What I learned from one of the network marketing organization’s training CDs was the importance of legitimizing your business.
The idea is this. If all you’ve got is a website and some business cards, you don’t have a business. Even if you’ve registered your business name with the proper authorities, you still don’t have a business. So, when do you have a business? When you’ve legitimized it.
Once you’ve made your first dollar, you have proof that the concept works. And while starting a new venture is exciting, I promise you it’s nowhere near as exciting as making money from something you personally created.
Music Entrepreneur HQ was just a fun side project for me when it got started. It wasn’t even Music Entrepreneur HQ at the time – it was David Andrew Wiebe Podcast, and then David Andrew Wiebe Interviews and Music Business Podcast. Just another way for me to get my music out into the world.
I finally dipped my toes in the water with How to Set Up Your Music Career Like a Business, my first audio program.
I still had no clue what I was doing at the time. Because I was planning to sell the program, though, I wanted to ensure it was high value and in-depth. And when I was finished recording it, I was rather horrified to find it was only 30 minutes long!
Buy I put it out there anyway, originally for $0.99. Before long, though, my peers saw what I was up to, wanted to become an affiliate of the program to promote it, and encouraged me to raise the price.
And that was when I got to my first dollar for Music Entrepreneur HQ. I had achieved this feat with other ventures, so I wasn’t exactly a business legitimizing virgin, but the sense of elation and excitement I felt selling a few copies of my audio program is simply indescribable.
It’s fun to create. It’s a blast, really. But if you want to build a profitable and sustainable music career, you’ve got to get to your first dollar. And you’ve got to prove to yourself that you can do it. And trust me, it’s worth it – it’s a feeling like no other!
And in this case, we’re going to be talking about the words you use to describe your product or the words you use to sell to your audience. But bear in mind that you are what you create yourself as. Meaning – the words you use in all areas of your career and life are key.
Anyway, the technical term for what we’re talking about here is copy. Copy is any text that’s been crafted to sell.
It’s a deep topic, and I don’t expect to be able to cover everything there is to know in a few paragraphs. There are entire books, courses, and online memberships dedicated to the topic, and even the best copywriters tend to remain students of the craft.
But to give you an example, I’d like to call your attention to my book, The Music Entrepreneur Codefor a second. I don’t bring it up for self-promotional reasons, I bring it up so we can see copy at work.
Prior to the book’s release, I didn’t have a subtitle for the book, and its description was a little lackluster. I got some help from my mastermind group and wouldn’t you know it, I ended up with another best-seller.
The Music Entrepreneur Code is a great title, and it does get your attention, but it doesn’t tell you what the book is about. Great for generating curiosity, but not great for specificity.
The subtitle we settled on, although a little long, captures the essence of the book impeccably – How to Get Paid for Your Passion and Impact More Fans Without Wasting Years of Your Life and Thousands of Dollars.
And where the book description originally spoke of shills and charlatans and was more focused on the story going on in my head, it was reformulated to call out the target audience (the first two words in the description are “Most musicians…”), described their pain points (overwhelmed, fed up), identified with their emotions (bitter, angry, and defeated), and pointed to a solution (“…follow a proven roadmap…”).
What you need to take away from this is that when you’re selling anything, the words you use matter.
We all say we don’t like to be sold to, but how many times have you been sucked into reading long sales letters from top to bottom?
Well, prior to this, you may not have known that these were even called sales letters, but now that you do, I would suggest studying the ones you come across. Explore:
What stands out to you?
What words capture your attention?
What emotions does the copy evoke?
What makes you want to buy?
We’re not here to reinvent the wheel, so my suggestion would be to model what you see working. Don’t copy – that’s called plagiarism, and it gets even the most notorious YouTubers in trouble. But you should be modeling what works in all areas of your career, not just copy.
Understand – products that don’t sell sometimes start selling when you brush up on the copy.
As author Dan Kennedy says, the greatest sin in marketing is being boring. And copy represents a huge opportunity to spice up your marketing.
First the bad news. Figuring out what your fans want isn’t always easy.
The good news? Once you know what they want, you can keep hitting those same notes repeatedly.
And that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep making new things. But those new things are going to do so much better if they are rooted in a clear understanding of what worked in the first place.
The first step is to experiment. Ask friends and fans what they liked about your album or show. Be rigorous in getting honest opinions. It does you no good to surround yourself with yes men. Or women.
Take the feedback and iterate on what you’ve created. Test reactions. Track minute things like whether there were more people at the beginning of your show versus the end of your show.
There are few people who can better articulate the process of iteration than Jack Conte, who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing for Music Entrepreneur HQ. In an interview with Hypebot, Conte once said:
Iterate a thousand times until you have a hit, and then you’ve got something. So, I love that idea – if it’s not a hit, switch.
If it’s not a hit, switch.
This is where a lot of artists get stuck. Because they don’t switch. They just keep flogging the same dead horse, hoping it will get up and gallop for them again.
And for better or for worse, I’ve also been stuck in that cycle at times. It’s easy to say, “if it doesn’t work, try something else,” but it feels like another thing entirely when your 10-year hustle doesn’t seem to be shaping up into the six-figure cash cow how you once expected it to.
To get anywhere with that, you’ve got to take a step back, clear your head, and drop the past. Reflect on your failures and successes and separate the wheat from the chaff.
I remember going through that process with my friend Maveen Kaura of Discover Your Life Today after a spectacular failure in network marketing.
With dozens of eBooks, books, audio programs, courses, membership programs, and other products under my belt, there are only few that have proven reliable sellers over the long haul:
But do I regret making the dozens of other stinkers? No. Was it a waste of time? No. It was a valuable education in what doesn’t work. The market decided and I get to be a student of that.
And I can see now, more than ever, that I can keep hitting the same notes that worked in different ways.
The New Music Industry book led to the creation of The New Music Industry Podcast. And now I know that new editions of the book, a workbook, a companion guide, a 30-day challenge, a course, and other related resources would also play well. That goes for the other winners mentioned.
Now, it’s up to you whether you heed my words or ignore them. But if you want to save yourself years of wasted effort and thousands of dollars lost, start paying attention to what works. Look for ways to resurface and iterate on it.
We all poke fun at AC/DC for releasing the same album a dozen times, but they were smart for leaning into a formula that worked.