HE PEDDLES DRUM CASE TO HIS OWN BEAT
Orlando Sentinel; Orlando, Fla.; Apr 15, 1996; Brad Kuhn of The Sentinel Staff;
He has no written contract with Peavey. And even if Peavey agrees to buy the cases, [Pamela Riddle] said, [Kevin Barrett] would have to come up with the money to produce the product and wait three to six months to get paid. And even then, if things don't go just right, Peavey could cancel his order, leaving Barrett with a lot of drum cases and a lot of debt.
Tired of schlepping equipment around in flimsy, cardboard cases, Orlando drummer Kevin Barrett set out in search of something better.
He found more cardboard, plastic copies of the cardboard cases, and heavy, expensive cases that looked as if they were designed to withstand being dropped from a skyscraper.
The case he was looking for existed only in his head.
So Barrett, who flies a lot in his day job, passed his time in the clouds noodling out the intricacies of his dream case.
A compulsive list-maker, he doodled as he noodled, until that eureka moment three years ago, miles over Manhattan on the last leg of a 5,000-mile charter.
"I was pretty beat up after a long weekend, just sketching in my pad, when it just kind of came together," Barrett said.
What he had drawn was a smooth cylinder, with recessed handles and a flush-fitting lid.
Although Barrett doesn't consider himself an inventor, at that moment he was typical of the breed - an individual with an idea, a dream and very little knowledge of what to do next.
This is the point in the story where the naive inventor usually gets scammed and winds up broke, disillusioned and unemployed. Only 2 percent of patented ideas are ever licensed to big companies for production.
But Barrett hasn't crashed and burned yet.
He still has the original 5-by-7 drawing. It's in a file full of bid sheets, confidentiality agreements, engineering specifications and a rather tedious article on stereolithography - a manufacturing process.
"All the stuff I didn't want to get involved in," Barrett said.
That's the way it is with inventions. They have a way of taking over your life, said Pamela Riddle, an invention marketing consultant in Gainesville.
So far, Barrett has been able to keep things in perspective. He has no plans to give up his current job, which pays well. And he has no desire to get caught up in something so big that it takes time away from his wife and children.
His original plan was to patent the case and sell it to a big drum maker for a percentage of sales. His research estimated the potential market at $75 million.
Reluctant to spend a lot of money on speculation, he began calling the major drum makers to pitch the idea.
Unknowingly, Barrett had cleared another major hurdle: the assumption.
"Inventors tend to assume too much," Riddle said. "They might have a good product, but they have conducted little if any research."
Barrett was luckier than most. His first telephone call landed him contact with Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics Corp., a music industry giant. Years of sales training had taught him to aim high.
"I like to go to the guy who can get the job done," he said.
"Anything else is a waste of time."
Most product licensing applications die quietly in a manufacturer's legal department, neglected by overworked lawyers.
Riddle said those that make it through legal typically die of the "not invented here" syndrome contracted by jealous engineers in corporate research and development.
From research and development, survivors are routed to sales and marketing for financial analysis. You get the picture.
Barrett, on his first call, got an audience with the chief executive.
He was euphoric. And then he was horrified. He didn't have anything but a blueprint to show Peavey.
He scrambled to put together a prototype, but he found the cost prohibitive.
Thinking it through, Barrett realized he had an advantage he hadn't considered. As a recruiter for Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts, he had long been telling prospective students that the Winter Park school had the latest and greatest audio- and video-editing equipment. But he had never put it to the test himself.
Full Sail engineers created a three-minute animated product demonstration from Barrett's computer-generated blueprint. The pitch, complete with appropriate music and a sampling of possible colors, got Peavey's attention.
Barrett's heart sank, however, when Peavey told him he didn't want to buy his design.
"When he said 'I don't want to buy it,' that was like getting hit in the head with a brick," Barrett said.
But defeat turned to victory when Peavey told him he'd buy as many cases as Barrett could make. Peavey could not be reached for comment. Such discussions are typically not shared with the public.
That's where things stand now. Barrett is looking for a plastics manufacturer to mass-produce his cases.
He has talked with several companies, but they couldn't produce the product as he designed it. He's looking for a company with some engineering expertise.
"What I need is a guy with a bad haircut and a flannel shirt to help me get this thing built," he said.
He hasn't applied for a patent. After all, a patent can cost several thousand dollars, and that just gives the owner the right to sue people to stop them from making a product. If Barrett can't find someone to make his drum cases, he has nothing to protect.
As far as he has come, Barrett realizes he still doesn't have anything tangible to show for a year's work and an $8,000 investment.
He has no written contract with Peavey. And even if Peavey agrees to buy the cases, Riddle said, Barrett would have to come up with the money to produce the product and wait three to six months to get paid. And even then, if things don't go just right, Peavey could cancel his order, leaving Barrett with a lot of drum cases and a lot of debt.
Although Barrett admits he finds the prospect of a deal with Peavey tantalizing, he isn't willing to risk his family's well-being on it.
"A lot of guys will bet the farm on these things," he said.
"I'm more premeditated. I've never considered myself an inventor. I don't consider myself creative. But I can get things done."
And that, Riddle said, is how an invention gets to market.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.