In many ways, the drum and percussion market is changing. As you will read in this story, YouTube drummers are now what the younger generation looks up to. Electronic drum sets continue to grow in popularity, but is there any sound quality sacrificed when compared to its acoustic brethren? We take a look at this, as well as get an overall view of the drums and percussion industry and much more. Joining us this month are Jim Uding, brand manager, Dixon Drums/St. Louis Music; Steven Fisher, marketing manager, Yamaha Drums; and Pat Kennedy, product and artist relations manager, drums and percussion, Roland Corporation U.S.
For an additional take on the drum and percussion industry, check out our Five Minutes With interview with Kyle Thomas, artist marketing B&O manager, D’Addario, in this issue. Let’s immediately get into the guts of it by getting our panelists’ take on the state of the drum and percussion industry.
“I believe the acoustic drum business continues to struggle with an imbalance brought on by the transition from what I call mature prospective to new prospective drummers, who vary greatly on the amount of time, passion, study and dollars they invest in their interest,” said Uding. “I predict that drum sales in general will remain soft until someone or something inspires a broader prospective on the true depth of the instrument.”
“Sales are slightly better than last year,” responded Fisher. “We see areas of growth in all of our product categories, and launching innovative products like the EAD10 and HW3 Advanced Lightweight Hardware is contributing to the additional sales.”
“From our perspective here at Roland, the state of the drum industry is doing very well,” added Kennedy. “As with any market, sales of products fluctuate depending on the type of percussion products you are looking at, but the macro view shows growth overall.”
As for consumers’ take on the industry and if there is a need for celebrity drummers to bring more players into the fold, Fisher noted there are still influencers for younger players these days, but they are often the YouTube stars and not the onstage and recording stars past generations grew up with. “I believe this is a good thing in that these young musicians build their interest in drumming by watching their peers, and that ability to relate gives their enthusiasm a lot of staying power,” he said. “Plus, although these YouTube stars may not be reaching large audiences, they exert greater influence over the audiences they do have. I think the initiatives that organizations like PMC (Percussion Marketing Council) have taken on are spot-on. Getting kids exposed to drumming and music is what the music products industry needs more of.”
“The drumming community is as tight today as it has always been,” stated Kennedy. “That’s the beauty about being a drummer — the willingness to share ideas and the eagerness to grow and learn. With the ever-present social media outlets, it seems that consumer interest is growing more and more each day. Drummers are always on the lookout for new and exciting products to add into their setups. In addition to the legendary players in the drumming world, nowadays many drummers are looking to key influencers via social and streaming platforms to help guide them in their search for the next addition to their sonic palette. Reaching individuals through these channels has become a driving force within the drumming community.”
“I believe the majority of today’s consumers view the value, purpose and commitment to drumming as much less,” added Uding. “Competition from other interests, along with the absence of celebrity drummers and live drummer-included performances, pales in comparison to drumming’s heyday.”
Considering several of the new product launches in the past few months, electronic drum sets are experiencing growth. These sets offer one distinct advantage in that players can hone their craft with the comfort of headphones, while not disturbing others nearby, such as in a home environment. However, the knock on electronic drum sets in the past was that the sound simply did not match that produced by acoustic drum sets. But recent product launches have purportedly closed this sound gap, although electronic drum sets still perhaps don’t match the sound produced by an acoustic version.
This was Kennedy’s take on this subject: “Roland has conducted a great deal of market research, directly associating with customers and stakeholders as to what drives them to gravitate to certain products. The Roland V-Drums line offers several industry-leading features that are synonymous with our products, namely exceptional pads and triggering for an unrivalled playing feel; uncompromised sound, dynamics and customization; and durability that stands up to all performance demands. These attributes are unwavering in all of our Roland products, from our flagship TD-50 series all the way through our entry-level drum kits. Other qualities that V-Drums offer include noise-reduction for home practice and volume control for a number of live performances or studio circumstances. Likewise, the technology within our modules to connect to music software for education or recording purposes opens up a wide array of applications, making Roland V-Drums the best tool to accomplish any musical situation. And with the advanced sound engine design and sound modeling technology developed by Roland, the acoustic-like sound quality is captured and produced at the highest possible level.”
Uding agreed electronic sets are gaining in popularity. “What’s driving the popularity of these sets? Is the sound produced comparable with acoustic drum sets?” he asked. “Price, control and relevancy have arguably led electronic kits to an approximate 50-percent share of the market. Sounds, features and
options are great, but in time, drummers gravitate back to acoustic.”
“Electronic sets are becoming more affordable to consumers,” stated Fisher. “However, the downside is that consumers are paying less attention to quality differences between products. They all look roughly the same, but the value isn’t always immediately apparent, since a lot of that value is in the module and other features, like the free apps. Too many customers just look at the price and never discover the unique features. That’s where a good salesperson comes in. They have the opportunity to create a great customer relationship by educating the customer on the options and differences, helping them see beyond the price tag to help them make the right choice.
“Regarding sound, although Yamaha strives to equip our electronic drum sound sets with good acoustic sounds that are expressive and mix in well with other music, we also realize electronic drums are vastly different from acoustic drums, just as is the case with electric and acoustic guitars. Although some applications cross over, they should be considered differently since they have their own unique applications and use cases,” continued Fisher.
Another recent percussion buzzword has been hybrid drum sets. We asked our panelists to describe them and if they can grow in popularity down the road.
“Hybrid sets are meant to open up more creative possibilities for drummers. Unfortunately, they end up in specific applications (like live performances) and I believe it’s due in large part to being challenged by producing the audio needs to balance the acoustic and electronic drum sounds,” said Fisher. “The Yamaha EAD10 is a unique product, and one of its many benefits is that it’s expandable and allows you not only to create a hybrid set (triggering your acoustic drums and adding pads), but also to hear both your acoustic drums and electronic sounds through headphones or speakers. Products like the EAD10 are ‘gateway’ products; they make it easy for drummers to incorporate electronics into their setups, and to achieve the unique configurations and sounds they’re searching for in many applications, such as practice and making videos as well as in live performance.”
“Hybrid drum set is a term used to describe any combination of electronics and acoustic drums together. This is becoming very common in the music industry, and it can be seen and heard during countless live performances and studio recordings,” answered Kennedy. “In fact, it is extremely beneficial for today’s drummers to have some knowledge and understanding of electronics, which will help them to be more musical and marketable to the gigs that are available. A basic and simple form of hybrid drumming would be to include a sampling pad with an acoustic drum setup to add tracks or loops into a live performance. Roland makes industry-standard products to accomplish this such as the SPD::ONE WAV Pad and the SPD-SX Sampling Pad. Other similar pads that can be used to incorporate electronics are SPD::ONE Percussion, SPD::ONE Electro, SPD::ONE Kick, SPD-30 Octapad, BT-1 Bar Trigger, and a variety of drum and cymbal pads. Players wanting to take hybrid drumming one step further can place acoustic drum triggers onto their drums and access sounds through a trigger module. This creates a layering effect, or a ‘high-definition’ quality to any drummer’s sound and provides pristine drum sounds in any situation. Again, Roland makes the most well-suited products for this application with the TM-6 Pro Trigger Module, RT-30 Series Acoustic Drum Triggers (RT-30HR, RT-30K, RT-30H), RT-MicS and TM-2 Trigger Module. The beauty of hybrid drumming is that it allows players to totally customize their sound and delivers that sound at the highest quality. The sky is the limit!”
Answered Uding: “My definition of a hybrid drum set is one whose shells are built with mixed plies of wood. This is good for the consumer interested in something a little different, while allowing the manufacture in many cases to keep the purchase price down.”
Selling Like Hotcakes
We shift the conversation to the what drum and percussion products are selling well for each manufacturer. Are these new electronic drum sets ringing registers?
“As a full-line drum and hardware brand, Dixon has best sellers in every category, but our current brand-wide standout is our low volume/small footprint drum kit category called Little Roomer, configured for small spaces and acoustic gigs,” responded Uding. “Sold a-la-carte, Little Roomer offers drum, hardware and carrying bag options to easily adapt to all drummers and their applications.”
“Stage Custom Birch is a staple for us and always a good seller,” noted Fisher. “The Tour Custom is a great value and doing well, and the Recording Custom is doing well on the high end. The EAD10 is taking off as more people become aware of what it can do.”
“The Roland V-Drums line created a whole new category in the marketplace and continues to drive design and innovation when it comes to electronic drums,” said Kennedy. “Our flagship TD-50 series is the most advanced electronic drum set on the market, and it maintains its status as the new standard for the premium drumming experience, ideal for any performance or recording setting. The TD-25 series offers the ‘Super Natural’ sounds popularized by the TD-30 and continues to be a gig-ready choice for any working drummer. Similarly, our TD-17 series, which was launched during our #TotallyDrums event in May 2018, has altered the e-drum landscape by offering features, feel and functionality never before seen at the intermediate-level price point. In addition, Roland’s continuous development and ingenuity have led to the creation of so many game-changing products. Particularly, the SPD-SX or SPD-SX-SE are the industry-standard sampling pads, used by countless professional acts and musical enthusiasts throughout the world. Turn on the TV, or watch an online video, and you would be hard-pressed to not see one of these pads being used in a live performance.”
Not to be left out, we also asked each manufacturer which drum accessory products are moving the needle. Fisher again pointed to the EAD10. “We see a lot of demand for the HW3 ‘Crosstown’ series Advanced Lightweight Hardware,” he said.
“Dixon’s Build-Your-Own Practice Station has done well, consisting of three practice pad components (bass, snare and cymbal) that adapt to any cymbal stand,” stated Uding. “Drummers can easily match their practice needs to their available space and budget.”
What recently-released or about-to-be-released products can also be hot sellers at MI retail locations?
“Roland’s mission is to inspire enjoyment and creativity in the world of music. With this in mind, Roland is relentlessly pushing the envelope when it comes to design and innovation,” Kennedy noted. “For example, the TD-17 series, as mentioned earlier, combines flagship-level sound with our newly developed pads, and delivers an experience that’s authentically close to playing acoustic drums. Players are able to develop proper playing techniques, exactly as they would on an acoustic kit, and ultimately become better drummers more quickly. Skills and enjoyment are also heightened with the TD-17 through access to several motivational coaching functions, plus built-in Bluetooth for playing along with songs and video lesson content streamed wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet. Audio and MIDI information can also be captured with the TD-17, making it an ideal tool for filesharing and collaborating when creating music with your friends. One thing is for certain. Roland will continue to design the future with game-changing products that inspire musicians and music making around the world.”
“In 2018, Dixon introduced a new logo with its Cornerstone Series shell packs and snare drums. Look for this exciting image shift to be applied brand wide throughout 2019. Dixon’s new products and branding give consumers plenty to explore and discover in your store,” responded Uding.
“We had extremely positive feedback at Summer NAMM on the HW3 ‘Crosstown’ series Advanced Lightweight Hardware. It’s not the traditional old-school, small-diameter tubing look that contributes to the lighter weight. It’s a new generation of hardware for Yamaha,” concluded Fisher. “We also have the DTX402 Series electronic drums. This isn’t just another electronic drum kit, but a whole learning system with built-in exercises and free apps that make it fun to learn. It will teach you to play in time and read drum notation, guide you as you experiment with dynamics, help you develop skills in different styles and record for self-assessment. You can also use the free Rec’n’Share app to capture video of your performances and share it on YouTube and other social platforms. It’s a tremendous value.”