NOLO: Durham Drums

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

Interested in being part of our NOLO Blog Series? Just fill in the form below!

Don’t forget we also have our NOLO Guidebook available to buy here.

How to adapt your marketing strategy in times of uncertainty

Wow. What a year the last couple of weeks have been. COVID-19 has taken over. There’s a lot of stress, worry and uncertainty around right now – both personally and professionally. While I’m not a health expert and can’t comment on the medical situation, what I am is a marketing expert with extensive experience in reactive and adaptive marketing. So, for all you business owners/marketing folks/freelancers out there I’m here to provide you with some guidance on how to pivot, adapt and keep on track during this turbulent time.

The first thing to do is to ask yourself three key questions:

  1. What do you want your customers to feel?
  2. What do you want your customers to think?
  3. What do you want your customers to do?

From this you can work out where you want to head with your content & distribution.

Let’s start with how you want your customers to feel – let’s face it, right now, this may have changed from your usual tone/strategy. Building an emotional connection with your customers/followers (I will use these terms interchangeably) is the best way to ensure retention and attract new customers. People love relatable content and content that makes them feel good. For me, it’s about giving people hope and some positivity in their day – I want my clients/followers to feel confident and sure that there is a future past what we are experiencing right now.

Now, secondly, what do you want your customers to think? Again, in the context of my own business, I want my followers and clients to think they have the power to get through this. I want them to think that they have the strategy to go forward, connect with their customers and I want them to be thinking about the opportunities they have.

And finally: what do you want your customers to do?  I want my clients and followers to adapt their marketing strategy, reach out for help where needed and have confidence in adjusting their content tonality. 

Once you know the answer to these questions you can adjust your content and distribution channels accordingly. For example – for me right now it’s not about acquiring new paying clients it’s about inspiring confidence and helping struggling business owners/marketers. Therefore, with my content, I aim to provide positivity and tips for adjusting in this weird period. I’ve opened my doors to free consultations to work with my clients on how they can continue to build connections or a following base whilst not being physically open for business. For gyms/personal trainers this means focusing on building an online rapport with people & understanding opportunities to virtualise their services.  For coffee shop or restaurant owners – it’s helping people to re-create their favourite beverage or meal in the comfort of their own home, providing comical relief and keeping the conversation going for when business re-opens. It varies per business but the underlying principles are the same – think about what you want your customers to feel, think and do.

Once you’ve established the above, you can focus in on your channel strategy. Figure out which channels or tactics leave your brand at risk and pull back from them. For example – ensure that you are not monetising against any negative content, don’t be at risk of sharing fake news or information that is not validated by professionals. Be careful not to comment on areas that you don’t have the expertise in – authenticity and integrity are key. If email plays a key part of your strategy then assess whether the tone or content needs to change here.

Do share how your company is reacting to the situation – keep your customers up to date. This isn’t about switching off your marketing, it’s about being sensitive to the situation, your customers and understanding your role in this.

If you want someone to brainstorm with, provide advice then Pink Digital are open! We’re offering free consultations and advice until the end of April 2020 – get in touch via the form below, or if you’d rather, drop us a message on social.