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…
I know I’ve talked a lot about language, but this is another area where I feel like it has made a real difference for me.
What I’ve discovered is that “brainstorming” is weak compared to “speculating on possibilities.”
I remember a meeting I had with a team member only a few weeks ago. We were discussing the products we were planning to build out. When suddenly, the doors blew wide open on the conversation, all because we were speculating on possibilities.
“I’m seeing something! So, why don’t you create a new version of this product, I’ll help you create the ads, you have the technology to create an affiliate program, so we’ll develop an income opportunity, create an affiliate army, and soon the whole thing will be self-sustaining!”
Now, I wasn’t just excited about the new possibility. From that day forward, it became mission critical for me to focus on the work that would lead to those outcomes. Clarity and inspiration were present.
Now, these sudden realizations and new possibilities didn’t just bubble to the surface all on their own. If I wasn’t in conversation with my team, and if I wasn’t willing to include them in the conversation and speculate on possibilities, it wouldn’t have happened at all.
And the very guide you’re reading? This would not exist had we not reached those conclusions on that day.
There are going to be many opportunities to speculate on possibilities in your music career. Life is full of them.
So, start building this muscle. Next time you’re stuck, or you’re looking for alternatives, or you want to find other approaches, speculate on possibilities with your band or team.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.
Before you hate on me, there’s one thing you should know – I signed the petition!
I’m 100% behind the principle of the cause. It would be great to see one cent per stream versus the non-quantifiable decimals they’ve been trying to pass off as compensation.
Sadly, I think the musician community’s focus has been misplaced. All I hear is Spotify this, Spotify that. Most of it is a delusion.
Yes, it’s important. But not that important.
Especially compared to some of the things I cover in this post.
Fight for Dollars, Not for Cents!
Many musicians say money isn’t important.
But if that’s true, why are we fighting over cents rather than dollars?
You do know that you can still make $5 to $20 selling your releases, don’t you?
And if you’re going to put the same amount of effort into promoting something anyway…
WHY promote your music on Spotify for mere cents? Especially when you could be making dollars?
Musicians need to wake up and realize ONE THING – that their fans aren’t them!
We’re talking about grade school kids that want to find their identity, feeling like they don’t fit in, combating anxiety and depression…
We’re talking about college kids that want to party and rock out because they aren’t ready to be adults just yet…
We’re talking about adults that sit at a desk job all day daydreaming they were somewhere else doing something else…
THOSE are the people your music is for. And, surprise, surprise, they might just have more discretionary income than you do.
Look – I know women aged 25 to 45 that don’t bat an eye dropping $100 per day on food and entertainment. Food for thought.
Now I GET that people don’t always buy what’s readily available for free. We do need to approach the sales process a little differently than we used to. But let me get to that.
So, What’s Your Solution?
If you’re a listener of my podcast, then my answer here is going to be “you’re joking, right?”
The New Music Industry Podcast has nearly 300 episodes as of this writing, and I’ve talked about dozens (if not hundreds) of alternative ways you can monetize your music. It’s kind of what I’m known for actually.
It’s funny how my peers are just now making a big stink about alternative monetization. I’ve been talking about this since 2009.
Here’s a small sample (and I do mean small sample) of opportunities just waiting to be tapped.
The first is bundling and packaging your music:
The second is setting up a membership site/fan club:
The third is making money from affiliate partnerships, a topic I’ve covered here on the blog in detail:
I shared FIVE ways you can make money as a blogging musician in this episode:
And the sales funnel approach – which has its pros and cons – is quite popular among musicians as well. John Oszajca shared eloquently on this topic in episode 147 of the podcast:
Need I say more?
There are a TON of ways to make more money in music, and most of them represent a better opportunity than making a cent per stream.
Have Fun While it Lasts
Kanye may have been right. Maybe Bush doesn’t care about black people.
But it sure doesn’t seem like the government cares about artists, independent musicians, or small business owners like me, either.
What do I mean?
Have a read through the following. These are some of the REAL issues independent musicians and businesses are facing. This is what we’re really up against.
But be forewarned…
If you read what follows, you might not sleep tonight.
Remember – all this stuff IS coming, and you can read all about it if you go digging for it.
COPPA & Increased YouTube Related Restrictions
YouTubers are having a rough go of this whole COPPA thing, and some are caught in the middle of the mess, with their living on the line.
To be perfectly fair, this child protection act has been around for a long time, and for good reason. Children should not be able to access or view content that’s inappropriate to them.
What’s 100% hypocritical about this is that anyone with an unprotected internet connection can easily access pornography at the click of a mouse – child, adult, senior, or otherwise!
But before another YouTuber whines they’re going to lose their poo – because they draw adult-oriented cartoons, and that makes their content incredibly ambiguous – I agree. YouTube needs to sort some of this out before they start acting like the righteousness police.
COPPA isn’t unimportant. The way it’s been implemented, and what has resulted from it, especially on YouTube, seems draconian.
You can’t convince me popular social media platforms aren’t actively censoring people.
I’ve literally seen Facebook censor one of my friend’s posts!
I get it. Many of you are crying, “Awesome! We don’t want to hear from those crazy flat earthers anyway!”
No, censorship is quickly evolving beyond what some consider “fake news,” which has become impossible to quantify or verify, when you understand that every event that occurs is seen differently by every human being. And the way media makes money is by getting you to click on scandalous headlines.
It’s getting to the point where voicing an opinion that doesn’t conform to the majority is actively ridiculed, suffocated, and even shadow banned.
What’s wrong with opposing views? Hasn’t humanity thrived, especially intellectually, on inquiry, discussion and debate? Bill & Ted are more enlightened than the woke crowd.
If it furthers humanity, then I’m all for people speaking up!
Want to keep building that fan base on Facebook or YouTube? Better not go against their agendas and stances on anything. Otherwise they will ruthlessly demonetize (love how demon is in the word) or delete as they see fit.
Net Neutrality & Localization
For all of those who thought they were being clever using virtual private networks (VPNs)…
Net neutrality has been a heated subject for many years.
Basically, it’s the idea that internet service providers (ISP) should treat all internet communications the same, without discrimination based on user.
What’s that I hear?
Personalization? Localization? Remarketing?
That’s right. Your ISP is already feeding your bias.
Imagine a future where the visibility of your music and website is even less than it is today…
Where it’s no longer just about cutting through the substantial noise created by your competition…
Where it’s no longer about clever marketing tactics…
But where it’s virtually impossible to get your music in front of certain users because there is no neutrality.
In Canada, they’re talking about policing what people say online. Unbelievable.
Fun future to look forward to, isn’t it ?
Internet = Facebook (or Google, or Amazon, or Apple…)
Another harrowing reality we might need to face is that in the future, the internet might be Facebook or Google or some other big company. As in the internet IS Google. There’s nowhere else to go.