Friday, August 29, 2014

National Steel Pan Month

Did you know that the steel pan was finally declared the national musical instrument of Trinidad and Tobago on August 30, 1992. Kind of strange for an instrument whose interest spans decades before. Several organizations in Trinidad took it upon themselves to create a celebration for that day. The National Steel Pan Month was born out of that.

I'm not quite sure when the "month" starts and ends. I assume it starts August 30 - but could very well be the whole month of August. In any case, we took it upon ourselves to start our celebration in September. The Steel Pan Collective is celebrating by offering discounted memberships and a chance for non-members to see some of our member benefits. New members will receive $10 off their membership rates. Business supporters get $150 knocked off theirs as well. As far as the chance to see some of the member benefits, non-members can sign up and receive this month's September Pan e-Newsletter. It will come complete with Profiles in Pan as well as a expert column by noted musician Don Prorak.

So we hope you take it upon yourself to take a moment to think about the gift Trinidad and Tobago have given all of us - the steel pan. Celebrate National Steel Pan Month.

Skip Waugh

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Times They Are A Changin'

There is change in the air. Maybe it's that time of year. School starting. Cooler weather moving in. With those changes comes a desire to try something new. It reminds me so much of the journey we all take when it comes to playing pan.

Remember what is was like when you first heard pan for the first time? Seen your first pan musician or group? Picked up the mallets yourself and gave it try? There is something very enlivening when it comes to embarking on new adventures. Pan is no different. We are our most excited in the beginning.

But what happens when the newness wears off? How easy is it to slip into boredom or discouragement when we mastered those first dozen songs. Where do you go next? If there are no foreseeable avenues, playing pan becomes a tad harder to do. You look and look but still wonder why you are doing it. For many of us, it is pure love of the instrument, its sound, and the camaraderie we have with others that keeps us in it. But is that enough? Maybe yes - maybe no.

Maybe it is just this time of year, that we pannists make changes. Summer is winding down. Outdoor gig bookings are slowing. We start to see our "off season" as a time to regroup and reimagine why we play pan. To blow on the spark that got us into pan in the first place.

Some of us will embark on playing with different groups, trying a new style of music, or learning another instrument in the pan family. We are willing to risk pursuing that opportunity to grow more in the instrument. We all yearn for something more. Maybe it just points out our humanity in that we always want something more. We want to grow.

So take that glowing ember of excitement that got you into pan and give it a gentle blow. Keep playing and supporting pan in your area and across the country. It will be just like it was in the beginning. And when it seems like it is harder than before, remember you'll find your way. Others did, so can you.

Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective

Friday, August 8, 2014

Putting the You in YouTube

Is your latest steel pan performance on YouTube? If not, it should be.

You need to be on YouTube whether you are looking for future gigs, new students, or just showing the latest song you learned. Unlike other social media - YouTube offers the sights and sounds of steel pan. Don't get me wrong. The other social media is nice. And when it is tied together can make a powerful way to get the word about steel pan. YouTube has to be part of your steel pan playing strategy.

Type in 'steel pan' or 'steel drum orchestra' and you'll find a surprising number of videos. Some are instructional, some promotional, some just capturing a pannist's or group's performance. They are always enjoyable to watch.

It is also a great way to pick up on a song you are learning. It's almost like being in a Trinidad panyard. You watch someone play the song on the screen and then you try it. (Thank goodness for that pause button). The chances you'll shorten that learning curve with YouTube. Also, it is a great way for you to also include your own performances to see how you look and sound.

I am strong believer in having a presence on YouTube. Having nothing up makes it tougher to convince others of your abilities. Videos adds credibility.

Here is a couple of suggestions:
1) Video and Post it. Also note the song you are playing.
2) Promote! Promote! Promote! Let others know through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, etc.) Use your own channels and couple it with that of the Steel Pan Collective. Most importantly, be consistent about it.
3) Embed and Link. If you have website, embed the video(s) or put a link to your video(s).

Take advantage of the technology we have these days. It is pretty user friendly. That's great news for the steel pan player.

Look for the SPC YouTube Channel in the coming months. It'll be a place where our members can also post their videos.


Skip Waugh

Friday, August 1, 2014

Marketing? Can I Just Play Instead?

Marketing. The very name can strike fear into the heart of any musician. It is a necessary evil especially when our preference is to play or teach. Honestly, who has time for promotion? 

Marketing is absolutely critical for steel pan players and groups. We are not exactly playing instruments that are "mainstream," at least not in the U.S. Without consistent and timely marketing, the steel pan player and group has to fight to get noticed.  

We rely on word of mouth, public performances, and social media to get the word out. Clearly that is a mix of offline and online promotion. Is over reliance on one dangerous? Over reliance on any one method in marketing usually doesn't produce results we hope for. The ultimate goal is to figure out who you are, what you bring to the market, who your target audience is, and where the heck they are? Then you need to develop a plan to cover all the bases and stick to it. A sprinkling of marketing here and there doesn't cut it. 

I had a chance to speak with a number of players around the country over the past couple of weeks. Many of the solo pan players play small social events. Most have tailored their websites and messaging to speak directly to their target audiences. The best examples I found were those playing for weddings. They know the audience. The music they provide includes romantic, tropical, and dance/party music. Check out some of their sites. Most have their playlists up too. Some even have music samples to listen to. They constantly market through social media and word of mouth. They aren't afraid to foster relationships with those in the "wedding" industry. Talk about knowing their market.

So keep this in mind when you think about how to do your marketing:
  • Know what you bring to the market
  • Know who and where your target audience is
  • Be prepared to market constantly.
  • Plan and Execute
Those who do this consistently seem to be the ones positioned for long-term success.