By Phil Hood Published December 29, 2009
DrumART is well known as a leader in the custom drumhead market. Their ingenious designs have graced thousands of drumheads, including those of some of the world's biggest bands. The company was founded by Jim Feck in 1997. We interviewed Jim via email last week.
How did you get started with DrumART?
I started DrumART in the mid-90s, making custom bass drum heads for myself and a number of local friends and musicians. At the time, print technology wasn't anywhere near as advanced as it is today and the Internet hadn't yet "taken off," so it was very much a cottage business for the first five years or so. I'm a Web developer by training, so as the Internet marketplace began to reach the critical mass needed to support a business like DrumART.com, I was able to develop a website and bring it to a broader market fairly quickly.
Did you have a background in drums? Art? Or both?
I'm a third-generation drummer -- my uncle and my grandfather both played drums, and one of my earliest memories is sitting at my uncle's kit banging away at around three-years-old. I've been playing drums "seriously" since grade school band. Otherwise, I'm not a formally-trained artist or graphic designer, although I have been doing design work and photography since high school. Luckily, DrumART has a healthy network of affiliate designers that we work with on a project by project basis. This model allows us the flexibility of always having access to the right person for the job without the associated overhead that a large in-house staff would require.
What has been the biggest challenge in developing the business?
The biggest challenge in developing DrumART.com has definitely been time. We're always very, very busy, so it can be difficult to find the time for things like updating the website, adding heads to our online gallery, developing new product offerings, working on super-custom projects, etc. For example, as of today we're nearly 7000 heads behind in the gallery! Our singular focus has always been on producing top-quality products while providing peerless customer service, so functions that don't directly support that core mission can sometimes fall by the wayside.
People from all over the world contact you for custom drumheads. What's
the oddest request you've ever received?
We've definitely received some odd ones! Given that yours is a family-friendly publication, we'll leave some of the strangest on the table. Our favorite would have to be the client who used one of our removable logos to propose to his girlfriend at a gig. Thankfully, she said yes! (http://www.drumart.com/gallery/engagement.cfm) Another fave was figuring out a way to create a head that looks like a disco ball for the guys at SJC Custom Drums. We were able to overlay digital printing on mirror-chrome material, and the effect was very cool.
How many of the designs do you do for others, versus those that send you
This is an interesting question. I'd say the split is probably around 70% provided artwork to 30% totally custom. That said, it is VERY rare that we receive artwork which can be used without any editing or retouching at all. An image from a website and an image suitable for high-resolution printing at 22" are two very different things! Virtually every order we receive can in some way benefit from our skill and experience creating custom bass drum heads, and this is a service we happily provide to our clients as part of the package. Using that standard, we probably retouch, resize or otherwise enhance close to 95% of the designs we receive.
What trends do you currently see in artwork that is being requested?
The best part about this business is that every time I think there's a design trend underway, it evaporates. That keeps things interesting. There was a time when tattoo art was pretty common, but that's not en vogue much anymore. I firmly believe that there's a custom bass drum head for every drummer, and given the number of drummers, bands and genres out there, it's hard to imagine things ever getting stale at DrumART!