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Drummer Connection

Interview by Sean Mitchell // September 02 2009
Drummer Connection

We had to train drummers to be web geeks. Ironically, that was a major task to overcome, even in today's social network driven society. The mentality is completely different between drummers and computer geeks, and getting a drummer to pay quite a bit of attention to a website was not a small task and still isn’t.

One night, not too long ago, I was yet again at a loss for inspiration as another Black Page deadline loomed in the near future. I needed an interview that was different, something that showed a whole different side to the drumming world.

I found that something in Drummer Connection and creator Eric Rosebrock. What I found initially on the website was a free online drummers’ community complete with pro lessons, tips, news, videos and much more. In Eric I found a gracious soul that shared a common belief in a community of drummers who help and support one another.

Eric and the Drummer Connection crew have not only gone above and beyond the call of duty in creating  an online community of players from all skill sets, but they have also begun to connect the world of drumming and the players in it. In this, the era of the global village, Drummer Connection is truly the future of networking.

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Eric, let’s start by introducing the players that make up the Drummer Connection team; who are they and a little background if you will.

I’m Eric Rosebrock, aka drumfreak, and I’m the founder and owner of DrummerConnection.com. I am an experienced web developer, twice published in the field of computer science and programming. I have a very strong technical background, and I own a company called The Web Freaks, INC out of Kissimmee, FL. My company has several aspects to it, to include Server Hosting for companies who run websites, and we have helped build large scale websites and their data center infrastructures for sites such as playlist.com. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to these websites, networks, data centers and etc, and I’ve built a successful company based on my desire to provide great customer service and constantly expand our horizons. I have an incredible passion for drums and music, and my goal is to combine all of those passions together to share a killer resource for drummers out there.

Billy Ashbaugh is an amazing educator who is here to share with us his knowledge behind the drum kit, on the road, and inside the music. He formerly played for 'NSYNC, Pat Benatar, Britney Spears, and a long list of other famous musicians. Billy has performed at Modern Drummer Festival, Jay Leno, MTV Music Awards, the Grammys, the SuperBowl and many other events. His role here is to educate drummers by his free online drum lessons. Billy is also endorsed by DW Drums, Evans Drum Heads, Vic Firth, Paiste, SHURE and LP. You can find more about Billy at http://www.DrummerConnection.com/drumlessons and on his personal profile.

Keith Thomas is our Web Content Administrator. He's also an outstanding drummer and at his age of 19, he's only been playing for 5 years now, but his ability would quickly lead anyone to believe that he's been at it for over 20 years. Keith is currently endorsed by SHINE Custom Drums and he also records with his band, To My Dearly Beloved, which just finished their first album and hopes to be on tour here soon.

Jeffrey L. Cash Jr, aka “Cash,” is our in-house, multi-talented musician. He's been playing since he was two years old; now he's 26.  He grew up in a Jackson-Five-type family of musicians who traveled the world sharing their music, which is mostly gospel. Cash can play keyboard, guitar, bass guitar and, most importantly, drums. He also uses a special Talk Box which allows him to sing songs like “Drummer Connection Soul” which can be found on DrummerConnection.com/playalongs which is his section on the website.

Joe Brewer is our web programmer. He and I work closely together as geeks to build new features on the site. I reached out to Joe at the end of 2008 and quickly relocated him down to Kissimmee, FL, where our offices are, and now Joe maintains the development aspects of the website.

Joe 'Rotcav' Burke is a miracle. His role is to help our social networking aspects (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and etc.). Joe started out a few years back with his own online community in support of Blue Man Group Fans – www.bluemanfans.com   Joe's website helped connect a rapidly growing fan base and proved his abilities to tie a community of very unique people together, despite some very challenging health issues he was faced with. His efforts highlighted him to me, and I insisted that we find a way to work with him. A miracle has happened and Joe is now here in Kissimmee, FL, with us, and he's been treating us to many wonderful skills that he has to share. He’s an absolute blessing to have with us.

Danilo Maia is also starting on with us. He’s originally from Brazil and has been playing for over 11 years now. His style is incredible and his love for drumming and music makes him a perfect fit for our team.

Who came up with the concept of Drummer Connection and how did you get started?

I came up with the concept for DrummerConnection.com. I have very strong visions and feelings about certain concepts that come to me, and I gave this a go. After gathering a large number of skills and a vast understanding of computers, servers, networks, and computer programming, I decided to combine all of my  passions together (drumming and computers/websites). My company was blessed with success, which I quickly turned into investing into DrummerConnection.com. DrummerConnection.com is completely funded by The Web Freaks, INC, which is an independent company.

The turning point was really a few years ago when I was in Las Vegas as a speaker at a conference on Web Technology and met some very interesting people (cast members and artists for Blue Man Group). I became very interested in the unique percussion aspects of the Blue Man Group, and I had a very strong passion for drumming and music already. Based on the blessings our company was giving, we had a very unique opportunity to start something new. A unique group of people crossed paths with me and helped me form DrummerConnection.com.

What were some of your biggest obstacles in the beginning?

Wow, where do we start? First, we had to train drummers to be web geeks. Ironically, that was a major task to overcome, even in today's social network driven society. The mentality is completely different between drummers and computer geeks, and getting a drummer to pay quite a bit of attention to a website was not a small task and still isn’t. We would all rather be playing.

After a few months, we quickly decided we needed a place to produce audio and video with acoustic drums for the website. We built our own studio at my house using an extension (900 square foot block enclosure) on my home. This studio is now known as The Drum Room on the site – where Billy Ashbaugh shoots all of his drum lessons and the crew comes out and does jam sessions quite frequently with special guests. The DrummerConnection.com crew designed and built the studio mostly on our own. Damian King (former Drummer Connection employee), Keith Thomas, and myself, along with a few outside contractors (friends of friends), pulled together and built The Drum Room – most of us have never done construction before, so we applied ourselves, our passion and learned the tools and skills necessary to include all of the electrical wiring, circuitry, spray foam insulation, attic work, raised flooring, flooring and everything was done by us with the exception of the dry wall finish (Who in the world wants to do this for fun?)  The funny thing is, it all passed inspection and it turned out awesome!

When we finally got our Studio/The Drum Room finished up, we started filming there and learning the ropes of sound engineering, studio configurations, lighting, camera configurations, software, and much more. It was quite an experience, and it's an ever evolving project. With The Drum Room in place, we now have a place for Billy Ashbaugh and the rest of the DrummerConnection.com crew to go to work to bring you the best online media resources we can.

The other obstacle was to work our way into the drumming industry so that we could be part of the business as well as fun aspects of drumming. In the beginning, we met a great person and Store Manager, John Spinelli, from Seminole Music & Sound in Seminole, Florida – in the Tampa area. John saw our passion and instantly came on board with us by simply putting us in touch with people he thought would be interested in what we are doing, thus opening the doors to our friendship with Terry Platt, Division Manager of ddrum. Terry and John have always been very helpful to our vision.

There have also been some other great people along the way who have taken to our concept and helped us out with advice and friendship. Sabian and Meinl have been two really great companies who have kept in touch with us while we've been back at home base, but other than that, it's been pretty nil on the love out there (at least so far). Sabian has sent us several cymbals to give away at the Drum Clinics in this area that we've been covering. We take their gear out and literally give away $200 cymbals because that's what we were asked to do by Sabian in agreement that they sent us the merch. We're not interested in keeping products for ourselves. We would much rather share it with someone who would appreciate receiving such gifts and prizes. It's awesome to see the look on people's faces when they go home from a clinic with free gear we handed out.

As of right now, we have no contractual or verbal obligations to any drum related companies in the industry. We're lone wolves in this industry. In the future, we look forward to working with some of the other drum companies, but for now, we’re privately funded and enjoy what we do. We're here for the average-Joe drummer out there who wants to network and learn about drumming through the community's efforts. We're having fun doing that right now and we're meeting some very interesting people. This is really fascinating to watch drummers literally crawl out of the woodsheds and join our community.

On an average day what goes into maintaining this website?

I would say that we scan through the website watching and listening to the content our users have created leaving comments and critiques and answer a vast array of questions. On a typical day, we receive over 200 e-mails between our staff of people just saying hello, thank you, and of course asking tech questions, which we promptly redirect to our community forums: http://www.DrummerConnection.com/community, where we prefer to answer questions in public because we feel if you can discuss it openly, more people will benefit from the time and energy to answer the questions we get. The responses we're getting as of lately are becoming overwhelming, yet rejuvenating as we've been on a long road to get here and sometimes didn't feel like we were going to ever accomplish anything. The important thing for anyone reading this to understand is we truly appreciate every single member on our website and we treat them as brothers and sisters and we'll help out in any way possible.

We also have studio days when we’re not at the office. The goal is to have at least two of those a week where we can shoot drum lesson videos, have jam sessions, interviews and experiment with the equipment we have on site. The Drum Room changes face every couple of weeks in configuration terms.

In a perfect world, where does the team want to see Drummer Connection in the next 10 years?

These days 10 years are difficult to predict. If we had to chose, we'd love to be doing the same thing, just with a few hundred thousand members and a larger staff to go out and cover events, interviews, and help drummers through their journey. We’d also like to have clinic tours and be able to perform at events as Drummer Connection.

Who can utilize DC? Is it just for working pros?

Anyone who has an interest in music or drumming can utilize Drummer Connection. Ironically the pros don't seem to have many interests in this, but we've had a few dozen celebrity drummers sign up, some which we have made friends with and interviewed, etc. We work to treat all of our members/drummers the same, regardless if you’re a pro or not. By all means we encourage anyone regardless of your skill level or professional status to share and participate. It's easy to get the wrong impression about who you have to be to get involved with us. Frankly, if you're a drummer or another musician and you have something to share, please join us. If you just like drums and music, join us as well. We're here to communicate and help others share their experiences with the world. All you have to do is sign up, which is 100% FREE and always will be.

How does one fully utilize DC? Tell me about the features.

DrummerConnection.com is a social network much like MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube and all of the others. The concepts are much similar; we're just trying to make it even easier and most importantly friendlier to use, and much more targeted to drummers. The best features we have are your ability to communicate and interact with other drummers and musicians. We have a place on your profile where you can share your videos, audio, or even your favorite YouTube clips. These sections are designed to help you.

Some of the features we currently have:

Free drum lessons – We have nearly 100 drum lessons to date, and probably 500 more to film! With Billy Ashbaugh here, we have an endless supply of lessons (Billy won't admit that but it's true), and we really enjoy filming, editing and receiving feedback from these free lessons.  http://www.DrummerConnection.com/drumlessons

Drum Store Search Engine- Where you can find, comment about, and rate drum stores you shop at. http://www.DrummerConnection.com/drumstores

Free drumless playalong tracks – We offer these for free, and we even have a way for you to download these tracks, jam to them on your drums and upload your version back to the website. This feature is catching on like crazy and people love the fact that we have been providing almost 100 Free Drumless Tracks of all genres, whereas this seems to be a hot item that you have to pay for on most other websites. We enjoy giving these out and watching drummers from all around the world hook the tracks up and record audio or video and upload their takes on it. You'd be surprised at the talent that's out there every day drumming away in their bedrooms, basements and dining rooms. This is by far one of the coolest features we have to offer (so far)! http://www.DrummerConnection.com/playalongs

Drummer Community Board / Forums – We've taken and designed a whole new and completely unique community forum system that is really active. We get new drummers saying hello and new topics posted every day. Soon enough, this will become its own powerful resource by the amount of interaction we're seeing our members put forth. It's a very cool place! http://www.DrummerConnection.com/community

I could go on and on about our features but the best thing to do is visit DrummerConnection.com and have a look around. And remember, it’s all Free, all you have to do is sign up!

Where do you gather your information (industry news, etc.) and how difficult is it to stay on top of all that is happening in the drumming world?

That's a tough one. Information comes at us from all different directions. At first we had to do a lot of leg work to get our info, but now we've been seen more as a valuable resource, and we get the bleeding edge information sent to us from various sources. Other than that, it's just a matter of syndicating some news from other sites. Our focus is shifting away from news writing to some other new features we're working on.

We're always looking for news writers and helpers around the site, so if you want to join up, please contact us. This is a volunteer position, and if you're only out to get paid, then please do not apply. We view this as a community effort, almost like WikiPedia and do not have a budget to pay for contributions. At the very least, show your appreciation for what we're giving you and simply pitch in and help out!

What factors played the biggest role in choosing the layout of DC?

The site has been evolving for awhile now. Joe Brewer, our new web developer is also great with graphics and design. He really whipped us into shape when he came on board with his design abilities. The funny thing is we're nowhere finished with our designs yet!  We're not here to flash you with a bunch of fancy artwork and sell you anything. We're here solely for the community aspect, and for the past two years we have not run any advertisements on our site, thus keeping it clean and user friendly.

We all have had our frustrations with MySpace and YouTube layouts and functions. Our goal– and this is still ongoing– is to make it simple, easy to use and make it possible for you to get around as fast as possible on our site because we all know that drummers would rather be drumming and not trying to navigate through a complicated website. So your time is of essence to us and we truly value that, which is why we are focusing so hard on a clean and easy look.

What are the benefits of DC for the average non-drumming Joe/Jane?

Is there an average Joe/Jane these days? (laughs) Maybe they can come by and get inspired to pick up the sticks and get started. We certainly have the resources they need to get started and it won’t cost them anything on our end.

How can potential advertisers benefit from a site like this?

I feel the benefit from advertisers is that you'll get a real targeted audience. It's also been proven that online advertisement is much more effective than magazine ads (unless you're going to spend big bucks on magazines for full page ads, etc). Not to beat up any magazines out there, but internet advertising is simply the easiest method to connect directly to your audience. A click away is much simpler than going through the effort of (1) remembering to go back to that advertisement in a magazine, and (2) relocating to a computer, or picking up a telephone and making the efforts to follow through with a paper advertisement.

Say I have a product I want to get reviewed. How does a manufacturer, author etc get some face time on DC?

We love reviewing new gear. All that a manufacturer has to do is contact us and make arrangements. We've done several smaller product reviews for things that are new and innovative. However, we've also had some really bad products cross our desks. Some which were really heart-breaking to see that they just didn't pan out. There's no need to name-drop, but if your product isn't what you're advertising it to be, and you're afraid of an honest review, please fix your product and let it speak for itself before contacting us. We are very honest here and if something is crap, we'll call it crap, if it's gold, we'll call it gold and make sure you know why.

Contact Drummer Connection: http://www.DrummerConnection.com/contact and let us know what you have to review. We’ll make arrangements.

What has been the feedback from users so far?

The user feedback is overwhelming and greatly appreciated. Every day we receive hundreds of e-mails from drummers and musicians all around the world. It's very cool to see the response, but it's even cooler to feel that response coming from someone's heart. Most drummers we've met are very honest about their feelings, and it's easy to determine who's sincere or not. Mostly, we receive honest, sincere responses which is the core of our drive to keep DrummerConnection.com going.

Any plans to make other language versions of DC?

Some day this may be a possibility. There are methods to automatically translate text into other languages, and most non-English speaking people know how to use these tools.  However, they can translate to the wrong meaning, so until we have someone willing to translate for us, we'll leave it up to the end user for now. Anyone is welcome to come to our site and leave comments, posts and etc in other languages, and hopefully someone will respond to you in your native language.

What opportunities have arisen personally for you guys since the site went live? Lots of rubbing elbows with your favorite players I imagine.

Yes and no. It's been cool to find that there is a common bond between drummers out there. We've not been given any special treatment by any specific big-time players other than the ddrum artists that have come through our area. ddrum ensures that we have an opportunity to meet their artists because they know for a fact that we'll represent them well and not make them feel uncomfortable by what we write about them. Again, we have nothing more with ddrum than a friendship, and we certainly aren’t getting compensated by them for the representation. We even play tug-of-war with the meal checks when we grab lunches. We’re just happy that ddrum gives us the opportunity and keeps us in their thoughts. The reward is mutual.

In April, 2009 we had an outstanding opportunity recently with Jeff Ocheltree (Billy Cobham, John Bohnam, Danny Carey, Steve Smith's drum tech). Jeff, a legend in his own right, came to visit us exclusively here in Kissimee, Florida, and he spent three days on the ground here, and visited our drum room, and he even brought two of his Tree Bronze Snare Drums down here. It was an awesome time and we really enjoyed visiting with him. There's a 2 ½ hour video interview we put up on Jeff's new section of DrummerConnection.com called “Ask the Tree” where Jeff will do a Question and Answer about anything related to Drumming that he can answer.

Jeff Ocheltree defined the experience we want to have with drummers that we follow and have interests in. We walked away from “The Ocheltree Experience” being more educated, more open, and more mature and we have made a friend for life with him. That's what DrummerConnection is about. See more of Jefff Ocheltree at drummerconnnection.com/askthetree

There are other opportunities for us to work with some of the greats in the industry, and we’re still working on those. When we find out their intentions and make something happen, it’ll certainly be up on the site!

How did you all get started playing?

As the founder of DrummerConnection.com, I am the least experienced drummer. I've only been playing for a few years, and I've never played in public before. That's all about to change for me though. I've been blessed with some great mentors (the DC crew) and I've learned a tremendous amount of drumming knowledge that I feel was shared with me and received due to my passion for drumming.

Some people are confused though as to why I run a drumming website and I'm not experienced at playing, and I still slop fills around in a crazy fashion and etc. The really cool thing is that ever since day one of DrummerConnection.com I have uploaded videos and audio of my journey as a beginning drummer. So, basically you get to see me grow up, if you will, and have it documented on the internet as part of my personal profile on DC.  I do this not to show off by any means, but I do this to hopefully pave the way for anyone else to upload their stuff. Trust me, if you went back and listened to some of my recordings from two years ago, or even last year, or even yesterday there's some really crappy playing in there. (laughs) It took a lot of courage for me to upload my stuff, but I hopefully will not discourage other people from doing the same, regardless of their skill level. I set the bottom of the threshold on what's acceptable by just chucking up my gut feelings and just uploading what I had regardless of how good it sounded. It was the best I could do at the time, and it is my pleasure to serve as the guinea pig! Overall, I would say our staff has over 75 years of combined drumming experience.

Tell me about the award DC presented to Jim Chapin. What was it for and why did you guys feel you wanted to present it?

Jim Chapin was no doubt an amazing individual and his efforts for all he has done in educating drummers had to be recognized. Damian King (former VP of Operations at DC) approached me with this concept and stated that Dom Famularo was interested in working with us on this. We had a very small window of opportunity to meet with Dom Famularo and Jim Chapin, and we also had a great amount of support from various people such as ddrum, John Spinelli, some folks from Sabian and more. There's more information about this award and a video of us presenting it to Jim Chapin on DrummerConnection.com

Any new developments coming in the next few months that site users can look forward to?

Absolutely. We've got the programmer– Joe– locked up in his office and we keep piling more things on him to do. He's a kickass developer and our team has so many ideas, so occasionally, I'll dust off the coding skills and get in there and help him out with busting out some new features. We literally push new changes live to our website every day. Stay tuned, we're just getting started and we haven't even touched on 10% of our ideas yet.

We like to surprise our members and viewers with new features on the website, and we like to be original and authentic when we roll these features. Keeping that in mind, trust me, we have stuff coming soon, but we have to keep it quiet until it’s been developed, tested and launched.

Also, stay tuned for our online store for DrummerConnection gear. We’ve been getting lots of requests to put some cool shirts, hats and gear out there, and our store is being worked on now.

Is DC going to do drum clinics in the future?

We had our first Drum Clinic at Seminole Music & Sound on May 28th, 2009. We had a wonderful time and we even gained support from Ddrum who donated a Defiant d-Bop kit as our secondary kit which we got to give away at the clinic.

Our crew performed several playalongs from our site at the clinic to include Billy Ashbaugh and J.L. Cash Jr. doing a live version of “Something about You” by Cash.  We had eight performances, some information about Drummer Connection and a presentation. The whole clinic was about 2 ½ hours and went very well.

We had over 30 minutes of giveways to include stuff from DW, Vic Firth, Paiste, DiAddario and more. Our clinic turned out to be a success, and we packed the store very full with a standing room in back.

Our goal is to gain some support for our clinics and we’re putting together a media kit right now to send out for support. Perhaps we can start out in central Florida and work our way around to stores and chains here giving clinics. Obviously, we would need to get funding for that, so that’s one of our current goals, to be able to do our own clinic tours.  From the feedback we got, we put on one hell of a clinic, and people are interested in seeing us doing more of them!




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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.



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