BY PHIL HOOD
During the past three years Reverb.com has become the key outlet for serious musicians to sell their gear. It now bills itself as “The world’ largest marketplace for buying and selling music gear.” But now it has a competitor that has set its sights on being a marketplace for drums.
Drumsellers.com is the brainchild of George Lawrence, a professional drummer whose career highlights include recording sessions on major label rock, pop, country and jazz albums in Nashville and Los Angeles, and recording and touring with the band Poco from 2004 to 2015. Along the way he also found time to teach many high profile drummers, and own his own drum shop (George’s). And, some of you will know George as the publisher of Not So Modern Drummer Magazine, which he purchased in 2009 and converted to digital in 2012.
Recently, we’ve noticed the growth at Drumsellers and wanted to learn more about the plans for the site. We interviewed Lawrence last month.
DRUM!: What was your thinking when you launched Drumsellers.com?
George Lawrence: It is something I had wanted to do for a long time. The old classified ads that we used to run in Not So Modern Drummer were eclipsed by eBay. It made them obsolete. So I needed to play the same game as eBay, but the technology didn’t become affordable for me until last year. So I consider Drumsellers like the classifieds component of Not So Modern Drummer.
Obviously, you’ve seen the big success of Reverb as well as auction sites like eBay. Are there any areas where you think Drumsellers improves on them?
Yep. Reverb took a bite out of eBay because their marketplace is for musical instruments only. They also have a much lower fee of 3.5 percent and that only applies if the instrument sells. eBay actually lowered their commissions on guitars because of Reverb. So, Reverb was my model for this. Or, you could say I’m taking a niche out of eBay and Reverb and Facebook Marketplace.
I think what’s attractive to drummers about my market is the drummer community aspect. That has carried over from Not So Modern Drummer and other drummer communities I’ve been involved in. I know a lot of the buyers and sellers personally and I monitor the site like a hawk. I allow want ads, posting of any kind of contact info in the listings, commenting, forum-type discussions and, for the present, even cash transactions between buyers and sellers on the honor system. So there are fewer restrictions at Drumsellers. The restrictions and fees and penalties on eBay became oppressive—I had to drop my account after 20 years.
Reverb has really opened up a market for guitarists to try an accessory like a pedal, and then re-sell it when they want to move on to a new sound. Could that kind of buy-and-re-sell trend happen with drummers?
It makes sense to do that with a used drum or cymbal or accessory, doesn’t it? Because you can probably get your money back out of it if you want to sell it and try something else. I don’t think it would work as well with new goods.
Is it a good market for new drums? overstocks? One-of-a-kind items?
Yes! I have quite a few small manufacturers and small retailers selling their new merchandise there. I’ve been encouraging them to list any slow-moving stock. I’ve also seen a lot of customized one-of-a-kind instruments on there. I’m working on the bigger drum shops and the bigger manufacturers.
Are you a collector?
I was a collector. Owning a drum shop and a vintage drum magazine was too much temptation. My collecting became a disease. I needed to go to drum collector rehab. I sold my collection. Now, I only own what I use, which is a handful of kits and a handful of snares, and not all of them vintage. I’ve always sought sound quality, not collectables.
Are you a seller? Have you put any drums on Drumsellers?
Big time. I am constantly buying and selling on Drumsellers and on Reverb. I have a lot of kits, snares and cymbals consigned to me to sell. If I see something at a good price, I’ll buy it and re-sell it a small profit.
You’re 65 years young now. Have you put away touring for good?
For the moment. I traveled the world for the better part of 40 years and needed to find less strenuous gigs. Touring is a young man’s game. I’m really enjoying being in the music scene in Memphis and I’m playing some cool rock-and-soul gigs with the FreeWorld Band on Beale Street. But if something cool with good pay comes up, I’ll consider short tours.
How did you enjoy your 11 years with Poco?
For 11 years it was a full-time gig, before the number of performances kind of petered out around 2013. It was a good gig with good people, good music, and great fans. We flew everywhere; no gear, backline on every date. I played on a couple of the CDs. I understand they’re out playing again, and leader Rusty Young released a solo album. For a 50-year old band that’s quite an achievement.
What are other phases of your career that mean a lot to you?
The time I spent as a studio musician in Southern California in the late ’70s and early ’80s was exciting. Sometimes too exciting. I am particularly proud of the Future Street album by the band Pages.
Tell me something about George Lawrence that people don’t know.
I got to do a lot of recordings with The Swampers (the Muscle Shoals rhythm section from the mid-’90s into the 2000s). Roger Hawkins was calling me to sub for him when he was going through some tough times health wise. I played with David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Clayton Ivey, Reggie Young, Will McFarland, and the Muscle Shoals Horns. We cut a lot of cool albums for blues stars on the Malaco label: Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton Campbell, Johnny Taylor, Latimore, Shirley Brown. That was a treat. Now I’m starting to work in the legendary studios of Memphis.