The violinist, educator and entrepreneur Jesse Massey shares his insights
As the year comes to a close, there is one lesson that 2020 has taught us over and over. Our industry is moving online.
While it goes without saying that a live experience will always out perform a livestream in terms of its emotional impact, classical organizations have begun to understand the potential of streaming as a result of its ability to connect them with a vastly larger audience at a much lower price point. Now, the Berlin Philharmonic can fill their hall with tens of thousands of audience members, even in the midst of a pandemic. Regardless of COVID-19, this was always going to be the way things went. Pandemic or not, in 2030, our industry would have been exactly at where it is now in terms of the adoption of live-streaming into an overall business model. All COVID has done is to simply speed up the inevitable.
In the consumer industry, the likelihood of shoppers actually visiting a brick and mortar store is dropping by double digit percentage points every single year. The classical industry will not be immune to this change which raises the question of how to continue reaching audiences online without simply giving our expertise away for free? The answer lies inside the need to reconsider what we as musicians consider to be valuable. Unfortunately, cold hard cash is the only token of value most musicians fixate on which - in effect - deters them away from the idea of building social media followings online or nurturing an email list. Because when it comes right down to it, having 20k followers on Instagram doesn’t actually make you any money, right?
You (yes you reading this) know that the statement above is false. You know that having a social following can bring you new opportunities and a substantial raise in your yearly earnings. In fact, you’ve had this suspicion for a while now. The only reason you haven’t pulled the trigger on leaning in and learning how to use social media to get you from point A to point B is because you haven’t had a road map that shows you what steps to take. The goal of this article is to shed some light on the wild and wonderful world of online marketing, so that you can begin to grow your audience as a performer/teacher by utilizing the greatest miracle in human history; the internet.
10 Steps to Monetizing Your Passion Online:
1. Create Your Dream Customer
The first thing to do is identify who your dream customer is. What do I mean by dream customer? Your dream customer is a crystal clear mental image of the person you want filling your concert halls, buying your products, watching your livestreams etc…
Your dream customer is a human being with problems that need to be solved and they have a specific taste in music. For teachers, you could ask yourself questions like, ‘What is this dream customer’s number 1 problem that I can solve?’ For performer’s you can ask yourself “What bands/genres do they listen to outside of classical music?’ Some other great questions to ask yourself are as follows:
- What is the gender of your dream customer?
- How old is your dream customer?
- What level of education do they have?
- What location are they based in?
- What are some key elements of their lifestyle?
- What are their values and interests?
So why do this in the first place? By creating a specific description of who you are selling to, you have a much better idea of how to communicate with that demographic in a way where they get excited about what you have to offer. We would never try to engage a 72-year-old woman in a conversation in the same way that we work to communicate with teenage boys. Each interaction in our every day lives is tailored to the person in front of us in order to ensure the most mutually beneficial interaction possible. Creating a sales message is no different. Get crystal clear about who you are are selling to, and you’ll instantly have a substantially easier time communicating with them in a way that resonates.
2. Create A Digital Product To Sell or Give Away For Free
The next thing to do is to record a few tunes, create a video course, write a pamphlet or PDF that either solves your dream customer’s problem or massively entertains them. From here, sell it for under $30 or give it away for free altogether.
But Jesse, you just said I shouldn’t give my expertise away for free! Correct, you should definitely be receiving value out of giving products or services away, but I’ll get into this later.
An example of creating a product that solves a certain problem for others can be found in my most recent product ‘Monetizing Your Music’ which is a course that teaches classical musicians how to use Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Youtube Ads to grow their audiences.
An example of a valuable PDF could be a step-by-step manual on how to start a beginning student.
An example of a massively entertaining recording project could be sitting silently for somewhere around 273 seconds and naming it “273 seconds” (I digress, but you get the point).
Now this is where most musicians make the fatal mistake of placing too high a price tag on their digital product. Here’s the truth: if you create a video course, regardless of the level of expertise or quality of the course itself, you shouldn’t be pricing it over $30. For PDFs the maximum price tag is $10 and recordings should be free. I know reading the last sentence is borderline infuriating, but I promise I’ll round back and explain what the real value is here for you and your business (hint: it’s not money).
3. Set up a funnel website that is separate from your current website to sell/distribute your product
Many musicians reading this might be thinking, ‘I already have a website. Why would I go and open up another one?’. Regular websites do a terrible job of selling products for a very simple reason. It gives your site visitors too many activities to choose from. When they arrive at your website, they’re given the choice of clicking on your bio, your videos, your audio recordings, your press appearances, your projects, or perhaps even the products you sell. When we are guiding site visitors through a sales process, we want to give them one thing to focus on: your product. Anything else is a distraction. The great thing about a funnel website is that site visitors are essentially guided through a curated experience where there is only one direction for them to go.
Think of it this way: a regular website is like a hallway with 4 doors on each side of the hallway, and a door at the end of the hall that leads to the room you actually want them to spend time in. A funnel website is a hallway with no side doors, only a room at the end of the hall. Because you focus them in on a single goal, the likelihood of them purchasing your product goes up dramatically, simply because they’re not distracted.
The best resource for creating funnel websites is ClickFunnels, because it’s so easy to use. This website creator is specifically tailored for those of us who absolutely hate dealing with technology because of the level of frustration we experience with it. If you’re curious about checking it out, here’s a link:
4. Grow Your Social Following
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean people will inherently visit it. You need to find a way to get people to your website and accomplish this for the lowest cost possible. Social media is your tool to do exactly this, because platforms like Instagram and TikTok are free for anyone to use.
There are 3 primary rules when it comes to social media.
- The content you post must be authentic, it must be a reflection of you and who you are.
- Your content must either educate, inspire, or entertain.
- Your content should do step 2 at a higher level than any of your competitors.
I could go on for hours on this topic, so I’ll keep it brief. You need to post every single day on 2-3 platforms that you work well with. Are you great on video? TikTok and Youtube will be your new home. Are you an awesome photographer? Instagram is best for you. Are you a written word kind of person? Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a personal blog are your go-to’s. There’s nothing more frustrating than being great at taking photos, but terrible at video creation, and trying to be a ‘Youtuber’. Pick a platform that plays to your strengths.
The other thing I hate is sitting down every day and creating content every day. Creating posts in this way takes me out of my daily responsibilities, which makes me want to create content quickly, which then degrades the quality of my content because I’m approaching it from a place of stress. On top of this, my current schedule of creating around 60 pieces of content per week between 6 platforms would be impossible if I was creating the content the day I planned to post it.
Instead, I recommend setting aside a few hours on a day off (2nd round lockdowners I’m looking at you) to create all of your content in one go. Take all of your pictures, record/edit all of your video, write all of your captions or blog posts, find all of your hashtags etc… in the span of a single afternoon. By doing this, you’ll allow yourself to be in the moment and really focus on creating content that fulfills the 3 rules above. From here, all you have to do is set aside 5-10 minutes a day to actually post it. Easy!
The last thing I’ll say here is that you want to pick 3-5 rotating topics that you create content around. The idea here is that if you try to create content around a single topic, you’ll get frustrated quickly because you’ll find yourself running out of things to say.
An example of this is my current violin focused Instagram. My topics are as follows:
Best mindsets for classical musicians
How to generate capital to fund your passion projects
Thoughts and updates from my personal life
Sell Products or Offers
You might notice that the fourth topic doesn’t really look like it fits with the other topics. The truth is people don’t follow ideas or information, they follow other people. When looking at your personal brand, they want to get to know who you are, what you think and what you stand for. Including a rotating topic such as your weekly musings, your current struggles, even a topic involving the different kinds of wine you try out all do a better job of connecting with a larger audiences than just exclusively delivering information ever will.
One of your topics should involve you selling your products or services in a fun and engaging way. My rule for my feeds is to entertain/educate 80% of the time and sell no more than 20% of the time. We all know a ‘Karen’ that uses 100% of her posts to sell her MLM scheme. Don’t be Karen, adhere to the 80/20 ratio. ;-)
There’s only one downside to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube etc… Just because you post something doesn’t mean that every single one of your followers will see it. At this point in time, you actually need to pay these platforms in order to get 100% of your followers to see any given post. This isn’t a sustainable way of doing business, especially considering what platforms like Facebook charge to do exactly this, which leads us to step number five.
5. Grow Your Email List
You remember when I told you to giveaway your product for basically nothing, if not free? Here’s why. The great thing about using a funnel website is that it allows you to collect payments in a very easy way but - more importantly - it enables you to collect email addresses from your clients before they receive the product that they want from you. If the product that you sell in your website funnel is appealing to the people that follow you on social media, you can get them to join your email list. The reality here is that your email list is more valuable than the money you make from this first product, because by having your client’s email address, you are able to communicate with your entire audience without having to pay Facebook or Instagram to actually show everyone your message.
Especially when you create new products/courses/services in the future, you’ll find that your email list functions essentially as an ATM. To give an example, my first email that I sent to my list of contacts in an effort to get them to purchase my course generated $800. I want you to think about that for a moment. I made $800 from sending out a single mass email.
That’s the world we live in. By being able to connect with our followers directly at scale, our ability to sell our services is stronger than it’s ever been in human history.
6. Listen to Your Fans and Followers
When trying to figure out what kind of products or services to sell, the most valuable resource you have are your followers. Being able to listen to your following, understand their problems and their desires, and utilize that information to create services or pieces of art that satisfy their needs is what will set you apart from 90% of our industry.
Do your followers have difficulty teaching boys entering their teenage years? Create a course or coaching program that teaches them how to deal with the emotions and changing motivations commonly found in that age demographic.
Do your followers wish there were more projects that highlighted historically underrepresented groups? Listen to their feedback and create projects that resonate with this desire and fulfill you artistically.
The best way to listen is to engage. The best way to engage is to respond to every email, every DM, every comment on every social platform, and to include questions into your social media posts. You can literally ask your following, point blank, what they’d like more of in our industry or from your channel specifically. Use this data to pivot moving into the future.
7. Learn the art of copywriting
An absolutely essential skill of selling anything in any setting is the ability to communicate how you can solve or fulfill your client or audience member’s existing problem/desire. Whether it be through spoken word, through a video sales letter, or through a website, writing copy that sells is a skill you should develop. ‘Copy’ is basically the script for your video sales letter or audio recording, or the writing on your website. Again, I could write a 20 chapter book on this topic, so I’m going to keep it brief with some core concepts.
Great copy consists of three parts: your hook, your story, and your offer. Your hook should grab your reader/listener’s attention by using a headline that creates an emotional response. For example, one of my businesses that I own teaches men how to optimize their Tinder profiles to get more matches and how to interact with their matches ethically and authentically. However, in order to create a strong hook, I couldn’t just recycle what I just wrote and slap it at the top of my website and call it a hook, because it doesn’t have the emotional pizzaz that I’m looking for. So instead, I went with, “How to get 3x more matches on Tinder in 2 weeks or less (even if you’ve never had success with online dating)”. With this headline, I address their problem (them not getting matches on Tinder) I show them what’s possible in a short amount of time, and I address a potential objection that they might have such as them never having success in the past. Create a hook that utilizes economy of language and gets an emotional reaction out of your client. If you can do this, you have a solid hook.
Part two is your story. Your story functions to provide context for the project/product itself. If you’re selling a video course you can include your own process of realizing that creating this product was important in the first place, how much time it took you to discover these skills (which subconsciously communicates how much time they’ll save by purchasing your course instead of going it alone themselves).
Your offer is a description of what your project or service is and how it can help your reader. This is also an appropriate place to get into some of the specifics about what your product includes. If it’s a video course, how many lessons/modules does it include? What topics does it cover? For most, this is the most self-explanatory element of writing great copy because it’s what most of us want to do any way when explaining our project. We want to describe the project/product. This is the place to do it.
To cap things off, adding in a call to action is also a must. This can be as simple as something like “click the link below to learn more” or “if you’re ready to fix XYZ in your life, click on the button below this video to start taking control of ABC today”. Guiding your potential client to the finish line will help you sell more tickets, more courses etc… than if you simply leave out this step of the process. Very simple to do, though if left out, it can leave your listener/reader confused about what action to take next.
8. Learn how to use paid advertising online
We live in an amazing time. Never before in history have we been able to reach our dream customers so directly, and for such a small budget. Platforms like Facebook Ads and Google Ads allow you to show ads you create to potential clients that are likely to buy your product. Are you trying to sell something to mom’s between the age of 35-45 that live in Topeka, Kansas? No problem. Are you attempting to generate interest in your project from men who are 18-22 years old and have recently engaged with something related to classical music? Very easy to do.
The best ad platforms to learn are Facebook and Google Ads (which also includes Youtube Ads as Google owns Youtube), though some other great ad platforms include TikTok Ads, LinkedIn Ads and a plethora of others.
Here, writing great copy is going to come in handy once again, so be sure to really sharpen your writing skills to get even better results.
9. Network with other digital influencers to reach even more people
Networking luncheons are a thing of the past. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok etc… allow you to comment, DM, and like posts by other musicians in your niche 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The reason engaging with other musicians is important is because you want to eventually approach musicians with larger followings than you for possible collaborations so that you can grow your own audience! Is there an Instagram violinist that has a following that would love the project you’re creating? Is there a Youtube violinist that you could collaborate with to grow your subscriber count? Remember, the goal here is to build your social media audience so that you can invite them to join your email list, which gives you the ability to communicate with and sell to them directly.
Now, how do you actually propose collaborations with other digital influencers? I suppose you could send a random DM to 100 musicians in your niche and hope:
- They actually see your message
- That they are immediately interested in leveraging their larger following to help out a stranger
However, I think there’s a better way of going about this. Instead, imagine if you spent 20 minutes a day for 2 months writing something personalized and unique on your each of your colleagues’ posts and started to develop a meaningful relationship with these creators. Do you think they’d be more open working with you now that they can put a face to your name? I think so!
10. Leverage your entire following to sell high ticket offers
Now that you’ve built your following of engaged fans that love your work and want to be part of your artistic process and journey, the thing to do now is give them the opportunity to meet you and work with you personally.
Are you a teacher that has released a $27 specialized course on a specific aspect of violin playing for intermediate violinists? Your high ticket offer could be virtual group classes or one-on-one lessons with you for a healthy fee.
Are you a performer that wants to perform the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet? Hire your favourite string quartet and pianist to come and play a show with you and leverage your 10,000 person email list to sell $3 tickets to a livestream performance and reinvest your $2k profit to fund future performances with musicians you’ve dreamed of collaborating with.
Or perhaps you’re a musician that teaches other musicians how to monetize their craft online? Offer specialized one-on-one consultation and low ticket video courses on how to do exactly that! (wink wink, nudge nudge ;-)
Your most valuable asset is your time. There is an infinite amount of money in the world. There is not, however, an infinite amount of time available to us. The reason you can sell your video courses for less than $30 is because it provides you with passive income that doesn’t require you to spend hours sitting in a specific place at a specific time in order to make money. Additionally, the money you make from your low ticket offers can then be reinvested into your business by buying ads on Facebook and Google. Your main cost as a digital musician is your marketing. Use your low ticket offers to fund your marketing efforts so that everything else you make in your high ticket offers is pure profit. Even if you choose to give your products away for free, you’re still building an email list that you can sell products to later. Regardless of the direction you choose, it’s a win win.
So there’s your roadmap broken down into 10 actionable steps. I hope you find it enlightening and useful!
This is a brave new world that we live in. And in this brave new world, the question that seems to arise over and over again is whether or not classical music has a viable future or if classical music is indeed dying. Every one of us have had this conversation with a colleague at one point or another, but do me a favour for a moment. Imagine a reality where this question wasn’t even asked anymore because there was no reason for it to be asked. In this reality, classical music is viewed as an indispensable element of society that the majority of the population loves spending money on.
The success or failure of any art form, any consumer product or service, is based on its ability to innovate and its ability to market itself better than anyone/anything else. What if classical musicians learned how to “out market” pop music? What would be possible for musicians in our genre? Really let that sink in.
That’s what I’m on a mission to teach. We all know classical music has incredible value to offer. Let’s bring it into the 21st century with finesse and style.