From Drummer to Media Entrepreneur: One Woman’s Journey

Mindy Abovitz from Tom Tom magazine
When Mindy Abovitz couldn’t find a community of female drummers and beatmakers, she decided to build it herself. Photo by Lauren Kallen

Tom Tom is more than just a magazine. It’s a movement.

Launched in 2009 by Mindy Abovitz, Tom Tom is the only publication in the world dedicated to female and gender non-binary drummers, beatmakers, and producers. In addition to the print magazine, Tom Tom also exists in the digital space with a website and strong social media following, and in real life with a year-round slate of events and a tight-knit community of passionate and loyal readers.

A drummer first, and now a media entrepreneur running Tom Tom, Mindy Abovitz stumbled into this business by accident. She started the print magazine primarily as a way to change the blank-page results for her most frequent Google search: female drummer.

A gaping hole existed for media coverage of women drummers, and Abovitz sought to fill it. Enter Tom Tom. What started out as a simple magazine for female drummers and beatmakers morphed into a living, breathing community thousands of people strong. We recently sat down with Abovitz to discuss her journey from musician to entrepreneur, the important role community plays in media, and what Tom Tom’s next big move is.

 
“The drum industry and its supporting media have, for the most part, completely ignored the female drummer as a prospective drummer.”
 

How have you grown personally, and as an entrepreneur, as you’ve expanded your business?

Mindy Abovitz: Everything about me has changed since I started the magazine. Initially, I had to let go of all my personal music biases and tastes in an effort to best represent all drummers globally. More recently I’ve had to put my head down and do my very best at being a business person (which does not come naturally to me). I started this magazine because I am a drummer and a feminist, and these days I spend nearly all of my time on the business aspects of running a media company in 2017.

What role does community play for Tom Tom?

Mindy Abovitz: Community has everything to do with Tom Tom. We started the magazine with the intention of connecting a fragmented group of folks around the world who all identified as female or gender non-conforming percussionists and drummers, and now we’ve grown into a community that is made up of drummers, and those that support us and our mission to make great media. Without our community we are nothing.

What gap did you see in the media landscape for female musicians and fans?

Mindy Abovitz: Back when I started Tom Tom, and for all of the years prior to our magazine, drum magazines exclusively covered and continue to cover male drummers. The drum industry and its supporting media have, for the most part, completely ignored the female drummer as a prospective drummer. So when I started Tom Tom there was a massive gap in media coverage of existing female drummers, as well as news and media related to growing the community of female drummers.

How is Tom Tom a “movement” as well as a magazine?

Mindy Abovitz: Tom Tom is mostly a movement. The magazine part of it all is simply the object that you can take away from it, but it’s the thriving community that is the essence of Tom Tom. We stand for the fair representation of females, queer people, people of color, and people of all shapes, sizes, classes, and creeds. And that is something that is much larger than our print magazine. It lives in our events, on our website, in our conversations, and in the pages of our publication.

Venzella Joy, Photo by Gesi Schilling
Venzella Joy, Photo by Gesi Schilling
female drummer, Photo by Bex Wade
Photo by Bex Wade

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ignored?

Mindy Abovitz: The best piece of advice I ignored was that starting a magazine about female drummers was too niche and generally a terrible idea. I got that advice from a big-time financial advisor in midtown Manhattan. Luckily, I had the drive and opposition to break the rules, so his advice came at the perfect time.

If you could talk to your past self at the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, what would you tell her?

Mindy Abovitz: I would likely tell the younger me to partner up early on with someone who had a serious business mind. I am definitely on the creative side of life, and I’m also really good at managing people, but business is something I have to work hard at and be conscious of in order to succeed.

What are three adjectives that you’d use to describe the journey of starting and growing a business?

Mindy Abovitz: Perseverance. Focus. Determination.

What’s your philosophy on dealing with challenges?

Mindy Abovitz: I believe there is always a way to achieve your goal. If it doesn’t come easy the first time, you just need to rethink it, rework it, possibly ask for help, and try again.

What do you do to decompress?

Mindy Abovitz: I drum to decompress, and I also garden and cook. I love to read, swim, and bike.

What would you do if you weren’t doing this?

Mindy Abovitz: I totally would’ve been running for office or starting a company involving nutritious dog food.

What’s your next big move?

Mindy Abovitz: We just put out our 31st issue. Its theme is “Outlaw,” and it features Michel’le Baptiste of Fifth Harmony. We are currently working on our “Sex and Love” issue, due this holiday season. And we have a really exciting collaboration with Moog synthesizers called “Always On,” which is due out in December. Our every move is our next big move.

Mindy Abovitz, Photo by Bex Wade
Mindy Abovitz, Photo by Bex Wade