I’ve been going about things a little differently in 2021 compared to the years leading up to it. As I look back on the first three months of the year, I can see that learning and experimentation has been a strong focus so far.
One idea that got a spontaneous “green light” from me was The Renegade Musician digital magazine, which I developed at the end of February and launched on March 1.
Here’s the story of how the magazine came together and what happened as result.
At the end of February, I started developing the concept for The Renegade Musician.
Originally, I did not think of it as a digital magazine but rather a newsletter.
I don’t know if you know much about author Dan Kennedy’s newsletters, but they can easily span over 20 pages.
The way Kennedy explains it is that a newsletter is like a Trojan Horse. It’s a sales letter disguised as content, and when the reader feels like they’re reading useful content, they’re more likely to engage (i.e., they don’t feel like they’re being sold to).
Further, he has shown time and again that someone who reads his newsletters, and for that matter, his books, becomes a much better client.
So, experimentally, I was looking at the possibility of creating a series of newsletters.
Having completed my first draft, I sought out the feedback of Dr. Jonathan L. Smith.
Dr. Smith felt that what I had was too long to be a newsletter, and thus, The Renegade Musician became a digital magazine.
At first, it wasn’t even called The Renegade Musician though. It was called “The Executive Newsletter,” and I think that would have been a mistake.
Free or Paid?
There was just one more detail to sort out.
I needed to figure out whether I was going to give away the magazine (in exchange for an email or social share), or if I was going to charge for it.
The magazine was created in the Dan Kennedy tradition. Meaning, it was designed to educate the prospect or customer on the range of products available at Music Entrepreneur HQ and Content Marketing Musician, while entertaining and adding value to the reader through the content.
So, the more eyeballs I could get on it, the better.
Ultimately, I decided to make it a “pay what you want” deal on Gumroad. And, in the end, that felt like the only logical choice.
Sharing the Digital Magazine
As my first order of business, I shared the magazine with three of my friends, collaborators, and mentors.
Apparently, for one of my friends, it was the right thing at exactly the right time. He had been encouraged by the magazine and thanked me for it.
So, that seemed like an auspicious start.
I spent the remainder of March promoting it aggressively – on Twitter, Medium, YouTube, my blog, the Music Entrepreneur HQ blog, my email list, and my podcast. I even shared a video across 17 pages and social media profiles.
Being a “Trojan Horse” of sorts, I figured there would be some takers. And since it was designed to educate my prospect or customer on my range of products, it had the potential to lead to sales.
Ultimately, the digital magazine was only downloaded four times. And everyone that picked it up paid nothing for it.
I had one course sale at $39 though. I wouldn’t call that a runaway success, but it was a small victory.
Did it make all the effort worthwhile? Not quite, especially since I wasn’t reaching a new audience with my magazine – just tapping into the same people that are on my email list or visit my website daily.
I put three to four hours into compiling, designing, writing, and editing the magazine. I could have used the same three to four hours writing a few articles for News Break and made more money overall. That gave me some pause.
The Renegade Musician was not my first product aimed at musicians, and it won’t be my last either.
But towards the end of March, I had a sudden, rather critical realization.
“If I pull the plug on The Renegade Musician now, I will have to fix all the broken links.”
I was fond of the The Renegade Musician concept. It’s like a synonym for “musician entrepreneur,” so far as I’m concerned. Just much cooler.
So, I hurriedly wrote 8,000+ words in three days to end up with The Renegade Musician: Stepping Out of the Shadow of the Old Music Career Model eBook.
And, on April 1, I replaced The Renegade Musician digital magazine with The Renegade Musician eBook (not an April Fool’s joke).
Now, when people go to Gum.co/RenegadeMusician, they don’t just get the eBook – they also get the digital magazine. It’s a two in one deal.
This is not a free or “pay what you want” offer anymore though. I had to put a price tag on it.
That said, I think it’s perfect as a “Twitter money” offer, and it can benefit from the work I’ve already put into promotion.
So, Was it Worth Doing?
As creatives and creators, we should all be mindful of how we spend our time.
I run a business, so obviously money is an important part of the equation. No money, no mission.
Even so, there are plenty of other rewards that can come from experimentation – happiness, joy, fulfillment… And I experienced some of that while putting together the digital magazine, even though it also felt like work (especially since I was trying to put it all together on a Sunday night).
Developing the digital magazine also forced an eBook out of me. And I can easily repurpose and leverage the eBook into other projects and products. I can still make a return on The Renegade Musician.
But to make the digital magazine or newsletter concept work, I would need to:
- Collaborate with influencers. Perhaps I could get them to write a piece or do a quick interview write-up with them. The elder statesmen of your industry always have greater pull and reach, so leveraging their influence would be key.
- Ask for mailing addresses. I know that I could get a few people to download The Renegade Musician if I sent a download link directly to my email list. But the real value of putting together a nicely organized PDF like this is to print it up and get it into mailboxes.
- Spend more time promoting it. Not impossible with my schedule, but I was already waking up feeling exhausted some days, so adding more to my calendar was unlikely to make that situation better. Realistically, I would need to look at collaborating, hiring, advertising, or a combination thereof to improve reach.
What I’ve realized is this…
Inspiration can be a good thing and so can spontaneity.
As applied to business, however, a little bit of strategic thinking can be helpful when new ideas come to you. Especially if you want them to work.
Starting a new product (especially when you already have a dozen or so), can be like starting from scratch. When you already have other products that are selling, creating a new one that doesn’t perform can be a bit of a distraction.
It would be better to spend a little more time in research. Develop a sense of what the market wants and how to package it to appeal to your audience.
The shotgun approach works for some. Slow and strategic works better for others.
I have always straddled that line. But I’m ready to try something new. So, I plan to be slower and more strategic.
There is no preset formula, but it’s worth testing out both approaches. And whatever your instincts say, you should follow it. Because your journey will be unique. You will figure out your own way.
The story of The Renegade Musician has not been told in full. But this has been my experience of it so far.
Now, it’s time to spread the message of artist empowerment, which is what The Renegade Musician is all about.
For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.