You need at least one backup channel should one fail you. And remember – one or more channels will fail you eventually.
The same can be said for monetization. Many businesses rely heavily on advertising and affiliate marketing (how many times have these revenue streams been impacted by changes from high up?) and haven’t built other revenue streams.
Complete Lack of Relationship Building and Audience Nurturing
When you’re focused on “traffic,” you’re focused on numbers.
300 visits today. 100 visits tomorrow. 400 visits the next day. And so on.
And the thing we forget is that there are real people behind these numbers.
I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone else when I say this, but:
If you don’t take the time to build relationships, nurture your audience, and genuinely care about the people you’re serving…
Your precious “traffic” will start looking for alternatives. People have too many choices nowadays.
Author Dan Kennedy says the greatest sin in marketing is being boring.
So, in your audience nurturing efforts, you can’t afford to be sending nothing but “Hey, there’s a new post on Conceited Guru Self Aggrandizing Fest .com). You’ve got to mix things up and keep it interesting!
And if you don’t have a passion for the audience you’re serving, please, do us all a favor and find yourself another business.
I know it’s hard to start over but understand that there are plenty of people who are more than deserving of the spotlight and have a genuine passion for the niche waiting in line to be noticed.
You can create content around every relevant keyword under the sun.
The question you’ve still got to ask yourself is…
Is there any business value in the keywords you’re targeting?
Some business owners I know gave up on the idea that the audience they’re targeting would ever respond to aggressive call to actions, so they’re perfectly content driving people to their site that may or may not take any action.
And when I say, “perfectly content,” what I really mean is they are shaking in their little booties wondering whether their precious businesses are going to collapse.
This is an easy problem to solve if you focus on personality rather than content, but we’ll talk about solutions later.
For now, let’s talk about the problem with no personality…
Zero Focus on Establishing Your Personality
Look, you don’t need to be the face of your business…
But someone or something does.
At the very least, you need a mascot.
Many creators get a little too focused on riding the content hamster wheel…
While doing nothing to establish their unique personality, interests, talents, strengths, and weaknesses with their fans, followers, and subscribers.
In a world rife with AI-generated content, humanness is going to reign supreme.
In a world where people can read, listen to, or watch anything from home, real-life experience is going to reign supreme.
Does your plan include human connection? Pressing flesh? Loving on your audience? Hosting live events?
Are you the kind of person people even want to meet?
No matter how hard you try, you can’t fool anyone. You’re not a superhero. You’re human. That’s what makes you relatable.
People are tired of hearing smart people ramble and would prefer to hear you speak authentically from the heart.
If you have no personality to share with others, of course, you’re going to end up having to rely on generating more traffic.
Sabotage is not as rare as you might be inclined to think.
Sure, casually disguised phishing emails are easy to ignore (although the scammers are getting cleverer)…
But if someone wanted to, they could launch a botnet attack against you, and you would have no way of tracing it back to the instigator (this happened to me).
It’s crazy what a little money can do.
Plus, any chucklehead could launch a negative SEO campaign against you, linking to your site from low-quality Private Blog Networks (PBNs) that Google has already blackballed.
If all your eggs are in one basket (e.g., SEO), you’re at greater risk than you might think. Because sabotage usually has a significant long-term impact.
Why Building a Following Needs to be The Focus
Building a following solves most if not all the problems “traffic businesses” have. Here’s why:
You Don’t Have to Hit the “Content Ball” Out of the Park
Many newbies think better content is what’s going to get them noticed.
True, you’ve got to focus on the content (specifically on your unique approach to it), but I have seen far too many entrepreneurs disappointed with the long-term results of trying to one-up their competition’s content to believe this is the way.
(Especially if they are copycatting content without adding any of their SOUL to it – Stories, Opinions, Understanding, and Lessons.)
The great thing about growing a following is that you won’t need to hit the “content ball” out of the park anymore. In the eyes of your audience, you can do no wrong.
There will be those who want to hear what you have to say, on just about any topic, simply because it’s coming from you.
People can get a “top 10” listicle anywhere…
The one thing they can’t get anywhere else is YOU.
You’ll Know What to Create Next
If you have a following, they will tell you what they want from you next. At times, you won’t even need to ask!
Imagine not having to guess what your audience wants from you. Imagine not having to spend untold hours setting up a sales page or creating new offers only to be met with crickets…
And instead taking dozens or even hundreds of pre-orders on your next course because your fans, followers, and subscribers have told you what they want!
One of the reasons “traffic businesses” have trouble staying afloat is because their offers are based on what they think their audience wants, not on what audiences have specifically asked for.
How do some entrepreneurs make bank on small lists? This is how. They listen to their audience and act on the information available.
Virtually everything that’s a threat to a traffic business isn’t a threat to a “following business.”
Consider the following:
Tunnel vision? Not a problem, because people want to follow YOU, and they will follow you on their favorite channels. Even if one of your accounts gets deleted, you’ll have others to fall back on.
No intent? It’s all good. Not every piece of content you create needs to be focused on intent. If you prioritize relationship building and audience nurturing, your followers will buy from you, even if you don’t do content perfectly, sometimes without prompting. Trying to sell too aggressively might even hurt you.
Sabotage? It’s okay, you’ll get by. Even if your website goes down during a launch, your followers will be like, “Oh my god, her site got flooded with traffic and it shut down!” You’ll become a legend. Your followers will DM you via social media and check in to see if everything’s okay, which is another valuable touchpoint you can leverage.
Don’t think in terms of traffic. Shift your mindset. Think in terms of people, of human beings, of individuals just like you who have wants and needs.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So, orient your marketing message around the people who are taking time out of their days to check out your stuff.
Remember – everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to feel like they matter.
In a time when most people are struggling with health, finances, and relationships, if you can be a beacon of light, you will build a business that matters to others. And that will solve your traffic problem.
As you know, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with high performers, successful executives, influential coaches, and music entrepreneurs of a variety of persuasions.
Some of these are my friends. We may only speak once or twice per year, but picking up where we left off often feels effortless. I’m grateful for all the connections I’ve built over the years.
Recently, one of my friends launched a new community, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.
As you know, I do talk about an array of products (I’m certainly not shy in sharing mine) but only rarely if ever refer you to timely opportunities. It happens once every few years, or not at all.
But what I’m about to share with you is worthy of your attention.
Have you ever noticed how the first movers are often the ones that benefit most from new platforms? It could be Kickstarter, Snapchat, or TikTok. The people who put in the time necessary to figure it out and understand the opportunity are inevitably the ones that squeeze the most juice out of it.
We’re sitting on the cusp of one such ground-floor opportunity again.
What’s unique about it is that it brings together the domains of learning, networking, and affiliate marketing. No one else is doing anything like this right now. And there are AMAZING opportunities for learners, coaches, influencers, affiliate marketers, and hybrids alike!
Now, I can’t tell you whether this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve been struggling to make ends meet, though, I would assert that it is. Either way, there is an easy way to find out.
If you were promoting a $100 product, for example, and you were promised a 25% commission, you should be earning roughly $25 on every sale.
I say “roughly” because fees can add up, whether it’s processor, PayPal, or bank fees. But considering the potential upside, that’s not bad. There’s always some cost to doing business.
Here, we’ll get into:
The upsides and downsides of affiliate marketing
How to choose what products to promote
How to get started
The ever-changing landscape of affiliate marketing
How to promote products and earn commissions
Whether affiliate marketing works
Upsides to Affiliate Marketing
The primary advantage to affiliate marketing is that you can earn an income on products you didn’t have to create.
Having published 44 songs, seven books, three courses, and a great deal more, I’m quite familiar with the man hours involved in developing a variety of products.
But if you want to earn an income from your own creations, you can’t just built it and hope they will come, can you? There’s a great deal of legwork involved in marketing, and if you’re not a marketing savant, you’ve got a mountain to climb to get to where you want to go.
Contrast that with affiliate marketing. You can promote a product you didn’t have to put any man hours into creating and start earning commissions as soon as your affiliate account is approved.
You can also use your existing media (website, email, social media, etc.) to promote products.
If you need a little inspiration, check out this quote via Bo Bennet:
Affiliate marketing has made businesses millions and ordinary people millionaires.
You get to earn commissions on product you didn’t have to invest 10s or 100s of hours of your own time to develop.
You get to earn commissions promoting things you already use and love!
You can use your existing media to promote products on autopilot.
Affiliate programs generally supply you with plenty of marketing materials, including graphical banners and email sequences.
It’s easy to incorporate affiliate marketing into your existing ecosystem, especially if you’re already creating content.
Downsides to Affiliate Marketing
There are many upsides to affiliate marketing. But every rose has its thorn, right?
(I know, I know.)
Here’s the thing…
As an affiliate, you’re not in control of the products you promote. The creator may discontinue the product or affiliate program. Their product may get pulled from virtual store shelves. They might raise or lower the price, affecting your commissions in the process. Anything can happen.
If all your eggs are in one basket, you could lose all your earnings at a moment’s notice (which is why it’s good to diversify).
If anything happens to the affiliate program you’re a part of, you may not get paid for units already sold. You may even get chargebacks (it sucks losing money you worked hard to earn).
Additionally, if you don’t abide by the terms of the provider, you could lose your account.
Finally, although you can earn commissions on the products you sell, you’re never going to earn 100% on something you didn’t create. Sorry.
You are a musician, though, and chances are you’re already in the process of setting up a couple of viable income streams, which is wise. This can help you avoid single source dependency.
Affiliate programs are sometimes discontinued or shut down.
The terms and conditions of the affiliate program can change.
The commission structure of the affiliate program can change.
If the program gets shut down suddenly and without notice, you may not get paid for units already sold.
If you don’t abide by the terms of the affiliate program, you could have your account shut down.
Generally, there aren’t any opportunities to earn 100% commissions on units sold (but they do exist!).
How to Choose What Products to Promote
Basically, you can promote whatever you want. But just like The Beatles had haters, trying to appeal to everyone is a losing battle.
I would recommend promoting products you understand, personally use and would happily recommend to others. That’s the best way.
Your seal of approval is worth more than you might think.
If you recommend good products and people love them, you’ll build a strong reputation. If you recommend everything under the sun and your followers end up returning a bunch of products, they’re probably not going to come looking for recommendations again.
As for what products to choose, consider the things you already use every day. Musical gear is a good example.
Whether it’s guitar strings, drumsticks, accordions or otherwise, there’s a good chance you can promote it and make money.
But keep in mind that focusing on low-ticket items is generally a losing battle, because you’re only earning a percentage on them. This doesn’t mean you can’t promote low-ticket items passively. What it means is you should dedicate more time to promoting high-ticket offers, because that’s where the income is.
You know Amazon, right? They’re only the top eCommerce behemoth in existence. You probably shop with them already and may even have a Prime account.
Amazon is home to a ton of products, not just books. They have thousands of commodities in these categories and many others – arts & crafts, automotive, electronics, home & kitchen, toys & games…
So, finding products to promote is easy.
For instance, one of my favorite guitar amp heads is the Peavey 6505 MH mini head. So, once my Amazon Associates account is set up, I can simply search for that product, grab the link that Amazon gives me, and then share that link with my audience.
(And, by the way, I’ve already done this very thing.)
Now you know how affiliate marketing works. It is that simple!
The Ever-Changing Landscape of Affiliate Marketing
I know I said earlier that Amazon Associates is a good place to get started for beginners. Well, while it is a good place to learn the ropes, it probably isn’t the best place to earn an income on your referrals.
This is the bread and butter of an affiliate marketer, however, so get used to it. We’ve all got to roll with the punches.
The good news is that there are tons of companies with affiliate programs, so opportunities aren’t in short supply.
This is a beginner’s guide, however, so I won’t be getting into other affiliate programs here.
How to Promote Products & Earn Commissions
Now that we’ve got a solid working foundation, we’re ready to start promoting.
Here are five simple ways to start earning juicy affiliate commissions:
Share Your Link on Your Blog
It’s best if you mention products in the natural flow of content instead of forcing them in.
But when you’re writing about your latest stop on tour and mention your favorite multi-effects pedal, that’s the time to link it up.
Here’s an example of where I’ve injected a link in the natural flow of the content.
I don’t recommend sharing your link out of context. For instance, don’t start talking about what you had for lunch and then sneak in your affiliate link promoting something entirely unrelated. It’s bad form.
Share Your Link on Social Media
If it makes sense, you can share your affiliate links on social media.
Again, as with sharing on your blog, you don’t want to spam your followers or post deceptive links, as this isn’t going to help you earn a dime.
But if something naturally comes up in the flow of the post, share away.
Share Your Link in the Description of Your YouTube Videos
Know it or not, many YouTubers are affiliate marketers already. These days, they depend on sponsorships more than affiliate commissions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t actively generating multiple sources of revenue.
Hmm… something fishy going on here. Just kidding! That’s an affiliate link.
Think of it this way:
You’ll be doing your viewers a solid by including links to products mentioned in your video. If anyone’s interested, they can simply click the link to find out more about said products.
Create a Resources Page
Many marketers and entrepreneurs, such as Chris Ducker and Pat Flynn have resource pages on their website.
You could just as easily call these “money pages” because they only feature links to products and services the business owners have the potential to earn an income on.
I like the sound of “money pages” myself.
You can do the same. While you might call your resources page something else, there’s nothing stopping you from making one.
Here’s an example of what a resource page might look like:
Make Product Reviews
Product reviews are a great way to make product recommendations. Of course, they do take time and effort to create.
But one of the main ways, affiliates earn money is by making reviews for their favorite products. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a blog post, podcast audio, video, or other type of content. All forms of content are fair game.
Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
Search engines (like Google), email service providers (like MailChimp) and even some users don’t always look kindly on affiliate marketing (you can’t please everyone).
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t overdoing your affiliate promotions:
Abide by the terms and conditions. If you start earning some serious money and get your account banned because you ignored their terms, your life is going to suck. So, do things by the book. This usually means avoiding black hat tactics, whether it’s recommending products you don’t know anything about, keyword stuffing, low quality content, baiting and switching, and so on.
Let your users know when you might earn money on a purchase. Say something like, “if you purchase through this link, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you” (you saw me do this earlier). But if you know you’re going to be adding links everywhere, you should have a notice in the sidebar, footer or somewhere visible. I’m not an attorney, so if in doubt, please consult a qualified professional. They can help you do everything by the books.
Use a link cloaker. I like to think of this as a link shortener rather than a cloaker. If you’re using WordPress, check out a plugin called Pretty Links. If not, there are plenty of great catch-all solutions like Bitly. You can turn your affiliate links into something short and easy to remember/type in and track the number of clicks that are coming through. That’s the main way I like to use these.
Never spam. Just don’t do it.
Does it Work?
I don’t intend to show off all my earnings or affiliate relationships (not that they’re a big secret), but you can see I do okay (and I do mean okay, not amazing) with Amazon Associates:
I’ve easily earned thousands on my various affiliate marketing efforts mind you.
Final Thoughts on Affiliate Marketing for Musicians
What I’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s so much more you’ll want to learn if you want to be a great affiliate marketer, such as content distribution and syndication, SEO, advanced marketing tactics, and more.
So, if you enjoyed this guide and would like to learn more about affiliate marketing…
Spotify may well become the go-to source for everything audio. They are poised to take on Apple and Amazon, and they may even succeed. If there’s a reason to be excited about the platform, that would be it. That doesn’t mean your earning potential on Spotify is about to improve in a significant way though.
The reality is the odds are stacked against creators. Most platforms, including Spotify, require you to drive massive volumes of traffic if you expect to be compensated for your participation. The creator takes all the risk while the platform benefits from the addition of their content.
You need 1,000 subscribers to monetize your YouTube channel – which only amounts to $5 per day if you’re lucky. On TikTok, you need a minimum of 10,000 followers to monetize your account. Medium only pays $4.32 to $8.19 per 1,000 views. At every turn, you’re stepping into ecosystems that do not favor you, the independent artist.
You can take a stab at it, just as I’ve done with InfoBarrel, Medium, YouTube, Odysee, Rumble, DTube, DeSo, Steemit, BIGO LIVE, and others. So long as it doesn’t take over your life, experimentation is encouraged.
But while some of these platforms have dolled out $20 here, $30 there, I have never earned anything substantial on rented land where the deck is stacked against me. I shouldn’t complain about “passive” income, but the content I’ve pored over has easily swallowed up hundreds of productive hours I will never get back.
Again, while I’ve taken to experimentation, I don’t have much faith in the idea that one day I will go viral on any one platform, at least not to the point of earning an income that’s proportional to the effort invested.
Meanwhile, I can rely on my websites to earn me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in direct revenue, and five figures in indirect revenue. How do I know? My financial statements from the last six years tell me so. Even my affiliate marketing initiatives out-earn the “pennies on the dollar” model espoused by major platforms.
If you were looking to earn $10,000 in the next three months, which of these two methods would you choose?
Sell 10,000 singles for $1
Sell a live performance bundle for $2,500 to four clients
It’s grade school math, yet artists are choosing A much of the time, because they’re afraid to ask for B.
The vehicle matters.
Then comes the question of how to accomplish B, and that comes down to marketing.
This means identifying your prospects, designing a value proposition, and crafting your pitch. You’re not going to be able to sell a $2,500 bundle to just anyone. But if you know who you’re talking to, why they should work with you, and you can make a convincing case for your offer, you’ll find buyers. Your pitch may not be accepted every time, but that’s how business works. If your value proposition and offer are right, there will be takers.
Again, “if you build it, and promote it, they will come.”
“But no one else is doing anything like this.”
Inaccurate. No one in your network or immediate social circle are doing anything like this, that you know of.
Plenty of artists are beginning to think differently about their revenue model, and as they gain more confidence, they are taking bigger and bigger leaps.
So, it’s time to upgrade your association. Find artists who are:
Making and selling high ticket offers
Earning a killing from a minimum viable audience
Forward thinking in their approach to monetization
Better yet, find a coach or a mentor and ask for expert guidance. By doing so, not only are you showing the universe that you’re serious about your commitment to earning an income from music, but you’re also affirming to yourself that you’re the kind of person that goes the extra mile when it comes to achieving personal success. And I don’t know too many people that don’t go the extra mile that end up there.
Big thinkers realize that time is short and small goals are wasted on the young and timid. Think big, act now, move with urgency.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. You’re clearly an intelligent, good-looking, and ambitious person. You even make great decisions when it comes to your music career.
But there’s no way I could possibly cover all the puzzle pieces required to form a complete music career picture here, and even what you have learned to this point may not be enough to take you to new heights. Things not implemented are quickly forgotten.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to set up revenue models that will work for you, then don’t hesitate in reaching out to me to book your first coaching session. I may not be cheap, but I deliver value every single time – just as much value as you’ve received from this series, if not more.
There are two paths staring back at you. One leads back to the familiar. The other leads to levels not yet reached. Which path will you take?