This article will discuss why drummers don’t get recognition. Since drummers are just about the essential ingredient in all of the music, it may be worthwhile to see why we don’t get recognition.
We don’t play in slick arrangements
Nobody would ever see jazz percussion or an orchestra without them. You don’t see a keyboard player in a rock band, a bassist or guitarist in an indie band, a saxophonist in a metal band, or an electric guitarist in any metal, and yet you don’t see a drummer.
Why not? What about the bottom line of a music video in which someone wants to make money, say, by having a bunch of dumb-looking ‘musicians’ running around in front of giant screens?
By adding a drummer to a rock video, you might get around two minutes of scintillating drummer action, followed by half a minute of some B-grade song that a person wrote with questionable musical taste (or, more likely, a machine, like Siri or Pandora).
That might help make the music video money, but it certainly won’t generate all that much.
Yet, you see drummers all the time on the covers of pop music magazines, drumming all over the place in advertising, playing in huge arenas, in movie soundtracks, on the soundtrack to your favorite television series, and TV commercials.
Why don’t drummers get the recognition they deserve?
Let’s think a little more broadly. If you went to your favorite art museum, theater, or ballet, would you expect to see a certain kind of artist on the walls, always identified by their name and position?
How about musicians? There are all kinds of musicians playing all kinds of stuff in all kinds of styles worldwide.
Is it just an automatic assumption that they will have their names and artistic positions marked on a wall, right beside their works?
We seem to think that there’s an obligation to bring these artists to the world’s attention.
Well, not quite. There are places worldwide where someone like Diego Rivera is remembered with a huge mural, while someone like Jimi Hendrix is more likely to be forgotten.
When Rivera died, there was a big party and a parade in his honor in Mexico City, while Hendrix died in 1970 and got a nice plaque in a graveyard in England. And that’s totally fine.
Hendrix had lived a short but influential life. Rivera died a long, long time ago, but his paintings still have relevance to his community, while Hendrix’s music inspires people worldwide.
That’s the point. Most musicians are part of an extended artistic community, where those who share their common artistic interests are more likely to remain relevant than if they were alone freelancers.
A drummer is the same as a writer, an artist, a director, a photographer, a photographer-painter, an actor, or an architect. There’s always going to be another artist who has done something they believe to be the next great work right around the corner.
For writers, for example, it’s hard to compete with the new voices that come out of Iowa every day.
The breakthrough every drummer needs
It’s the same for drummers. There are going to be drummers out there that are going to produce something they think is going to be the next big hit.
There will be people who have the next breakthrough in time signatures and others who have the next breakthrough in world music. But if you go to a drum shop, there’s likely to be someone there who, when they were nine, used to listen to the same Michael Jackson song on repeat.
And if you pick up the new Star Wars movie soundtrack, the chances are that half the songs were written by people who have no musical background.
For drummers, writers and directors, and artists in general, the main challenge will be finding your own way. Make your own way, write your own way, create your own world, and create your own style.
That’s what’s important, not to some higher power that will give you a job and pay you for your contribution. That’s what being an individual is all about.
To me, being a drummer is about finding your own way and being free.
I’ve come to a couple of very different conclusions about what being a drummer means to me. One, there’s so much to learn, so much to try, and so many paths that can lead you to success that it’s a pretty inspiring job.
But, two, there’s also so much to avoid, so many pitfalls that can trip you up, so many people that want to see you fail, and so many pitfalls that can hurt you. There’s a lot of responsibility, and it is a lot of fun, but it can also be pretty lonely.
Being a drummer is about finding your own way and being free
I can’t help but be inspired by the fact that people are trying to make a living by doing what they love and are willing to work hard to succeed. The amazing thing is, once you get started, it doesn’t matter where you came from.
You don’t have to be from a very wealthy background or belong to a very cool tribe of drummers. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, a model, a guitarist, a farmer, a shopkeeper, a painter, a sculptor, or a businessman.
And you don’t have to be the best person in your class or the most famous person in the room.
You have to find your own way and work hard to make it happen. The way to get started is to start being creative, start playing the drums, and play many drums.
And the best advice I could give anyone who wants to try drumming? Don’t be intimidated.
Don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t need to be great. In fact, you probably don’t even need to be good. The most important thing is to have fun and to enjoy yourself.
And don’t be afraid to give me a call. I might be able to help you.