Welcome to Behind the Backline, the podcast where we chat with merchants, brands and industry professionals in the musical instrument, pro audio and event technology space about their products, services, industry trends, stories, and more. Join us as we dig into the stories behind our favorite backline gear.
Most people who go into business have an idea they want to try and make a valiant effort and are aware that things are either moving or not moving. Most people need to put in the work to watch the seed they plant grow. Every once in awhile, though, it seems God and fate are in the driver’s seat and you just come along for the ride.
That’s what happened with John, the snot-nosed kid from Tennessee. Poor guy!
ONCE UPON A FAMILIAR STORY…
The story begins like others you’ve heard: boy meets guitar, boy hates the sound guitar makes, boy sees a lot of guitars, boy breaks up with lots of guitars, boy thinks he can do better himself, boy makes snot-nosed comment in one store, boy gets “scolded” with a random opportunity to apprentice with a guitar shop owner who teaches him the ways of guitar building, and so on. Stop me if you’ve heard that one.
Wait, you haven’t? Well, shhhhhhhhhhhh…..
THE FAMILIAR PART ENDS, FATE CHAOTICALLY TAKES OVER
After leaving his last job as a guitar finisher and frantically wondering how he was going to support a new family, one of John’s customers called him up and insisted that he help him with fixing up his guitar. Seriously, insisted. To the point of offering to buy him the tools he needed while on the way to his house that day serious. No seriously, like shut the front door serious. (I digress)
That single rogue customer that stalked John to his garage started to snowball. First one, then another, and another, and soon we end up to present day where John now runs Bluesman Vintage Guitars as a retail, repair and build shop just outside of Nashville in Spring Hill. This shop has never seen an ounce of paid advertising beyond normal organic Facebook and Instagram activity. He even builds and works on major player guitars and amps, including Aaron Tippin, John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls), and Rascal Flatts.
I mean, seriously, how else do you explain a snowball effect without marketing and built on a reputation that you constructed as an employee of another shop?! C’mon! Why can’t we all get our fate handed to us?! OMG! (I need a drink)
ABOUT OUR GUEST
John Scott, founder and owner of Bluesman Vintage Guitars (not a cancer by the way), joins us in this episode to share his incredible story of how his early years in bands and learning how to build guitars eventually led to him establishing his first business in his guitar and growing it into what it is today, where they work on guitars for players he grew up listening to, buying the building they operate out of and how they are already looking to expand the physical space because their growth isn’t stopping.
SHAMELESS PLUG: As a side note, John and I found out during this call that we both knew some of the same people out of Madison and Nashville, including up and coming female country artist Kirstie Kraus and her friend and former guitar player Jacob Vance.
Let’s face it: online retail store options are pretty cut and dry. Predictable discounts and sales. The same standard website design and layout. The same old shopping cart experience (unless you’re Amazon). And most online music gear stores aren’t much different.
But there’s one online store that hopes to change all that. Less than a year old, Capital Music Gear is hoping to bring a couple of unique and welcome disrupting features to the online music store: heart and help. Let me explain.
Capital Music Gear (CMG) is built with nonprofit music organizations in mind. Every sale on their site gives 1% to the music non-profit of your choice, assuming that organization is registered with CMG and listed on their site’s checkout process as an option.
You also have the option to write-in a non-profit you think should benefit and CMG will attempt to reach out and connect with that organization. Last, if you don’t have a preference, you can let CMG decide which nonprofit your 1% gift goes to.
While most online music gear stores carry mostly major brands, CMG goes one step farther. Sure they carry some big names too, but they have a secondary mission to carry more of the smaller brands on the market, both nationally and internationally available or manufactured.
One example is Flattley Guitar Pedals from the UK. Paul Flattley, when we interviewed him in Episode #16 of Behind the Backline, mentioned he was looking for a way to break into the US market. Through our mutual connections, Behind the Backline was able to connect Paul and Cory to get Flattley’s Pedals into the US.
A music store that helps smaller brands grow sales and create awareness: how cool is that?! :)
As a customer, your activity doesn’t go unnoticed either. For every review you leave, CMG will give you a 10-15% discount on your next order, depending on the type of review you leave (video or written). Who gives you discounts for reviewing right on their store? That might be an industry (or global?) first!
You can learn more on their Discounts for Feedback page.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Cory Borgen, owner and founder of CapitalMusicGear.com, joins us in this episode to share with us his background in music, his career experience in retail, how that transitioned over to e-commence, what is first NAMM experience was like (especially meeting one of his guitar heroes, Brian Wampler: Episode #12!), and what it was like to finally be able to merge his love of music and the industry with his expertise in retail and online commerce.
DISCLAIMER: No cats were harmed in the making of this episode. But one was seen in the background of our video chat.
Fuzz War. Cats. Absolute Destruction. Cats. Apocalypse. Cats. Interstellar Overdriver. Cats. Evil Filter. Cats. Robot. Cats. Supersonic Fuzz Gun. You get the picture (of cats in your head).
This conversation was anything but your standard run of the mill podcast discussion. Oh, and besides the overuse of the word “Cats”, all of those are the names of DBA’s guitar pedals. NOT methods of global domination (or are they?! *wink*)
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Death By Audio was started in 2002 as a guitar effects pedal company after Oliver started tinkering with new sounds and ideas for his own bands. He started making pedals for other people, and over time the pedals got more and more crazy and more and more in demand. The rest, as they say, is history.
As for the name of the company, rest assured no one died or fell victim to any of the pedals DBA makes. Rather, as Oliver explains, it portrays the passion they have to build the best pedals they can. They live by the audio products and they’ll die by the audio products. You can’t get anymore passionate than that!
WHAT’S UP WITH THE NAMES?!
As Oliver explains, the names are derived from what the pedals actually sound like. Their team is driven to associate super awesome descriptive names to the pedals so players will know (almost) immediately what to expect when testing and buying new pedals.
While Fuzz War will obviously be a fuzz pedal, I personally am afraid to plug anything into an Apocalypse or Absolute Destruction.
The Evil Filter I am intrigued by. What magical sorcery will come of my quarter-inch plug when I engage this beast?!
MATT’S DRUM AH-HA MOMENT
Upon hearing about Matt’s drum background, Oliver immediately threw him a bone to explain how effect pedals can also be awesome as drum trigger effects too. What a surprise concept that now seems obvious in hindsight!
Must. Annihilate. Drums.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Oliver Ackermann, founder of Death By Audio, joins us in this episode to talk about how he started DBA, his experience with teaching himself how to solder and work with electronic components, what it’s like to go from building pedals for himself (by himself) to working with a team and building pedals for some of the top bands and artists in the market today, and why you’ll see the occasional cat on their Instagram gallery.
First of all, 3 drummers on a podcast don’t make a right. But they do make the occasional awful pun and have lots of fun! Hell they even rhyme sometimes! And to top it all off, 2 of them are bald and one resembles Andy Samberg! Lonely Island anyone?
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK (OR INSTRUMENT) BY ITS COVER
Sometimes a product comes along that may not give you any clue as to what it is or does upon first encountering it. Sometimes you need to spend some time learning about it or trying it out to see if it works for you. Yes, this is one of those products.
In a creative quest to figure out new sounds and new ways of producing those sounds on an acoustic drum kit setup, sometimes the product you initially pictured doesn’t end up being the “unique” item that comes out on the other end.
It’s at this very moment that I now realize what I described above is not a trip to the bathroom (my full apologies), but actually a new type of percussion instrument that, ironically enough, produces the same sound as an 808 hand clap sample.
Hip hop and R&B artists, your next trendy gear has just arrived: introducing the Junk Hat by Baldman Percussion!
At first glance, the Junk Hat might scare you. But don’t fret! Its unique design and construction is actually intentional and has seen roughly 9 months of prototyping and development.
The Junk Hat looks like a traditional hi-hat, but offers a new live and studio sound experience unlike anything currently on the market. To explain it like a hi-hat, the top “cymbal” is made of wood and the bottom “cymbal” is a hand-hammered metal disk. In between the two are a collection of chains that create a reverse hi-hat sound, or a backward swish. When closed and played, it actually resembles the sound created by an 808 hand clap audio sample.
NAMM: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS?!
2019 was the junk hat’s first time to the NAMM show in Anaheim, California, and while it created a lot of interesting looks and blank stares at the beginning, it eventually became a popular item, with several bigger names stopping by to try it out, having that light bulb moment and then excitedly asking where they could get one!
ABOUT OUR GUESTS
Mike McKee and Danny Young, owners of Baldman Percussion (yes they are both bald and drummers), join us in this episode to talk about how they met, where the inspiration for a product as unique as the junk hat came from, how the response has been from other players, including Stephen Colbert’s house drummer and the drummer for SNL, and how they’ve used the junk hat in their own playing to spruce up their performances.
DISCLAIMER: YES, this is our one-year anniversary episode! NO, this is not our last episode. NO, this guest does not kill podcasts! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Everyone personal story and every business story comes from humble beginnings of some kind. This story, like many others, could be chalked up to a supportive family, a motivational spouse, and a desire to never work in a grocery store again.
A MAGICAL STARTUP!
Starting a business in any industry is not an easy feat, but starting a business in the music and entertainment industry in a smaller regional area almost requires you to be a sexy magician! But if you know what you’re doing, have the ability to network, build connections, build your list of people you prefer to work with, establish a reputation in the industry as the local production company that will do things others won’t, and put in the long hours day and night, anything is possible!
MASTER OF SEXY EVENT LOGISTICS
An event production company that has a lot of moving parts and several employees can definitely handle the day-to-day tasks of mastering event logistics as part of a team effort.
But apparently if you do it right, a single entrepreneur can juggle employees, manage contractors, balance the books, order the rentals, and drive the equipment, time and talent necessary to pull a production off with flying colors, all while running on a few hours of sleep. Who is this magical beast?!
PROVING THAT ANY BUSINESS CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SEXY NEW TECHNOLOGY?!
While most companies would avoid this, Chance sees the use of drones and drop shipping methods a fun and efficient way of getting their employees and contractors to event production sites in record time, all for a low flat rate. Take that Amazon!
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Jason Chance, owner of Chance Productions, joins us in this episode to talk about where the passion for this line of work came from, his business move from Rockford, Illinois to Madison, Wisconsin, how his dad, grandma, and spouse came to be among his most vocal and supportive backers, what happened once they actually let him out of college, and what it’s like to be “sexy” in the event production industry.
WATCH THE ORIGINAL INTERVIEW!
This episode was recorded in February 2019 in front of a single-person (Logan) studio audience in downtown Madison, Wisconsin at Brix Events Meeting & Event Venue. You can watch the original Facebook Live video on our YouTube channel.
The overuse of the word “sexy” in these show notes was intentional and based on the content and context of this interview.
Chance Productions employee Logan was not harmed in the making of this episode or Facebook Live video.
No employees are ever drop-shipped by drones. This is an awful joke and the author needs a scolding.
As a drummer for 25 years, I feel it’s fairly safe to say this: for years, the concept of the bass drum pedal has remained fairly unchanged. Aside from a few variations on the chain drive, such as the bike chain, fabric strap, or other materials used for the strap, and perhaps some enhancements to the spring mechanism, the overall design and operation of a drum pedal has been pretty consistent and trustworthy.
(Cue the action movie music) UNTIL. NOW.
The Bass Drum Pedal. REIMAGINED.
Have you ever stopped to think that those chains, straps and/or springs could be getting in the way of your performance? Maybe they are creating unnecessary friction or (in the event you drum barefoot like me, sue me) unnecessarily ripping open too many toes? Damn you bike chains and teeth gear wheels!
What if I told you I came across a drum pedal that relied on the invisible repelling power of magnets to do the exact same work?
What if I told you that a bass drum pedal existed that was virtually maintenance-free because there are no springs to wear and break?
What if I told you your toes, socks and shoes would be safe from any kind of gear teeth like a tiger ripping into its prey? What if you thought I was crazy for comparing drumming to a carnivore? (Well played, my friend)
It's Magic! Err… Science!
The current single bass pedal model available, the 3XF, is the result of years of testing, experimenting, playing, learning, and improving. It relies on 3 strategically placed magnet sets that control the overall feel of your pedal, how fast your pedal board and beater react to your motions, and the throw and return repulsion.
The traditional chain or strap has been replaced by a hinged bar between the pivoting beater assembly and the pedalboard. My toes are happy just looking at that!
About Our Guest
Michael Van Dyk, owner and inventor of Drumnetics and the 3XF, joins us in this episode to talk about the years he held onto an idea he had regarding the use of magnetism in a bass drum pedal configuration, how those ideas finally drove him to start Drumnetics in 2006, and how the last 13 years have been a wild ride of learning how to run a business, learning how to design, develop, machine and produce his pedals, and gaining a legion of players and fans as a reward for his growth and success in making the pedal dream a reality.
For most of us, we will never be directly involved with the production of a major television production. Sad but true. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hear the stories from someone who is and use our imagination to transport ourselves to those stages, right?
While most every day people probably haven’t heard of CenterStaging, there’s a pretty good chance that the majority of people have seen their work and gear.
The Greatest Support on Earth
Based out of Los Angeles, with a more recently opened location in New York, CenterStaging is one of the industry’s premier rehearsal and backline facility. Known for their state-of-the-art studios and extensive collection of musical instruments, CenterStaging’s backline gear is practically famous on its own, having been used on just about every major television show, including the GRAMMY Awards, Academy Awards, MDA Telethon, Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards, several Presidential Inaugurations, the Olympics, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, The Voice, Jimmy Kimmel, and many, many more.
Rooted in the Classics
As you’ll learn during our discussion in this episode, CenterStaging got its start in the 1970’s, paving its way with early variety and music shows, including Solid Gold, Soul Train, Midnight Special and American Bandstand.
East Coast Expansion
In May of 2017, The LA-based company expanded its footprint by opening CenterStaging New York to provide stages and studios access at the highest levels of service and an extensive array of backline inventory to the east coast.
About Our Guests
Joe Muller, Business Manager for the New York location, and Jim Whitfield, who works as part of the show department in the New York location, join us in this episode to talk about the story of how CenterStaging came to be, what’s it’s like to work with their clientele, and what they are doing that makes their brand a staple in the production industry.
For most people who come into contact with drums, they have a very basic understanding of the relationship between a drummer and his tools. And the case is the same for some drummers too, who only enjoy the basic level of understanding when playing and performing live.
But for some, where the art of drum building and performance is serious business, they have a zen-like passion and obsession with the science, the materials, the sound, and the craftsmanship that goes into each finished drum.. For some, the deep connection between a drum and its builder can be a beautiful state of mind that most people will never understand or experience.
Another Reason for Jam Sessions
As I learned more about how much I didn’t know about my drums in 25 years of playing, a single drum can be played by 12 different people and reveal 12 different characters based on the connection it has with each player. The sound that is heard from behind the drum is entirely different from what the audience experiences, so if you build drums, remember to take a cue from Carolina and take a drum to an open mic or jam session and experience the sound of your “children” from the audience’s point of view versus from the drummer’s point of view.
Hand-Crafted to the Core
As you’ll come to hear during this episode, Carolina Drumworks isn’t your typical custom drum shop, where using all the standard machines and techniques to build the core product and then putting an unique spin on it to make it their own is more often the norm that not. In fact, Carolina lives in a very small shop, too small for most machines, including the finishing and spray machines (which they do not own). This allows their process to maximize the amount of hands-on time with each drum, forming a deeper relationship with each drum from bare materials to finished masterpiece.
About Our Guest
Jeff Hankin, owner of Carolina Drumworks, joins us in this episode to talk about how he was inspired to deepen his relationship with his drums by going from just a decades-long player to building his first drum using a shell he found on eBay. To this day, he prefers building one of a kind masterpieces for drummers who are much better than him, knowing that his perfect drums are the best they can be for the best players in the world.
How do you make the drummer from Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire and Jewel drop his jaw? All it takes is three simple steps:
1.) Work for a legendary drum brand for 5 years
2.) Observe and see where their process could stand to make improvements
3.) Start your own drum brand to make those changes happen
Easy right? 😃
Independent Drum Lab, or INDeDrum Lab, was started exactly in that way three years ago. Using his engineering background and his experience while working with one of the most legendary drum brands in existence, founder Josh Allen was able to bring together a better way of designing and constructing drums, resulting in a more superior sound, higher quality materials and happier drummers.
About Our Guest
Josh Allen, Founder of Independent Drum Lab, joins us in this episode to share his story of his engineering background, how he worked and learned alongside the great team at Ludwig, and why he decided to take his new knowledge, ideas and ambitions and start his own drum manufacturing business.
Have you ever been to a concert and noticed the sexy, awesome band logo or custom artwork that the drummer has on his front bass drum head? Have you ever wondered how they do that or where they get it from?
You haven’t? Well, tough noodles. I’m still going to tell you. Be prepared to be amazed!
DrumART has been around since the early days of the Internet, having now designed and/or printed over 50,000 custom bass drum heads for drummers of all ages and levels, from beginner to internationally famous. Hell, even I’ve had two heads printed by these guys, so as a customer myself, I can safely and honestly say that these heads are the real deal!
A major piece to the success of their business model is their state of the art, web-based drum head builder, which allows drummers of all skill levels to easily drag and drop pieces to design their own drum head. Customers can either upload their own custom graphic or photo, or use one of around 70 million+ photos in DrumART’s stock library and then add text, change colors, add ports, and more to craft the perfect masterpiece.
As a side note, DrumART also now has a sister website, GrillGraphics.com, which makes custom grill skins for guitars. But this episode is strictly about custom bass drum heads. Now back to our regularly scheduled podcast notes.
Jim Feck, Owner, CEO, COO, CFO and Janitor of DrumART.com, and 5th generation family drummer (his son is #6!), joins us in this first new episode of 2019 to share the story of how DrumART got its start in the late 90’s, how he responds to people who ask “what do you do for a living”, the struggle to balance growing a business and raising a family, and what it’s like having a nice 4,000 square foot facility in upstate New York to design, print, produce and ship custom bass drum artwork all over the world and have their heads displayed in front of millions of music fans.
* - Typically it’s not usually a good idea to let your drummer have so much responsibility, but in this case, we think he or she can handle it. You can now breathe a sigh of relief. (I'm a drummer too, so I can safely say that, I think)
Imagine if you were alive 700 years ago and, while hosting a concert that was giving out free rats for every ticket sold, you accidentally caused the Bubonic Plague? What would YOU do?
If you were Lords of the Trident, the most immortal, most metal band on Earth, you would go into hiding for the next 700 years and let the whole “Bubonic Plague thing” pass over and allow history to correct itself and remove you from any future history books so that you weren’t destined to have that finger pointed at you for all of eternity, right? RIGHT?! Well, yes, that’s right and that’s exactly what they did too.
According to their website (which by the way is the most metal website on the Internet), their metal is so pure that only diamonds can scratch it, even though it’s usually the diamonds that are the ones that end up getting hurt in the end. Their amps are so loud that even Manowar knocked on their door and asked them to turn it down (please?). In the end, it’s probably just easier to succumb to their greatest, realize you aren’t worthy enough to gaze upon their might, and just sit down and listen to this episode to learn about the gear they use and how it helps them in battle.
The band is made up of Fang VonWrathenstein (lead vocals), Socrates of Shred (lead guitar), Asian Metal (lead guitar), Captain Bluddbeard (lead bass), and ANALOG (lead drums). In case you didn’t notice, this band is so metal, they all lead and no one is lowly enough to be considered “backup".
Fang VonWrathenstein (MORTAL NAME: Ty Christian), lead singer, front-being and business executive for Madison, Wisconsin based Lords of the Trident, graces us with his super metal presence in this first-ever, consumer-focused interview where we turn the tables and talk to the bands about their own backlines, what they use and why they use it, what’s up with his obsession with too many flames in music videos, and why we hope this episode will ultimately correct the imbalance in the world between good and evil, music and silence, and volcanos and unicorns.
And yes, you are worthy enough to listen to this interview. Although just a disclaimer: your ears might bleed a little.
When you’re a drummer that has made custom furniture for 20 years and your drums age to the point of being unplayable, what options do you have? Well, you could wait to scrap together enough money to buy a new one, or decide to put those woodworking skills to even more use, learn how to build drum shells and build your own kit. I’m sure you can guess which path Jefferson took.
Behind every Sugar drum is 20+ years experience with woodworking techniques, knowledge of quality wood selection, and a passion and obsession to create high quality, high standard products. And behind the Sugar name is a standard of quality, passion and love that can only be matched and surpassed by the relationship Jefferson has with his daughter and company namesake, Ms. Ruby Sugar. If a drum doesn’t meet his criteria, it becomes unworthy of bearing her name.
Sugar, while a small operation of only two drum builders, is on a mission to preserve the true definition behind the word “custom”, focusing on building a drum all the way up from the tree to match a customer’s requests rather than allowing a customer to just select from a pre-determined list of shells, a list of available colors and adding on store bought hardware.
On their website, they have no standard website shopping cart or checkout process. There is no standard list of available products to choose from. Just the details you need to help you design the drum set of your dreams and a quick way to email Jefferson directly so you can begin having a personal one-to-one conversation about your ideas and how you’re going to achieve it together with Sugar.
Jefferson Shallenberger, owner and drum builder of Sugar Percussion, joins us in this episode to talk about the passion and inspiration that led to Sugar’s early beginnings, why he has to answer to his CEO (his daughter and the company’s namesake), and how his attention to detail and his high standards to produce a quality product, furniture or drums, has made Sugar a premium drum brand.
Most companies, new and old, can trace their origins back to a similar story of when their founder had an idea and how it evolved over the years to become the company we know and admire. This story starts with a doorstop (for real).
Mahalo founder Richie Mays used to tinker a lot with building his own amps after finding that the amps he was using didn’t produce the right sound for him. While it was a 5-year process of piecing together parts in his pursuit to build his dream amp, he still didn’t have an output transformer to make it reality.
One day while he was at the repair shop he worked for in Atlanta, he saw an output transformer being used as a doorstop. He was immediately drawn to it and knew it was the answer he had been looking for to reach his goal amp. He asked if he could take it. The only form of payment that was asked of him? A replacement object to continue propping the door open. The next day in came in with a brick and got his wish.
Upon acquiring his doorstop find, his mission was complete. He had just played through the best-sounding amp he had ever owned. And he had built it. That amp became the Mahalo AEM50, which is still available for purchase today.
The rest, as they say, his history. Richie’s friend and Mahalo's co-founder Scott Phillips joins us in this episode to share this crazy story of how Mahalo amps came to be, the inspiration their company culture draws from the Hawaiian Islands, and some of the famous names that call Mahalo their go-to amp brand.
A lot of businesses usually follow a pattern of starting out family-based and traditionally small with a focus on the customer. But as growth happens, it can be really easy to lose sight of that in order to accommodate the ever-changing landscape of a growing business. Leadership changes, employee turnover, hiring people who can fill support jobs but don’t necessarily know the product inside and out, and a focus on the bottom line become more important than the roots you came from. It’s nobody’s fault, and most of the time it is a natural part of growth.
But as this and a few of our other interviews have revealed, the younger brands are attempting to keep customer-centric cultures intact while attempting to grow out of that new business mindset into one that can scale and be successful. This is great news for the music industry as it slowly makes the shift from solely corporate-owned to one that once again puts the fans and artists first.
Dream Cymbals and Gongs is no exception to this new (and revived) way of thinking. Now in their 10th year in business, Dream started out as a boutique cymbal brand, rooted first in producing high quality gongs and orchestral cymbals at a more affordable price point. Eventually they moved into drum sets and have now given all genres a more affordable, yet high quality cymbal to experience.
One of Dream’s biggest unique factors is their industry-leading cymbal recycling program, where they will take just about any type of broken cymbal (except for those made of brass) and melt it down to be used in other Dream products; not necessarily their flagship product lines, but in ways that help re-use the materials and reduce the amount of materials ending up in landfills.
While their distribution does include a few bigger names such as KMC and Lone Star Percussion, it’s mostly made up of smaller brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops. This allows Dream to be a brand that’s giving back to its local communities by supporting the smaller shops and driving more business to them. They even use the smaller retailers to host events such as cymbal recycling drives and cymbal tasting events that pair with wine, foods and other local vendors to draw people into the stores.
Brian LaRue, Director of Operations for Dream Cymbals & Gongs, joins us in this episode to share the story of how Dream started, the details behind the industry’s most creative (and only) cymbal recycling program, and what it’s like to be a part of a small, yet efficient team taking on the cymbal industry from a new perspective.
In an industry that has evolved from making its products by hand to making them via machine in order to ensure consistency, it can be hard to be the one that resists and insists that the original way is still the best way. Technology is changing all the time, and experts think that keeping up with it is the only way to stay relevant. But is that really true?
In the midst of all of this technological upheaval, Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals is one of the few brands that can honestly say that the old way is the best way. In all of the years of change, it has successfully been able to set itself apart by resisting the change and upgrades technology offers and continuing to produce cymbals that are made one at a time by hand and hammer in its home country of Turkey.
The result is a beautiful line of products that consists of cymbals that each contain their own slight variations and characteristics to give each drummer who ones one his own “custom” cymbal. Their philosophy of staying true to their roots has proven to be extremely successful and has given them the confidence to continue doing what they’re doing.
Carl Thomson, USA Artist Relations and Online Media Manager for Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals, joins us in this episode to share the story of how a single brand became two separate companies that continue to respect each other (and even share a similar brand and logo), how an original cymbal factory in Turkey is still used to produce their cymbals to this very day, and what it’s like to try and set themselves apart in a “shared branding” environment.
It seems like everywhere you look these days there’s another music streaming service or music discovery tool that caters only to popular mainstream music, including Spotify and Pandora. But did you realize that by focusing on only this music demographic those services only really represent and promote the top 10% (or less) of music on the planet? Where can you discover the other 90% of music?!
Live Undiscovered Music, or LÜM, hopes to change all that. Starting in August of 2018, bands and fans will get the chance to experience a much larger catalog of music than you will ever find on Spotify, Pandora or even SoundCloud. This streaming service will come built into a new kind of music-focused social media platform that will allow fans to discover, share and rate new music that is truly new and “undiscovered”.
For those of us who are old enough to remember the good ol’ days of MySpace, you might argue (as I did in this episode) that a music streaming service coupled with a social media platform has already been tried and, in part, failed in the community. However, as CEO Max Fergus reminds us, MySpace’s time was before we were mobile and connected all the time. MySpace was never portable in its prime, and now that it has been reborn as a music platform, the newness of the past has sort of been washed away with time and left it forgotten for many of us.
There’s also rumors of some fancy, secret features that we won’t know about until LÜM officially launches on August 17th here in Madison, Wisconsin during our annual Forward Technology Festival.
LÜM CEO Max Fergus joins us in this episode to share with us where the idea for LÜM came from, how the team behind the app came together, what the relatively short development timeline has been like, and what he hopes LÜM will do for the future of the music industry.
It can be hard for lesser-known bands and musicians to get a foothold in several areas of the music industry without having the right connections or, as old school as it sounds, a record label. This is true when it comes to trying to get licensing agreements to place their music in radio, film, TV shows, advertising campaigns, and video games.
But what if there was a social network built specifically for that reason? What if bands and artists could connect with each other, build relationships, collaborate, and easily find music licensing opportunities to help support their revenue goals?
Broadjam.com, founded in 1999, is one of the world’s largest and oldest music community websites that provides services aimed at independent musicians and bands. The website is home to over 500,000 searchable songs and over 190,000 artists from all over the world.
To help independent musicians find opportunities, Broadjam holds a variety of sponsored contests throughout the year with the purpose of exposing and rewarding the best in musicianship and songwriting. These songs can go on to receive placement in major media campaigns on the radio, TV, film and even video games.
Music industry professionals also use the Broadjam service to find music for feature films, TV and commercials, plus they take will take part in select Broadjam contests to help determine winners and placements. Major record labels use Broadjam’s music encoding service to encode, catalog and control music metadata.
Broadjam also offers professional services to industry customers, including their online system for tallying votes in popular music award ceremonies, from the popular Academy of Country Music Awards all the way back Broadjam’s backyard in Madison, Wisconsin for the annual Madison Area Music Awards. Their knowledge and expertise has been trusted by clients such as Warner/Chappell, Advanced Micro Devices, Peavey, Yamaha and more.
Roy Elkins, founder and president of Broadjam, joins us in this episode to share his story with us about how Broadjam came about, his experiences and time in the music industry, his past employment at Ensoniq Corporation and Sonic Foundry that gave him a foundation and the connections to establish Broadjam, and his love of continuously giving back to the music industry at both the local and national levels.
In the good ol’ days, songs and albums were recorded without technology like compression. At that time, it was imperative to find the sweet spot manually. Microphone positioning was everything.
These days, we tend to rely quite a bit more on technology and post production methods to achieve the desired sounds. But what if there was a way to use new technology combined with the microphone positioning practices of the past to get those sweet spots even easier and quicker?
Brothers Jon and Mike Russo thought this very thing while they were playing in bands several years ago, asking “Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of remote controlled device able to adjust the mic placement and recall positions?”.
Flash forward a couple of years when Mike needed a final project for an app development course he was taking, he decided to combine his new skills with those he picked up earning an Aerospace Engineering degree to create an initial prototype. The project was a success, getting an A+ in the class and demonstrating a proof of concept at the same time.
After a long process of market research and several rounds of self-funded prototype development, DynaMount LLC was founded in February 2015. In May 2015, they launched their Kickstarter. With a lot of buzz on social media and help from some big names in the recording industry who were excited about the remote microphone positioner products, they were able to successfully fund their project, raising 150% of their goal.
Mike Russo, Co-Founder and CTO for DynaMount, joins us in this episode to share their story from idea to today's success of their original models, their journey over the past year to bring their new “Echo-PT” model to market for the broadcast industry, and how their products are saving hours of time for both recording and live sound engineers.
Taking online lessons for anything requires a lot of self-discipline, especially since your online instructor can’t necessarily hold you accountable like an in-person instructor can. But what if the platform allowed you to interact with your celebrity-level teachers and your fellow students in order to help keep you on track and provide encouragement?
Musora is the parent company of online education platforms Drumeo, Guitareo, Pianote, and Recordeo, but its story begins with the birth of Drumeo. In 2002, Jared Falk was a (patient) drum instructor, yet found it frustrating to try and teach the same thing over and over again to each new student he brought on. One of his students at the time was a bit of a tech guy, so they decided to try shooting a video at home to help educate drum students online.
The incredible success of their first video (roughly 12,000 downloads in a time before easy video platforms existed and dial-up internet was still more popular than high-speed) proved to them that there was potentially a large market for online music instruction.
Over the years, Drumeo became a powerhouse platform for new and veteran drummers alike, allowing students to either learn new chops or brush up on their skills. As time went on, instructional videos started to feature more and more top players in the industry, allowing students to learn first hand from their favorite drummers.
This success was later repeated with the launch of Guitareo for guitar players, Pianote for piano players, and now Recordeo, a newly launched platform for the home recording engineer that made its debut in late spring 2018.
Jared Falk, President of Musora, joins us in this episode to share the story behind how his Netflix of online music education started as a simple video shoot in a barn, their mission to bring affordable musical instrument and technical education to the world, and what it’s like to work with some of the industry’s top names and biggest A-players to bring quality material to their students.
What do aviation avionics and guitar pedals have in common? Paul Flattley, of course!
Achieving perfection in sound, quality, and personalization can be quite the daunting task when it comes to making custom guitar pedals, but when perfection is basically a requirement when you’re working in the aviation avionics industry, the idea becomes second nature and way easier if it’s something you’ve already been doing for 30 years.
Flattley Guitar Pedals is a small family run company in the Southwest of England. Each pedal they make is individually created by hand, given a personalized touch, and rigorously tested until it meets their very high standards. On top of that, most models can be fitted with a halo light plate with your choice of LED color. Can you imagine a guitar pedal being any more uniquely tailored to each player than that?
Their range of guitar effects pedals are used all over the world by many artists who were looking for that perfect high-quality sound. Paul prides himself on building individually hand wired effect pedals that were inspired by a lifetime of playing guitar and a background in electronics.
Paul Flattley, owner and builder of Flattley Guitar Pedals, joins us in this episode to share how he made the jump from his long-time career in avionics to custom built guitar pedals, what it’s like working with his wife and daughter on this small family business, and his goals for expanding his distribution into other parts of the world, including the United States (heads up US-based retailers!).
Getting a compliment on the way you look can always make your day. But getting a compliment on the way your drum sounds when that person has never even seen the actual product but knows it right away in a crowded, noisy venue? That might be the best kind of compliment of all.
Making a snare drum that over delivers on sound quality is far from easy, but it’s also not that difficult when you have the passion and know in your mind exactly the sound you want to achieve. This passion and attention to sound quality is apparent in every snare drum that Beier Drums makes.
What else did we learn during this episode? The once-popular 15” snare drum had somehow all but disappeared from the music scene during the mid-20th century (before my time), being replaced by the now mostly standard 14” model. However, just because something is standard doesn’t always mean it’s a good thing!
Jim Beier, owner of Beier Drums in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (we dare you to try and pronounce that!), joins us in this episode to share his story of how he started Beier Drums in 2010, why he currently focuses on only snare drums and sound quality, why he's on a mission to revive the 15" snare drum, and what it’s like to operate a one-man snare drum operation.
On a final note, if you can’t remember how to spell “Beier”, just put an “i” in the middle of the word “beer”. Voila! :)
Every business on the planet has a story that starts with humble beginnings. Some companies are created with well-intentioned goals, while some are formed by accident out of a passion or hobby. Some start in fancy business incubators while some start in garages or grandma’s basement.
This is definitely one of those “hobbies in grandma’s basement” kind of stories.
SJC Drums initially began as a hobby by Scott and Mike Ciprari out of their grandmother’s basement in 2000. What began as a basic operation of refurbishing and painting old drum sets has turned into a company that still prides itself on crafting high-quality drums that are custom to each drummer’s unique needs. Their tagline “Built with Passion, Played with Pride” is reflected in every product they make and every drummer that has the privilege of playing them.
They have built their brand around the quality of their products, the passion they have for building and playing them, the community of drummers and builders they have cultured and nurtured, and the pride they take in going the extra mile for all their drummers, from local players to major headliners.
Co-founding brother and CEO Mike Ciprari joins us in this episode to talk about what it was like growing up and working with his brother Scott, watching him refurbish and build drums, what the journey has been like to create what is now a 5-time winner of the Best Custom Drum Company, and how it feels to now call SJC home to major players like Tre Cool of Green Day, Jay Weinberg of Slipknot, and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots.
Musicians love their wireless in-ear monitoring systems. It gives them the freedom to move around the stage without worrying about tripping over extra cables or getting tangled while playing.
But did you ever stop to think why you need to have a separate wireless monitor system when you already have an extremely powerful computer in your other pocket?
The guys at Audiofusion did, and after four years of development and testing, they are on the verge of bringing their technology and first products to market.
Audiofusion is pro-audio software for your laptop that turns your smartphone and tablet into wireless receivers for your in-ear monitors, thus getting rid of one extra bulky pack hanging on your belt.
And since it’s software-based, it gives each musician individual control over their own mix and takes away the requirement of being at the mercy of your monitor mix and always asking the sound guy to adjust what you hear.
The Audiofusion family is made up of three software products:
SoundCaster: The centerpiece of the Audiofusion Wireless Personal Monitoring System, which recognizes each audio channel from any connected digital mixer, audio interface or other audio device. It is meant to run on a Macbook at the main sound board.
Performer: This is the in-ear monitoring app for your iOS device. It receives the real-time audio over Wi-Fi and plays it through your ear phones. It also acts as a complete monitor mixer, giving you complete control over the sound in your ears.
Director: The Director app works best on an iPad and allows you to assign labels, icons and positions to your band, creating a visual stage plot that works alongside SoundCaster and Performer.
Brandon Leafblad, co-founder of Audiofusion, joins us in this episode to talk about how he and a friend were inspired to pursue the concept of real-time audio over Wi-Fi and share his vision of how he hopes to license Audiofusion technology to other companies to expand the use of real-time audio over Wi-Fi and help transform the live audio industry.
If you’re a guitar player, you already know there is an endless array of available guitar pedals on the market today that seems to provide any sound or tone you are looking for.
But what if there isn’t? What if you still can’t find that perfect tone that you resonate with? Do you settle for the closest thing? Or do you take matters into your own hands?
Brian Wampler, CEO of Wampler Pedals, decided to take matters into his own hands. Over a decade ago, he realized he just could not find the tones he was longing for. So instead of being unhappy with stock tones, he started educating himself on electronics and tweaking and modifying existing pedals in an attempt to achieve the tones he kept hearing in his head.
Eventually, all of the modifying in the world wasn’t able to produce the tones he knew to be true to himself, so he started making brand new pedal designs from scratch that didn’t sound like anything on the market. As a result, Wampler Pedals was born.
Brian joins us in this episode of Behind the Backline to share his story, from humble beginnings to full fledge production of his original designed boutique pedals, and his thoughts on where his industry is going and how his education background shines a light on what’s wrong with today’s education system for students who need to be properly nurtured and allowed to innovate and explore their creativity from a young age.
These days it seems like there is an early learning process or product for everything, and it keeps targeting children at a younger and younger age. Except for the keyboard and “touch and learn” type educational toys for kids, there never seemed to be anything that truly developed a child’s imagination or nurtured their love of music and audio creation. Until now.
Introducing the Blipblox, a synthesizer and beatbox designed to promote creativity and audio exploration for children as young as 3 years old. With its professional features and nearly endless ability to create new sounds, it’s a product that grows with you and works for adults as well!
Troy Sheets, founder and inventor, joins us in this episode to talk about what the Blipblox is, who it’s for, why he felt inspired to pursue and create it, and how it might be considered a good “gateway drug” for future musicians and producers.
As technology and music continue to mesh and evolve, musicians sometimes find themselves in new and awkwardly frustrating situations. For example, when attempting to learn to play the guitar, while watching video lessons, and trying to play or record on the computer, it can feel like we’re expected to grow another limb just to be able to manage all of the fancy new ways we need to multi-task.
With SMASHmouse, there’s no need for a third arm. Just add your feet! Robb Dillon, inventor of SMASHmouse, saw the need for a better solution to these simple yet familiar challenges. Now you can use your foot to control software and other applications on digital devices, allowing you to keep on playing without the headaches!
Robb joins us in this episode to share his story behind SMASHmouse, how it can help musicians now, and how the technology and ideas behind SMASHmouse can easily be adapted in the future for other applications, including gaming and assistive technology for those with special needs when controlling digital devices.
Writing a song entirely by ear on your guitar and having a robot turn it into sheet music for you: sounds a bit like science fiction right?
Now with Frettable, the future is here! Frettable is a new app for your smart phone or tablet that allows you to record your music and get it automatically analyzed and transformed into sheet music. Behind the app is a powerful, advanced AI engine that will immediately write the sheet music for you to save and print. It’s truly polyphonic, handling both notes and chords. Tabs are also generated for guitar and other stringed instruments.
Founder, guitarist, and music AI expert Greg Burlet joins us in this episode to share his story about how he created Frettable, why he was inspired to develop it, and how it is making an impact on the songwriting industry.
Currently, Frettable supports electric guitar, vocals, trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe, recorder, english horn and bassoon. However, more instruments will be supported soon.
Every drummer in the world has their own unique way of setting up their drums, tuning their heads, and voicing their opinions on what sounds best and why. From those who love to over-muffle their kits to the purists who prefer getting a drum to sound the best it can without adding rings, gels or other unnecessary sound-altering products, the variations and range of sounds is almost endless.
Luckily, any drummer out there doesn’t have to settle for just one sound during a whole set or a whole song any longer. Enter the Drum Wallet and the Pocket Watch!
For generations drummers have attempted to alter their drum’s sound before muffling product were even available, using items like their wallet, pocket watch, and now even cellphones to give their sound a quick fix. The Drum Wallet and the Pocket Watch are simple, yet powerful products that hang from your drum and give you the option to flick it onto to the drum or flip if off to change the sound whenever it feels right.
Are you an audio engineer who’s part of a team that’s responsible for setting up stages night after night, weekend after weekend? Do you feel like everyone on the team is always repeating themselves and having trouble trying to stay on the same page with how the stage is laid out and what device is plugged into which channel? Where does the audio madness end?!
I have good news for you: Denver, Colorado-based superheroes Joey and Mike are here to rescue you!
While fighting this very evil, fellow audio engineer Joey came to the realization that there had to be a better way to keep things organized and better communicated when working either solo, with an audio team or with bands in general. Reaching out to his freelance-developer cousin Mike, they put their heads together to develop Signal Flow, a cloud-based app for iPhone and Android that allows audio teams to plan stage plots, document device input and output channels, and provide a way to notify everyone on the team when a setting or configuration changes so everyone has the latest updates.
If you’re an audio engineer looking for an end to the evil plots (pun intended), you’ll want to check out Signal Flow!
After working for 30 years at one of the biggest names in guitars, it can be hard to accept and adapt to a change like retirement. So what's the alternative to that? Did you say start a new business, acquire an existing line of popular guitars, and keep the passion going? That’s exactly what we were going to say!
Jack Schwarz joins us this week to tell us about his lifelong love of guitars (or as he puts it, his life’s addiction), his 30-year tenure with Fender Musical Instruments Corp., and how he was given the opportunity to start Desert Son Musical Instruments in late 2016.
Desert Son Musical Instruments is the (new) parent company of Fano Guitars (and Aero3 Guitars). What makes a Fano Guitar different is that every instrument they make is hand-built by a single builder from start to finish. There is no factory or assembly line. Their focus is on the fine details of each guitar for each player who knows what they want: quality, reliability, style and performance.
Drum solos and stick twirling are so last year! Drummers need to continuously find new ways to stand out, demonstrate their worth, and get their share of the love from fans. So what’s a poor drummer to do? Light ‘em up! (without starting on fire!) Jeff Sevaldson, co-founder of DrumLite, joins us in this episode to tell the story of how DrumLite started in their college dorm room (move over Facebook!), why everyone from local drummers to national acts love their products, and what they’ve learned and conquered over the years through continuous development and manufacturing trial and error that has made DrumLite a world class brand among percussionists.
What do you get when a drummer who’s had enough of individually tuning up to 20 points on a drum comes to his senses and realizes there’s got to be an easier way? You get Welch Tuning Systems! Welch Tuning Systems CEO Samuel Welch joins us in this episode to share his story of how his frustration when tuning his drums came to an end with the creation of his single-point tuning system. Using a bass guitar tuning peg, he and his team eventually figured out how to replace the multiple tuning pegs on a drums with a single wire system to ensure both heads on a drum were tightened exactly the same, making it easier for drummers to find their sweet spot and adjust a drum’s tuning in mid-performance. While it isn’t publicly available quite yet, their presence at NAMM this year proved to them that there is a ton of potential, demand and excitement for what they are doing.
What’s it like to come up with an idea for a drum teaching tool just a few short years ago and then be named the Best Teaching Tool in 2018 at the NAMM Show? Tony McNally, popular drummer and inventor, joins us from his studio in the UK to share his story of how he came up with the idea for the ToneAlly, the success he’s had with it so far, the feedback and testimonials he’s received from some of drumming’s major players, and the incredible experiences he’s had at NAMM and bringing the product to the international stage. You can learn more about Tony at https://www.toneally.co.uk/about-me You can find the ToneAlly on the web at https://www.toneally.co.uk ToneAlly on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/toneallys/
Are you a parent looking to get your kids started on piano or drums but either can’t afford to purchase yet or don’t want to purchase one yet due to size and volume? Or are you a music industry veteran looking for a fast, convenient and affordable piano or drum option to take on the road with you? Mukikim, a toy brand based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has released a line of portable tabletop musical instrument products called “Rock and Roll It!” that allows you to do just that: rock out during your practice time and roll it up when you’re done! Robert Sheets from Mukikim joins us to discuss what the products are, who they are for, and the inspiration behind why they created them. He also fills us in how how to pronounce the name of the company and explains where the name came from too!
You can learn more about the Rock and Roll It products, along with all of Mukikim’s products, at mukikim.com/rock-and-roll-it.html
Find Mukikim on Facebook: facebook.com/mukikimtoys/
Are you a DJ or lighting technician who is sick of not having "true sound activation mode" on your fixtures? Greg Notaro, co-founder of SN3 Innovations Lighting Entertainment, joins Matt Jacoby of Octave Media in our first-ever podcast episode of Behind the Backline. After meeting Greg at the 2018 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, California this past January, we learned a great deal about the limitations that come with most professional entertainment lighting products on the market today and what SN3 Innovations has engineered to solve these issues. View the show notes on this episode's web page: http://octv.me/2pwVBaO
March 21, 2018
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