The Oral History of Mindy Abovitz, publisher of Tom Tom Mag.
Part and parcel of The Beat’s mission is increasing the number of drummers in the world. Terrifyingly, over the last decade, the percussion “business” has dropped sharply (the sales volume of drums, sticks, heads, etc.), and likely due to the explosion of digital entertainment options and other outlets for creative expression, the amount of drummers has also dropped.
In direct contrast to this trend, the female drummer community (those humans who identify by that gender binary descriptor) has grown tremendously over the same time period. While there’s no official census data, it’s estimated by industry onlookers that around 20-30% of drummers in their teens are now female. Perhaps more than anyone else, Mindy Abovitz and Tom Tom Magazine have been the defacto champion of expanding coverage and opportunities for these drummers. Abovitz spends her time publishing the magazine and travels the world throwing events, most impressively of which is Tom Tom’s “The Oral History of Female Drummers” project, where she seeks out and facilitates drummers playing live in art museums, of which she is often one of those drummers.
The Beat wanted to find out what clicks the sticks for Mindy, publisher of Tom Tom, and we sat down for an exclusive interview at TT’s offices in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.
THE BEAT: Describe your life circumstances and state of mind when you first found identity in being a drummer.
MINDY: I was living in Gainesville, Florida at the time and very unconsciously gravitated towards the drum set. Gainesville back then was a very musical town and I for sure wanted to make music and be a part of the larger music scene I was in love with. I know that somewhere inside of me I understood that being a drummer was rebellious and not something that girls did.
THE BEAT: For a young drummer reading this who might not already play drums, what are some reasons you think drumming could benefit them vs. other physical or artistic activities?
MINDY: Drumming is creative and physical at once. Two birds with one stone! It helped me feel a lot more confident and it is super fun and freeing to be in a band. Being a musician as you get more serious about it, can also teach you a lot about business and compromise and a lot of other juicy bits that will serve you for life.
WATCH: Mindy answers the question: what's the criteria of a featured drummer in Tom Tom:
THE BEAT: Tom Tom does both traditional journalism as well as a lot of events. What motivates you to tell some stories live vs. the written word?
MINDY: Representing an under-represented group of drummers (female drummers) takes all forms of communication to convey and present best. The magazine is great for bringing together the world's drummers in one place (in its pages) on a personal level while city-based parties featuring bands with female drummers in them help to create visibility and community in a very tangible social way.
THE BEAT: How many people are on your staff and what’s the most challenging part to publishing a magazine?
MINDY: There are 6 staff members and hundreds of freelancers and contributors. Everything about publishing a magazine is challenging! I find selling advertising to be particularly challenging at times.
THE BEAT: Tom Tom has a longstanding series called the Oral History of Female Drummers. If someone else was telling that story in 20 years time, what would you like your lasting contribution to be in that oral history?
MINDY: I would like for people to say that Tom Tom contributed to the equality of women and girls in the music industry and beyond. That we made it possible for females to feel that making music is an option for them and that they are now equally treated within the industry.
THE BEAT: In terms of stylistic output (i.e a drummer’s unique sound or percussive texture), do you think those that identify as male vs. female have demonstrably different contributions or have to potential to?
I don't prescribe wholly to the gender binary so it is difficult for me to answer this question. However, I will say that through socialization, girls have been swayed away from playing the drums. I have found that that barrier of entry has provided an extra dose of creativity and general risk taking from the female drummers that have made it to the kit. Generally speaking women drummers tend to be more creative than their male counterparts for that reason.