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Independent Musicians Rise Against Corporate Giants: The Story...

Michelle Mangione / Steve Soest launch protest against Guitar Center and KMC Music

In 2011, Michelle Mangione and Steve Soest developed a prototype for a cajon (box drum) pedal. They presented it to the heads of the percussion departments at Guitar Center and Gibraltar Hardware (KMC Music) after months of correspondence between Mangione, Soest and the two companies, including the delivery of requested material (video, photos, information), the companies stopped all communication. In 2012, the "Gibraltar Cajon Pedal" was released for sale around the world without the knowledge or consent of Mangione and Soest. It won the "Best in Show" in it's category at the 2012 NAMM show in Anaheim, CA. The two filed a lawsuit in 2013 against the companies and continue the battle. To this date, neither company has denied any wrongdoing. Could all this be a coincidence?
We encourage you to read the dated timeline below
Early 2011 - Two musicians/inventors, Michelle Mangione - a 20 year cajon player and Steve Soest, a 40 year consultant, service provider & product designer to major manufacturers developed a forward-facing, foot operated pedal for a popular box drum known as a "Cajon".

Mangione and Soest knew the idea was good and the timing was right. They set out to license the idea. They thoroughly researched the percussion market for any similar products or patents in the U.S. market and found NONE. Though they did not have the benefit of legal representation, they did as much research as they could, asking questions and searching or information on the best way to protect themselves and their idea. They filed a provisional patent application and found a Non Disclosure Agreement that seemed to fit their needs.

May 2011 - Mangione & Soest applied for a provisional patent.

In June 2011 - Mangione & Soest presented the idea in a corporate meeting at Guitar Center Headquarters in California.  The meeting included Mark Nelson, then VP of Merchandise Drums & Percussion, and several other Guitar Center Employees.  The purpose of the meeting was for the inventors to pitch the pedal idea to Guitar Center to see if they had any interest in licensing the idea and going into a partnership for production of the pedal.  In the meeting, Mangione & Soest gave a detailed presentation of the pedal’s creation and applications, which included a prototype of the pedal, a video, photos and written information.  The two also presented their market research and ideas for pricing to keep it cost effective. 

That day, Mark Nelson signed a non-disclosure agreement representing Guitar Center.

The result of the meeting was that Nelson expressed interest in an e-mail dated June 1, 2011, stating "Cool idea, we'll be back in touch next week."

Over the next 6 weeks, there was further email correspondence between Nelson and Mangione/Soest regarding the pedal.

June 20, 2011 -  The team decided they wanted to reach their goal of finishing the pedal before the next year’s NAMM show in Anaheim.  They sent an email to Nelson explaining this, asking for a solid commitment.  They also asked Nelson to connect them with Drum Workshop (DW), if Guitar Center was going to pass on the project.

June 20, 2011 - Nelson replied "Hi Steve, have you guys thought decided on a licensing fee/percentage?" and "Yes, if we pass I'll connect you with DW”

June 24, 2011 - Mangione & Soest emailed Nelson with specific numbers.

July 6, 2011 - After getting no response from Nelson, Mangione/Soest emailed a follow-up letter to the June 24th email.

July 2011 - After much communication and interest from Guitar Center, Guitar Center supposedly passed on the idea, but Nelson suggested Mangione/Soest give a “detailed presentation” of the pedal to Ken Fredenberg at Gibraltar Hardware (KMC/Fender)

Nelson never again mentioned an introduction to Drum Workshop - the introduction that the team had previously asked for.  

July 7, 2011 - Trusting Nelson’s guidance/advice, Mangione/Soest emailed Nelson telling him to go ahead and move forward with the Gibraltar introduction.

What Nelson did not tell the inventors is that he was moving to Gibraltar Hardware. (By September 2011 he would be named “Senior Vice President of Global Percussion” overseeing Fredenberg!)

July 13, 2011  - An introduction is made by Nelson to Ken Fredenberg at Gibraltar.  "They have an innovative product that I think you should take a look at as potentially part of the Gibraltar line...[the pedal] allows a person to play a cajon with a bass drum pedal in a way not offered before. As a point of interest, the cajon business is one of our big growth areas the past 2 years at GC, so the product has potential." said Nelson in an email dated July 13, 2011. He then suggested Mangione/Soest should present a "detailed description" of the pedal to Fredenberg.

July 13, 2011 - "I know it's a growth area, sounds very interesting." Fredenberg replied in an email dated July 13, 2011.

July 14, 2011 - Fredenberg wrote in an email: “This project looks very interesting to me. For Gibraltar hardware and pedals we are always on the lookout for innovative ideas...Plus our ompany does a few other brands like LP and Toca who both offer cajons...Having the related brands involved can also be a big help when introducing a new product such as this.” Fredenberg said in an email, and then asked Mangione/Soest for more information about the design

July 19, 2011 - Fredenberg signed non-disclosure agreement

July 19, 2011 - Mangione/Soest emailed Fredenberg materials including video, photos, and written information of pedal.

July 25, 2011 Mangione/Soest emailed Fredenberg follow-up to July 19th email.

July 27-August 29th - Ongoing correspondence regarding pedal, and possible modifications.

Although Gibraltar expressed interest in the product, for reasons unknown they never entered into a licensing agreement for the product. 
Michelle and Steve made numerous attempts to contact Ken Friedenberg regarding Gibraltar's interest. There was no response.

August 29, 2011 - To the surprise of Mangione/Soest, Mark Nelson was named “Senior Vice President of Global Percussion” at Gibraltar Hardware, overseeing Ken Fredenberg! (Seen In an announcement made by MMR September 2, 2011)

November 2012 -  The new Gibraltar Cajon Pedal was introduced and released for sale around the world,without the knowledge or consent of Mangione & Soest.   

December 24, 2012 - New Gibraltar Cajon Pedal demo video published on youtube.

January, 2013 - The new Gibraltar Cajon Pedal was named “Best in Show” in it’s category at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California.

Spring 2013 - Michelle Mangione and Steve Soest saw an ad in Guitar Center Magazine for the pedal, and file a lawsuit against Guitar Center, KMC/Gibraltar, Mark Nelson and Ken Fredenberg.

“We believe that we approached them with a truly unique idea that they did not already have, and now they are profiting from it.” - Soest

“We feel they left us with no choice but to file a suit against them. We have repeatedly asked for proof of their ‘prior and independent development’ of the pedal as they claim.  To date, they have yet to come up with any such evidence.  Instead they continue to attack technicalities in our non-disclosure agreement, stating that we failed to stamp each piece of our presentation as ‘confidential’. They claim that we had ‘no protectable trade secret,’ but ignore the merits of the case. Instead, they are hammering on legal technicalities in hopes of having the case dismissed on procedural grounds. They are bullying us, offering us a “nuisance value fee” of $10,000.00” -  Mangione

Guitar Center was acquired by Bain Capital in 2007

What can you do?
Join us in our protest this Saturday (refer to details on top left of page)
Boycott Guitar Center, KMC Music and Gibraltar Hardware!
These are hard working, ethical musicians with excellent reputations in the industry. Please see for yourself at:

Excerpt of Video Presented to Guitar Center and KMC in 2011

People in the midwest join forces to help... 

Kim Moudy from Missouri writes, "Folks here in the midwest are supportive as well. Have had few musicians print your article, take it to Guitar Center, and hand it to management along with their cut-up credit card. The fact that they offered you a small amount of $ shows they have major concerns! Stand strong, friend. We got your back here!"