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Handpan Market Bubble 2016: The Explosion of Novice, One-Dimensional Handpan Makers and Their $2000 Prototype Debuts

In a previous blog post, I touched upon the topic of the fast growing number of new, one-dimensional handpan makers on the market every year, which has naturally served to increase competition on the maker's side of the market. 

By and large, most of the new makers who are currently entering into the handpan market are one-dimensional, unproven pan makers with little to no track record. These particular unscrupulous opportunists view the handpan market as an opportunity in which to exploit the lack of supply and fill demand by flooding the market with poor products built and ''tuned'' by makers with little, if any professional Pan expertise. 

A recent phenomenon that has become obvious however, is the fact that a growing proportion of these new, one-dimensional handpan makers, who are by definition inexperienced in Pan, completely lack the tuning expertise required to properly tune their instruments!

Consequentially, as a result of novice makers not having even remotely the amount of tuning experience that is required in order to tune an instrument properly, they also do not know how to PREPARE the instrument in order that it may be tuned to acheive its highest potential.

One thing I have learned in more than two decades as a Pan enthusiast, is that in order for a comepetent tuner to even be able to tune a pan to the best of his ability and make the instrument sing, the Pan MUST be prepared properly from the ground up. This preparation consists of but is not limited to;

1. Choosing the proper metal, with the proper thickness and properly shaping it

2. Making precise hammer strokes on the shells in order to properly shape and separate the notes (With countless hammmer strokes on each instrument, one can appreciate the delicate nature of this skill)

3. Properly forming the dimples

4. Properly burning/tempering the shells

 

No matter how good a tuner is, he will find it impossible to properly tune an instrument that has been poorly prepared! Only a tuner with an extensive background in steelpan tuning would be acutely aware of this fact because the same holds true as far as traditional steelpans are concerned! Traditonal steelpans must be properly prepared from the choice of the drum, the sinking, the shaping of the notes, the grooving of the notes, backing, etc.

And traditional steelpans take a significantly MORE amount of expertise to make and tune properly in comparison to the handpan as I have stated before. 

A very wise tuner from Trinidad, whom is considered by many to be an institution as far as makers/tuners are concerned, has repeatedly reminded me that in his words, ''A big part of tuning is knowing how to properly prepare the pan BEFORE any tuning even begins.''

The best tuner in the world cannot make a poorly prepared pan sing properly, and this is why all tuners must have a fundamental knowledge of the entire process of making the pan, from the ground up. It is not just as simple as purchasing shells on eBay, and teaching yourself how to ''tune'' an instrument which you have the intention of selling at a cost that overwhelingly exceeds its intrinsic value! 

 

In the present day age of Linotune, which many novice, one-dimensional ''tuners'' are relying on in order to ''tune'' and market poor quality intruments, the fact that a pan must be properly prepared FIRST has been lost on many of them. And their overly priced, $2000 products are sad proof of this!  

 

The handpan business is overwhelmingly becoming a fly by night industry, get rich quick market, where makers are here today and gone tomorrow all due to the fact that they have no fundamental knowledge of how the pan is produced or tuned, much less the history and the struggle of its originators!

 

Fast money, not struggle and perseverence is the name of the game in the industry where ''tuners'' feel like they can acquire a skill (pan tuning) in a short period of time, when it takes an individual on average, 15-20 years to become a  competent tuner. Is it any wonder that competent tuners are so rare in light of this fact? And this is not to mention the good to MASTERFUL tuners who have been tuning in excess of 20 years. These elite categories of tuner are even more rare obviously. 

Currently, in the world of the handpan, novice, profit driven makers have stripped nearly all, if not all of the ''value'' out of their cheap products to the bone and beyond. This results partly in the uninformed customers receving no value for their money, and in fact OVERPAYING for fundamentally overpriced products. Thus the customers create more value in the market upon overpaying, which essentially adds up to a sizeable amount of profit for the profit driven, novice one-dimentional makers in question, as a group.  

 

More importanly, this speculative behavior on the part of the new, profit driven makers, has created a BUBBLE within the handpan market. It is unreasonable to assume that the present demand for the handpan will continually outpace the supply as has tradionally been the case, especially at this current rate with the explosion of all the new, profit driven, one-dimensional makers on the market.

 

When this bubble bursts, this can only reasonably lead to even greater consolidation at the high end of the market, which is controlled by the Handpan Mafia. At the current rate, in a few years, only the high end Handpan Mafia associated outfits will remain viable along with a few other alternatives. This will end up in less choice and higher prices for the consumers, while no gurantee on the improvement in overall quality of handpans will be included. 

 

However, due to the high level of greed that drives many new makers on the market, their inexperience and lack of Pan expertise definitely does not stop them from charging on average, $2000 for their initial prototypes; Prototypes which are not even marketed as prototypes, but instead as falsely marketed as ''quality'' instruments from ''competent'' makers, novice and one-dimensional though they may be!

The reason makers such as these are allowed to basically operate and in some cases, thrive on the handpan market is due to the rampant ignorance among buyers in the market, who will jump at the opportunity to shell out $2000 for an instrument from an unproven maker based on the hype sourroung the handpan itself. Many do not even know the types of things to listen for in the instrument itself that determine whether it is of quality or not. The old saying, ''all that glitters is not gold'' comes to mind when thing about this phenomenon. 

In some cases, regarding the marketing aspect of these novice, one-dimensional handpan makers, some new and, some not so new, one of the key techiniques they use to market their instruments is SATURATION. Basically flooding the market with their instruments. This increasingly makes the ever decreasing scarcity of handpans a thing of the past, but also serves to increase a one-dimensional maker's profile on the market, as they have instruments available in large quantities on any give handpan sales outlet available. 

There was a time not so long ago, when new, novice makers admitted they were such, and advertised their handpans appropriately; as PROTOTYPES! And it was more often than not that these instruments were sold routinely at a $1000 price point or LESS.

It seems that where there was once some semblance of honour and integrity among novice, one-dimensional makers, that no longer exists as the handpan has gone viral and the greedy, capitalist vultures have swarmed in smelling blood.

 

These profit driven values do no vibe well with any of the true handpan makers/enthusiasts whom I know, including KaribPAN. 

 

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