behind the scenesAfter initially acquiring distribution rights only, Cardinal Percussion has purchased the Wuhan cymbal brand, according to Mark Tirabassi of the Cardinal Percussion ownership group.

Wuhan is a venerated Chinese cymbal brand which has been distributed in the US for more than 40 years. It achieved great fame beginning in the 1980s through endorsers such as Neil Peart. With this transaction the company gains all rights to the trademarks, logos, and intellectual property and controls the future of cymbals sold under that name in most of the world. [Editor’s note: It’s not legal to own the name “Wuhan” in China, since it is a Chinese city. But from now on the products coming from that factory and bearing that logo are owned by Cardinal Percussion.]

Cardinal is a new distributor that has risen from the ashes of Universal Percussion, which abruptly shut its doors earlier in the year. The principal owners of Cardinal Percussion are Jim Bickley, who was the former general manager of Universal, and veteran retail owners Robbie McFarland and Mark Tirabassi. They bought the brands Attack Drumheads and Cannon Percussion from Universal, and, at the time, acquired distribution rights to Wuhan.

Cardinal Percussion owners (left to right) Mark Tirabassi, Jim Bickley, and Robbie McFarland.

The new company hit the ground running this fall and has distribution agreements with many drum and accessory makers to offer a full-line of products to stores. Due to consolidation in the distribution of drums and other musical products, there are fewer suppliers today who offer a one-stop shop for music stores. Tirabassi made clear that the company wants to have a wide product line so that retailers can place an order with one company and get most of their percussion needs met. “As far as being a solid company we offer two things: good distributions and good brands,” he said. “That means pricing, delivery time, and product knowledge.”

New Life For The Brands

The Attack drumhead line is getting serious attention from Cardinal. According to Tirabassi, we can expect to see some new Attack products in the near future, perhaps at the January 2019 NAMM show. When asked for specifics, he added, “I can tell you the very first new Attack product will be a drumhead that will be a one ply with reverse dot, called the Proflex One Revdot.” Attack drumheads are made in Taiwan. The biggest brands are made in the US, although many Asian-based companies make heads in Asia and many drums made in China come with heads built overseas.

Tirabassi said he believes there is room for new targeted products in the drumhead market. He wants the company to try new forms of outreach and to work with newer, younger artists than Attack did previously. He’s also looking at involving retailers more with plans that would allow Attack artists to pick up the heads they need at stores, rather than directly from the company. Such a move would benefit retailers with extra business and word-of-mouth, and benefit Cardinal by giving stores additional reasons to stock the product.

Cardinal is also quietly ending the Cannon brand. All of the small percussion accessories under the Cannon name will now be branded as Cardinal Percussion, and the company is looking for opportunities to expand the line. This is welcome news since Cannon had not received much in the way of product development dollars or marketing attention in recent years.

Slingerland’s Future Is Still Unknown

Last May things were coming unglued at Gibson. That’s when I wrote about the future of Slingerland, one of the many brands that Gibson owned as it went into bankruptcy. All the divisions were out of money, artists weren’t getting attention, and curious potential buyers were checking to see if Slingerland would be sold, or whether it might have a future at all.

At the time rumors were swirling that were still parts and perhaps shells left over from the very good drums Slingerland produced briefly in the early ‘90s. But those hopes appear to be quashed. One party who has spoken to lawyers going through Gibson assets told me that “Slingerland is three manila file folders. There’s nothing there, no raw materials, no finished goods, and the only thing that exists on paper for Slingerland is logos and intellectual property.

He went on to add that Gibson probably intends to sell its various brands after it has had a thorough chance to evaluate all of them. Still, I would expect the Slingerland story to reach a new stage in 2019. With more than one party interested in buying the name, a new Slingerland is a likely outcome.


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Drum News: Attack’s New Owners; Sabian’s Garabaldi Special; INDe Mounts Up; Steinberg Updates Groove Agent