Transcript 096 – Andy Fling on Monetizing MakingMusicFun.net (Part 2)
096 – Andy Fling on Monetizing MakingMusicFun.net (Part 2)
Transcript for 096 – Andy Fling on Monetizing MakingMusicFun.net (Part 1)
[00:00:00] Andrea: Hey, it’s Andrea with Music Studio Startup, the podcast about the business of teaching music. Learn from the startup stories of music teachers who are doing incredible things with their studios. Be inspired by creating musicians who are branching out and thriving as entrepreneurs. Be empowered by the insights of experts who will help you grow your own studio. Let’s get started.
If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, I’d suggest you go back and listen to that before playing this episode. Today’s podcast is part two of a two-part interview with the founder of a website that will be familiar to a lot of music teachers. That website is makingmusicfun.net. This website is full of sheet music, theory worksheets, music lesson plans, and video lessons. In our conversation, founder, Andy Fling, takes us back to the very beginning of Making Music Fun and talks about how he monetized it from day one and how his monetization strategy has changed over the years as the internet and social media have evolved, and competitors have entered the scene. Andy is super transparent with his numbers, and I think you’re going to find it really useful.
Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Andy. And are you the sole content creator? Like, do you come up with all the ideas and make the sheet music or are the people doing that part?
[00:01:29] AndyFling: Largely I am. I’m sort of a control freak. I am super nice to people, but I know what I can trust them with and what I am not willing to turn over to people.
So I write all of the sheet music. I’ve written all the blog posts. Created all the worksheets, because I went the worksheets to have a style. And after six years of designing, I definitely have a style and I want to maintain it through everything I do. I have had one gal create some of the lesson plans for the lessons zone and she did a fabulous job and I would have her doing more, but she’s off teaching college students. So if she ever wanted to come back, I surely would welcome her and I would welcome other quality teachers to develop that kind of say, cause it’s, it’s interesting. As long as they follow my format, I like to teach a step-by-step plan and I find younger teachers when I was a younger teacher. It’s just my experience that I didn’t know how to express what needs to be taught.
This is true of piano teachers. I have this like set of phrases that I use that I know are effective because kids are kids, even though kids are different and everybody’s going to have something that they bring that’s different, kids are the same. And so I can say the same phrases over again. What do you need to do if you’re failing right now? Practice slower. Play it slower. Oh yeah. That’s right. Good. How much do I say that? All the time.
[00:03:00] Andrea: And then the graphic design is that all you too, then?
[00:03:03] AndyFling: That’s all me too. It’s Adobe Illustrator and 13, 14 years of learning how to do it. And six years of art lessons creating free hand art. But when you learn about value, like the lights and the darks and how important all of the whole range is and how important comparing doing this color and that color from the opposite sides of the spectrum makes the colors pop. Just learning, things like that. And then drawing cooky characters, all that mixes together to make something fun. So that’s what I’ve been learning for the last eon.
[00:03:39] Andrea: Awesome. Yeah. Well, everything looks, I mean, one of the things I like about all the sheet music I get from your site is. Nice. Like it’s attractive to look at. It’s easy to read. The notes are nicely spaced. All of that. It’s just pleasant to have.
[00:03:54] AndyFling: Yeah. That’s one of the things I’m like, I’m just not satisfied to write the music. I’m not satisfied to just put the worksheet up. Even the sheet music or even flashcards. It has a single note on a page. And then the other one is the letter and it has to look good. There’s so many. If you go to Google images type flashcards, so many look dingy, I’m like, why is that? But, but they do. And, and the sheet music, my mindset is to make it look attractive. Cause it’s my designer eye. Unless that’s doing that, it just doesn’t work for me. And even my little fun, it has to look fun to one of my students.
This goes back to a question that was earlier. One of my students walked into a classroom going to get her violin or. And she did a double-take because they’re sitting on the piano, where’s my sheet music for one of the songs. And she knew it because of the font. And so it’s like such a branding thing if you’d stick with one file, I guess that’s another lesson.
[00:04:52] Andrea: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I recognize the music anywhere when it pops up on Pinterest or somewhere. Yeah.
[00:04:57] AndyFling: Yeah. The font is a big deal. I use a fun font and I use Helvetica because it’s readable, but it’s kind of a throwback to my dad. He owned a sign shop and Helvetica was the font that he used. It was the most popular font when it came out and for a long time and people like to go down different roads, but there’s no getting around the fact that Ariel and, and Helvetica are the most readable fonts. It’s just good. So, yeah.
[00:05:28] Andrea: So I wanted to hear more about how you market, but maybe you can tell. When you create a new piece of sheet music or something that’s going to be shared, like what happens to that music? Where all does it go? Can you take us through the life of a new?
[00:05:46] AndyFling: It starts with Finale and I put in all the notes and, and keep on messing with it. I had this attitude early on that, unless it was better than anything I could find out there, I wasn’t going to put it on the site. And that requires a lot of fussing. And more recently I’ve started writing music for Music Notes. So the competition is just not me. It’s, a lot of other people and I want it to perform well. So I’m like I actually review most of the time I review every single arrangement that I can find that’s in that easy piano or beginner, piano range and identify the problem.
And then fix the problems or go in another direction until it just works. Okay. So that’s the first generation of it. Print out the PDF, spit out a PDF from finale, pull it into Adobe illustrator, add the cutsie fonts and type in the composer and all that stuff. I usually, and this is so tiny, but I usually pick a small group of tempo markings because I want kids to remember to learn the tempo marking too. So I choose moderato, andante, allegro, and adagio. I usually stay in that mix because if they get a repeated enough, they’ll remember it. And I don’t venture into presto because who’s going to, I mean, kids play presto all the time, but they it’s so sloppy and terrible. So, so, and, and I do mention that tempo because it gets kids excited.
So that’s the generation it’s formatted for my site and then added to the site, put in my sheet music index. And I also, it’s great to be able to link to your new resource from. More than one place, because Google’s looking at that too. If they don’t see it linked from one more place, they’re going to say it’s poorly linked, so it must not be important.
So I linked to, if it’s by a composer that I have something on the site, I linked to it from that composer. I do the biography, and then below that is all related to that composer. Usually that’s the end of that from linking on the site for a piece of sheet music. Sometimes with worksheets, I have a few more places that I can link from, so, okay.
I created it. I added to the site. I linked to it as much as I could. More I can link the more is going to boost it up in the search engines. Just my, by my internal linking. Now we go to external linking. My first stop is Pinterest because it’s like, so mind numbingly, easy. You just add the pin, add a little description, make sure your keywords are really good.
Add the link to shoot to the sheet music added to Pinterest. If you’re using a marketing tool, I like Smarter Queue a lot. And the reason I used to actually own a Pinterest marketing tool and it was designed in a similar way. So I know how to Pinterest works a lot and used to even coach people on the phone.
So Smarter Queue has a similar type of queue where you can add it toa running queue, I have like over 900 pins or Facebook posts added to Smarter Queue. It starts at the top, goes to the bottom and starts again. When I add it to Smarter Queue, I can post it right away, but then I can also add it. It’s automatically added to the queue. It’ll spin through those 900 pins or Facebook posts and posted again.
[00:09:16] Andrea: Posting it to Pinterest or Facebook or both?
[00:09:18] AndyFling: Posting to wherever I add it. Yeah. So I can post it to Facebook. I can post it to Pinterest. I tend to post it to Pinterest more because I get a ton of traffic since day one, since pretty much Pinterest was added us to get, to get recommended by somebody else to join Pinterest.
So my wife got recommended by someone. She was able to get on. We recommended somebody else. And then I was in creating a business account and added all my stuff. That’s so incredibly easy because it’s just taking the image that you created that you already did and add it to Pinterest. Then I’ll go back sometimes and add another image.
That’s different. Maybe it just has a graphic that’s advertising the thing one time. With my Pinterest marketing tool, I marketed one post with 10 different images and two of them performed very well. And, and that strategy, man. Okay. Here’s another lesson: points of entry. That’s it. Points of entry. How many points of entry can you post to the internet?
Points of entry are ways people can find you. If I’ve got 10 images on Pinterest, there’s 10 ways for people to find me. So know, not only have I posted 10 images, but I also have multiple Pinterest accounts follow those blogs that I talked about. There’s also a Pinterest account for something a blog I never created, which I really should, because one of the rules of Pinterest is that you should not have a Pinterest account for this not associated with something.
So I have five different Pinterest accounts. I actually have. I’m looking at my desktop right now. As I talk to you, I have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different browsers that I access Pinterest with. So I can just click the open the browser and then paste the URL from the Pinterest pin. I just posted. Post it to the new account.
I do that all within like two minutes, post the pin posted again, four more times. Now it’s not only visible from that pin, it’s visible on other accounts for other accounts. So points of entry, how many ways can you find to get people to your site? So I’ve created if I did 10 pins and then four to five different accounts, that 50 different ways I’ve just created for that.
And if you have good keywords on the page. So I did. So I’m like, okay, we’re talking Fur Elise . So Fur Elise, easy piano sheet music, free easy piano sheet music. Let’s say that there’s a power word in there. Free. People love that. So as powerful then is telling easy piano, people will type that in that’s chock, full keywords sheet music, people will type in keywords.
I have not wasted anything. Fur Elise. Big keyword. There’s nothing wasted in there. I haven’t talked about my mother or my kids or anything in there. My dog, how pretty he is. There’s not a single word. The only thing that I put in there is either a dash or a bar and a vertical line separate things. So optimized, the first words are the most important words to Google.
Everything down the line is less important than the first couple. So make sure you structure your link. Okay. So now I’ve got keywords on the thing. Now I’m going to expect that Google will index that page. And also in the Google images, Google will index my image. So when people search Google images for sheet music, which I do when I want to find a piece that somebody else has written and research to find out if my sheet music is better than theirs. I do that all the time. And then I might post it on Facebook though. I’m sort of lazy about that. Learn from my mistake. I just, the thing that I learned a long time back from this guy at smart passive income is he says your job is only half done when you post that blog post or, or in my case, posting that sheet music or worksheet lesson. The other 50% is sharing with somebody.
So I used to do Craigslist, not really a good place to be anymore, but for numerous reasons, like they don’t like your link and it’s not a great site anymore. And there’s social media. Now, some of the things, so Colleen, that I talked about earlier that does my editing also manages the Instagram account. I create the images for her and then might suggest what to say.
And then she does everything else. And so at least the bigger things are posted to Instagram. Like when I put 40 hours into something, you bet there’s going to be an image that goes on Instagram and sheet music sometimes makes it sometimes not. I usually have her post one thing a week. It’s great if you can do more, because more is more. You have more points of entry, but more as more takes more time.
So, so I do what I can do and hopefully Coleen is in school right now, learning about more technical writing stuff. And so I’m hoping that she’ll be able to give me more soon. So maybe more.
[00:14:14] Andrea: All right. And how does YouTube play into what you’re doing now? Is that YouTube specific content?
[00:14:19] AndyFling: YouTube was incredible in the beginning when I was just getting started, there was so few competition that I had Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bells recorded lessons. I think Hot Cross Buns got like a hundred thousand views in no time. And then Jingle Bells did and Claire de Lune. I think Jingle Bells has like 400,000 views, but they happened 12 years ago. And then I ignored it. And then now it’s just vastly harder to get traffic.
I had my 2,500 followers for a long time, but I wasn’t posting almost anything. Um, and no content that people wanted to see. It was just like, I had an announcement for my Music Stars Competition. I was like, here’s the winners for this year. But now, I wanted to start advertising The Academy, so I put some of the lessons, the free lessons, on YouTube. I created a few lessons that were more YouTube specific to get people to look at The Academy. That’s the only time I’ve really used paid advertising through Edwards was to drive more traffic to the YouTube videos. I’ve tried advertising with paid traffic for Making Music Fun, and I had a quality guide do that. I had a quality twenty-five hundred dollar sales page, you know, well-written, well-designed, everything should have been working and it was the biggest goose egg you ever saw and thousands of dollars gone. So like you say, like throw something against the wall and if it sticks and nothing stuck. Yeah. And so that’s not to say, give up on paid advertising because it’s tremendous, but not, not for that particular product.
[00:16:03] Andrea: Were there any other investments that you made in your business that maybe were daunting or scary at first?
[00:16:10] AndyFling: Yes, right now. So at the very beginning, close to the beginning, I tried to work with another guy for social media after the one guy just did the dark web. Yeah. I tried to work with him and then he was kind of kooky and kind of deserted the company. His employees were left holding the bag and I spent $1,250 on him and got in the end, there was nothing. That was bad, but he did say, oh, what about affiliate? And so today I’m like considering Affiliate. I’ve designed a page. I keep on dragging my heels on this. I’ve designed a page and then I dragged my heels and then I had somebody write the code to switch to Stripe for my shopping cart because the other service was like, it was going in the wrong direction and not reporting the way it should.
And I can’t have a site reporting income that’s not actually being paid. And then they get the product anyway. So I switched to Stripe, which has tremendous service. That was an undertaking in itself. And I was researching the affiliate tools and I think I found a good one. And then I drug my heels and then I started getting, I got a developer from Upwork again, to write code, to make this affiliate tool work.
I’m like considering Refersion, because I look at tip something. I’m not sure what it’s called and they didn’t allow you to pay through PayPal. Pay your affiliates, but this, you can go in the app and you can pay your affiliates. They must set up with PayPal so you can pay them through PayPal. But through the app, you just click a button and people are paid.
So I’ve been dragging my heels because it’s just another thing on my plate, but it’s advertising the subscription things that are making, um, Microsoft and Apple, billions of dollars. So I don’t, I don’t need a billion dollars, but just try. Just do it just, it was, it was my message from the very beginning, push past your fears.
And that’s one of my fears with affiliate stuff. This Refersion is $89 a month and I’m like, I, I spent $5,000 creating the videos alone for my academy for Sergio and Bogota, Columbia to put the sheet music above the video $5,000. And now I’m scared to do $89. But, okay, so here’s the good news. Got me motivated again, a gal that has a YouTube channel asked me about affiliates, a third P a person asked for fairly recently, and she has a YouTube channel.
She is interested. I said, okay. So what about if we do a joint Andrea campaign? What do you think? Okay. She talked to me on the phone. She’s totally excited. She’s known about the site, maybe even longer than you. I don’t know how you guys ever found it way back when. She is totally on board. So now I have somebody that is saying, I really want to do that.
So if she really wants to do that, I have a chance of making up that $89 a month that I’m so scared to let go of. And I’m pushing past my fear right now. And, um, I’m a little bit nervous about it right now. I was like, talk as I’m like talking, but I’m trying. Yeah. Yeah. That’s one of the things I’ve learned from the big guys is that if you tell somebody about it, you’re more likely to do it.
So, oh my gosh. However many people are going to listen to this podcast. You can check back with me in a little bit.
[00:19:40] Andrea: As you think about trying something new, like the affiliate program, and you’ve done a lot of trying new things over the years and pushing past your fear, how would you go about setting up an experiment for that? Like how do you approach those new things?
[00:19:55] AndyFling: Research in the beginning. See what it’s going to take. And one of the things it’s not only the $89, it’s the time and I’m only me. And I’m hoping that Colleen will want to take on this part and bump up her thing. It’s the time to have to deal with it. Just do your research. See if it’s something that you want to get into. See if people are successful with it. See if the product that you want to create is useful.
See, if you can add anything of value to it, just go for it. And what’s next for you? What’s a goal that you’re working towards this year, not being scared about the affiliate program, so that that’s probably another, another couple of weeks and, and getting it going in another month and a half and getting that campaign the end.
So it’s presentable to my newsletter subscribers, and I just like love to grow my subscribers. I’ve got 33,000 people now. It’d be nice to reach more people,. But it’s just writing good content and hopefully people will have enough interest in signing up for the newsletter and creating more fun YouTube videos.
But I like what we’re doing, and I liked the voice talent that I’ve had that support me. I’d love to add more of that stuff and keep on going with that stuff.
[00:21:19] Andrea: And where can listeners get in touch with you to follow along with that and to check out your affiliate program?
[00:21:26] AndyFling: Just email me. Visit the about page. I answer everything I get. And if you don’t get an email from me back it’s because your email never made it. So try it again. Yeah.
[00:21:38] Andrea: All right, Andy. Thank you so much. This was really fun.
I came across an article the other day that started with the definition of passive income. The definition went like this: passive income is money generated without much effort, and then proceeded to explain how to start a blog or YouTube. I had to chuckle because I had Andy’s comment ringing in my head about spending a full day’s work to get $5 in Google ad revenue in the early days of Making Music Fun.
I found this discussion with Andy to be especially valuable because he’s built a business that has endured in the highly dynamic and crazy world that we call the internet. Making Music Fun has survived through eras of online business trends and fads. There’s a rise and fall of social networks through competitors entering the landscape and through countless Google algorithm change.
A couple of things stood out to me about the way Andy manages his business that I think have contributed to his long-term success. First he’s very attentive to a few meaningful metrics in his business. Did you notice that he did not talk about how many followers he had on Pinterest or YouTube? He did however, talk a lot about website, traffic and page rankings. Presumably, because those are the metrics that correlate most directly with his revenue. Second, Andy has diversified where his income comes in. When ad revenues started dropping, he introduced an option for a paid premium experience. He also introduced a subscription lessons service to generate recurring revenue.
And now he’s exploring an affiliate program. With revenue coming from different sources, his business is less susceptible to fluctuations in any one part of the business. He can still monitor the individual channels, but if one is suffering, hopefully the other channels are providing some stability to the business as a whole.
As an encouragement to someone just starting out, I do want to point out that Andy didn’t start with all these income streams. He’s built them out over time. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look into Making Music Fun as much as I did. Thank you, Andy, for the generously transparent glimpse into your business and all the insights you shared,. You can find the show notes for this episode at musicstudiostartup.com/episode096.
And although we didn’t talk about it today, I know taxes are on the minds of a lot of teachers right now. So I will also be linking in those show notes to the many tax resources available on musicstudiostartup.com, including a calculator you can use to figure out how much you need to earn, to pay your bills and save for taxes each month.
All that at musicstudiostartup.com/episode096. That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.