Yamaha Electronic Drums: All Eyes & Ears
Companies generally aren’t crazy about employees spending time surfing the Web, but for Yamaha, it’s okay when Jim Haler is online.
“I monitor and participate in a lot of drum forums,” says the drum product manager. “I like to see how they are using the new products, both ours and the competition’s, and see what other drummers like and don’t like.” Haler doesn’t hesitate to voice his opinion on these forums, including drumsmith.com, which is probably the biggest host of drum chatter. “I get involved in a lot of discussions and everyone knows I’m with Yamaha, so then they in turn can get in touch with me and direct specific questions to me. It’s a great way to get information from all over the world.”
Also, he’s busy with dtxperience.com, the Yamaha interactive site that features information, forums, tips, MP3s, and more, all supporting their electronic drums. Launched four years ago, the site also offers easy-to-understand versions of the electronic drum manuals. “You have these owner’s manuals written in Japanese, then translated into English, and then no one can read them,” he laughs. “We put them in ‘drumspeak’, and make it simple for drum users. ‘If you want this sound, place this knob here, and that knob there” — that sort of thing. And it’s also good for retailers because they don’t have to spend time tech-ing on something they sold last year, and can focus on selling the new products.”
Keeping up with it all is keeping Haler busy these days.
“The electronic market is definitely growing when it seems acoustic drums are flat, and I think this is for several reasons,” he observes. “For younger players, it’s all about technology — today’s kids are the technology generation. You see a kid walking down the street, and he has all these wires sticking all out of him!” So the idea of dealing with the computer aspects of electronic drums is second nature.
Haler also notes the perhaps surprising fact that many churches are gravitating toward electronic drums as well. The drums to sound good with traditional hymns, and then hit a few buttons for the next service, and you have a more contemporary worship rock sound. And of course the bane of every group who plays with a drummer — the drummer’s inclination to get too loud — is easily fixed with a volume knob, something especially appealing for a worship service.
“The other thing we’re finding is that drummers like the ability to practice whenever they want,” he adds. “Add that with the number of home studios who like working with them, studios that might be recording drums at three in the morning, and it all adds to a growing market.”
Yet in defiance to the economic laws off supply and demand, and despite the growth, Yamaha is actually lowering the prices of their electronic drums. They dropped the price on their DTXplorer from $849 to $699, the DTX IV from $1,199 to $999, and the DTX IV Special from $1,599 to $1,499.
“We did some negotiating with Yamaha Japan for better prices,” Haler explains. “When you look at the market, it’s the fastest growing segment. We want to stimulate the market further, and take advantage of that growth for more market share.”
Meanwhile, as to Haler’s job …
“It’s the ultimate job for a drummer that is really into gear,” he says. “I equate being the drum guy at Yamaha to being the car guy at Ferrari. I get to develop new product, educate people about it all, do electronic drum clinics, market and help design ads, and surf Web sites for information about drums. And occasionally I get to hang out with some of the greatest drummers who have ever lived … can’t get much cooler than that!”