Thursday, June 2, 2011

E-mu Systems Inc. Introductory Drumulator ad, Keyboard 1983

E-mu Systems Inc. introductory Drumulator 1-page advertisement from page 37 in Keyboard Magazine February 1983.

Okay. Call me a geek. But whenever I look at this ad, my eyes always directly travel to the background. The graph paper design honestly brings me back to the days of playing Dungeons and Dragons late at night, with large sheets of graph paper laid out on a big table. Oh, and my Drumulator would be sitting in the corner on another table. Ignored. No... seriously.

This advertisement first appeared in Keyboard magazine in February 1983 to introduce users to a spectacular new drum machine that could be had for under a grand. It continued to run most of the year, finishing off in October, with breaks in April, May and September. A pretty good run for an intro ad.

The ad itself is really well laid out in my opinion. It includes great eye-catching design, especially with that photo of the Drumulator and drumstick pattern. And details like the shadow and graph paper design beneath the Drumulator help pull it off the page and toward the reader. No 3D glasses required.

The title text and ad-copy hit the nail on the head by first focusing on it's "amazing new feature" - Affordability. And the rest of the ad-copy is professional, with just the right amount of text for a product introduction.

I'll lay-off of the whole E-mu bauhaus-font-based logo stuff for now. I get kinda school-girl giggly whenever I start writing about it. But - fair warning - there is at least one more Drumulator post to come in the future. Psst - if you want, you can get a little giggly with me in this blog post.

Interestingly, a Spec Sheet announcement never appeared in Keyboard. But that might be because the magazine published a 2-page review of the Drumulator in their Keyboard Report's section in June 1983. The review, written by Jim Aikin, starts off with the obvious cost comparisons that were being made to other digital drum machines with "real drum sounds" at the time.
"The first programmable drum machine that had real drum sounds (the LM-1 from Linn Electronics) cost almost $5,000. A year or so later this was followed by the Linndrum from Linn and the DMX from Oberheim, both of which checked in under $3,000. And now E-mu Systems is offering the Drumulator, list-priced at a mouth-watering $995.00."
Jim does caution readers that E-mu had to "cut a few corners to get the price so low", although he adds that it did include two features not found on any other drum machine - programmable tempo and programmable accent levels.

He concludes with something I think everyone has experienced when they come across a piece of kit in a music store (or on eBay) with a price that seems too good to be true:
"If you have a suspicious nature, you might expect that a drum machine this affordable would be a bit on the cheesy side. But you'd be wrong... All in all, we were very impressed by the Drumulator, and we imagine a lot of other musicians will be too."
In fact, according to the September 2002 Sound on Sound article "30 Years of E-mu", musicians were so impressed with the Drumulator that "it sold by the bucket-load, achieving nearly 10,000 sales over two years".

Okay - I kind of lied earlier. No, not about playing Dungeons and Dragons (and for the record I was the best half-elf cleric around). I lied about the Spec Sheet promo.

Kind of.

Although nothing seems to have appeared in the Spec Sheet section of Keyboard, the August 1983 issue (Thomas Dolby on the cover!) did feature a Drumulator in the Keyboard Monthly Giveaway. And the paragraph describing the instrument was laid out in a column roughly the width of a Spec Sheet write up and curiously read suspiciously like a Spec Sheet write up. Hmmmmm:
"The E-mu Drumulator is a programmable drum machine that contains the digitally recorded sounds of real drums. The recorded sounds include bass drum, snare drum, sidestick snare, three tom-toms, claves, cowbell, handclaps, ride cymbal, and open and closed hi-hat. Thirty-six rhythm segments in any time signature can be programmed, and these can be linked into eight different song chains of up to 99 segments each. Tempo and accent levels are programmable for each song. In addition to a cassette interface for off-loading the information in memory, the Drumulator has an RS-232 computer interface for external control and programming. List price is $995.00."
One comment before I finish. As you might expect, I have bucket-loads of Contemporary Keyboard, Keyboard, Electronic Musician, International Musician, Synapse, Polyphony, and many other music mags. And one thing that always surprises me is the number of contest forms that are NOT FILLED OUT. I'd say maybe one in a hundred. Prolly less than that. What were all of you thinking?!?!

Seriously. When I was young, I ruined many a music mag by cutting out, filling in, and mailing off contest forms.

Yah, even those that said they were for US readers only - which was most of them. I figured if I ever won, they would call and my cute little excited kid-voice would convince them to send whatever I won to me.

And nope. Never won.

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