By Phil Hood Published March 20, 2010
Bart Elliott is a drummer, teacher, composer, arranger, and a former drum shop owner. His recordings have been on hundreds of jingles, demos, soundtracks and albums. But these days he's also known as the proprietor of one of the 'net's coolest percussion sites, Drummercafe.com. We interviewed Bart this past week.
DRUM! When did you first start planning drummercafe.com, and when did it launch?
Elliott Back in 1997 I started the Drum Ring International, the first and only (at the time) web-based organization designed for professional drummers and percussionists. The heart of the site was a webring (remember those?) which connected all of its members and their websites into a collective. Membership (which was free) only had two prerequisites: one, you had to be a working professional drummer/percussionist, and two, you had to have a personal website. Some of our members include the likes of Peter Erskine, Dom Famularo, Carmine Appice, Ernie Durawa (Texas Tornadoes), and Paulinho da Costa, just to name a few. The Drum Ring International served its members by promoting their websites, as well as reviewing and selling their products (e.g. books, CDs, etc.). At that time, in the life of the internet, e-commerce was fairly new and rather expensive to operate on your own. There was no PayPal, so many of our members took advantage of Drum Ring’s services, selling their books and CDs online.
In 1999, the Drum Ring International expanded its public offerings to include a free discussion list which was available to anyone, not just Drum Ring members. This proved to be a positive way for drummers and percussionists from around the world to communicate and ask questions of our professional members. I shared the latest news and “goings on” of our pro members to the masses via the discussion list and website.
It was in the early part of 2001 that the Drum Ring International added a bulletin board to its site. This forum was called … the Drummer Café™. Later that same year, on December 21, 2001, I made the decision to position all of the services and features offered by the Drum Ring International under one name, Drummer Café™.
DRUM! So it really didn't launch. It evolved.
Elliott Over the years the Drummer Café™ has grown and expanded along with the changes and evolution of the internet, as well as the needs of our users. News, reviews, interviews, articles, lessons, and a first-class community forum have been staples of the Drummer Café™ for many years now. Although I’ve always had video lessons and content on the site, in January 2008 Drummer Café TV was launched, featuring unique, video content that I personally create. The Drummer Café has also offered various newsletters over the years, but in January 2009, I started The PRess Roll™, a free, weekly newsletter from the Drummer Café™.
DRUM! Is there a Drummer Cafe™ type-drummer? Do you have any demographic information about members?
Elliott The Drummer Café™ reaches a broad market of musicians, novice to professional drummers and percussionists, ages 13 to 70+ years old, from around the globe. The biggest percentage of our membership is from the USA, followed by Canada and the UK. We also have a substantial number of members from South America, Europe and Australia. All of our members are interested in investing in their education, equipment, and musical careers.
Many of our members have been with us since our very first year as the Drummer Café™, and several of our resident pros have been with us since the 90’s via the Drum Ring International.
The majority of our membership has been with us for five years or longer; evidence of their desire to build a healthy community with long-standing relationships. Professionalism along with quality content has been a tenant of the Drummer Café™ since its inception. I believe this is why we’ve attracted so many professional players and educators over the years.
My experience has been that in order to have a healthy community you can’t be a taker. The longstanding members, professionals to novice, are people who not only take from the community, but more importantly give. It’s this balance that keeps the community healthy … and growing.
DRUM! How does Drummer Café™ work? What's the business model?
Elliott The Drummer Café™ is a grassroots business, owned, operated and funded by yours truly. I handle all of the Drummer Café’s web and graphic design, IT programming, as well as creating/editing all of the original content you see on the site, including audio, video, photos and images. The Drummer Café™ is not associated or directly affiliated with any manufacturer, so any generated revenue comes through the generous support and donations of our patrons and beneficiaries. In addition, we have a subscription-based area called the Premium Resources in which subscribers can access unique lessons (with video, audio and pdf downloads), play-along tracks, featured articles, and rare video/audio recordings. The bulk of this content is created by me, but in the last year or so I’ve had several other professional members contribute lessons and articles. Subscribers may also access the Virtual Classroom for interactive, live video classes, covering a wide assortment of topics and subjects. Times and dates for these classes are TBA.
In addition, the quality video content that I’ve been able to create and generate for the Drummer Café™ has afforded me the opportunity to offer fee based video and production services to the drumming industry. Recently, we have all seen an emerging demand for video content on the web, due to the improvements in technology required to stream video. The powerful results the medium provides to resources, such as Drummer Café™, as well as, the impact to drum industry companies, events, performers, and consumers is definitely being realized and I am certain you’ll start to see more and more video content in our industry moving forward.
DRUM! What's been the most popular event or feature of the site?
Elliott Our most popular member event is probably the annual Drummer Café Community Drum Solo; something we’ve been for the past six years (since 2005). Members participate in a group drum groove/solo by recording themselves playing along to a loop or play-along track that I create. The solos are edited together to create one, long, cohesive piece of music. Early on it was audio only, but in the last several years we’ve been using video footage. It’s been a lot of fun and everyone seems to enjoy seeing/hearing each other’s musical interpretations and ideas.
The most popular features would definitely have to be the Premium Resources and the 24/7 access to our growing team of pro experts (aka chef de partie).
DRUM! What is your background as a drummer? Are you still a working drummer?
Elliott I’ve been working as a professional drummer and percussionist, playing live gigs, studio sessions and teaching privately since 1979. My formal education includes a Bachelor of Music degree in Music-Performance, and post-graduate work in Music-Performance. Some of my mentors include the late Alan Dawson, and John Kasica of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I’ve worked as an adjunct faculty member at several colleges and universities, as well as maintaining a private teaching studio throughout my career. From 1989-1992, I owned and operated Bart Elliottt’s Studio Drum Shop. My studio work includes numerous commercial jingles, demos, soundtracks, music videos, and over 100 albums. I’m also an active producer, arranger, creative consultant, and ASCAP composer.
For more information about me and my playing career you can check out my personal website: www.bartElliott.com
I’m still doing everything I’ve always done; working as a drummer and a percussionist in all genres of music, both live and in the studio, although in the last few years I’ve chosen to stick closer to home to focus on my family and devote more time to the Drummer Café™.
DRUM! What's the craziest thing ever to happen on DrummerCafe.com?
Elliott I don’t know if it’s the craziest or not, but definitely funny! A number of years ago, back in 2005 actually, we had a young 14-year-old percussionist on the forum who insisted that his teacher owned a 10-octave marimba. Tried as we may, through laws of physics and musical fact, our efforts failed to convince this young man that a 10-octave marimba was impossible.
This soon led to me referring to this as the Attack of the 10-Octave Marimba and photo-shopping a gag image. One of our Drummer Café members, Larry Lawless, ran with the idea and wrote a percussion ensemble piece entitled “Attack of the 10-Octave Marimba”. The work was then recorded by five percussionists, including Larry Lawless and myself, and appears on Larry’s CD, Lawless Percussion & Jazz Ensemble: Jazz Behind Bars. Good times.
DRUM! Anything else you'd like us to ask?
Elliott I don’t know about the exact question, but here’s the answer:
There are several new features and surprises cooking at the Drummer Café™; I’ll be serving those up sometime in 2010, so be on the look out … and come hungry!
Besides continuing to cover and report on the various drum related events and trade shows, this summer, at the 20th Annual Chicago Drum Show, I’ll have a physical Drummer Café with tables, chairs and a small stage. People will actually be able to sit down, have a cup of coffee or sandwich, and listen in on the interviews I’ll be conducting with various guest artists throughout the show. We’ll be streaming live from the Drummer Café stage, so if you can’t make it to the Chicago Drum Show, you can catch it all on Drummer Café TV. I’ve got a few other sweet surprises baking as well, so you’ll have to wait and see.