Status Cymbals: The State of the Cymbal Market in 2019

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • February 2019
  • Roundtable
• Created: February 18, 2019

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Of all the tools available to help drummers express individuality and personal style, cymbals are remarkably effective (If you can’t hear the difference between a crash hit from Charlie Watts and one from Mike Portnoy, I submit you aren’t really listening). The options are overwhelming – not only are there seemingly even more cymbal suppliers each year from all over the globe, but the styles, treatments, sizes, materials, and appearances available are virtually endless. MMR recently connected with reps from four prominent cymbal vendors to get their take on the trends driving this market segment, practices which are driving sales for savvy retailers, significant recent product introductions, and expectations for 2019.

As it pertains to cymbals, are you seeing sales as up, level, or down when compared to this time last year?

Andy Zildjian: This depends entirely on the country and region. In North America, we have experienced good growth. Internationally, we have some countries with significant growth in 2018, while others were flat or in some cases behind. But overall our international business was also up in 2018.





Victor Filonovich: Overall, look, Zildjian had a great year. Cymbal sales were up over the previous year, especially on our high-end cymbal lines. Our K Sweet lines played a major role in this success. The versatility of these cymbals, combined with our marketing campaign, it resulted in a home run. It was really, really well-received. It was something that the drum community needed and wanted. And the fact that these cymbals are extremely versatile for every style of music was a big success for us.

Andy Morris: Sales of Dream products are up substantially over the past 12 months, including – and especially – in the USA. Reverb reports a 68 percent increase in Dream sales on their site, which we consider an accurate bellwether indicator.

Mark Tirabassi: The acquisition of Wuhan Cymbals and Gongs happened in early September of 2018 for Cardinal Percussion. We are aware of the past sales history under the previous ownership, but feel it’s too early in our tenure to compare sales levels.

For your brand, what are the current “hot” cymbal models or packages?

MT: Our iconic Wuhan “Lion” China Cymbal models remain the anchor of the Wuhan line. Drummers know that if the Wuhan China was Neil Peart’s China cymbal of choice for many years then it has to be spectacular.

AM: Dream remains strong across a wide swath of our offering. 80 percent of our sales is generated from an astounding 46 percent of our cymbal SKUs, meaning nearly half of them sell through very well. This gives dealers great confidence in stocking Dream because they will make the return on the real estate. Bliss always remains strong as does the Dark Matter series followed by the Energy series. Our Ignition pack of B20 bronze that MAPs out at $389 is also a very strong seller.

VF: In addition to the K Sweet, Christian, the K Custom Special Drys did well also. So we’re still seeing that trend going for dry cymbals. So there is an audience out there that’s attracted to our dry cymbals, which we love. And it also did very well for us. So you kind of have two different styles here. You have something that’s extremely versatile in the K Sweets and you have something that’s dry for those players that are looking for something that’s not so bright, that’s kind of dirty and dry and when you hit it, it crashes and the sustain just drops that.

AZ: Our professional B20 cymbal lines, specifically HHX and AAX, have been very strong. Our new HHX Evolution pre pack has been a winner!

What are some recent or upcoming cymbal releases that you think will be impactful?

VF: We expanded our FX line – which really stands for special effects. So it’s just a different array of cymbals. We just launched our FX Stacks because stacks are a huge thing right now with drummers. Our stacks are sold in a pair with an exclusive Zildjian cymbal mount and that cymbal mount actually allows the consumer to set it up, put it right on their stand, either in a stack version or a hi-hat version. That’s what that mount allows it to do. And then you could get a quick staccato sound out it. It creates that alternative sound that drummers want, right? They always want to be a little different than everybody else and they want to speak their own voice. So these stacks play a big role in that. And again, there’s five different sizes, so you get as small as 8 inches and as big as 16 inches. And the starting price point for the 8-inch is $99. And the 16-inch is $169. So we’re really hitting that sweet spot where consumers are looking for more of an impulse buy where they could pick this up and start creating different sounds for themselves.

In addition to that, we also expanded our K line. So, again, coming off the heels of the success of the K Sweets, we’re adding another set of hi-hats into the K Sweets, and we’re also now including K Cluster Crashes. The K Cluster Crash is different cymbals, three sizes. And when you hit it, it just gives it a dirty sound, almost like an alternative-special-effects sound that you get. So drummers will be really attracted to that where, again, it’s creating a different voice for them, something that they’re not used to. And those have done really well.

AM: We chose not to release any new models at NAMM as they get lost in the noise a bit. Plus, our cymbal brand itself is new to a large swath of dealers, so we are not dependent on new models necessarily to drive interest. That being said, we have released a fantastic new series of events. Based on user feedback, we have launched the Dream Drum hang which creates cooperative events in recording studios across the nation, brining studio engineers, drummers, Dream artists ,and dealers together in a free-form atmosphere to play, experience, and choose Dream cymbals in context, while networking and learning why these are the best recording cymbals on the market today.

AZ: We just launched a newly transformed AAX line at the Winter NAMM show, with new Thin and Medium Crashes, Thin, Medium and Heavy Rides and Thin and Medium Hats that we are very excited about. We made significant investment in R&D and marketing for these and the response so far has been overwhelming.

MT: The release of our entry level Wuhan 457 “ROCK” series will definitely turn some heads. We reduced the lathing in the center portion of the cymbal and replaced it with a more complex hammering pattern. The sonic improvements are quite noticeable when compared to its predecessor. I really wish my first drum set came with cymbals that sounded this good.

Have you noticed any significant trends when it comes to the cymbal market – either on the vendor side (materials used, designs, manufacturing methods, et cetera) or the consumer side (buying habits, preferences)?

MT: Large sizes are definitely in vogue. We are seeing dealers leaning towards our larger 20” and 21” Medium Thin Crash Rides as well as our new 15” Medium Hi Hats. The dealers know that many of today’s drummers are looking for that slightly gritty/ washy sound.






AM: It looks like our pioneering Dark Matter process is gaining traction with imitators, so I guess that is a sideways compliment, although most imitations are just that – cosmetically similar but sonically different. Big hi hats are still in, but smaller rides are gaining ground.

AZ: Consumer preferences are clearly moving from dark, dry cymbals to brighter and more versatile cymbals. The new bright trend also demands more complexity in the sound – a departure from typical bright cymbals. This is a trend we are addressing with our new AAX models. In addition, there is a demand for old school, handcrafted instruments by drummers who are constantly in search of their own unique sound. The trend toward larger sized cymbals is also still strong.

VF: Going back to the FX line, we’re noticing a lot of special-effects cymbals are doing really well. Again, drummers are looking for that alternative, unique sound that they want to add to their kit. So our line of special effects – our FX cymbals – those have just done really, really well for us. Our Trash Crashes, those have done substantially well for us these past couple of years. And we’re noticing that with a trend where consumers are now, as I mentioned, looking for a different sound, a different voice. So they’re attracted more to those special-effects sounds.

What are some best practices enacted by dealers who are especially successful selling cymbals?

AZ: Taking the time to really understand what their customers are asking for is crucial. This requires listening to what the customer is asking for, rather than just selling something to them because they have it in stock. That builds long term relationships and trust. Successful retailers also invest in product training for their sales staff. At SABIAN, we provide this for no charge to our dealers − the only investment they need to make is their staff’s time. Finally, successful dealers invest in proper displays for their cymbals. If a cymbal is not accessible and set up for the consumer to try, it won’t sell.

VF: Consumers want information instantaneously. A lot of successful dealers are the ones that do video content, testimonials, landing pages, who are linking up their store with Instagram, social media accounts. That’s where I’m really seeing a lot of the uptick there for those dealers. And we work with dealers to try to help them, where we have all their information online, so it’s accessible for everybody, and just tying it in with our marketing launch.

AM: Engage the Dream cymbals recycling program. It costs dealers and customers nothing and does one thing really well: it drives drummers into brick and mortar stores. Our top dealers are all consistently promoting the program and seeing big results. Put our cymbals up against any other brand, any model, and let the customer decide with their ears.

MT: Dealers that look at gross profit margin are smart. You can make a bunch of cymbal sales in a hurry if you’re not making any profit, but that won’t keep the lights on. You obviously need a selection and knowledgeable staff – that’s a given. The dealer that can actually get the staff to interact with the customer and not just hide behind the counter has the advantage.

Lastly: expectations for the cymbal market in 2019?

MT: For Wuhan it will be a growing/restructuring year under the new ownership of Cardinal Percussion. We believe our cymbal making peers in this industry all do an amazing job. So our expectations for the cymbal market, as a whole, mirror our thoughts about our peers. It will be amazing.

VF: Well, again, we’re looking forward to a great year. I mean, just coming off the success of our K Sweet last year and now winning the awards for the Stacks and for the Clusters, that’s going to be a great opportunity for us for this year. It’s listening to the market and it’s really answering the needs of the drummers throughout the world. So we’re looking forward to a great year. We’re going to keep coming out with compelling products and, again, answering what the drummers want in the world when it comes to styles, trends, and different kinds of cymbal sounds.

AM: I think the U.S. market will undergo significant change in the coming year. For Dream we are expecting a positive growth year. Given our new distribution deal with KMC Music, Dream can focus on brand development, and networking relationships while they expertly handle the sales and fulfillment side.

AZ: Hopefully the industry can find ways in which to attract more consumers to get into drumming. If that’s the case, there’s growth for everyone because the category will grow. If not, then we look forward to continuing to steal market share. Either way, we’re expecting continued growth in 2019!


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