Though Drumeo makes its home in the small community of Matsqui Village, its customers come from as far away as Estonia, Sweden, India and Brazil.
Jared Falk, along with his business partner Rick Kettner, run Drumeo, a company that offers DVD-based music lessons and websites that feature free online lessons or memberships to lessons that are broadcast live daily.
Falk, who grew up in Abbotsford, began drumming at 15 years old and started teaching his own students at 17.
“From there, my goal was to be a rock star, like any drummer wants to be.”
Instead of becoming a rock star, Falk now helps provides musical instruction to thousands of people around the world, the majority of whom are living outside of Canada. Falk said Drumeo took root over a decade ago. Now it has about 50,000 customers and its websites receive about 40,000 visitors a day. The company’s various YouTube channels have close to 200,000 subscribers and one channel alone has received about 45 million views.
Falk went to high school at the Mennonite Educational Institute and “barely graduated,” before heading off to tour with a band in the United States. But once he hit the road, he realized he didn’t like being stuck in a van, and missed teaching. He returned to Abbotsford and started working on his family’s duck farm, and teaching 40 to 50 students how to play the drums.
While teaching, Falk met Kettner, who had dropped out of high school in the ’90s to work at Internet startups, and had launched his own business at 16 years old. Falk, who had quit a summer job in 1998 to sell hockey cards online, said he and Kettner had always had the online “business bug,” and shared a love of drumming. They recorded a drumming video and uploaded it online, receiving about 12,000 downloads – a surprising amount in 2002.
“This was before YouTube and Facebook… back when there wasn’t an easy way to watch videos online.”
With the high level of online interest, the two began to post videos for download – and people started buying them. Falk and Kettner began creating websites with video tutorials, discussion forums, and an online store where drummers could buy downloadable lesson packs. They quickly expanded into producing DVDs and other web-based products. As the demand for their products increased, the business began to grow with it.
“The combination of the unique teaching style and the marketing … it really caught on from there.”
Now, they run a variety of websites with free online video instruction, and sites where users pay a fee to subscribe to daily lessons broadcast live, with about 470 hours of instruction logged into the lesson library. Falk teaches some lessons himself and relies on his staff and local Abbotsford talent – as well as from teachers from around the world, who broadcast directly to students from places such as L.A. or Germany.
Drumeo has 12 full-time staff based in Abbotsford who work on web design, video editing and more. Though the success of their work is global, Falk said he owes the quality of their product to a skilled local staff, many of whom grew up in Abbotsford.
Falk attributes some of the company’s success with timing, getting started in an online business as the Internet grew, but more importantly, “everyone who works here is super passionate about online education and music.”
Falk and the staff place high importance on engaging with their legion of virtual students through the websites, social media and email. Some drummers will send in videos of themselves playing, asking for advice on their technique, and students ask questions online during live lessons, which instructors answer. Falk said that Drumeo is only successful as long as the students keep becoming better drummers, and that is done through support and attention to their learning process.
“The biggest key to being successful online is the relationships,” said Falk, adding that he recently heard from a student who began using their lessons in 2007 and now is on a national tour with a band.
Though Falk said private instruction is always important for those looking how to drum, many people who live in rural areas or have busy schedules find online lessons useful.
The large online community of Drumeo also caught the eye of drum companies. Falk has brought in artists such as Kenny Aronoff – who has played drums for Bon Jovi, John Fogerty, the Smashing Pumpkins and more – to run a free lesson from their studio, sponsored by Yamaha.
Falk added that though people often think the company is based out of New York or L.A., he is committed to staying in Abbotsford, a community he loves.
“I love the small-town vibe … my family has a huge history here.”