Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 8 / MARCH 1989

Online With START

Panning for Gold

The PAN BBS for Professional Musicians

by Jim Pierson-Perry
START Contributing Editor

Do you have questions about MIDI or new musical equipment? How about trading synthesizer patches, samples or gear? Or are you a musician in need of accurate, timely information about the music industry or job opportunities? If so, the PAN BBS may be just what you need.

PAN, the Performing Arts Network, is an international electronic community of musicians and music industry professionals. It is a powerful BBS system, similar to GEnie or Delphi but specializing in the music niche. All aspects of the music industry are covered, from booking tours to instrument technology.

Going Online with PAN

Like other major boards, you can access PAN all day, every day. You can dial direct or use a network such as Tymnet or Telenet (or Datapak in Canada). You can log on at 1200 to 9600 baud and you should use standard telecommunication settings: 8 bit, 1 stop bit, no parity and full duplex.

Standard rates for PAN are $12 per hour during the evening and $24 per hour during the day (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday). There is no surcharge for 2400 baud, but there's a $10 monthly fee for maintaining your electronic mailbox. All charges must be paid via a major credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). Some special services carry surcharges, such as fax use, airplane schedules/reservations (OAG -the Online Airlines Guide), Associated Press newswires, etc. Finally, there's a one-time signup fee of $150. (More about this later.)

The first time you enter PAN, you'll be taken on a guided tour of the BBS. This explains many of its operations and gets your user account organized. Answers to questions about PAN services, current rates or hints on using the BBS may be found by selecting "Using PAN" from the main menu.

Inside PAN

When you log in to PAN, the initial menu lists the major activity areas, which can be divided into general service and special interest areas. Service options include: PAN mail, travel services, checking the member directory, hints on using PAN, help and a personal workspace for storing and creating files.

PAN mail handles your personal communications to other users, as opposed to general questions/answers on the forum bulletin boards. You can address letters to a single member or maintain mailing lists to speed multiple mailings. Other options include sending telex messages, receiving mail and news reports via fax and message translations into different languages.

All users can enter information about themselves, their companies, career goals, equipment used, etc. into the member directory. Searching the directory lets you find who is using which equipment, people with particular talents or interests and other information. A similar but separate directory is maintained just for synth/MIDI network users.

Travel and news services are similar to those on other major boards. Profiles are available describing particular cities and countries. You can use the OAG option to view airline flight schedules and make trip reservations. From the news bureau, you can submit press releases and check the Associated Press newswire weather forecasts, music industry charts and statistics.

Three major special interest networks are maintained: business, audio and synth/MIDI. The business network is primarily for nontechnical members of the music industry: record companies, managers and promoters. The audio network handles matters related to professional audio needs and includes a section on home recording. The synth/MIDI network has all the goodies for music hardware, software, using MIDI and related topics.

Synths and MIDI

The synth/MIDI network provides several features and services of interest to musicians and developers, including a database of programs and information files, the forum bulletin board, online shopping, feedback to magazines and manufacturers (equipment and software) and even classified want ads.

The database contains sections for synthesizer patches, sampler data files, sequencer information and music files and MIDI development as well as programs (organized by computer brand) for the ST, Mac and IBM. Some ST programs include demo versions of new MIDI software and patch file format converters. The synthesizer patch files represent most major instruments and are growing constantly. With the recent porting of Soft Synth and Sound Designer, ST users can download sample data files to get all sorts of sonic goodies.

The forum is your source of the most up-to-date information on MIDI and music technology. Candid reports on new equipment and software, coverage of trade shows, hints and tips for all levels of users and more are available here. As forum users include all the major manufacturers and software developers, you can get information here before other boards pick it up. This includes representatives from the IMA (International MIDI Association) and MMA (MIDI Manufacturers Association), our MIDI watchdog organizations.

For more specific problems, praise or questions, you can use the online support features. Currently, 12 hotlines provide a direct pipeline to software developers, 15 are for equipment manufacturers and three are for trade publications. Others link to the IMA, MMA and PAN.

PAN even lends a hand when you want to buy or sell equipment or are advertising your services. The electronic classified ad section is a place where you can list items for sale, items wanted or services offered (or needed) at no charge--a great way to trade up your equipment. At a more professional level, Synthony Music offers an online shopping service and catalog with equipment descriptions.

Is It For Me?

With all it has going for it, what is missing from PAN? Well, there are no games, picture files, hints for adventure players, online encyclopedias, font files for word processors or Music Studio song files. PAN is set up to accommodate musicians and the professional music industry, not the general computer user.

Comparisons are inevitable between PAN and other MIDI-related boards such as MIDI-Net. While PAN is the more expensive option, it is also richer in resources. Ignoring the business aspects, available only through PAN, the comparison comes down to database files, hotlines and the bulletin board messages.

For the casual user, stay with full service boards. If you're a dedicated hobbyist or musician, however, and want to be in the forefront of the MIDI revolution, then PAN is the way to go. In my opinion, PAN provides the most accurate and timely information, drawing upon a wider representation of manufacturers, developers and support organizations. Currently, ST users won't find too many application programs on PAN, but will find a large number of usable patch and sample data files. Hopefully the ST userbase will improve. Plans are for Atari to enter PAN and possibly have its own users group, or at least a hotline.

Special Offer

Remember the $150 one-time signup fee? Well, START and PAN have gotten together to welcome new ST users with musical interests. During the month of February, any ST user who joins PAN will have the signup fee waived. Just enter START when asked for your password. This is an excellent way to find out for yourself what PAN has to offer the ST musician.

Here's how to reach the PAN BBS: for direct access, dial (617) 576-0862. When you connect, enter 1 or 2 and press Return. At the "USERNAME:" prompt, enter your name or handle; at the "PASSWORD:" prompt, enter START.

Going via Telenet, dial your local number. When you connect, press Return three times. At the " * " prompt, enter C PAN, then follow the username and password instructions above.

On Tymnet, dial your local number. When a series of random characters appears on your screen, type "A". At the "PLEASE LOG IN" prompt, type PAN and press Return; then follow the username and password instructions above.

Enjoy yourself. Contribute to the ST database if you can and drop me a note on PAN mail (PIERSONPERRY) to let me know what you think of PAN!

Contributing Editor Jim Pierson-Perry a research chemist and semiprofessional musician. He lives in Elkton, Maryland.


PAN (The Performing Arts Network), P.O. Box 162, Skipjack, PA 19474, (215) 584-0300.

Telenet, 12490 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 22096, (800) 336-0437.

Tymnet, McDonnell Douglas Network Systems Company, National Customer Service, 2070 Chain Bridge Road, Vienna, VA 22180, (800) 336-0149.