Why the MusicPreneur Business Won’t Succeed
I was honored to interview John Lee Dumas of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast and feature it on this podcast. At the end of our short time to chat, I tried a little reverse tactic with my questioning. I told him that I wanted this MusicPreneur business to fail and asked for guidance on how to go about ensuring it would not succeed. It was so successful in the interview, I decided to try it on this blog post. Of course, I didn’t put all the work I have in this business thus far if I wanted it to fail. But I’ve put in similar amounts of work on other ventures that ultimately failed. What’s the difference? It’s working smart, not hard. So I hope you enjoy this fun take on “how to fail” with this podcast-based business. I’m sure it’s not difficult for you to figure out how you could apply these core “failure principles” to your own business as well.
JLD gave two suggestions on how to ensure this business would not succeed. I’m sure he could have given more if we had more than 15 minutes to talk, but they were pretty good nonethless.
- Don’t offer anything for free.
- Don’t niche until it hurts.
That is the key to failing in the MusicPreneur business according to John Lee Dumas, who most assuredly is not a failure in his own podcasting and book publishing business.
In this post, I’m going to expound beyond what John said in this podcast (which you should listen to if you haven’t already) and then I’ll add a few more things that, implemented properly, will ensure that I’m a failure in this business and work on a job until I’m wearing Depends™ and consider an extra yogurt at 3 pm one of life’s great luxuries.
#1 I Won’t Give Away Anything of Value For Free
The topic of giving stuff away for free is probably the number one objection I’ve heard from musicians who listen to my podcasts. I think people just don’t understand the concept of providing value upfront in exchange for financial reward in the future.
Either that or they suffer from a weird mutation of affirmative action, meaning that musicians have suffered from oppression from “the elite” for so long, it’s time to stand our ground and fight for what’s ours.
Either way, it’s clear that musicians by and large need some…let’s call it private lessons in this area.
You must first of all understand that you need to earn the right to sell to someone. One thing I advocate when building your presence in any arena, be it digital or physical, is to “work for free.” Yes, that’s intentionally provocative so people will read/listen to it. Sue me.
Actually, a better way to put that would be to say “work for no pay. To say “free” implies there is no reward whatsoever. But to say “for no pay” implies there is no financial reward but some other benefit of doing whatever it is you’re doing in hopes of a financial payout in the future.
It’s funny to see musicians object to this concept when in fact working for free pretty much got them where they are. Did they get paid to go to college? Did they get paid to practice? Did they get paid to prepare for the audition for the band they play in?
They had to earn their bones and drink from the same cup of bitterness as everyone else – and for no pay.
A few musicians figure out either before or during college that they really don’t need that piece of paper and either drop out or finish their degree in anthropology while earning real money at real gigs.
But we’re not here because we want gigs that someone else has booked.
We’re here because we want to make it happen on our own, to carve out a niche that reflects our authentic self. That requires working for no pay for months, sometimes years.
A book I recently read I found to be particularly discouraging in my quest to be a failure as an entrepreneur was Dot Com Secrets by Russell Brunson, founder of Click Funnels™. Russell shares many insights on how to leverage free content into large streams (plural) of revenue in this short and very inexpensive book. Needless to say, once I realized the shenanigans he was up to I put it down immediately.
I absolutely refuse to provide anything of value for free. I determine the value of my services as a musician, a blogger and podcaster. What the market has to say is irrelevant. I will turn my nose at low-paying gigs. If someone calls me and says they need a trumpet player but can’t afford to pay me, I’ll immediately hang up the phone. If they knew my real value, they would know better than to call me with such a ridiculous request in the first place.
Here’s the BLUF (bottom line up front): There is absolutely no way any value can come out of playing gigs for no pay. Or providing free ebooks, pdfs and courses for that matter.
#2 I’ll Refuse to “Niche Down”
Imagine you need to ensure that 10 people understand your message. In one scenario, you’re speaking to a huge room with 1,000 people you don’t know and can’t identify. In another scenario, you say the exact same thing to 10 people in a small room where you’re able to look each of them in the eye while you speak. Which do you think is the most effective way to ensure 10 people receive your message? The second scenario, obviously.
That’s Niching Down
In the first scenario, even though you’re speaking to a lot of people, you can’t tell whether or not they’re not paying attention to you. They could be checking their email, or playing pool on their phone, or getting up to use the bathroom.
In the second scenario, those 10 people are more likely to be engaged with what you’re saying. They’re not going to glance at Facebook on their phone because someone would definitely notice. Because you can look right into their eyes, they’re far more attentive than the first scenario.
Niching is the secret sauce in the beginning of any endeavor, musical or otherwise. You need those ten people far more than you need to speak to a room full of 1,000 people when you’re first starting out. You need to convince those 10 people that you have a good message so that they’ll tell their friends about you, and their friends will tell their friends and so on.
Speaking of JLD, one thing he teaches in the Podcaster’s Paradise program is the concept of an “avatar.” Musicians refer to this as a “super fan.” Since I’m a podcaster in the realm of music, I’m going to call it a Super Avatar 🙂 My Super Avatar is named Lenny.
Lenny is 32 years old. He is married with no children. He was a standout bass player in high school and eventually earned a M.A. in jazz studies from Indiana University. It took him 5 years to finish his master’s degree because he operated a gutter cleaning and snow shoveling business in order to avoid going into debt for his degree. As a result, he didn’t have time to be a full-time student. He considered pursuing a DMA in the same field but decided against it. He just couldn’t justify the cost and a bad experience as a graduate teaching assistantship left a rather bitter taste in his mouth toward academia.
Lenny is very selective who he plays with. He and a few students from IU formed a progressive rock/funk band and were able to gather around 1,000 email addresses from gigs they performed in Bloomington and the Indianapolis area. His band split up after they all graduated and he decided to relocated to Nashville, TN where his wife found a job as a RN. He strongly encouraged her to look for work in Nashville because of the music scene there.
Lenny is looking for an opportunity to monetize his musical abilities but lacks skills in the basic tools available on the internet. His band in Indiana had a very basic website. They sent their emails to themselves and bcc’d everyone else. He’s an avid podcast listener. He loves shows devoted to entrepreneurship and their emphasis on “success” mindset, health, etc. but wishes they could be a little more relevant to musicians. Because of his busy gigging and teaching schedule, he has lots of time in his car to listen to podcasts.
So now you know who I’m speaking to with each podcast. Any time there’s a decision to be made regarding content, scheduling, advertising, (and there are lots of them) I just ask myself, “What would best help Lenny?” Believe me when I say there is tremendous value in niching, or focusing your message on a single, or a small group of people. However, since I want this business to fail, I’ve decided I will not do that. I’m going to focus solely on download numbers and pat myself on the back when I reach a certain number of them.
#3 I’ll Be Thin-Skinned and Regard All Negative Feedback as a Personal Attack
When I was in the Army, I had the misfortune of being placed under the command of a person who was known for being a thin-skinned people-pleaser. He was more than qualified to push papers and hand out summary punishments for petty violations of the many rules at our base, but hardly qualified to stand in front of 45 professional musicians as their leader. He also had a quick temper and would react viciously when he perceived something as a personal attack. Even things that were innocuous, not directed at him he would interpret as a personal attack and would use the influence of his rank to punish the people who had offended him.
I was on the receiving end of his childish behavior more than once. It’s a very powerless feeling to be on the receiving end of a verbal assault from a person like that who outranks you. It’s one of the many reasons I chose to not “do my 20” and leave the military at the age of 39.
This person doesn’t know it, but he is the model by which I am going to ensure that this podcast is an abject failure. Any time a listener, a mentor, someone I hire as a consultant suggests that my work leaves anything to be desired, I will take it personally. I will interpret it as an attack on my character and will immediately fire off a scathing rebuke via email. Better yet, I’ll mention them by name on the podcast so that they get the message that I am to be taken seriously.
I will not take negative feedback as an opportunity to improve myself, to narrow down the focus of my message, or to better provide value to those who listen to my podcast. After all, they’re an hour long at the max. They should be grateful I’m even providing that for them.
The bottom line is that if this podcast is going to fail, improvement is a hindrance. And since criticism from other people – even the constructive kind – is one of the best ways to improve one’s self and product, I need to treat it as a personal attack. They are clearly envious of my success. Their suggestions are a pitiful attempt to deviate me from my inevitable dominance of my niche.
#4 I’ll Assume I Know Everything There is to Know About My Audience
Entrepreneurship at its core is solving problems for a profit. At least that’s what T. Harv Eker says in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. As a millionaire many times over, I think Harv knows a thing or two about the core principles of entrepreneurship.
This is why I will assume I know everything there is to know about my listeners and the obstacles they encounter in their endeavors to merge their musical and entrepreneurial endeavors. Like a great philosopher once said…
I’ve Got This
I will not utilize free services such as Survey Monkey to ask my audience for feedback on the podcast, to have data to help make important decisions, and I most definitely will not utilize a free email service like Mail Chimp to stay in contact with people who like my show. I mean, how would they even know about my email list? It’s not like I’m going to insert one of those obnoxious opt-in forms on my website.
God forbid I should read books like Ask by Ryan Levesque and learn methods of determining what my audience truly wants and needs. Were I to do so, I would put myself in the dangerous position of succeeding. Since that is what I’m looking to avoid, it’s a no-brainer to not do these things.
I absolutely will not consult people who are already successful with a podcasting/blogging business to learn what made them successful. Well, let me clarify that. I’ll be very active on social media commenting every time they post something. This would create a shallow facade of success to casual observers. And, by commenting on posts made by millionaires, I would even fool myself into thinking I’m successful.
Maybe that’s the key to being unsuccessful: Do just enough meaningless activity to fool myself into thinking I’m a success. (The ideas on how to remain embroiled in a cesspool of mediocrity are literally flooding into my mind as I type this post.)
I’ll be the last person to find out about emerging web technology like Snapchat and Facebook Live. And when I do hear about it, I’ll avoid using it like the plague. If I become aware of new technology like this, I might be tempted to actually use it. Then I run the risk of becoming good at it and before you know it people will come to me asking me to make videos or courses on how to maximize its potential.
I WOULD BE REGARDED AS A LEADER!
Obviously, that’s the last thing I want. So I’ll pretend that what worked in 2015 is still relevant in 2017. I’ll tell myself in no uncertain terms that everything there is to know about the podcasting/blogging business has already been discovered. No further research on my part is necessary.
I’ll stick with the format for the podcast I decided on months ago and will not deviate from it in any way. Since I don’t communicate with listeners of the show anyways, this shouldn’t be too difficult. To tell you the truth, their suggestions on how to improve or on problems to address with the podcast get on my nerves anyway.
#5 I Won’t Put the Music First
Everything will be about the bottom line. I’ll ignore the core principles I used in starting this podcast/blog. I’ll focus only on making money. I’ll forget that the measure of one’s income depends on the impact they have on the world. I read that in a book called The Go-Giver. It’s good advice for someone who wants to be successful, but catastrophic for one who’s goal is to fail.
I’ll use gimmicks, tricks – even Jedi mind games if that’s what it takes. As long as the content is shallow but entertaining enough for small people to want to consume it, my work is complete. I’ll solicit sponsorships from fly by night businesses that are not even remotely aligned with the core principles of the business. Just so long as they give me money to promote their products. I wouldn’t even use them, just show me the money!
Come to think of it, those core principles are problematic in and of themselves. It’s probably best to ignore them, run with whatever random idea comes into my head on any given day and pursue it until the next idea comes.
Wash, Rinse and Repeat THAT formula and failure with this business is a surety. In fact, I think if I did nothing else but that, it would get the job done.
Obviously, as the host of a podcast and blog called MusicPreneur: Making Money Making Music, it’s imperative that I am not active as a MusicPreneur myself. Were I to set a good example by making it happen on my own, people might accuse me of practicing what I preach, being a person of integrity, and so on.
On the rare occasions I leave my business activities to play my trumpet, I will treat my music as a commodity rather than a gift from myself to those who choose to receive it. It will have as much value to me as the leftover casserole I had for dinner yesterday. I’ll forget that the sounds that come out of my horn are an extension of the song inside my soul. I’ll play only when asked to do so, and for the right price – which I of course determine. I will absolutely refuse to play any more than what we agree to beforehand. If a venue truly values my services as a professional musician, they would never ask me to do that.
I will make no attempt to interact with the people who hear me play. I will simply play what’s in front of me, then pack up my instrument and leave. Were I to talk to them, they would bore me with how the music I played “spoke to them,” how it reminded them of a happy or perhaps painful time in their life.
I WOULD BE AN EFFECTIVE MUSICPRENEUR!
I simply cannot allow that to happen. I must keep my distance from anyone who might want to infect my mind with such poison. I must also keep my eyes on the nearest bar so I can unwind after such a hard day of work.
Although clearly satirical, this post is based upon real life experiences. When I began podcasting in 2015, I was the model I used for how to fail. When I framed the question to JLD in my interview with him (which you should listen if you haven’t already) I used myself as a frame of reference.
I hope that through this humorous, Screwtapeish writing style, you can get an appreciation for what it takes to succeed as a MusicPreneur. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s amazing how little work feels like work when you’re engaged in a project or career that reflects your own values and priorities in life.