Chris Smith Artist Case Study

When seeking a model for the craftmanship, drive, and attention to detail that I strive for in my work I look no further than Matt Coe of Coe Percussion. Matt Coe has been building breath-taking mallet instruments for 20 years with no sign of letting up. Matt’s responses to the following questions excellently reflect his expertise and solidify him as a pillar of the instrument manufacturing community.

Interviewer: “What makes you and your work unique?” 

Matt: “I’m completely self-taught. I went to music school, but have a very mechanical background growing up so that lends itself very well for making musical instruments. I don’t think there is any other manufacturer with the mix of musical and mechanical ability that I have.”

Interviewer: “Do you have a brand or artist statement?” 

Matt: “COE Percussion, LLC and the 
‘COE’ logo.”

Interviewer: “Do you have a mission or vision?”

Matt: “In my mind I do but not on paper. I don’t believe you need to write down a mission statement on paper-waste time.”

Interviewer: Do you have career goals laid out for the next 5-10 years?

Matt: “Yes, I’d like to buy a building and preferably an old Church or similar where there is a small auditorium and also space for the manufacturing of instruments. The auditorium would be used for testing completed instruments and holding masterclasses and concerts for people brought in to do those sorts of things.”

Interviewer: “How are you connecting and building audiences and how are you marketing to them?” 

Matt: “Mainly word of mouth through a reputation built over the last 20 years. I also occasionally go to trade shows. Web marketing and social media are really the new trade shows in the modern world and that is something I need to do more of.”

Interviewer: “What opportunities are you on the lookout for?” 

Matt: “Always looking for a rosewood substitute. I also need a social media networking person to help me in that area.”

Interviewer: “Did you look at someone else’s career to make a path for your own and if so, what was it?” 

Matt: “Not particularly although my dad worked for himself and I always admired that. I pretty much had to build my own career as there aren’t many models for careers building marimbas and xylophones.”

Interviewer: “How did you initially get funding?”

Matt: “I worked at a music store and saved as much as I could from that job during the day and at night I rented a small shop and worked there until about 1:00 AM for several years. Over time I started working less at the music store and more at the shop. Luckily I was in a position where I could do that. I scraped by for quite some time until I was full time at my shop.

Interviewer: “What networks or organizations do you belong to and which ones have helped you the most?” 

Matt: “Percussive Arts Society, National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians. (Not current in either of them though) PAS probably helped most through going to PASIC and advertising in Percussive Notes/Publications but that was a long time ago and times have changed. Now it is all internet based where the help comes from and social media. When I first started this I reached out to as many manufacturers as possible looking for a job and no one wanted to hire me. Once I decided to go on my own I did get some pointers from a few individuals about how to build the instruments. It is always good to talk to as many people close to the field you are in as possible, even if they don’t offer help. I used that type of reaction to fuel my desire to suceed on my own.”

Published by Chris Smith

Christopher Smith is a musician and entrepreneur based out of Jacksonville, Florida. As the owner of CJS Percussion, he crafts innovative percussive art pieces that have been described as organic and cutting edge. He is currently pursuing a degree in Music Business at Jacksonville University under the guidance of Mark Snyder and is studying percussion with Tony Steve. Christopher performs in the Jacksonville University Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Combo, and is the principal percussionist for the JU Wind Ensemble. He is involved with Dolphinium Records, where he is the head of manufacturing and licensing.

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