Staccato Outburst: Snare Drum Sales, Trends, and Best Practices in 2018

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • November 2018
  • Roundtable
• Created: November 5, 2018

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It’s the 2 and 4 that provides the “snap” for the backbeat in popular music, the defining sound of the classic military marching beat, and an integral catalyst behind any number of mosh pits, dance halls, and swinging lounges throughout the decades. While there are any number of varieties of snare drum, for the purposes of this article, we’re not talking about marching, piccolo, tarol, tabor, or anything else – we’re focusing on the “regular old” kit snare.

MMR recently connected with representatives from four major players in the snare drum market today to learn what they feel is driving consumer interest in 2018, how important artist endorsement relationships are as a brand’s marketing tool, what sales methods successful snare retailers are embracing, and what new products are on the horizon.

Read on to learn all there is to know about this important segment within the larger “drums & percussion” segment of the MI world…

What trends or preferences have you been noticing – either with respect to players, dealers, or suppliers – when it comes to snare drums lately?

Zach Matook: For us, we’re noticing a resurrection of earlier custom styles that were really popular back in 2008-12! A lot of barbershop wrap finishes, striping, wood burned, et cetera. In terms of sonic preferences, we’re also doing a lot of metal shell snares – particularly brass and aluminum.

Steven Fisher: Metal snare drums are still more popular than wood snare drums. We also see more drummers using deeper snare drums, especially for side snares. For dealers, those I see selling more snare drums are the dealers with the greatest selection and knowledgeable sales staffers who can educate and advise customers on the products.

William F. Ludwig III: Classic ‘60s sound is very much in vogue. This includes thin-walled maple snares and classic sound metal shells.

Gary Ingraffia: Now more than ever, drummers have an amazing amount of choices when it comes to snare drums. A number independent drum companies have emerged over the last few years offering some very unique, higher-priced snares, and, in my opinion, invigorating the market for premium products. Even though the majority of snare units sold are below $300 street price, higher-end snares are seeing a significant increase in popularity.

For your own brand – or, in Gary’s case, brands – what are your current “hot” snare models?

WFL: Our Generations shell 1728N maple snares have been very popular, along with the 1909 Aluminum snares. Both have sold well in 5.5”x14” and 6.5”x14” sizes. The classic sound of both instruments seems to appeal to drummers young and old.

GI: For Mapex, the Black Panther Design Lab snare drums have really become a hot seller, with three different models that have very distinct sound characteristics. The 14”x 5” Equinox has a 6-ply Maple shell and single flanged hoops, the 14”x 6” Heartbreaker is an 8-ply African Mahogany snare with Sonic Saver hoops, and the Cherry Bomb, available in 14” x 6”and 13” x 5.5” is 8-ply Cherry with Sonic Saver hoops. These snare drums are the best that Mapex offers and the first products in the Design Lab series of instruments. For SONOR, the SQ2 Custom snare drum line has taken off in 2018 due in large part to the new 3D configurator that was launched in late 2017. Drummers can build their snare from Birch, Beech, Maple, or Acrylic. Each wood shell choice is available in 4-shell thickness and an amazing array of sizes and finishes and exotic veneers. End users have no hesitation spending a premium on a quality product they can customize.

SF: We have new wood drums for Recording Custom and Tour Custom, which we launched in October and will arrive here in the U.S. in January 2019. There’s an 8” x 14” model that’s an incredible drum, in itself, as a deep-sounding side snare, or for those Recording Custom fans who want matching snares for their sets. We’ve seen the demand for deeper drums – especially side snares – and the 8” Recording Custom is a winner. The Recording Custom metal drums (stainless steel, aluminum, and brass) are doing well, and our Stage Custom Birch snare drum is a great value that sells very well.

ZM: Element Aluminum and Goliath Bell Brass. These are both USA series snares that you can choose size/ hardware, color, et cetera. We simply can’t keep the Goliath in stock; people LOVE it and it’s only $899.99. Otherwise, the Alpha Aluminum (the Element’s little brother) does very well, as it’s a single spec import snare with high-end features (die-cast hoops, 40-strand snare wires) for only $399.99!

How important are artist endorsement relationships for your brand?

ZM: Incredibly important, as we pride ourselves on fostering some of the closest manufacturer/artist relationships in the business. Through positive word of mouth, we’ve been able to meet so many fantastic drummers who hear about how we handle endorsements, communicate with our drummers, and consistently meet their needs. When you really connect with these artists and discover what it is that drives and inspires them, it creates a sense of trust that really helps propel the relationships and, in turn, the brand.

 

SF: We credit our Drum Artists for the 51 years of success we’ve enjoyed at Yamaha Drums, and hold them in the highest regard. Our top Artists focus on sound, as well as expressiveness, versatility, et cetera, which is why at Yamaha, the sound is our priority. If it were not for our Artists, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We solicit their input from the beginning, during the concept phase (not just after we’ve made the drums), and translate it into the products you see and hear today.

GI: Our relationships with our artists for both SONOR and Mapex continue to be an important part of our marketing efforts. We want to always be sure we align ourselves with people that are playing our products because they choose to. These artists are our best brand ambassadors, sharing their love for playing and the instruments they play to an audience that connects with them on a level that we, as a brand, alone may not be able to. I believe if utilized properly, it can be a brand’s most important marketing asset.

WFL: Endorsements are very important if done right. It must be understood by the endorser that first and foremost it is a “partnership.” Endorsers must understand that they need to contribute to the brand and not just look to the company for special pricing and clinic exposure. When an endorser understands this and works to help promote the company, it is like having a brand ambassador talking up the product at every stop of a tour, as well as at conventions. It can really add credibility to your brand when support comes from someone using your instruments day in and day out. I feel they are still a very valuable marketing tool when both parties are working together to help each other.

Have you noticed any particular “best practices” when it comes to MI retailers who are exceptionally successful in promoting, displaying, and selling snares?

GI: With social media becoming as intertwined as it is in many people’s daily lives, I have found that retailers that produce frequent, high quality, great sounding videos and related content have been extremely successful in growing their snare business. The opposite effect has occurred when this content is not up to par. It’s very similar to a bad experience with service in a restaurant or retail store: it will take some work to get that customer back.

WFL: Training is the number one differentiator separating the best from the rest. Those dealers that train their employees on the products they are selling, sell more product. This includes not only the details of the instrument, but the story behind the brand. We try hard to provide our dealers with all the information and support they need for effective training.

ZM: Videos – more and more videos! It’s the number-one consumer practice when in the research process before purchase. The best retailers are making product videos about these drums, so people can really hear the product and get as much genuine feedback and professional input as they can before they go ahead and buy.

SF: The dealers we see who are successful stay consistent with our philosophy of providing an exceptional experience for customers. They are not only providing an exceptional experience in-store – with models ready to try, knowledgeable sales staff, and responsive service – but also reflecting that experience online with helpful, valuable information, as well as service and support.

Do you have any recent or upcoming snare models that you’d like to let MMR readers know about?

ZM: Copper… that’s all we will say for now.

SF: We will ship the two new Recording Custom birch models and two new Tour Custom maple models to match the series’ colors in January 2019. We’ll also have snare drums for a new series of sets we will launch in 2019.

GI: As mentioned earlier, the Mapex Black Panther Design Lab line of snare drums are a step away from what Mapex has done in the past. Mapex has taken the “sound first” approach, using its knowledge in drum building, to design these sounds. This same “Concept Hybrid” approach was used in the creation of the Design Lab drum kits as well.

WFL: We will be introducing several new models at the upcoming NAMM show in January, including 8”x14” and 5.5”x13” 1728N maple models along with many new finishes.

Expectations for the snare drum market in 2019?

GI: The snare drum market will become even more crowded than it is now in 2019. I do feel that we will continue to see the average selling price and margins go up, as well as an increased interest in the premium pricing slot of $700 and above.

WFL: Although the overall acoustic drum market has struggled over the last several years, I think the future is bright. Snare drums are like an artist’s canvas… you can always use another! I see drummers at gigs with four-to-six or more snares in a case, depending on the music, the gig, indoors/outdoors, or just what they are feeling at that moment. Quality, affordable snare drums will always be in demand.

SF: Drummers are into creating new sounds and enhancing the texture of their snares for specific musical needs. While today’s market is full of great accessories, there is also a growing demand for the perfect snare sound that’s likely to continue into the next year. As we expand our catalog, we’ll be producing snare drums with enough variety and versatility to give drummers the range and freedom to make music according to their own sound.

ZM: I’d like to think we’ll continue to see a focus on metal shell snares; they are incredibly popular at the moment. For SJC, we will continue to focus on the customer and their “custom” needs, but we’ll always be looking at the market and figuring out what we should do next to stay competitive!

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