By Meg Hogan
Innovation, by definition, is a new method, idea or product. In Pittsburgh, there’s plenty of chatter around innovation with the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute and innovation festivals like Thrival.
Beyond the big organizations, independent innovators around the city are thinking of new and better ways to approach science, healthcare and music.
One of those inventors is Josh Alday, founder of 101 Percussion. This is a musical instrument design company that researches and develops instruments that are easier to transport and easier to set up than standard instruments – a huge asset for musicians on tour and in the studio.
The flagship products are the rEvolution drums, which is Alday is working to patent. The GoFundMe campaign for rEvolution drums will go toward securing that patent so Alday can continue to work on building the business plan for the product without someone poaching his idea.
We sat down with Alday to find out how he came up with the idea and the next steps for his innovation.
Innovators Point (IP): What sparked the idea of 101 Percussion?
Josh Alday (JA): I came up with it when I was between 16 and 18 [years old], and I saw a Guster concert. It was my first introduction to hand percussion, and he had a snare drum and I wanted to make a similar snare drum. But what I wanted to do was make it so when the snare was off, when it was deactivated, it still sounded like a conga.
Then, when I got to college I figured a drum set would probably be more marketable than a hand snare or hand drums altogether.
IP: Did you study music in college?
JA: I studied product design and the idea was always to apply that to musical instrument design, but there are no musical design instrument schools in America.
IP: So Pittsburgh’s changed quite a bit over the past decade or so. Has any of that influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur and do your own product design?
JA: Certainly. The music scene has really dwindled down since I’ve moved here. The venues have become smaller – we lost a lot of mid-sized venues here in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. As a result of that, it becomes even more of a need to have a compact instrument because you’re playing in smaller venues, and there’s a lot of changing over. The next band comes up and they have to get their drum set up.
IP: Is this something where you thought, “This is really innovative – I need to do it,” or was it more so, “There’s a market need for this, how do I fill it?”
JA: I always wanted to change the concept of drums. I have about 50 different designs that are in my portfolio and they’re all waiting to be turned into prototypes. Mainly drums, and some synthesizer equipment I’ve been working on as well.
IP: Tell me more about rEvolution drums.
JA: I have a patent pending right now, and that’s what I’ve had over this past year. I recently took that to the international phase because that extends it by another 18 months. So now I have an international patent pending.
Basically, what I’m trying to do right now is find a manufacturer to license the patent to, and often times what they’ll do is, if you’re in a patent pending phase and you approach a manufacturer and they want to produce it, then they’ll pay for the patents to finish it up. After that, they’ll give you royalties, or a percentage of their gross selling of that particular design.
IP: So the patent is only on this design, and then you’ll go back to your portfolio and build another prototype?
JA: Yeah, I’m just dying to work on something else because I’ve been working on this for so long. And I promised myself that until this is done, I’m not going to work on any of the other projects I have.
IP: And the rEvolution drums have already been used by bands in Pittsburgh?
JA: Correct, I was with a band called Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo and they moved out to Seattle after we had a house fire, because we all lived together. I took that as a sign that I’ve got to get off my butt and start doing this. They took that as a sign of, we need to get off our butt and go to another city and try to promote our music there.
So when they came back, I had the prototype assembled – not completely finished – so that’s when it first got played. I got to play on it that first night after like two other drummers had already had the chance to play on it.
There was a concert through Horse Rock Entertainment, which is mostly metal shows and that really put it to the test. As you can imagine, metal drummers are usually pretty loud and powerful.
I also had the Space Rock Music Festival, and it was provided all day. It was a nine bands and a good nine or 10 hours.
IP: What is it made out of?
JA: It’s actually made out of recycled drum shells. They were used on other drums I purchased over the years and made the necessary modifications to it, but it’s made out of what regular drum shell materials are made out of: plywood. I cut it up in my shop with a dermal tool and whatever else I had available.
IP: Who can benefit from this – professional drummers? Universities or schools?
JA: Some of my sound engineering friends told me it would be really handy in the studio because often times they’ll have a studio kit, but most drummers bring their own. Since it is so compact, it would be perfect for the studio, plus it’s easy to mic up to record sound off of it.
IP: What’s your vision for it? What would like to see in the next three to five years?
JA: In three to five years I’d definitely like to have one of the major drum manufacturers making it for me and collecting royalties off it so I can start prototyping the other 50 design in my portfolio.
To learn more about the rEvolution drums, or to contribute to the patent process, visit the gofundme page.