What’s next for The Mood Merchants?

I bought in the New Year along with Lightning Jazz at the Carnegie RSL, and now I’m in the process getting Alvin, who’s the 1976 Chesney Kampa, ready to go away down to East Gippsland for a few days with Mel and the dogs.

I’ve got one Mood Merchants gig to do before we go, so I should have some music to share from that one when we get back.

So the start of a New Year seems like the ideal time to lay out a few plans. But before I do I thought I’d just give a little bit of context. So I’ve been running The Mood Merchants as a project on and off since 2004. Originally we were just a quintet. I think we were doing roughly one gig a month, on average.

And then I put up the shutters for a while while I was working full time in a school.

In about 2011 I revived the website, and I added in a background music trio and a roving trio to my list of offerings.

I got to a pretty steady two Mood Merchants gigs a month, on average, for several years after that. I was obviously doing freelance gigs as well, and some instrumental teaching, and I was able to get by okay.

In 2016, I started another full time job, and this time I kept The Mood Merchants going, but the gigs dropped off a bit because I was really too busy to give it the attention that it needed.

I left that job at the end of 2019, when I moved here to Geelong, and I was all ready to crank things up again musically and then, of course, Covid came along, trashed everything for a couple of years.

So here I am now, and I feel like I’m finally ready to move into The Mood Merchants version 3.0, if you like. I’m going to keep going with some instrumental teaching, and some casual teaching, and hopefully some freelance gigs if people will have me, but I’m going to build the Mood Merchants component up, hopefully, to be the majority of my income, which means probably about two gigs a week, on average.

I’ve got no way of knowing whether that’s possible, but my feeling is that it can be done. It doesn’t cost me anything to give it ago, apart from my time and effort, possibly a little dignity, but y’know, not much to lose at this point.

So, how am I going to generate all that extra activity. Let’s make it simple. I need to offer something good, suits the needs of people who might want to pay for it, and then I need to let those people know that it exists, and maybe convince them that it’s worth paying for.

What I already offer, it’s good. Perfectly suits the needs of some people. A few of those people make it my website, put in an enquiry, and book in the gig. I do think there’s quite a lot of good gigs that are left on the table, because people can’t find us or there’s other problems, so finding ways to communicate with those people is important.

I’m not very good at marketing, it’s not my strong point, so I’ve got to figure out ways to hack my way around that problem, but I also think that the size of those niches which can be perfectly filled by the music that I’m currently offering is a bit too small to create the level of activity that I really need, and I’m not interesting in trying to sort of cram in that music in places where it doesn’t belong.

So, I’m going to begin expanding the range of things that I offer this year. The first thing that I’m going to do is to add some composing, arranging musical direction, production services onto the website. So this is not another band, per se, but it is another niche that I think we can fill really well. So the idea is that I can provide my own skills, and the skills of the musicians that I work with, to help other people with their own projects. So those other people might be professionals, or maybe would-be professionals, students, something like that, or they might just be a person who happens to have “Sing with a jazz band” on their bucket list, but they’ve got no way of making it happen on their own.

So one of my first jobs this year is to put those ideas into a coherent package, do a little bit of promotion, put it all up on the website, attach some prices to it, see whether I can generate any interest.

I also have plans to offer at least one more live music project this year. Now I’ve got an exciting idea, it’s still working through the proof of concept stage, but I can say that I want to make some dance music. It’s going to be broadly within the Mood Merchants wheelhouse, musically speaking, but a pretty big leap into something quite new for me, and if I can make it work, then I think it will be heaps of fun, and hopefully bring about some pretty big opportunities.

I’m in a pretty experimental state of mind, post-pandemic, probably like lots of other people. That space has really given me time to reassess lots of things. As well as the music, I also feel as if there’s room for change in just about everything that I do, from the way that I deal with clients, to the way I do marketing, to the way I hire musicians, to the way I articulate values and exercise leadership. I’m looking for more diversity, more connection, more generosity, more engagement, and all of that probably comes with more risk and more vulnerability, but maybe it’s worth it?

First things first, I’m going away on holidays, so I won’t make a video next week. I’ll be back with the next update on the 19th, and I’ll start charting my progress through what I hope will be an exciting 2022, so it would be great if you’d join me.

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