Kick Blockin' Beats
Guitarists complain about temperamental pedalboards. Vocalist gripe over lousy mic stands. But no one in a band shares the drummer’s frustrations. Like most drummers, Berklee alumnus Will Butera B.M. '16 spent years wrestling with his kit. Cymbals cracked, hi-hat rods malfunctioned, and—his biggest headache—his bass drum wandering across the stage as he played it.
“I have seen and tried so many fixes to keep my bass drum in place during my shows,” Butera says. “Cinder blocks in front of it, bass amps in front of it, the bassist actually sitting on the drum. Nothing worked perfectly.”
So with help from his dad, inventor Jay Butera, the younger Butera created KickBlock. Originally, he wanted something for personal use while on tour with his bands Joy Again and ARTHUR. But the device—basically a shock-absorbing, molded piece of foam that you set in front of the drum with ultra-grip velcro on it to grab tight to a drum rug—got the attention of other drummers when he was out on the road (he even received some thumbs-up reviews from drummers he sent samples of the product to, such as the Mars Volta’s Thomas Pridgen and Cirque du Soleil’s Andre Boyd). Thinking he might have a side business, he began manufacturing the invention and selling it through kickblockstuff.com.
KickBlock is a simple solution to a simple problem, but it seems like it could only have come from a drummer and Berklee music business major. Butera says taking classes from Berklee faculty Todd Gardner and George Howard helped shape his business plan.
“I focused on entrepreneurship at Berklee,” Butera says. “My classes were a great foundation. Todd Gardner and George Howard were always great at showing real life scenarios and so when I got to actually doing all this, the business end of KickBlock made a lot of sense to me.”
Even if the business doesn’t become as ubiquitous as Zildjian cymbals or Vic Firth drumsticks, Butera can rest easy as he spends the next few decades thumping away on his bass pedal.