Sabian –Tradition & Innovation
A trip to remote Meductic, in New Brunswick, Canada affords an opportunity to visit local landmarks (The world’s longest covered bridge. It’s actually in neighboring Somerville, but still) and get close to nature – sighted on MMR’s recent jaunt: two large deer (alive), one huge moose (quite dead, in the back of a truck), and lots of scenic… um… scenery.
Additionally, the quaint village of just over 150 hearty Canucks is home to the world headquarters and production facilities of Sabian. The manufacturer prides itself on pioneering cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques, while retaining the traditions born of a rich history and legacy.
Resulting from Robert Zildjian’s split from the Avedis Zildjian Co. in 1980 and named after his three children (Sally, Billy, and Andy), Sabian has since become one of the leaders in cymbal design and production, worldwide. “Because Sound Matters,” is the company’s mantra and, judging from the endless list of high profile endorsing artists, it’s clear Sabian’s philosophy has resulted in product that strikes a chord (or, I suppose, a “ping”?) with like-minded players.
“We started the Azco factory up here, making Zilco cymbals, because I felt the pricing was getting so bad that a youngster couldn’t get started on drums with quality cymbals,” says founder and CEO Bob Zildjian of the genesis of the Meductic facility. “We also started boxing cymbals together up here, so that a youngster could get a full set at a manageable price.” Additionally, the Great White North afforded some tangible monetary benefits when it came to importing product outside of North America. “Canada is part of the British Commonwealth, so being up here, we’re clear of any export tariffs to the UK, Ireland, Australia, and so on,” explains Bob.
|Andy, Willi, and Bob Zildjian of Sabian|
“We started production up in Canada in ’68, and began making K. Zildjian cymbals in ’69.
“We took Kerope Zildjian and his two sons up here from Turkey and taught everyone how to hand-hammer cymbals. All those K.s made in Canada during that time period are becoming collectors’ items these days.”
Give the People What They Want
While few companies can lay claim to a legacy as rich as Sabian’s, the company has also made its mark through an eagerness to innovate and shape the future of cymbals, from concept to production. Such forward thinking is evident in the radical O-Zone Crash cymbals, Xplosion Crashes, X-Celerator hi-hats, and many others.
“AAX and HHX cymbals best exemplify modern sound,” explains Bob’s son, and Sabian president, Andy Zildjian. “It’s a proprietary technique that’s done to the cymbal, but at the same time they still start off with the same traditional hammering, heat processing, and all that. At the very end they get a different treatment which helps the sound travel through the cymbal, so that you get more clarity and more dynamics – what we like to call ‘focused dynamics.’ With the HHX it tends to give not only that, but also much better amplification.”
A focus on innovation and product development has been a key component of the Sabian philosophy since day one.
“The willingness to spend the necessary time to properly create cymbals – including those ‘difficult ones,’ such as splash cymbals, thin crash cymbals, Chinese, pangs, and gongs – is what got us into this experimental mode. That’s what this company represents. We developed that into what makes us unique vis-à-vis our competition: we are experimental and progressive, et cetera.”
Give the People What They Want
“At the same time, it wasn’t just they cymbals that we were changing,” notes Andy. “It was also the way that the company deals with consumers and with our retailers. Just for an example, up until the point that we started doing clinics, it was the kind of thing where you had to jump through hoops to make it happen. When we started doing clinics, it was simply a matter of, ‘I bought this amount of cymbals, I’d like this artist on one of these four dates’ and we’d make it happen – it’s paid for, it’s done.”
“That started back in ’83 or ’84,” recalls Bob. “We figured that, at that time, we couldn’t afford the heavy marketing expenses that some of our competitors was using and so forth, so we figured we’d go at it in a grassroots way. What could be more grassroots than some kid in Kankakee, Illinois getting to see his big hero at the local store? It had a hell of an effect.”
Also having an effect was Sabian cymbals’ relative value. “Our pricing is based on production cost values and I think that’s very important because that means that we give greater value for price,” says Wayne Blanchard, senior marketing manager. “Too much value is assigned to brand names, regardless of quality. That’s just not the case with Sabian.”
Active outreach to retailers and end-users continues with a streamlined, highly interactive Web site,www.sabian.com (“One of the three most visited sites for drums in the world,” says Andy), and such initiatives as The Vault Tour, which in the fall of 2009 offered consumers in select cities throughout the U.S. and Canada the opportunity to personally witness hand-hammering and lathing, as well as have one-of-a-kind cymbals made on-site. The Vault Tour became even more interactive this year, as the company leveraged social media platforms to reach a global audience. “We gave drummers at each event the opportunity to upload photos, videos and blog accounts to allow musicians throughout the world to experience the unique events ‘firsthand,’” notes Sabian’s VP of marketing, Stacey Montgomery-Clark.
Fostering and maintaining close relationships with retailers remains a key component of Sabian’s overall agenda, as well. As Nort Hargrove, vice president of manufacturing, states: “When a dealer calls here, he or she will talk to an actual person, right away. If you call looking for me and I’m at my desk, we’ll be having a phone conversation. That’s just how we do things.”