Rob Wallis is a co-founder, along with Paul Seigel, of DCI Music Video, which later became Hudson Music. Rob being a longtime provider of content to the drumming community; Rob is the OG of video content.
DCI Music Video was responsible for many legendary drum education videos that were great in their day. Today it holds a wonderful nostalgia, with titles such as “Bernard Purdie on studio drumming”, Steve Gadd’s “Up Close”, Dennis Chambers and John Scofield’s “Serious Moves”, Carter Beauford’s “Under the Table and Drumming” and “Modern Drummer Festival 2000”. These videos have been embedded for many years in my drumming life and I think back on them like you would your childhood. So huge thanks to Rob, Paul and the team with Hudson Music for making that content possible and delivering value to the drumming community for all these years.
Whenever you are learning some style of music, a lot of drummers will suggest learning the history of players within that genre. It is always recommended to learn the roots and the history behind it. With so many drummers creating video content these days, is it important to study the history of video content? If it is, well…DCI is where you’d have to start. Rob talks about the truckloads of tape from recording festivals and the storage areas where they would keep it. We are talkin’ thousands of pounds of the stuff. Tapes everywhere! Imagine: in order to create your live content, you have to hire catering services! The level of expense that went into this stuff was intense, man. Massive risk, and yet…a range of rewards. On one hand, no one else was doing it. On the other, you could lose your shirt if it flopped. But no matter how you sliced it, there was a huge gap in the industry and these guys forged the way. What they came up with would become the beginning of a new era for music education.
I want to focus on something for a minute…
This “gap” is what everyone should be looking at. What makes that difficult is the fact that everyone has everything already. The delivery of information has improved immensely by looking better, sounding better, being more user friendly, and well, you get the point, right? That all requires budget, experience, a facility, a network – and probably other things to make it work really well. But back when Rob and Paul were getting into this, no one had ever seen anything like it before! It made a big impression and the ceiling was high to scale it. But again, the costs were massive back in those days, as Rob says in the interview. Renting 100k camera equipment for $1500 a day (in the early 80s, remember) is what’s on the menu. The cost of a mistake is on a whole other scale. “It’s a different ballgame,” was the term we used in the conversation, and it is all true.
Hudson Music has produced a lot of VHS tapes, DVDs, and education books over the years. And for some twenty years, you received content on VHS or DVD until YouTube came along. It was a time for some people to strike while the iron was hot. Once again, there would have been huge costs involved, massive technical hurdles, less accessibility, and huge costs (yes, I realize I repeated that).
So this was, yet again, the potential for a new era of education. The internet naturally became the focus for distribution. Since very early on, trusted providers such as Drumeo, Mike Johnston, Stephen Taylor, and Adam Tuminaro have all been chipping away and evolving in order to perfect online drum education. And to me it doesn’t look like there is a whole lot of room left to make this stuff exclusively. You could do it part-time, but you will likely be doing a lot of other stuff too – music related or not – to make ends meet.
It goes without saying that because it is easy to create a quick and easy lesson for Instagram or Facebook, anyone can do it. The internet is an amazing space to build a voice and brand. Hell, that’s what I am trying to do. It is all in how you handle that, though. Is what you make any good? Is there really any value in it? Has it been said 10,000 times before and is there any need to hear it some more? Are you doing it just to build a ‘brand’? Are you thoughtful with how you approach projects or content? Do you really love to do it, or do you feel pressure to do it? These are the things I would ask myself.
In any case, with lesser cost, lesser risks, better fidelity, and more access comes saturation. Inevitably.
Right, so tons of drummers are doing this. Some content looks great, some don’t. Some stuff sounds great, some don’t. Some lessons simply contain better information than others. But you know what it all has in common? I’ve seen it all thousands of times and I am bored now. I’m not suggesting that it needs to go away. Great content, is great content! Keep that going for as long as possible. It needs to exist for drummers, of course, but when you combine all of what is out there – I mean all of it – is it really needed?
The information coming into our phones and other devices is cruising along at overdose levels. I am not sure it is a good thing. Consider the fact that most of this content exists because of social media and its design. So the question is whether or not we are attracted to our addictions of sharing information/performances. It is a blurry line if we get real with ourselves. Likes, comments, more followers. All of it feeds the part of us that we associate with progress and esteem. And humans are drawn to progress and esteem…just look at the huge leaps forward as a species. That is a whole other kettle of fish that I may tackle another day, but for now, let us all agree that we have come a long way since we were banging rocks together and pounding our chests.
The point is that platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are meant to draw us in and keep us living there. It is up to our own discretion and discipline to monitor ourselves and maintain a healthy level of usage. This awareness ties in with my own abuse of social media, all with the notion that because I was growing a podcast, more metrics meant more growth. I felt that investing in the platform is a wise decision in order to scale my show. But ya know what? This show doesn’t actually grow much from social media. “But how is that, Seamus?”, you might be asking. Well, it is because people are on social media to be on social media. Not to find podcasts. That’s what Google’s for.
Side note: Shares from super powerful and influential people/organizations on social media does help…a lot. But I am talking about how, in my own experience, the level of input vs. output is disproportionate. However, with continued, regular investment, you will be on the minds of drummers/potential listeners and perhaps one day they may feel inclined to listen to a drumming podcast, and yours may be the one they choose. Also, you can easily create good relationships with people. This may have to be another blog article at some point because there is something big to that. A subject that I find fascinating where people become currency to you…
SO! I know I am digressing here but there is a point to this, trust me.
I want this podcast to be what connects me to you. Hit me up at Seamus@drumeo.com if you want to share your drum story or something else. I like one on one interaction and preferably away from social media. So I encourage everyone to reach me by email, please.
Rob possesses what I admire in people. Honest to goodness passion and love for something. Anyone who has that superpower is my friend, even if we haven’t met yet. But it is the love for what he does that keeps him fired up about working on Hudson Music all these years after having started it. This kind of testimony is what makes me excited because what I feel is a total obsession and interest in what I do. I just want to make the next thing, after the next thing. And that is exactly what Rob has done over the years.
He expresses his connection to the instrument, and how the connection occurs off the kit as well. Drumming is a community. It is music and art as well, obviously, but on the grander scale, it is and should always be about community. One person’s success is a victory for the community and so we should encourage each other, not compete. We should share ideas and philosophies to help each other grow and become stronger. That has become a larger purpose for this podcast as time has gone on and the show’s level of reach and impact have evolved. So as a sidebar, thank you, everyone, who comes here for their dose of a realistic, honest, well-intentioned, open forum.
Something that I want to drive home…
I believe that when you have integrity, like Rob, you produce the results required for something to survive and hopefully thrive. Ups and downs will always come and go, but long term success is really about devotion.
Because Rob treated his career more like an adventure, he managed to gain many fantastic personal life experiences that he can call his own. He made something out of nothing, and nearly 40 years later he is still evolving by means of autobiographical book publishing. And he is super proud of it, as he describes “the spine facing out and everything”. He crossed paths with the amazing (spoiler alert…clears throat) Mr. Marlon Brando by happenstance at a red light in Harlem! The story goes that Rob had randomly stumbled across Paul Siegel driving some 20 minutes after they had separated at a red light. Paul’s passenger yells to Rob, “Hey, the phone is for you!”….and it was the Godfather! Yeah, just unreal stuff.
It was a big topic toward the end of the episode and I have some more thoughts about it. Listen to the episode before you continue reading.
Do you think it is better to be an entrepreneur than not? If so, why? What is an entrepreneur today? Is a loose term these days? I mean, you can’t actually be one without risking money, right? And #sorrynotsorry, a social media account with nice content isn’t a business.
But here is the thing: I feel like too many people are telling us to be entrepreneurs. Are people becoming guilty because they work for someone? Is life nothing more than a series of daydreams about becoming something you aren’t yet? Do we focus too much on trying to become something greater than we feel we really are online? Are we becoming numb to motivation and inspiration because we hear it all the time? Rehashed messages with similar lingo that mean almost nothing anymore? What do you really want? Yeah, you!
There are countless messages of motivation, inspiration, dedication…it is basically the ‘ation’ nation! Like c’mon man, do I really need to be motivated on social media? Chances are I am not going to do what the content was intended to “inspire” me to do in the first place. I get it though, that type of stuff pings off of you and you get a little jolt of something. But then you probably swipe to the next thing. At the end of the day, it is just you staring at your phone.
Imagine a third person version of you looking at you looking at your phone while you read something motivational on Instagram. Is that scenario all that motivating? Personally, I love the idea that you are reading this on your laptop or iPad with a whiskey, alone, at night, uninterrupted, in a peaceful environment listening to Brian Eno “Music for Airports” 1/1. But you might just be on the toilet at work on your lunch break.
What I am getting at is that if you watch a particular video on YouTube every morning at 4 AM before you “rise and grind” and it actually helps you “crush” the day; then I guess that’s “lit”, bruh. But if you are just reading that stuff and not doing anything about it, then be woke!
Man, I keep getting off topic. I apologize for that…
Anyway, the reason I asked Rob what he thinks about this is because he was a proper entrepreneur of a generation that largely lived without this technology. What does he think is good for people? It is simple. It is the non-digital, human stuff that makes life interesting and fun. He figures if you make money at something, you should appreciate that. If you don’t dig it, quit and move onto something else. Inject your passions into your life. Find out what they are. It is important to have things in your life for you, and you only. That is the essence of honoring yourself. And even though Rob claimed that parts of the interview were challenging, I think our conversation brought out a moment for him that he won’t soon forget, and that is what it is all about, folks.
That is my advice to you. Make impactful things. Do what really matters to you. It becomes honest that way, and when it is honest work that you produce, it succeeds over time. But you have to have passion and vision to see the long term destination. It is having a vision that keeps your momentum on a high note.
And the beauty of it all is that wherever you stop along the way is either not up to you, or you managed to put yourself in the right place at the right time with intent. But your effort will, at some point, lead you to those places that your heart wants. You also don’t need to go searching for it every time. Sometimes things intersect your path instead. In my opinion, this notion that you can “take what you want” is too forceful and fiercely focused on what you think you desire. Why not let go? Let your focus be on your passion and work ethic. Your devotion to your craft. Maybe there is fortune along that path as well. I am willing to bet that there is.
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