My NAMM 2013 Report

If I had to pick a theme this year, it would be expand! As more and more booths expanded up to the 2nd and 3rd floors, and off to distant places, requiring even more walking than normal.

I won’t cover every thing I saw, but I will hit the more interesting things I saw in the world of drums.

Ludwig
The absolute undisputed star of this years show was the new Atlas hardware system from Ludwig. In short, it’s a new bracket that replaces an existing lug. It acts as a lug, as the tom holder, eliminating the need to drill for a separate tom bracket or use a RIMS type mounting system. It also can act as a cymbal holder, and as floor tom leg bracket.

Here it is as the lug, tom holder, and cymbal holder, all at the same time:

Here holding a ride cymbal off a bass drum:

Or install two brackets with a straight bar and create a more versatile ride cymbal holder

Or install two brackets to make two splash holders:

And the best aspect is the bracket screw is adjustable, so it can retro fit non-Ludwig drums.

Yamaha

Yamaha rolled out the new Live (Oak) Custom, which blends features of the their Maple Absolute with their previous Oak Custom line. The result is a great sounding drum kit. The construction of the oak shells allows you to have smaller sized drums to have a HUGE sound. The 14×22 bass drum sounded monster, and the 20″ bass drum sounded like a much bigger drum. I did think their was a point of diminishing returns, as the larger bass drum on display actually didn’t sound as good as the 14×22. It’s only available in 4 finishes, but it was the most exciting new drum kit of the show.

Pearl

Pearl brought back their famous Export line. A Pearl Export was my first drum kit, so it warmed my heart to see an old friend return to production. Unlike the last few Exports that had been so upgraded they ceased to be entry level kits, this “new” Export is a throw back to the 80’s version of the Export as a well made entry level kit. And even the price is a throw back to the 1980’s, as it’s very affordable. The best part is it is now available with a 20″ bass drum, which is good for parents looking for a kit for younger children. 

Tama

Tama has a new “Star” line.

But what caught my eye was not the new maple and bubinga shells, or the stunning finish, but rather the new floor tom leg bracket: 

Zildjian

The news in cymbals was Zildjian had redesigned the famous “A” line to be a throwback to how the “A”‘s used to be pre-1980’s. The cymbals run thinner, and feature a new logo.

Also featured was a 23″ Sweet Ride. It has a nice mix of spread and ping. Really sweet spread, but I noticed it never got overly washy, and there was no annoying overbear roar you often get when playing a lot of notes on a big ride. It was almost like it had a built in compressor so you could get all the nice spread of a thinner ride, but without it washing out on you.

Also, Zildjian has taken the electronic mic/pick up system used on the Gen-x e-cymbals is now available to used on regular cymbals.

The downside is you have to drill a small hole. I couldn’t believe it when my rep told me you really have to drill, but he says enough people requested that this system be adapted to regular cymbals, they made it.

It’s neat, and adds a cool visual aspect as well as a great sonic aspect for live and recording. But drill? really? I don’t know about that.

Premier

Premier is still working on their come back to the US market:  and featured a line of nice wood snare drums.

 

 Other things of interest:

Amedia cymbals had a square ride, which actually sounded rather pleasant, similar to a K ride. Also an 18″ cymbals with a massive bell. I’m not sure it was a ride, as it was rather thin. It seemed to be more of a special effect type cymbal. 

Gaai is a small custom drum manufacture. What struck me is I have never heard so much low end coming from an 18″ bass drum. 

But what really caught my attention was the use of Cork in place of a suspension mount. 

Gretch proved what is old, is new again. But, really? Clip mounts?

On the other hand, they had a new mount on the Renown line:

 

KMS has joined forces with KAT to make a new line of quality affordable electronic drum kits. For a $599-$699 price range, these were impressive.

Liberty is a new name to the US drum market from the UK. They look nice, but do we need another brand?

Paiste had Abe Laboriel Jr.’s unique drum set on display:

People have tried marketing Carbon Fiber drums before, but the concept has never really taken off. Ming drums hopes to change that:

As usual, the salespeople in the Peace booth acted like they are too scared to talk to anyone, but they always have some wild and interesting finishes:

Rocket drums always has something exciting on display:

Roland had new bar style trigger pads on display:

If you can’t decide if you want wood or acrylic shells, or if you want a small or a big bass drum, SJC says have it all at once: 

A new name was marketing all stave shell drum kit:

 

Also of note was the new Evans drum head 360. It is not a new head, but a new collar design that will be applied to all existing tom and snare drum heads. The new design allows you to throw on a head and get a working tone right away without having to seat the head. And once tuned up, it will hold it’s tone, even when a tension rod is removed. I was very, very impressed by the live in person demo. It really makes you wonder why they and Remo have not done this before. But it is note worthy that Aquarian has had a similar concept in place for years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My 2012 NAMM Report

In years past, I could pick a theme of the show based on how the show reflected the economy. In down years booths got smaller, and fewer manufactures show up. As the economy slowly got a bit better, booth sizes went up. This year, it was mixed bag, as some manufactures expanded, while others shrank. Rather, I think this year’s theme was “Retro throwback.” There seemed to few truly new products, with many of the most talked about products being re-introductions of previous products.

Tama
Tama gave everyone a shock with their Keith Moon inspired set up featuring Retro throwback single headed concert toms.
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I thought perhaps this would be a trend through out the show, but Tama was indeed the only company to dare to try the concert tom concept. Tama also featured a new Walnut series

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Pearl

Pearl stole the show as far as booth set ups. Their booth featured a 1/4 of a roller coaster, and Tommy Lee’s roller coaster drum set. In addition, they had Mike Mangini’s full drum kit
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As far as products, they were all in on the “retro throw back theme” with the re-introduction of the Prestige series, one of their better selling mid-line kits from the mid-late 80’s.


Ludwig

My favorite “new” product by far was the “Retro throwback” Clubdate line. I have been saying to Ludwig, and all the other manufactures, for years now that they are missing a big market segment of guys who have big expensive kits at home, and want something simple, in a wrap, that sounds good, they they can throw in the car for bar gigs. Finally, someone listened to me! The Clubdates have the look and feel of a vintage Ludwig kits, but with modern engineering, and best of all, they do not cost the arm and leg like actual vintage kits do. I want one, badly!

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Also was debuting at Ludwig was their Atlas line of hardware, which was a mix of new and retro products. The rubber foot design on their flat based stands is one of those simple ideas that makes you wonder why no one ever thought of it before. It allows for two heights, so you can crisscross the legs of flat based stands. They are a perfect compliment to the Clubdate kits. The new pro snare stand is simply the best designed snare stand I have come across. The new pedals and pro stands are nice, but as someone else said to me, they seem a little late to the party; they do not seem than different than hardware that Gibraltar and DW, among others, have been offering for years.

Yamaha
One of the most talked about products on the internet before the NAMM show was that Yamaha was re-introducing their hex rack system. This time they are stronger, lighter, and fully compatible with the old racks. And in keeping with the “”Retro throwback” theme, Yamaha re-introduced several throwback colors to the their timeless Recording Custom line.

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Gretch
Gretch’s booth was centered with a large completely mirror chrome kit, a real throw back to the 1980’s.
Of note was their “new” Brooklyn line of drums, which are a “Retro throwback” to their 1950’s round badge line.
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Premier
After several years of not being at NAMM, Premier drums was back at the show in full force. Good news for those us who are fans of Premier.
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Other drums:

DW was absent from the main floor. They instead had their booth up on the distant 3rd floor, with their public showcase only a small crammed room. For a company that has excelled at product placement and name brand recognition, it was an odd move to remove themselves from the main public eye like this.

Crush drums was only all to happy to use DW’s absence to have a bigger booth with an impressive range of drums kits.

DrumCraft also took part of the extra floor space to make a case for a bigger US market presence.

Last year, Natal has a huge booth with no one manning it. This year they scaled back into a much more effective booth. Still they were there to show that despite being the newest kid on the block, they can do everything the big names can do.

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Rocket continues to expand the concept of what can be done with graphics on a drum kit, seem to be getting stronger and better.

Craviatto, Pork Pie, C&C Custom Drums all continue to showcase great drums to die for.

A new name at NAMM was John Cross, with absolutely gorgeous drums

Roland
After what has seem like forever, Roland finally upgraded the TD-20 module with the new TD-30. Of note this new module features a digital out, two USB ports, and now the pad inputs are separated from the audio outs. Clearly, this module is designed for the modern recording studio much more than the TD-20 was.

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Cymbals
Much like last year, the number of cymbal brands keeps increasing, and all claiming to be real Turkish cymbals, or the best sounding cymbals. I think they all make fantastic products, but it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish one brand from the next.

Zildjian kept with the “Retro throwback” theme with introducing more models in the K Constantinoples line of vintage sounding cymbals. Sabian did show their new fan chosen models, but the booth mostly showcased their wide range of models from their 30 year history. I also stopped at the Silken booth, and was impressed with what they had for their price range.

I did see this interesting sounding cymbal from Soultone
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While Paiste featured a line of Alpha “Boomer” cymbals

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Accessories
This device caught my eye: An electronic drum tuner call the Tune-Bot. And unlike tensions watches, drum dials, torque wrenches and other items that measure criteria that should lead to a drum in tune, yet do not always work accurately, this measures the pitch of each individual lug, letting you know if the drum either in tune, or not. And while other tuning devices work on toms, I find most of them are useless on snare drums and bass drums, while this one works on snare drums easily enough, and should translate to a bass drum well.

Also, unlike drum dials and such that you have to move from lug to lug, this device you clip on to the drum in one spot. And unlike a regular chromatic tuner, this allows you to just to tune to any pitch regardless of a specific note, as you can set it to give you a reading in Hz or musical notes. I also thought, as a drummer who tunes by ear, how many times have I found myself trying to tune at a venue when another band is sound checking, or the DJ is testing out the PA, or a guitar player is testing his amp, or otherwise it’s just too noisy to hear the difference from lug to lug? Yet, in the middle of Hall D at NAMM on a Satuday afternoon when it is insanely noisy, yet this device was (as far as I could tell) still able to get a measurement from the drum without being bothered by the extraneous noise. The biggest drawback is the price, at $150 retail, $99 projected street price. Although you figure a drum dial is $59, and this should work 100 times better, and Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner is close to $99, maybe that price is not so far out.

Overall:
Best Booth: Pearl
Most Exciting New Product: Ludwig Club date re-issue kits
Most Innovative new Product: Tune-Bot drum tuner.

I also have more pictures here: My Flickr Page

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Rats do not like Organization

A problem I had to deal over the last several months was rats in my yard and garage. I learned a lot about rodents in the process of dealing with then, and I was stuck how rodents are similar to business rats (i.e. fraudsters), and they key to stopping both is organization.

As I have written before, most work place fraud is not committed by people who took their job with any intention of ever committing fraud. Fraud is a crime of opportunity. Rats are animals of opportunity.

  • Rats did not set out to invade my garage, they stumbled across the safety and food opportunities of my garage while exploring for a place to live.
  • Fraudsters do not set out to commit fraud, rather they stumble across a weakness in a company’s internal controls, and decide to take advantage of it.
  • Rats find the dark corridors of your home where they feel safe and out of view to do their dirty work.
  • Fraudsters find the dark corridors of your business system where they feel like they can get away with their dirty work without anyone noticing.
  • Setting traps in their path does not necessarily catch the rats, because they sense there is something in their path that was not there before, and learn to avoid this new trap, or just leave.
  • Setting new internal controls does not necessarily catch a fraudster, but because they will often notice the new control, they will most likely just stop committing fraud.

I never caught the rats in my garage. The only way I got rid of them was to take everything out of my garage, clean it, and put everything back.  The rats sensed everything was now different, and they simply left. As I pulled items out of my garage, I thought I had been well organized, but I noticed the areas behind boxes, and the corners where I had not previously noticed small bits of clutter. It occurred to me this was like so many offices I have seen, where the files look nice and organized, but behind the pretty front are unorganized files and weak internal controls, which provides opportunity for a potential fraudster to take advantage of an unorganized business.

The key to stopping rats in my garage was to be extremely organized and keep every aspect of my garage clean.
The key to stopping fraud in a business is to be extremely organized with internal controls to keep your business systems clean.
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My last blog article got picked up

My last blog article got picked up my another site:

http://artisthead.com/musicians-and-bands-don-t-think-locally-think-globally/

I am rather excited!!

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Musicians and Bands: Don’t think locally, think globally!

Now and then I get asked what does it take to make it in music anymore, or how can one have a career in music. We read and hear so much about how the music industry is near death, people don’t buy as many albums, radio does not play many bands, and record companies may be a thing of the past. It is easy to get bogged down in the negativity.

In my observation, the answer is to stop thinking in terms of the old business model and start thinking on a global scale.

Back in the 90’s, pre-everything on the internet, my band did what every band since rock was invented did. We played all around Los Angeles, building a local following as we went, and hoped that a record company would see our hard work and take us to the next level.  Every record company in the country was sniffing at us, we showcased, we were told “the record contract is in the mail.” We were always on the verge something, but like so many bands, not quite getting over that hump. One day, someone who was not in the music business, very randomly said “You guys should go to Germany, you would be huge over there”. And a week later, someone else mentioned the same thing. At the time, it was like, “yeah, right, and how do we do that?”. Well, flash forward to now, and I see via mysapce, youtube, and such what is going on in Germany, and what was going in Germany in the 90’s, and I think, yes, well, that was good advice. But how were we to know?

The new technology, however, makes it easy to step outside your local market and target fans of your style all over the world.  People say, well, here in the USA, the music scene is all American Idol, or 101 bands on the radio that all sound the same. However, looking overseas, there are hundreds of music festivals that are huge events where very diverse bands come together and play to massive audiences.

When I formed the band The Myriad Form, we were not even trying to make money. I had a good job, and music had become just a hobby. We made a record strictly for fun, and had no illusions of making it. And while we didn’t sell at a lot of CDs, the CD orders we did get ranged from Japan to the Netherlands, and an order to Brazil. With the net, you no longer have to target your local market, or appeal to what’s going on around you. If you have a niche, you can find the people who dig that niche all over the world. And that is what we did.

I look at how much work we put into the band in the 90’s, and think, if we had this technology at the time, like home digital-audio workstations, digital cameras, youtube, facebook, etc, there is no telling how much we could have done. We still might have never become big locally, but we could have tapped into that German market without needing a plane ticket.

I know of several bands here that are just local clubs bands, but tour Europe regularly. And not just the usual UK, Germany, Sweden, but with the fall of the Soviet block, Eastern Europe is a whole new market.

As for bands in Europe, back in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, many of these bands thought they had to conquer America to make it. Now, modern European bands don’t have to.
They can tour Western Europe, then tour Eastern Europe, Russia and slide over into Asia and be rockstars without every being more than an obscure reference in the US or even the UK.

I have friend who was living in LA, and made a bit of name for himself as a drummer in the US. His band fell apart. He moved to Sweden, joined a German band, they made money touring all over every bit the Euro-Asian Continent, and he got on the cover of the Chinese equivalent of Modern Drummer magazine. Not a bad career move.

If you see recent interviews with bands on VH-1 Classic, they’ll bring out bands from the 70’s and 80’s that are clearly in the “where are they now” file as far many of us would be concerned. The common theme is that they tour more now than they used to, because they can go to Russian, and South America, and places that weren’t possible, or considered viable, back in the day. Many older artists do better now than they did back when they were “famous” because they have expanded their market to a global scale.

Dream Theater is an example of a band that does not sell verywell in any particular country. They only have one gold album in the USA, and it was back in 91. Now they sell just enough in every part of the world, that when added together, they can each afford a nice house. Many bands are doing similar things. It is simple math: poor sales in the USA + poor sales in Europe + poor sales in South America can add up to “not bad” sales overall.

Students today can still form a band, and can still get their studio chops together. But rather than being focused on trying to get onto MTV, they might find their band is the biggest thing since sliced bread in a country on the other side of the world.  Maybe their band only sells 500 CDs in any one country, but multiply that by one-hundred countries and that ends up being the equivalent to a gold album.

I do not listen much to my local radio anymore. However, I buy CD’s from bands from Sweden, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and such because they are still making good music to me. Those bands are looking at who their niche is, and finding them regardless of location. Including people like me who, despite being all the way over here in the USA, is willing to buy their products from where ever they are.

For myself, most of my best stuff was never documented. There were no M-boxes or home protools kits to record our best songs. 2″ tape was too expensive to do more than a few things on. We had no good video camera, and I only have  some random fuzzy stuff from back in the day. No Zoom recorders to document our best gigs. Most of what went on was lost to time. Bands now can make a quality recording at home, and sell it around the world, as long as they willing to take the time and effort to do so.

I do not see today’s music business climate as a problem, rather, I see a solution that can get results.

 

 

 

 

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Using Praise to Achieve Results

In Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” he quotes a book by Jess Lair “I Ain’t Much Baby – But I’m All I Got’ about praising people. The quote reads:

“Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it. And yet, while most of us are only too ready to apply to others the cold winter of criticism we are somehow reluctant to give out fellow the warm sunshine of praise”.

A place I worked early in my career went through two bosses. Boss one was rather unhappy in his own life, and he took out his unhappiness on other employees. He screamed and yelled. He was not above picking up the public address system and screaming obscenities at the staff. As you can expect, turn over was rather high, and productivity was low. We could not keep good people, and those who stayed worked out of fear, which as we know, does not produce the best results. It was a miserable situation.

Upper management eventually noticed his poor leadership skills, and he was let go. As in interim, the district manager stepped in. It was a lasting impression I will never forget. He was very positive, and very eager to praise the staff. He would stand outside his office and ask everyone who walked by how things were going. If someone had just made a good sale, he would praise that person with “congratulations” and high fives. If someone said “well, I only sold something small” he would come with “but that is OK, because the next one will be better.” No matter what answer you gave him, he found a way to turn it around into a praise of your work. It was highly uplifting. Suddenly, work was no longer “work” it was fun. Instead of dreading the job, I looked forward to it. It seemed like productivity skyrocketed.

It became abundantly clear why he was the district manager. He earned his title from hard work and praising those around him. Sadly for me, his hard work paid of for him in being relocated to start a new venture for the company, which was quite an honor for him. So my experience working under him was only for a short week. But it was a week I will never forgot.

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Repairing Sprinklers and Preventing Fraud

The other day I was fixing my sprinkler system in my front yard, and I started thinking about fraud.

I have a thing for fraud. When reviewing mortgages, I always got a special tingle when I realized I was uncovering a potentially fraudulent loan. When I returned to school for Accounting, I took a Forensic Accounting class and I loved it. I enjoy reading about fraud. It is just a very interesting subject to me.

What does this have to do with a sprinkler system? You see, most work place fraud is not committed by people who took their job with any intention of ever committing fraud. Fraud is a crime of opportunity. Water going through a pipe just goes until it reaches the end. If there is a crack in the pipe, water will take the opportunity to exit out the crack. Workers go through their job with the thought of getting the job done. Then one day they may discover a crack in the system. At this point, the analogy ends. Water will simply take advantage of the cracked pipe regardless of the situation. The worker usually does not, until something triggers a justification.

The justification might be an unexpected bill, such a medical emergency of a loved one. Often, the justification is a feeling the company owes the worker something. A potential fraudulent employee might think he/she got passed over for a raise they felt they deserved, or feel they work harder and do more then they get credit for. Perhaps it’s just a way to stick it to a bad boss. So one day, a perfectly law abiding citizen takes advantage of the crack in the pipe to get extra money or benefits.

And while most employees who commit fraud may say “just this one time” once the crack in the pipe is open, much like water, it just keeps coming.

How to prevent fraud is the question. Most business owners conduct extensive back ground checks, but because fraud is usually a crime of opportunity, a back ground check may do little to point out who might commit such an act. Volumes have been written about separation of duties and redundant checks and balances, but unless you are in a very large company, such measures are usually too expensive and impractical for most small business owners.

While not fool proof by any means, simply being respectful to employees is a key. Of course, you cannot grant every raise or provide every bit of compensation to everyone who feels they deserve it. However, being nice, and not falling into the trap of being the hated boss can work wonders for moral, and make it less likely for anyone to steal, or at least less likely other employees will turn a blind eye to anyone they notice. Keeping an ear open to employees who are struggling can help you provide assistance before they potentially turn on you.

And oddly enough, forcing employees to take their vacation time is highly recommended. Not only can employees not commit fraud when they are not at work, but if they are diverting funds, such anomalies will suddenly become apparent during the days or weeks they are gone. Not to mention a well-rested employee is less likely to feel the need to stick it to their employer in the first place.

However, much like the cracks in my sprinkler system, fraud is bound to happen sooner or later. I keep a box of sprinkler parts in my garage for just such occasions, and my forensic accounting book sits proudly on my desk just in case I need that too.

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Being a fan in Music and Business

In the music world, fans are everything. They are the bands customers. They buy the albums, concert tickets and merchandise. When a band announces that a member of the band has left the group, it can dramatically affect the fans. The fans have an emotional investment in the band, and changes can affect the way a fan thinks about the band. A typical response may be “I will not buy the next album” or “I will not see them live again.” Some bands can make changes, even drastic ones, and continue on. Some bands discover a member change dooms the band to no longer being relevant to their fans.

In business, it is often the same way. Business relationships are, as we know, built by people. Customers return to do business with the people they feel comfortable with. Employees respond to managers they like. When a change occurs, it has an effect on the business in many ways.

Most business owners and managers know employee turn over is a bad thing. However, usually, the reasoning is the time and cost of hiring, training, and getting new employees up to speed. What is often lost in employee turn over is the dramatic effect it can have on the customer base. The clients, vendors, and other employees are used to dealing with a certain person. They have a relationship that keeps them coming back. When that changes, clients, vendors, and even other employees have no reason to not wander off to other businesses.

One case in point is a place I worked where a particular manager had built up a business unit by very hard work using his personality and doing things his way. He had built his own business with-in the business that employed him. Everyone wanted to be his client, and employees loved working for him. The business owner however, did not see much difference from one employee to the next. So one day, this manager left for a better opportunity. The customers faded away. Employee turn over sky rocketed without a solid manger in place, and the business unit shrank to a shell of its former self. The fans no longer had a reason to support the band.

In another company, there was a manager who ran the entire behind the scenes aspect of the business. When that manager was deemed no longer valuable, a change was made. But it became the equivalent of taking the main support beams out of a building. Everything quickly collapsed. Early in my career I witnessed a business where everything was built around the manager. When the manager left, the business folded with in a few years.

Could these situations have been avoided? Of course. In music, the problem becomes the ego of individual members cause them to think they are better than the sum of the band. In business, I have observed owners take the attitude of “my business is so good, I can deal without them.” The reality is the fans – the business clients, may not share such thoughts and drift away.

In future posts, I’ll share my thoughts on employee retention.

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