussion products are certainly not a new problem, but can continue to be a challenge for smaller brick-and-mortar stores. Here’s what our panelists said, regarding how their clients can handle this age-old problem.

“For full sets, when space is limited, stack, stack, stack. Another option is to put a row of tom toms up, each one representing a brand/model/color of the corresponding drum sets, which are kept in storage or a warehouse unit (ideal for back-stock, extra colors, etc.),” responded Cardoso. “An info tag can be attached to each tom tom, with size, color, model and pricing. Retailers can also build shelving and displays to accommodate a drum set footprint. Cutting back on displays on the ground will free up space, so leave a small kit or open stands for customers to try out items off the wall rather than having so many kits set up that they can’t navigate around them.”

“We have certainly seen plenty of dealers do the classic ‘drum set pyramid’ display of several stacked drum sets,” noted Packard. “This may be necessary by space constraints, but in most cases, it is still possible to create a showcase for key items that invites the customer to experience it firsthand. We’ve seen dealers have success with a constantly revolving showpiece to keep things fresh and keep people checking back. Creating a ‘destination’ space that people want to experience isn’t necessarily just about having a stockpile of high-end gear, but it’s definitely about stocking something people want to see in person and creating a space with it that demands their attention. Combining this with a unique video plan for social media will do so much more to sell these items than stacking them in a corner.”

Fisher added, “Although smaller stores want to stack up drum sets to show more offerings and save space, we want Yamaha dealers that give customers the best experience and have our products retail-ready for customers to play, and that means both acoustic and electronic sets. Sound is what separates Yamaha from other drum manufacturers for both acoustic and electronic drums, and if customers can’t experience them, they can’t understand the value. As I’ve heard before, ‘What sounds better, a can of soup or a drum set sitting on a shelf? Actually, the can of soup if it’s close to lunchtime.’”

“In stores of any size, acoustic drums are often stacked due to space limitations,” responded Armentrout. “Taking advantage of any available vertical space for display can help to increase the ‘we have everything’ perception for the consumer. Regardless of any space limitations, it is imperative to create and maintain displays that are functional, clean and visually inviting to the customer. This is especially critical with electronic percussion. An electronic drum set that is not properly set up and maintained can give a customer a negative impression about the product and the retailer. All displayed products should be retail-ready before the doors open each and every day. Imagine a display of the latest-model TV covered in dust or not even powered up in a retail store. This would likely influence your decision about wanting to shop there. Additionally, displaying accessories in a practical setting not only increases the visibility of the products, it is a great way to show real-world applications that lead to additional sales. This can be as simple as mounting an add-on accessory to a drum kit, or setting up a hybrid drum set to show the creative possibilities of adding acoustic triggers, sound modules or dedicated electronic percussion pads, like Roland’s new SPD::ONE series.”

Online Advice

Of course, many MI retailers select the internet to sell their wares, and drums and percussion products are no different. As a clincher to this story, we asked our panel to provide some tips when doing so.

“Create a presence for yourself and your shop in social media (especially on sites you are not necessarily familiar with) and ecommerce,” relayed Packard. “This is easy enough to start, and pretty much everyone has done it, but keeping the content fresh and engaging is the true challenge. Also, use every resource your vendors have created to populate your online presence. Pearl has strived to keep at the forefront of ecommerce since the dawn of the internet, with resources like our Pearl Drummer’s Forum, our constantly updated YouTube videos and our dealer-accessible media content library. We have gone to great lengths to set up photo, descriptive, shipping and video content for our key products and events, so everything a dealer needs to educate the customer is easily-accessible. Being a percussion retailer is a lot like being a ‘drumming hero’ on YouTube, it’s all about what you can offer that no one else can. Personal customer interaction and experience are certainly the element that will help clinch the sale, so creating that experience is more important than ever.”

“Invest and commit to online (email and/or chat) as well as phone support to answer any specific questions on a product pre- and post-sale, and include comparison charts and buyer’s guides on the dealer’s website with links to the product page(s) on the manufacturer’s website,” said Armentrout. “Knowledge is power, and being able to provide these services fuels customer loyalty. Whether it is differences in drum shell wood types, cymbal comparisons, or programming a TD-50 Drum Module or a TM-2 Trigger module, the impact of professional advice and recommendations should not be underestimated.

“It’s easy for a consumer to search and click for the lowest price, but in many cases, the lowest price is not necessarily the best deal,” Armentrout continued. “Fundamentally, internet customers should be approached no differently than the in-person, face-to-face customer. You’re not just moving boxes; you’re earning the customer’s business and developing a relationship for return business, customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

“There are many pitfalls here, but also a huge opportunity,” relayed Cardoso. “Let’s start with a website, your hub for online sales. Your website should have an easy-to-follow, intuitive checkout and cart system. Shipping rates should be pre-negotiated, and a proper shipping calculator is crucial: Don’t overcharge for shipping, and consider offering free shipping. Clearly state your return and exchange policy to prevent conflict with customers. To help your buyers, have a robust search engine that works. If not, this can lead customers to look elsewhere. If you can’t afford to put all your products onsite, list all of the brands you carry.

“Definitely utilize videos and multimedia, as creating compelling video is essential in our video age,” Cardoso added. “Produce professional-quality videos, but keep them personal, allowing your store’s personality to shine through. You can do this by having your staff do product walkthroughs. Keep your videos looking and sounding fully professional by making sure drums are well tuned and clean, heads tightened, and be sure to strike each drum individually. Don’t forget that the easiest campaigns are totally free with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so do post every day to keep your customers engaged. That means responding to any customer inquiry ASAP before they move on to the next web store. Work with manufacturers or distributors that dropship. And last, but not least, adhere to MAP!”

“We want Yamaha dealers who deliver the best customer experience with our products in-store or online,” concluded Fisher. “Although we probably have the best customer support in the music products industry available to anyone purchasing a Yamaha product, having knowledgeable customer support, along with great content, is what separates the good ecommerce dealers from the great ones.”

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