The shop has been open a few days. Response hasn't been all that I hoped it would be. There was a burst of traffic on the first day, but not the level of third-party referrals, social sharing, and in particular sales that I was hoping for. It's early days, though, and predictable and somewhat deliberate that this first product is not my most popular one. To some extent only people who have Mutable Clouds modules, or who are doing "generative" melodic patches, need this many smooth independent sine waves, and how many people is that?
But I want to make sure every aspect of the shop is really working before I risk rolling out the bigger-ticket and wider-interest modules. I've learned some things I hope will be useful when I launch the second product, the MSK 008 Dual VC Octave Switch; and development for that is going faster than expected, and I know there's some interest. I'll probably beat my target of launching it at the start of September by at least a week. At this point I'm pretty much just waiting for the panels to arrive.
One lesson learned: DON'T have "coming soon" products in the store! Because when I announced the Fixed Sine Bank somehow that meant "Please give me half-baked wishlist items on everything except the Fixed Sine Bank!" I'd put up pages for the Octave Switch and the Leapfrog Filter before launch day because I wanted the place to look lived-in, and it's probably too late to take those down now, but I certainly won't be putting any other new products into the store until they're actually available for sale. You'll have to read this Web log to hear about any other future plans - and even continuing that will be conditional on readers respecting the basis on which preliminary information is posted.
Another lesson learned: make the audio samples extremely accessible. There were samples for the Sine Bank posted right from the start and I was still getting requests for audio samples as if there weren't any, which means that they weren't posted in a way readers could recognize on sight. I've changed them to HTML5 embedded players; I hope that means they'll get more plays. I also (even though it's a "coming soon" product...) added a demo of the Octave Switch in wavefolder mode, which I think turned out quite nicely.
It was not my plan to sell "PCB+panel" sets, because I didn't think those made commercial sense. Panels of a quality level to match the rest of the parts in a North Coast module end up costing a fair chunk of the entire parts cost of a module. Maybe in some future Web log entry when I feel less bitchy I'll post about all the adventures I had trying to source high-quality machined panels from different Chinese, Canadian, and German machine shops. It took months, and thousands of dollars of investment, and it's still not clear that I have a reliable long-term supply line. I think what I really need is a Chinese girlfriend. When these people give me a hard time over mechanical tolerances or anodization or whatever I can say "Let me transfer you to the Purchasing Manager..." and she can just shriek at them over the phone until they give in.
Until that day, I can subsidize the panels out of the profits on the other parts of a full kit or assembled module. Doing that doesn't work on "PCB+panel" because the PCBs alone don't have enough profit to cover the panel. But it was starting to sound like some DIYers really think they want to pay for panels outside of full kits no matter how much it costs, so what the heck, I've added such an option at the price it needs to be for it to be worth it on my end. I also took the opportunity to knock a few dollars off the "PCB only" option, which eats into the profits there but I hope will help convey a more accurate picture of what these things really cost. If you really want "PCB+panel" sets for the Fixed Sine Bank and future modules, okay here they are, buy them. My hidden agenda is that I'm hoping someone will imagine I'm making a lot of profit on the panels and try to set up in competition with me selling panels for North Coast Synthesis modules at a lower price. Then I can send customers to the third-party panel seller, be out of the panel-retailing business myself, and everybody will be happy. Want to help? The mechanical drawing for the panels is in the back of the user/build manual. Artwork for the printing is in the source package ZIP file, but maybe you have a better idea for how it should be printed, too. It should be pretty straightforward to send all that to the cheap manufacturer that you believe exists.
My next priority is getting the VC Octave Switch out the door. UPS assures me that the first few panels for it will arrive Tuesday, but I've heard that song before, and they're coming from a manufacturer I haven't yet qualified. Best case, they're perfect and I only need another couple days to write the manual and I'll have the first batch of octave switches (which will be a small one because I made this panel order small for testing purposes) in the shop by the end of the week. Worst case, the panels either will not arrive or will be unacceptable and I'll be back to the start of the sourcing process, which took about four months last time. So the question is, am I feeling lucky?