Starting Your Own Drum Circle In a Music Store

By Arthur Hull
Edited by Christine Stevens

Step 1: Find a facilitator or facilitate it yourself

Step 2: Set-Up

  • A community music-making event where people sit or stand in a circle while playing world percussion instruments.
  • People play improvised rhythms. Music is created in the moment.
  • Instead of a teacher, there is a facilitator – someone with musical experience and facilitation training who leads from the center of the circle.
  • In the Drum Circle, there is no audience. Everyone is part of the performance.

To host a Drum Circle in your store, you need:

  • Ample parking.
  • Cleared area large enough for a circle in your store.
  • Chairs – preferably without arm rests.
  • Tags to mark the personally owned drums.
  • A sound-system with headset mic for the facilitator (depending on how large is the expected turnout).
  • A small stage (four milk crates holding up a 4’ x 4’ piece of ½-inch plywood will work) for the facilitator, if the circle will be more than 50 people.
  • Security – be sure the instruments stay in the store.
  • A bowl where participants can drop their business cards or information about where they can be contacted to create future mailing lists.

Setting up the Drum Circle in a “Sound-Bowl”: To set up a Drum Circle in your drum department, you want to put the maximum amount of people and equipment in the minimum amount of space. A Sound Bowl consists of three concentric circles, creating a three level seating arrangement:

Level 1: The Floor - Hand percussion and small drums can be seated on the floor, leaving space in the center for the facilitator.

Level 2: The Chairs – Place chairs and “sit down drums,” such as Congas, Ashikos, Djembes, and Tubanos, in a ring around the center. Leave at least three openings in the circle of chairs for foot access to the center.

Level 3: The Standing Circle – Place your stand-up Congas, Timbales, Bongos, and drums with Slider Straps behind the chairs.

If you cannot host the Drum Circle in-store, consider other possible venues, such as community centers, parks, small theaters, dance halls, and clubs. Some stores have held Drum Circles outside in their parking lot – after warning their neighbors first.

Step 3: Advertising the Event

The initial community Drum Circle may be a kick-off for a grand opening or a special sales event. It may be linked to another festival in your community.

  • Invite the Media. Make sure you invite the media, especially the film and photography crews. The media loves images and stories of community Drum Circles. Articles and TV stories about Drum Circles have appeared in the New York Times, Yoga Journal, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and even the prestigious medical journal, JAMA. CNN covered the opening Drum Circle for “Rhythm for Life” with Mickey Hart, Airto Moreira, Arthur Hull, Santana, and Sheila E.
  • Advertise to New Markets. Advertising for a community Drum Circle in your store requires a unique strategy. You are truly inviting the entire neighborhood to show up. You may use your pre-existing lists of drum consumers, however, you must broaden your advertising efforts to reach new customers.
  • Who are you advertising to?
    The three main new market areas for outreach are:
    - Recreational drummers
    - Health & wellness
    - Kids

(This means doing outreach to new age book stores and local events listings in community newspapers, college campuses, the local music therapy community, parent organizations, ethnic arts centers, local hand-drum instructors, schools, and music teachers.)

  • Create Promotional Materials
    - We will be happy to send you some great drum circle photos for use in all you promotional materials. Just click on this link, and send us an email describing your project.
    - Posters.
    - Press releases to media contacts; include print and TV.
    - Website announcements of the event.
    - Community calendar.
    - Print ads in local papers.
    - Product Service Announcements (PSAs) on world music radio programs and local college radio.

Generate your press materials using such words and phrases as:

  • “Share the spirit of your community by drumming together to create unity.“
  • “Instruments will be provided.”
  • “All levels, from beginner to advanced, are invited and welcome.”
  • “Come and participate. No prior musical experience necessary.”
  • “Bring your own drums or other personal percussion instrument (no snare drums please).”
  • “Handicap accessible, wheelchair accessible, ALL are welcome.”

Step 4: Holding the Event

Top Ten Tips for a successful Drum Circle event:

  • Introduce yourself and your staff at some point during the circle.
  • Create a special product sale for participants that day.
  • Take pictures and shoot video to use in future promotions and on Web sites.
  • Have participants write one sentence about the experience on 3” x 5” cards at the end of the Drum Circle. Ask them to include their first name and age. Use these sound bytes and quotes in future advertising and press releases. These can also be fed to the media.
  • Ask them if they want to come back and do it again!
  • Have participants remove their rings before playing.
  • Include a strong ethnic bass drum such as a Surdo, Djun-Djun, or Gathering Drum, one per every 30 participants, to hold down the rhythm.
  • Identify staff members to play specific support instruments.
  • Identify “Welcomers,” your staff members who make sure people have something to play.
  • Make time for announcements. Include future drumming events, both in your store and within the community. Invite participants to announce their events as well.

Step 5: Following up

After your big Drum Circle kick-off event, consider four main things:

  • What programs will you offer on-going?
  • How will you serve the new recreational drumming and wellness customer in your store?
  • How will you utilize these new contacts? Do you want to generate an ezine or newsletter updating this new network on upcoming percussion events and sales?
  • Are there interested facilitators who could collaborate with you in selling drums to off-site markets, such as well-elderly centers, school programs, nursing homes, and recreation centers?
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