This is Drum Showroom with Dan Radin, the drum gear podcast. We’re talking drums with the people, personalities, and stories behind each instrument. Each episode focuses on one piece of gear, and the discussion brings in a company personality from the manufacturer, a drummer, a producer, or somebody else involved with the making of, or music making with that instrument.
Episode 1 is a prologue to explain what the podcast is going to be about, why I’m doing it, and why I hope you’ll subscribe. I recorded this episode as a trial run, using a bluetooth headphone mic while having a cold. My plan was to rerecord it with better gear and improved production, when I wasn’t sick sounding… but at the urging of Gary Vee and James Altucher, I’ve chosen to share it now — warts and all! It’s going to get better and I hope you’ll subscribe and listen as it does!
Today is Sunday, October 1st, 2017, and this week I quit my job as senior global product line manager at of of the world’s largest audio technology companies. I quit because my apprenticeship was complete.
You see, I always wanted to run a drum company. It’s the reason I got into business in the first place. From the time I spent working behind the counter at Sam Ash in Edison New Jersey, I knew it. It’s the reason, after trying to convince myself I might be happy as a music teacher, I dropped out of my Rutgers University music education degree with 120 credits complete. It’s why I completed my undergrad studies at Berklee College of Music in its music business program’s music product track. I killed it while I was there – it was a time of great personal growth and achievement. I was playing in multiple bands all over Boston, and the coursework was a joy. I was super fortunate to bring that passionate joy to an internship at the Zildjian Company. And for some reason, my gut told me I wasn’t ready. Sure, I probably could’ve chased down a job in the drum industry, but somehow, I knew, I needed more seasoning.
I earned a scholarship from Berklee that came with a trip to the NAMM show and participation in a mock interview. Attending the NAMM show for the first time was like a fat kid in a potato chip factory – and I know because I WAS a fat kid.
While the show was amazing: seeing the size, scope, and scale of all the musical instrument industry’s participants, the highlight was participating in a mock interview with the then-CEO of Sennheiser’s North American operations, John Falcone. The mock interview went so well, it ended with John pushing a card across the table and offering to turn this mock interview into a real one. I spent five years at Sennheiser learning the details of distribution and regional marketing, and more importantly, how to treat people. Sennheiser has amazing people culture I will never forget the lessons I learned about treating people fairly, investing in them, and helping them thrive. I also learned about diversification: while you might know Sennheiser for their microphones, headphones, and wireless systems, they also play in many other industries including aviation headsets, museum and other installation settings, audiology, and military equipment. For the last couple of years of my time there, I was fortunate to represent Neumann, the ultra-high-end studio microphone brand owned by Sennheiser, and I learned a ton visiting studios and meeting the engineers and producers who inhabit them.
After Sennheiser, I joined what was then known as Numark, the DJ equipment company. Numark was the first in a series of brands owned by a guy named Jack O’Donnell, who himself had come from DJ company Stanton. Most of them were turnaround efforts and doing very well, including Alesis and Akai. After spending a year as the company’s copywriter – an amazing job that taught me how to communicate like never before – I applied to become the Alesis product manager due to the brand’s recent entry into electronic drums. This is where I learned product. I churned out product. I think, to some degree, this was the perfect position for 25-ish-year-old me. I was full of product ideas and surrounded by engineers and marketers who could help me learn to to make them happen, and it was a loose, entrepreneurial environment that was willing to take chances on some half-baked, not-well-researched ideas. I launched 40 products, in three years, filed and was awarded my first patents, and it was a period of work I continue to be very proud of.
While I was working the Alesis job, I also was attending grad school part time, because, again my gut was telling me I needed more education. I felt that my music business degree didn’t feel like a real business degree and if I was going to create a venture of my own, I needed to know a little but more about all aspects of business. Getting an MBA seemed like a shortcut to gaining some of the insights I might naturally collect over the next 10 or 15 years of my career, so I enrolled. I loved being back in the classroom, and the completion of the degree coincided with the end of my time at Alesis.
One my my last courses in school was Industry Analysis, and I completed a rigorous, academic analysis of the musical instrument industry. Did I see an opportunity to build something? Was I ready? The answer was no. I didn’t see a great place or path that would lead me to success. I felt that I also wanted to gain experience from outside musical instruments that I could bring back eventually when I returned. Fortunately, I was recruited by Danish gaming peripherals company SteelSeries to lead an overhaul of its headsets. While I enjoyed the team and the work, it wasn’t music, and gaming felt like a job, so after a year, I decided to leave SteelSeries, but not before I had an opportunity to ship an entirely new product portfolio, and experience what it’s like to be part of a company owned by private equity.
From SteelSeries, I felt I had realized simply working on sound wasn’t enough for me, but I thought music – reproduction – might give me new experience in a growing field. I joined Harman in 2014 as a product manager in its Luxury Audio group, tasked with turning around the company’s ultra high-end Mark Levinson hi-fi brand. Harman is the parent company of brands including JBL, Harman Kardon, AKG, Infiniti, Crown, Digitech, and many others; and the crown jewel was Levinson.
This was an amazing opportunity to work on incredibly high-end products: components each priced in the $20k or more range, and manufacture them in the United States, something I hadn’t done before. After a year and a half of that job, I was internally recruited within Harman to join a new team that would work with Under Armour to create technology for athletes. While this was a tougher job than I’d ever done before – everything needed to be approved by both Harman and UA – I learned more about process than I ever had before. When you’re trying to get two eight-to-ten million dollar ships sailing in the same direction and also manage engineering, operations, and manufacturing in China, process becomes crucial to success. In 2016, Harman was acquired by Samsung, and while I was uneasy joining then-16,000 employee Harman, which expanded through acquisitions to 30,000, prior to being acquired itself by the more-than 300,000-worker Samsung, I felt less at home as the company ballooned.
That brings us to now. I made the difficult to decision to once again follow my heart and my gut. I feel that my business apprenticeship is complete. Do I know everything? Hardly. But I do know what I don’t know and I’m not ashamed to ask for help. Through the last 15 years I’ve honed my tools for managing and building people, product, and process, and I have earned operational expertise, business acumen, and domain knowledge – along with an intense passion to help drummers create the sounds they want to hear to empower them to create amazing music. You see, while I can play the drums, and have continued to do so in bands continuously since 1993, my gift is not as a player. I will never sound like Josh Freese or Vinnie Colaiuta. My gift is for tone. I believe that every person has a unique purpose on earth, and I am taking the leap to create a business to harness my individual gift.
I’m building a multifaceted company called Drum Showroom, and this podcast is one part of it. Drum Showroom will be your concierge in discovering and experiencing drums to help you hone a refine your sonic palette. Because I believe that combined with your unique touch, the right sounds can be incredibly inspiring to the musician in the room, in the moment. We’ll combine intelligent physical and virtual experiences via brick-and-mortar, online, podcast, and service offerings. And in addition to bringing new ideas to the way we discover, experience, and buy drums and percussion, I’ll also be developing some new products that build on my decade of product development experience.
Look, I’m not an amazing writer but I love telling stories about gear. This podcast is about drum gear, and the people and stories behind it. It’s Behind the Music, for drum gear. And I’m putting all my chips in on this. I’m giving up my cushy corporate job with benefits, and I’m starting at an income of zero dollars. That might scare my wife and family a little, but it doesn’t scare me. Because this is completely authentically me I’m sharing with the world. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.
Listen to Drum Showroom Episode 1: about Dan Radin here, and please subscribe and leave a review if you like what I’m doing. It would really mean a lot.
P.S. Want to check out some of the products I’ve had the pleasure of working on? Here’s a select sampling:
Under Armour x JBL