Written by Ted Goslin
There are always people in any profession that are able to stay busy during the most desolate of times, where even the best in the business are out of work. But for most of us, it’s a struggle to keep busy during slow periods.
For Pan musicians, this period is usually around now, between December and March. While a savvy marketing person can push Pan for holiday parties, the beginning of the year is cold and empty for many musicians, unless they have steady gigs set up at hotels, resorts or restaurants. Most backyard parties require warm weather. Here are some tips on how to stay busy when the gigs dry up, so when they start flowing again, you can bring in the bread with little issue.
1. Marketing- With such a broad topic, there are probably a million ways you can decide to go, but only a few will work for your clients. If you’re fastidious with your record keeping, take the client emails and build a list in one of the myriad online marketing sites like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Aweber or Trutarget, to name a few. Use that online marketing tool to create an e-blast using one of the site templates or create your own. You’ll need to play with the fonts and images to get the right feel for your client base. Once that’s set, make sure your clients have opted in so you aren’t a spammer in their eyes, then you’re ready to send!
Keep building this list any way you can when you go to gigs, even to the extent of bringing a sign-up list with you. When times are slow, send out a monthly blast with a promotion or maybe a new video to catch their eye and remind them what you can do to liven up this coldest of seasons.
2. Build Your Repertoire- Even if you have been playing the same songs for 20 years and your clients love you for it, you’d be surprised what throwing in the latest pop tune or an old classic you never played can do for your clients. Start with listening to clients at gigs when they make requests. Note the requests then go to work when you get home, either building your own custom track or snagging a karaoke track to save time. If you have the ear to pick it up without sheet music great, but for those that don’t, look around for lead sheets or chord charts on line at sites like OnSong or E-Chords. Most are free, but for the ones that aren’t, check out iReal Pro, an app that has thousands of charts available instantly, allowing the user to play along with the track or create their own.
3. Practice- To make the most of down-time, it doesn’t hurt to bon-up on your theory and dust off the text books. Practicing scales and creating written solos with your tracks can be a great way to spend time, which leads to more satisfied clients and happier bandmates, which can lead to more gigs.
4. Fix or Upgrade Equipment- Did you have to replace some gear last season but would love to have a backup? Fix the old gear! Or look online at Craigslist or Ebay for cheap replacements if you want something new. For steelpan gear, the options have grown over the years to include a wide array of options. For high quality mallets, check out Mallet Man. For new stands, Panyard.com offers interesting options that have a more high-end look with payment plans available. New Pans or replacement parts are also available at Smartpans or Kyle Dunleavy Steel Drums.
5. Update Your Website- There are always changes throughout the year that need to be updated across any business. The best place to start is your website; the first place any client will go for info on your business. If you added tunes, update the set list. If you have new audio or video to sample, put it up! If it’s time to upgrade to a new website, check out Weebly.com, Wix.com or Squarespace.com, among others.