Pearl Drums’ ‘Trickle-Down’
…all lines benefit from high-end’s cutting edge.
At Pearl Drums, research and development is a two-part process: first, use cutting-edge technology and the best materials to create the best drums possible; then the moment those components are included in a high-end kit, find a way to create similar versions of those features to enhance mid- and entry-level products.
“At this year’s NAMM, you’re definitely going to see examples of us embracing the technology of the Masterworks line and transferring it to other lines,” says Pearl’s Jeff Ragland. “I think many great products begin with the high-end. Our high-end technology is focused on our flagship lines, technology that the working drummer and professional appreciate. Then it all trickles down.”
As an example, Ragland cites Pearl’s shell technology, which was created for the high-end, but has found its way down to entry-level drums. “We figure out what works and transfer it to our other lines as quickly as possible. Like our Superior Shell Technology – it’s the same shells for Forum and for Masterworks drums. We hear stories all the time about the drums being in car wrecks, or being submerged in water, and not coming apart. They last and produce a great tone.”
|Taiko: Latest Health Craze to Benefit MI Market?
Pearl’s Jeff Ragland tells that one of the other surprises this year is the sudden increase in Taiko drums sales. This is in part assisted by the high-profile use of Pearl’s Taiko drums by the San Jose Taiko group, which dates back to 1973 and is said to be the most popular organization of its kind in North America. The group also works closely with Pearl in product development.But Taiko is being promoted elsewhere too – in fitness and health pages of the nation’s magazines and newspapers. “It’s an impending craze,” Ragland says.
The ancient Japanese art of movement and drumming goes back more than 1,400 years, and was used by the military to inspire the troops and intimidate the enemy. Fast-forward to today, and Taiko is now on the verge of becoming the latest health craze.
According to taiko.com, there are 30 such groups nationwide (and over 8,000 in Japan). They exist not only in trendsetting places like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but classes are also popping up in St. Louis, Austin, Fresno, and Bridgeton, New Jersey, among many other markets. Participants learn choreography and basic drumming technique, and proceed to pivot, lunge, leap, and bang their way to an exhausting workout. Most important to the trade, the combination ballet/martial arts discipline requires drums that can cost as much as $3,000.
For retailers interested in servicing this market, go to www.taiko.com. Also, don’t forget the accessories required – most instructors require earplugs, so stock plenty of those.
At the NAMM Show, Ragland says they will be showing more special-edition kits, especially in the Reference line. Style-wise “everyone wants to be an individual” and have a unique kit, and special limited-production models fill that need. “Like last year we had Masterworks drums in what we call ‘Shimmer of Oz’ and we had so many inquiries about it we offered it in the Reference series as a special-edition model. They sold out so quickly.” Ragland adds that a white-on-white Reference kit with red gaskets instead of black got great feedback at the recent PASIC, and those were produced in limited quantities as well.
The Vision series – which Ragland says will get a lot of attention at NAMM – also has benefited from the company’s “trickle down” philosophy. “The combination of woods used in [the higher-end drums] is something we’re trying to make available to all drummers. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a Masterworks kit.”
The entry-level Export is “a name that is easily recognizable – so many famous drummers probably started on an Export kit,” he observes. The Forum’s Ready-Set-Go technology allows parents to get their kids drumming right out of the box, which he says has tremendous appeal. Also at NAMM, they’ll be Forum models with features generally associated with higher-priced lines as yet another example of the trickle-down strategy.
Ragland is quick to agree that the competition continues to increase in both quality and quantity, particularly in the mid- and entry-level markets, but says Pearl is able to maintain its strong position. “When you get into all those names, all these new kits that are popping up everywhere, it tells you first and foremost that the drum market is great,” he says. “But what separates us is our workmanship and quality. So many of those other names have drums and hardware made from the same company overseas. They are just piecing things together.”
Ragland says he understands some might feel a trend away from the high-end to the middle-level, as drum makers’ ability to create better drums for less money is arguably causing them to be victims of their success. However, he’s not seeing a movement away from their high end at all. New features, colors, and innovations aimed at satisfying professionals continue to make higher-priced kits attractive to those who can afford it, he observes.
Beyond the Kit
“Our Traveling Congas are hugely popular,” Ragland says. “It’s easy to take to the park and you see people out with them.” He adds that the single biggest-selling product Pearl has had over the last year is the Q-Popper Timbale Snare. Also their Brazilian line of percussion products, featuring bright yellows and greens, has found a ready market.
In general, Ragland sees hand percussion continuing to gain strength and grow. First, it’s good to have in a store because it’s practically an impulse buy. Drummers are always looking for new sounds, and the products are easy to pick up and add to whatever they have already. “And the U.S. market is getting bigger in this , with those who are coming to the country bringing in a different [musical] flavors. The Hispanic demographic is growing and hand percussion is going to continue to get bigger and bigger – I don’t see any way that is going to slow down.”
Their Marching Drum line marches on as well – the Championship line, particularly the FFX models in maple, have been well received.
With all Pearl products, artist relations plays an important role. “If you saw Jimmy Page playing a Les Paul, that’s the guitar you want to play,” he says. “When you see the best drummers of the world playing the best drums, those are the ones you want. We have the best drummers choosing to play Pearl, and that speaks highly of the brand.”