Popularity of the drum set

8Mile

Platinum Member
I've had conversations with some of my friends who teach and a couple of them have reported seeing fewer students interested in drum set in recent years. They still get lots of kids wanting to learn how to play snare drum or tenors in marching bands, but not as many wanting to play drum set.

One friend's theory is that it's simply easier to play music by yourself than deal with the challenges of being in a band. You can make music yourself with a keyboard and computer. If you look to the most popular music today, actual bands are few and far between. There's an artist out front, maybe a collaboration, but not the traditional band with a drummer, bassist, etc. So less bands means less drummers who are visible to the average music fan today.

My buddy challenged me to name what current drummers are so famous that the average young person who isn't a musician would know them by name. I think we agreed on Questlove. Dave Grohl and Travis Barker, maybe, but those guys started in the 90s. And that was about it. By contrast, when I was going to high school, even casual music fans would read about their favorite bands and knew who Alex Van Halen and Neil Peart were.

Of course, this is based on a small sample of people who teach in a suburban area in southeast Michigan. For those of you who teach or are in the thick of the industry in other parts, what are you seeing? I'd like to hear other perspectives.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My opinion is that attention spans are at an all time low. Drums require more time to sound good than say guitar, meaning you can make pleasant sounds a lot faster than with drums. In a way this is good news to me. Because I know that if you have that urge inside, it's gotta come out. Maybe this is a way of weeding out all the people who think drumming is cool, but really have no intention of seeing it through.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
My buddy challenged me to name what current drummers are so famous that the average young person who isn't a musician would know them by name. I think we agreed on Questlove. Dave Grohl and Travis Barker, maybe, but those guys started in the 90s. And that was about it. By contrast, when I was going to high school, even casual music fans would read about their favorite bands and knew who Alex Van Halen and Neil Peart were.
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This is part of the overall change the music business. There are very few big name bands with any staying power. The record companies invest less and less into making a band, and the internet provides a wide range of musical diversity. Instead of people listening to the most popular 50 to 100 bands on the radio or MTV, listening time is divided among 1,000's of smaller level bands. This makes it tough for any one drummer to stand out and captivate an audience, regardless of their talent level.

The other side is online lessons have probably dug into the number of drummers signing up for formal lessons. We now have drummers who are famous for nothing more than showing how play things online, being it via formal online lessons or drum cover videos. If you're looking at paying $30 to $50 an hour or more for a real teacher, vs sitting at home in front of youtube for free or a small fee, well, you can guess what's going to happen.

Overall, i'm not sure there is a huge decline in drum set players though. NAMM is still going strong, indicating drum set sales are still strong. Manufacturers keep popping up with new brands, new models. School of Rock franchises are popping up.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Interesting. I wonder if some of it has to do with the availability of educational stuff online?

They still get lots of kids wanting to learn how to play snare drum or tenors in marching bands, but not as many wanting to play drum set.

One friend's theory is that it's simply easier to play music by yourself than deal with the challenges of being in a band.
But playing on a drumline (a good one anyway) isn't necessarily easy. Or maybe these are kids just wanting to be in the school band and not a higher level drum corps?

*Just saw that DED beat me to the "online lessons" angle. ;-)
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Does the financial aspect play any part in this? One snare versus an entire kit? Practice space and noise levels at home? Playing all of your rudiments and practice pieces on a pad is very quiet and economical. Just thinking.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Since the advent of TV shows like Idol, X Factor, The Voice, etc. we've got more and more students, male as well as female, who want to sing like divas. Some of these also learn guitar or piano a bit, but they really want to belt out epic solo songs on stage. And since 'Glee' they want to move and dance a lot more too.

We've had a reduction in demand for drums and bass guitar lessons over the last ten years, but have had to employ three more voice tutors in that time.
 

Retrovertigo

Senior Member
Drums require more time to sound good than say guitar, meaning you can make pleasant sounds a lot faster than with drums.
i think drums are about the easiest to get started on, tied with electric bass i think. i had most of my students able to play through whole songs on the first lesson. (no fills or anything fancy, obviously.) guitar, woodwinds, brass and keys all seem way harder to get started on.

i think the issue is the abundance of other activities to divide peoples attention. video games hit hard at around the same age kids would usually start wanting to play an instrument.

no matter the cause, percussion sales are down roughly 50% from 10 years ago. the phenomenon isn't imagined or just local to OP's area. according to the 2015 NAMM report. p.23 https://www.namm.org/files/ihdp-viewer/global-report-2015/25FF24A6E7431147F8F4505BB0555478/2015-GlobalReport.pdf
 

running

Member
As far as the new generation, I think a lot of kids are growing up listening to music that predominantly features sample based percussion and those who are inspired by those elements are learning to program beats instead.

Ask most kids if they would rather have a MIDI controller or a drumset and they'll probably pick the controller as they're much more versatile. (And logistically way more practical for most.) This is probably a decent chunk of the population that would have picked up drumming had this alternative not been available.

I would be interested to know if guitar/bass have suffered similarly.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
i think the issue is the abundance of other activities to divide peoples attention. video games hit hard at around the same age kids would usually start wanting to play an instrument.
There is no doubt home video game systems and home entertainment systems have impacted the amount of people interested in live music period.

I know plenty of people who have never once gone to see a live band. And I'm talking grown adults with kids, jobs, mortgages.


no matter the cause, percussion sales are down roughly 50% from 10 years ago. the phenomenon isn't imagined or just local to OP's area. according to the 2015 NAMM report. p.23 https://www.namm.org/files/ihdp-viewer/global-report-2015/25FF24A6E7431147F8F4505BB0555478/2015-GlobalReport.pdf
I do wonder how much of the dollar decline is volume and how much of it is the flooding of the market with low price drum kits.

There was a time if you wanted an all maple drum kit with a wood grain finish, you were talking over $2,000 minimum. Now you can can get a maple shell pack for under $1,000.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
There was a time if you wanted an all maple drum kit with a wood grain finish, you were talking over $2,000 minimum. Now you can can get a maple shell pack for under $1,000.
Looking at the Gretsch Catalina Maple / Pearl Decade Maple and other comparable $500-$750 maple kits, I can only make the following observations.

1: Photo-grain is nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. You've really gotta look, and manufacturers are getting more clever each year.

2: Catalyzed Acrylic is much easer to work with than Nitro or other lacquers, it hardens almost instantly, and is not as susceptible to clouding from humidity and other environmental factors. The down side is the loss of repairability. It is also as inexpensive to apply as wrap when you don't have to deal with environmental regulations.

3: I've been unimpressed with the tooling used on these inexpensive kits. When I looked at a Catalina Maple, I saw the tooling marks still on the bearing edge and a significant amount of tear out. I don't know if they're using dull bits, or the feed rate is wrong, or if they're only doing 1 cut when two are needed....


What is impressive is that these kits still look nice and play very well. With a modest amount of work and ingenuity, you can clean up the mechanical deficiencies and take these cheap kits to an entirely new level.
 

Retrovertigo

Senior Member
I do wonder how much of the dollar decline is volume and how much of it is the flooding of the market with low price drum kits.
the graph shows that both dollar amount and units sold are both down about 50% over the last 10 years where average price per unit rose about 5% over the same time frame.

i didn't expect to see unit sales so low. i also thought declining price would account for at least a decent amount of lost sales.

and i was reading the graphs wrong. its specifically drum sets that are down 50%. Educational percussion has actually risen 3% over the last 10 years.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
and i was reading the graphs wrong. its specifically drum sets that are down 50%. Educational percussion has actually risen 3% over the last 10 years.
I wonder if the 'drum sets' statistic includes eKits.. I see "Rhythm Machines" up 28% since last year.
 

evilg99

Platinum Member
I think maybe the used and vintage market makes up for a very large part of that decline perhaps - think about the rise in popularity of buying and selling of musical instruments on eBay and Craigslist by individuals.

I didn't read the NAMM report cited above, but they are surely not taking that into consideration.

I own many drum sets - only two or three were bought new at a store.

I would even go as far as to say that in the local market, used sales of drum sets (all ranges - from beginner to pro, cheap to expensive) - are much higher than new sales - maybe even 75%.

I'm not pulling that number out of the air, I have been talking for a few years about this with local music retailers. It's a big thing.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
3: I've been unimpressed with the tooling used on these inexpensive kits. When I looked at a Catalina Maple, I saw the tooling marks still on the bearing edge and a significant amount of tear out. I don't know if they're using dull bits, or the feed rate is wrong, or if they're only doing 1 cut when two are needed.....
I think it goes to show what separates the low end and high end kits is not necessary materials but the workmanship.

The cheap kits are cheap for a reason.
the graph shows that both dollar amount and units sold are both down about 50% over the last 10 years
Doh. I didn't look at the graph closely enough the fist time. My bad.
 

drumbent

Member
I think maybe the used and vintage market makes up for a very large part of that decline perhaps - think about the rise in popularity of buying and selling of musical instruments on eBay and Craigslist by individuals.
I very much agree.

As an example, in my other life I manage a community bike shop. We take in donations, fix 'em up, then resell them. And we can't keep up with the demand! Meanwhile, pro bike shops are feeling the pinch due to folks using their shop to try out bikes but then buying online (and I personally think that is a crappy thing to do).

Sure, part of the demand with our shop is for the low prices (we get lots of students), but there's also a fair bit of "you can't buy that new anymore". Such as mountain bikes with no suspension (every new one has at least front suspension), so they come to us for the 'Old School' stuff. Same with road bikes - unless you go boutique / small builder, the new frames are made differently these days, both in terms of material (aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber) and in frame design / tubing angles, and if you prefer the old designs and their particular road feel then we've got them.

Except for the V Drum kit I bought new last year, pretty much all my business is with our local used drum shop. Good prices, and since I've been going there for twenty years the owner knows me and sometimes tempts me terribly with some things. lol And I can sell stuff on commission through him, and am happy to let him take a cut so I can get rid of the items and not wait around for Craigslisters who might or might not show up. And he, as an small independent shop, can stay alive.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Its not the cost, man I wish I had the same choice$ for a new kit when I started out, stuff nowadays is cheap.

Its not the degree of difficulty... I believe the kids look at drums and drummers and think 'Why would I want to schlep, set up and transport all that crap around'? The generations are becoming lazier due to technology.

Everything now is a push of a button, a computer is the size of a pack of cigarettes, music is free, ppl don't work anymore, they get assistance, too lazy to even type out whole words, drums are seen as too much of a hassle, and drummers aren't seen as the leader, the ego in charge like a singer. For example why play drums when you can go on a TV show and win a recording contract, put out records and make millions, even if you're not a great singer?
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Its not the cost, man I wish I had the same choice$ for a new kit when I started out, stuff nowadays is cheap.

Its not the degree of difficulty... I believe the kids look at drums and drummers and think 'Why would I want to schlep, set up and transport all that crap around'? The generations are becoming lazier due to technology.

Everything now is a push of a button, a computer is the size of a pack of cigarettes, music is free, ppl don't work anymore, they get assistance, too lazy to even type out whole words, drums are seen as too much of a hassle, and drummers aren't seen as the leader, the ego in charge like a singer. For example why play drums when you can go on a TV show and win a recording contract, put out records and make millions, even if you're not a great singer?
Sadly i agree with you, but for those of us left who REALIZE that true quality not only takes time,but takes a true Craftsman or Women we can relish in it while it remains, The Ideas Boom touts itself with little kids each having their own 3 D printer churning out plastic objects of desire. Help!!
 
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