NOLO: Durham Drums

Welcome to the NOLO Blog Series! This series is all about exploring out how small businesses or freelancers have built up their businesses with little or no budget for their marketing. On the last Friday of every month we’ll be sharing the stories and advice from real people.

How does it work? We send out some questions to a different person each month and they provide their answers. Simple!

This month: Sam Durham, founder of Durham Drums

Follow on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & YouTube at @durhamdrums


In a nutshell I teach music; perform and record music; and sell music related products.

Firstly my business is teaching music – both privately and in schools – to adults and children.

Secondly, I am a professional drummer and percussionist, working in bands and as a solo performer, both live (gigs, festivals, events and weddings). My time doing this is split between playing the drum kit and, at separate events, playing my light-up bongos on the dance floor.

Finally, this year I have more my business to support the sales of products, including clothing and sheet music.

September 2017 was my launch but I started preparing, while still working as a primary teacher, in January of the same year. In teaching my customers include beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers of all ages and backgrounds – it’s wonderful working a range of abilities and levels of experience. Playing live involves working directly with venues and clients to arrange performances, but also working with different musicians, DJs, radio and TV staff to deliver the performance they would like. My products are aimed at drum enthusiasts, whether they’d like to learnt their favourite band’s new song or a fashion piece to show off to the world they are a drummer.


At the start of my business I had one aim: to follow my dream to be a full-time drummer. Additionally there were aims to use my training as a teacher to help educate developing drummers and showcase my drumming in various setting. As being a primary school teacher, I was seeking a better work/life balance in order to improve my health, both mentally and physically.

I have been very blessed to be surrounded by a lot of friends I’ve made over the years to go to for advice. This included people who had been successful in the music industry for sometime and were willing to give me the time of day to help me learn what I needed to do to become established.

There were three key people I spoke to during my planning, pre-launch stage, and who have continued to support me throughout the journey. The first is my father, who has never run his own business, but has worked in company strategy for a long time. He really helped me to set targets and stick to my goals when starting out. Also making me consider best and worst case scenarios for all the decisions I had. He continued with me on the journey, helping review my business plan every 3 months, then less often as I become more established, but still helping me to develop and grow to this day.

The second is my friend Delroy, who I met through a teaching placement in London and we stayed in touch ever since. He has been successful in the music industry for, perhaps, 35 years, and was really encouraging to me when I was thinking about my change of career. His golden piece of advice was to have many streams of revenue. This has been a good model that he knew worked and helped me think differently to the high risk strategy of just playing live and touring, for example. Particularly over the last year of 2020, this has been crucial to keeping the business going, as many live performances have been cancelled. I am ever indebted to him to the time and wisdom he gave me over the years.

The third is my friend Will, who I have known since I was at primary school, who has run his own Photography and Videographer company since he was 16. He was a big reason I felt confident enough to “go solo” as a self employed business owner. Through learning from his achievements, he always helped me learn to price my time more effectively. His advice was always – will you be happy providing that service for a client at that price. This has stuck with me and I continue to learn a lot from him.


I didn’t start with a big budget but I had started to put away what I could with the months leading up to the launch. I’ve definitely had to learn about how best to make every penny count, through trial and error on advertising, for example. Do some trials, then review, if successful continue…if not learn, adapt and move on! I found that being “google” friendly with my website and targeted Google Adwords worked well. I don’t run it when I have enough work, but I know the click of a button can bring results.

I use social media – mainly my Facebook page and Instagram, although I’ve started to increase my YouTube presence this year. Everyone will always tell you “oh you need to on TikTok – everyone’s doing it”, then proceed to tell you about some person no-one had heard of a couple of months ago is now a millionaire because of one TikTok video. By all means listen to ideas, but always ask yourself two things:

“Could this social media create new revenue or a growth in my customer base?”

“Do I have the time to invest in many new content?”

If the answer to either of those is no, then perhaps put it on the back burner and keep focussed on your aims. If either answer is yes, then build a strategy around the content – don’t just post there because a friend said you should.

Stay true to your business aims and keep your workload manageable.


I definitely went through a process of elimination when it came to which marketing to use. It took months to work out what would work for my location-based business – localised Google Ads – and what works for my shippable products – social media campaigns. There is a reason people have jobs like ‘SEO Manager’, ‘Social Media Marketing’ and “Search Engine Optimisation’ – because each area is complex and different skills are

As you experiment with different advertising forms, take one step at a time, review as you go and if it works do
more of it!


Network honestly.

Always try to connect with people – not with a motive other than: you want to know more about what they do and they’ll no doubt ask what you’re up to. By developing good relationships with people you’re more likely to be known for the thing you do. While the contact you make may not bring you work directly – they may be asked to recommend someone. If you’ve got a genuine connection built up over time, they’ll say you.

Talk to other people who are success in your business field to gain advice: those relationships are give and take so always try to be helpful and supportive back.

By surrounding yourself with good, honest and successful people you will learn more and feel less isolated when starting out.

Overall be a good person, even when times are tough – make time for people and they’ll do the same back.

Thanks for reading! We hope you found this super insightful – if you loved what Sam had to say, or are interested in his business make sure to find him on your preferred social channel: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & YouTube at @durhamdrums

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