Ep. 10: Jazz guitar (with Marc-Andre Seguin of JazzGuitarLessons.net)
After earning degrees in both classical music and jazz studies, Marc-Andre Seguin sought opportunities to play music across both large venues and jazz clubs in Ottawa, Canada and beyond. But as many musicians know, sometimes you need to find other ways to supplement your income. And that’s exactly what Marc did with his online course business, JazzGuitarLessons.net.
After his first eBook sold only 2 copies, he regrouped and shifted his focus toward online courses and eventually a thriving membership community of excited jazz guitar students.
A man of many talents, Marc not only has a passion for music but also a head for business. In this episode, he’ll share how he combined his passion with his business savvy to continue earning steady income and helping more students stop wishing and start playing.
Today’s guest: Marc-Andre Seguin of JazzGuitarLessons.net
“I think people have a perspective problem in terms of what a music career is. If everyone is trying to take the same path, and everyone says success is playing Carnegie hall…then you might confront failure a lot and early on.”
Marc from JazzGuitarLessons.net is the mastermind behind the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar.
He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.
Where to find Mark
- Learn more: JazzGuitarLessons.net
- YouTube: youtube.com/user/jazzguitarlessonsnet
- Facebook: facebook.com/jazzguitarlessons.net
- Twitter: twitter.com/jglessonsnet
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/marc-andre-seguin
Read the full transcript below.
Marc-Andre Seguin: I think people have a perspective problem in terms of what a music career is. If everyone is trying to take the same path, and everyone says, you know, success is playing Carnegie hall or it’s being a classical recording artist, or for jazz musicians it’s playing XYZ festivals and playing with X, Y, Z people…if you define success like this, which is the case for a lot of musicians, then you might confront failure a lot and early on.
Melissa Guller: That’s Marc-Andre Seguin from jazzguitarlessons.net. After earning degrees in both classical music and jazz studies, Marc sought opportunities to play music across both large venues and jazz clubs in Ottowa, Canada, and beyond. But as many musicians know, sometimes you need to find other ways to supplement your income and that’s exactly what Mark did. After his first ebook sold only two copies. He regrouped and shifted his focus toward online courses and eventually a thriving membership community of excited jazz guitar students, a man of many talents. Mark not only has a passion for music, but also a head for business. In this episode, he’ll share how he combined his passion with his business savvy to continue earning steady income and helping more students stop wishing and start playing. All this and more. In today’s episode of everything is Teachable.
Announcer: Welcome to everything is Teachable, the podcast that takes you behind the scenes to learn how everyday creators have transformed their skills and passions into online courses and businesses. To introduce this week’s episode, here’s your host, Melissa Guller.
Melissa Guller: Hey everyone. I’m Melissa from Team Teachable, and today I’m here with Mark Andre say game Marc from jazzguitarlessons.net is the mastermind behind the number one online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.
Melissa Guller: So Marc, welcome to the podcast!
Marc-Andre Seguin: Hey, thanks for having me.
Melissa Guller: Thrilled to have you. I’m so excited to learn more about your own jobs, guitar experience and how that’s transformed into what it looks like today. So let’s go all the way back to the beginning. How did you learn how to play jazz guitar?
Marc-Andre Seguin: Well, actually as many musicians in their teenager was a, you know, angry teenager and I would play mostly rock and roll and I was very curious about music in general and for people in, at least in America, looking to learn music academically, I would say. So going through college or university, you really had two bads and one was classical and one was jazz. And of course the jazz one is closer, the pop and rock music and stuff that’s, that’s of this era. While the classical is something that’s more, I would say ancient. So, um, I went for the jazz thing and I, I didn’t really expect to become a jazz player per se. Uh, wanted to use, as my teacher said, you use jazz as a school, it’s a learning tool and then you play whatever you want for your music. So that’s really how I, how I got into jazz and then I fell in love with it.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Then it became my number one passion. So that’s really how it, it happens. It’s funny how you didn’t expect to continue pursuing that path. I’m sure that happens to a lot of people. Lots of musician I met. So a lot of people will be coming into school and be funky players and they would become, you know, jazz layers or vice versa. Just going into school and saying, yeah, you know, jazz is not for me at all. So that’s, that’s also very common, probably more common. And what makes you say for people who are maybe newer to jazz or who are not musicians, why do so many people learn jazz first before maybe thinking they might branch into other styles? I guess it would be the, probably the opposite because jazz is often deemed as the chess quote unquote of music or it’s like the mathematics of music.
Marc-Andre Seguin: It’s everything is more demanding, especially in the modern sense where you need to be improvising at all times. So it’s often a very school friendly approach to music because you can really pinpoint what’s right, a quote unquote right and wrong about the music. So it’s easier to, easier to grade and has, you know, of courses around it, then teach the tradition of it. So, um, basically I found the people go from being decent players and get into jazz later if they want to make a study out of it or if they’re, they’re in love with Frank Sinatra either way. That makes sense. Yeah, it’s interesting. I think people who maybe have not had the pleasure of learning an instrument don’t realize just how fundamentally different classical and jazz are. I mean, I grew up playing classical piano and it’s so different because it’s very structured. You do what’s on the page.
Marc-Andre Seguin: There are very, you know, regulated ways that things should go depending on the era that music is from. But with jazz, the whole basis of like the improvisation and even the chord types are different. It’s just a totally different experience. Oh yeah. And it’s more technical age, more technical demanding, as you said. So I know we’re like getting into the weeds now. It’s talking about jazz versus other size, but actually my wife is a classical pianist and also a teacher and we do pretty much the same thing, but four different instruments. And it’s that whole, there is one sound that you should strive for, right? As a first violin in an orchestra, there’s the sound. While in jazz you’re encouraged to develop your own sound, your own personality. So that’s, that was the appeal for me as well, just to express myself more so than become a machine to execute music.
Melissa Guller: Right. I love that explanation to the difference between finding your sound versus playing a sound. I’ll ponder my own upbringing as a classical “machine” later on, but for now, how did you then grow your own career as a musician?
Marc-Andre Seguin: It was a, I was in Montreal for years. Now I’m back in my hometown, which is closer to Ottawa, but on the Quebec side, so in Montreal it’s a very effervescent, if it’s a word, like it’s, it’s boiling. There’s a lot of arts culture. Uh, rent is cheap, beer is cheap, food is cheap. So I stayed there and I developed a network of musician that would go out to hear gigs and out to jam session. Then I develop my, my own sound and style. It started to play, you know, this odd cocktail gig and then my own music. And then, you know, I get a little bit of a teaching gig in a small music school and, and so on and so on. So I, uh, I learned the ropes through literally that I guess a traditional way of doing it. Just you’re, you show up and you play whenever you can and you try not to starve.
Melissa Guller: I feel like many people believe that it’s nearly impossible to make money as a musician. So did you find that to be the case?
Marc-Andre Seguin: It’s partially through, uh, it’s partially, sorry, French Canadian coming back. Actually true, yes. Been, but I think people have a perspective problem in terms of what a music career is. If everyone is trying to take the same path and everyone says, you know, success is playing Carnegie hall or it’s being a classical recording artist or for jazz musicians, this thing, X, Y, Z festivals. And playing with X, Y, Z people. If you define success like this, which is the case for a lot of musicians, then you might confront failure a lot and early on. So yes, it is very difficult to make a living if you define success in that sense. However, when people start to get creative and go, well, I could not only teach, but I could develop products as I’ve done, you know, a product in a subscription business and it can also branch off and do things that are non jazz.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And I, I would be ready to say make my own music, my own compositions, but not expect this to be my main, main whiff, putting bread on the table. You know, because you know, I, if we’re jazz players, we’re not Michael Jackson or you know, Justin Timberlake. So it’s, it’s difficult to make a living if you expect to make a living in a certain way. It would be like a writer saying, I only want to write for movies and I, I refuse to write for sitcoms or I refuse to write books or write blogs, whatever. It’s like, well, you’re a writer. You could write anything. So I think musicians, the purists and I was not one. Of course, they miss a lot of opportunities that are present in the world.
Melissa Guller: I think that’s a great point. And I can’t wait to talk more about how your own career and business has, but especially in music, I feel like there could be a lot of pressure because the most famous, maybe some could argue successful musicians are celebrities. You see them performing on huge stages for tens of thousands of people or in these hallowed halls like Carnegie hall. I mean that doesn’t have to be your definition of success. And to your point, as long as you’re finding a way to earn a living and to support you or your family, maybe it is unrealistic to assume that you could be, you know, the a Lister. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy and enjoy living, play money playing or playing music, playing money, or you can also play money for sure. It would look a little bit different. Yeah.
Marc-Andre Seguin: But, uh, that’s also a big thing. I watched a Seinfeld, do you know the comedians in cars getting coffee? And one of the things he said is like, well, if you’re here, you don’t. It’s almost as if if you want to be Justin Timberlake, like go for it. You should. But if you’re asking yourself the question, then clearly you should not because it’s not something you need to ask and ponder and you’re twisted about your career choices. Like if it’s bound to happen, you will be that, that star. But if you’re hesitant of making all those sacrifices, then that’s where like, well maybe there’s this other Avenue or met multiple different types of news to, to make a living making music. And as soon as you can accept that or if you have someone older than you that’s been through that show you away, then it becomes much more healthy. And uh, people are less bound to experience failures, quote unquote, in ways that really hurt them.
Melissa Guller: Hmm. That’s really interesting. It’s almost like you can ask yourself, do you want to be a musician? Do you want to earn money? That’s one thing. But then do you want to be a celebrity and have the lifestyle that’s a whole other ball game.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like it’s, and anyways, a lot of the things happened by, by accidents in my life and it’s like if you have to force it so much, probably not a good yeah.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] I found that when people, you know, work hard and put your heart into what’s the opportunity that is right in front of you. Good things tend to follow. Yep. Agreed. Agreed on that team. So perfect transition. Let’s talk more about your evolution into the online world. So I know you just mentioned you are earning money as a musician but also teaching a little bit. So how did you first get that idea to create your website? jazzguitarlessons.net
Marc-Andre Seguin: so that first, uh, inspiration that it’s been developed in two phases. So number one, when I got a degree, my second degree in music, actually I got a classical degree in. Then I got a jazz degree. And when I got the jazz degree, I was living in Montreal. I was asking myself, other than teaching these private lessons to kids in private schools and playing the yard gig, how else can I pay my rent? I developed this ebook, which was basically everything I knew condensed into 60 pages. So it was more of a book that I would have needed at a time where I would have needed five years prior. Right. I wrote almost to me, I wrote that a very high level of, you know, a college graduate trained musician that reads music and what not. So I wrote that and I built a one page website and I tried to sell it and it was a, I think I sold two or three and the huge success, I put a lot of effort in the ad words side.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So I actually, I spent some money, so I came out, I came out of this and the red that came out broke and it was the first experiment. And of course I, I don’t tend to, I’m an, I’m not patient, but I persevere a lot in life. So I was not happy with that. So a few months later I came across something that you guys might want to look at it now. It’s very archaic, probably if they’re still around scout SBI site to build it. And their promise was, well, instead of starting with a product, just build a website and presale to the people. Just write good resources and contents. And once you have the traffic, then feel free to monetize it either with ads or with, uh, you know, selling other people’s products, affiliates or even, uh, selling your, building your own products from knowing that crowd that came to your website.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So I jumped on to SBI on actually January 1st, 2009. And I registered jazzguitarlessons.net on that day. Actually, it was new year’s new year’s day and I started the work on there. So that’s how I got, I got in the online world. I had no really prior experience of, I built websites as a kid’s, you know, you do this in high school, they show you HDML and, but I had never gone beyond that actually. So once you bought the domain, what did you do first? What are the very earliest website look like? The very, Oh actually you guys, I don’t know if you know the, the way back machine that’s yeah, that you do. Okay. So when you explain it for our listeners who haven’t heard of it before. Yeah. The way back machine is this archive, I guess it’s related to library of Congress or in some ways American, right?
Marc-Andre Seguin: And the archive websites on a regular basis throughout the interwebs. So when I built this website, 2009 you can go into way back machine and [inaudible] dot org I guess the way back machine.org and you can type in jazzguitarlessons.net and see what it looked like in, in 2009 so if you want to take a peak debt, feel free and then you can see it evolved over the years of design and the content and and whatnot. So to answer your question, would it looked like it looked like a very basic non-mobile websites? Remember not a lot of people carried iPhones in their pockets in 2009 and the website was ugly, but it was of its era. And SBI not only was a host, but it also was a system for training you to produce content that was relevant. So would they had me do it first was build a blueprint of 50 pages, five zero 50 pages and go, well, what are the topics people are searching for?
Marc-Andre Seguin: Use the Google keyword tool, you know, from ad-words and determine what your tier, your tier one is, your homepage. And then your second tier should be these most powerful search terms and then develop a handful, like a 30 or 40 tier three pages. So that was my first thing and I, I really bust my balls in the first six months to produce that content, which was mostly written. Remember that time Google had not even got the hold of YouTube yet. So it was a totally different era. So that was the first step. Yep. 50 pages and a blueprint.
Melissa Guller: And was your goal at the time just to educate people or were you selling anything at that point?
Marc-Andre Seguin: I was selling nothing actually. Uh, I’ll just wanted to build a traffic because the SBI promise was, well, once you have the traffic you can ask them what they want and monetize that, that traffic. So I was making no money and I guess SBI was probably um, 300 bucks a year or something like that, which was scary for the port jazz musician. But um, in the end, the, they gave me an SEO plan, you know, to put it in 2019 terms that that was an SEO plan that they gave me to develop my content.
Melissa Guller: Well, it’s interesting hearing you talk about it because that strategy of build traffic, build an audience first, then ask them what they want and create it is still honestly very good advice because with your first attempt you said, you know, only two people purchased. If you had, you know, taken the second approach, which you never could have known when you first got started, then you would have at least known, okay, I might have some people ready to buy this. Once it’s graded, give you a little more confidence that putting your time in would be worthwhile. Exactly. Exactly. Though, go ahead
Marc-Andre Seguin: as well. I just want to say that’s how, you know, I read Tim Ferriss and whatnot, but that’s how they say the best sellers are written. It’s like you get this guy, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Mark Manson, Tim Ferris and these guys, they, they write a blog and you just use analytics to tell them what they should read their book about as opposed to the old, you know, 60s or 70s approach to being an author, get a book deal and lock yourself in a room for a year and write the best book you can ever write and then publish it and expect it to be a best seller. It’s like, it doesn’t work like that. So same with my website. And same with any other people that are getting online now or are starting to get online at past five years ish. It’s like you, you cannot, you don’t have a crystal ball. You cannot know who’s going to show up to your website. You’re going to not know what they are willing to purchase or learn. In my case, it was learning. Uh, but yeah, they’re a good point. It’s still, it’s the approach. I think that’s, that’s the best
Melissa Guller: even today. And even if you don’t consider yourself to be highly data-driven, like you’re saying these guys, what they were probably doing is just seeing which blog posts or which pages got the most traffic. And that’s pretty easy to find. There are tools like Google analytics, you can get that knowledge for free about your own site. So it’s really amazing how today there’s so much you can do to let people tell you what they want instead of guessing. Yeah,
Marc-Andre Seguin: exactly. And um, maybe I should have added that to my bio, but, uh, something I didn’t tell you is I’m also a statistician by training in an actuary. Oh my gosh. Yeah. That’s what people ask differently when they meet first meet me, I’m like, Ooh, who are you? Uh, I’m just, I’m just a curious guy. I’m just interested in many things and I’m, I would say I’m culprit of not using my analytics to the full depth of my knowledge with, with statistics. Uh, but I still, I still do it and I still did make pretty good use of, uh, not all the Google analytics but also do tools that helped me, you know, how many comments or how many shares this post had and what’s people were commenting on that within the lectures of products actually that we sold. So I’m always, I even have this program where we, no shame, like we cold email people that’s clicked on promotional emails but that did not purchase. And we’d go, Hey, why didn’t you buy? And we just collect this data and we don’t as insights allow us to, to build and build better products, build better, you know, follow up programs or I don’t know, change some of the videos that we sell and et cetera. But I think I’m jumping, I’m getting ahead of myself. You, you probably had a few more questions before we dig in that, that part
Melissa Guller: that’s okay. Now you’ve got people excited to learn more about what are these lectures, what are these courses he’s talking about? So let’s give the people what they want. So you started your website, it started to grow, traffic started to pick up. Was there a pivotal moment when you did start to sell something through your website or what happened next?
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yes, I will. Uh, I will give you only two pivotal moments because there’ve been several, you know, bangs and booms of, of traffic. The first one was about a year later after starting the website, so winter of 2010 I started to teach lessons on Skype. So it would just put a page and go, Hey guys, if you like these resources on publishing and these new videos I put on YouTube, you know, there was a time limit of like five minutes on YouTube at the time before your account got unlocked to white. I just put a page up. I said it’s, it was pretty cheap. It was like 35 bucks Canadian per Skype lesson for an hour. And I got people, especially from Australia and from the UK to come in some American people as well because of the exchange rate. It was so advantages for them to get a teacher that was cheap or we say affordable.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And for me was still a good rate I was charging. So that was a first really big moment of like, Oh wow, I can have like, I don’t know, 10 1215 and do my teaching from my home instead of leaving or getting the car and getting to that music school and, or taking the bus at that time. Once you yeah, of course I didn’t have a car. That was a really pivotal moment. The second pivotal moment was when I found out about this platform called Sparky O and they’re, they’re closed. They closed their shop in late 2012 and Sparky, Oh, just said, well, you know, it’s like YouTube but you can charge people money for it, that, that thing. So I shot, I shot a course that was maybe a 15 minute course, which was actually followed up on the screen voice only. And I’m going to show you how to learn the thread board of the guitar and memorize every note without, you know, running through puzzles and problems.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And I called it to learn the fret board and instead of putting it on YouTube, and that must have been 2011 probably, I put it on YouTube and I didn’t. I went, no, let me monetize this. So I probably charged, I don’t know, probably eight bucks for it, and I sent an email, promotional email to my mailing list, but people would often just to get the newsletter and whatnot that was producing a lot of new content. And one night I said, let me put this four, 8:00 AM tomorrow morning and maybe a send to, I don’t know, maybe 2000 people who was a small list. And when I wake up the next morning I sold maybe for eight bucks worth, I don’t, maybe I sold three, four, 500 bucks worth of that eight bucks product. Wow. So I literally started to jump like three feet high in the air.
Marc-Andre Seguin: My cat was looking, he was like, dude, what’s wrong with you? And I was so happy because it was, I would say, in my life, it was the moment of confirmation. It’s like, okay, if you, you’re you and you do what you do in published stuff and part of it, you gate it behind the payments, people are willing to pay for it. So you know, get off the couch and start doing that. So that was a really huge, really huge moment. Even though it was a small thing, it just meant a lot. And the third one, I’m just for bonus, I was on the verge of becoming a professional statistician, so you know, working for the governments here and you know, getting fulltime job and getting settled. And I met a guy in California, I went to them, which is that conference show, like this trade show for musical instruments, guitars, drums, lighting, sound effects and whatever.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So it was a probably 2014 at that point and it wasn’t Anaheim, it’s called Nam national association of music merchants. And that guy said, do you have a website? And like yet what’s your mailing list? Like, I don’t know, 10,000 is judge. Rob is like, how often are you emailing these guys about your products? I’m like, I dunno, maybe twice a year. So I was like, dude, you should send emails to people. I’m like, well, what is the unsubscribe? I will say, you should want some of them to unsubscribe to your mailing list and sell your frigging products, dude. So that was the pivotal moment where I went, yep, I’m doing this full time now. And that was 2014 so I was like five years being still being a musician and still, you know, being halfway. And then the past five years, since 2014 it’s been website full time. This is my work. So yeah,
Melissa Guller: that’s really interesting that you were only emailing people twice a year and this guy’s advice like you should want people to unsubscribe. That sounds counterintuitive, but it is actually great advice because if people are bothered by you sharing information about a product that is helpful, that could help people learn a new instrument or further their music knowledge. I mean, do you really want them on your email list at all?
Marc-Andre Seguin: There you go. Plus if you don’t, if you never emailed them, they will forget who you are, even if they’re interested. It’s like, Oh, who’s that guy? All right, I’d forgotten about that. So it’s not a good practice and it was just fear. And I think to some extent I still have it because to this day we send 125 to 150,000 emails per month still. And I’m always a little bit scared because I’m like, well, what if people don’t like it? And then I rationalize on, well, if people don’t like it, they will unsubscribe. And then that’s that. And you don’t want them to unsubscribe because you want a bigger list to sell to. But a bigger list that’s less interested is not better than a smaller list that you know that people are engaged. So that’s the like that’s a lesson I’m still integrating. Uh, to this day.
Melissa Guller: It’s a very fine line. I think a lot of us are asking the question, how much should I be emailing my list? How much is too much? How much is too little? And I’m curious to hear what you’re doing in a second. But I think that there’s no right answer. I think you know your own audience best and you’ll get a feel for what feels right for you personally as a creator and then just put yourself in their shoes. If you’re sharing really good knowledge, I’m sure it’s not a bother for them to hear from you, you know? Yeah, absolutely. And my,
Marc-Andre Seguin: the main points with the software is now as you can have this manager subscription thing, so if you really liked the newsletter but you’re tired of me trying to sell you on our main offer, just you can unsubscribe only from that promotional email or we have a, a series of, you know, best of like those are the best posts. It goes out to once a week and there’s 52 posts and it’s, it will loop back at the beginning. And once you’re done, if you only like that series, you can elect to receive only that. And that’s thanks to S, you know, modern software.
Melissa Guller: Oh, that’s a really interesting idea. So just in case people didn’t catch that part of your regular email marketing efforts are that you send one post a week, so 52 weeks worth of content and then the following year it loops through those same posts again. Yes, yes
Marc-Andre Seguin: and no shame admitting we’re, we’re revamping. We’re refreshing the content of that series because we’re publishing new blog posts and videos and whatnot. So it was at the time I started it, it was just a 15 most read pieces of content and video on the website. So it can be hit or miss, but you know, people are likely to remain engaged even just for that, because sending the emails always asking, you know, buy this, buy that, do this for me. It’s like you have to give something back. So I ensure that I have this newsletter that’s irregular, that has new stuff that’s interesting to keep your open rates up and you have this also the series of 50 to best of what I call it, what you might’ve missed from the blog, and at least twice a week people will see something that’s really fresh that’s new. So your open rates are up. So they trust you whenever you want to sell something, you’re still let guide that’s friendly, that’s been sending you great, you know, that’s been sending you candy and now he has a product to sell. So they’re not as mad that that’s a way to put it.
Melissa Guller: I think this is such great advice that I hope people listening who are thinking about their own email marketing strategy or taking notes because this point you’re making about, you know, keep the best content. That’s something that you know is popular. You know, people will like people are joining your email list all the time. So for most people it’ll feel fresh. And then also making sure that there is new content to make sure that people trust you and that they want to keep opening your emails. That’ll make people think of you as a real authority, but also somebody who values their inbox, who’s sharing great knowledge. And then when you sell them something, they’ll either be excited to buy or maybe the worst case scenario is they don’t want to buy, but they respect the fact that you have something that is available if they wanted it later. Okay.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a whole mindset thing and it’s that perception of de engaged person is like, Oh yeah, that’s normal that there’s that 59 bucks offer this week and he’s gonna tell us twice about it. With account on timers, like people do that and he’s [inaudible] like 400 pages on the website of free stuff. So we, there has to be a way to put bread on the table. So absolutely all agreed.
Melissa Guller: I think people expect you to have a product or a service or something to sell. And in some ways I think it makes you look like even more of an authority because you do have a product or something that has a dollar amount that can be purchased. It makes you look like you know what you’re talking about, that you’ve been able to package that into something, whether it’s a course, a consulting offer, a freelance offer, or really anything.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yeah, it makes you look good and even if you don’t, or for a certain period, you don’t make these dollar offers. Just maintaining your reputation through the free stuff is, that’s the, that’s the way I built my business personally. Kids that there’s nowhere around it. There’s like getting people in front of the freestyle, say, almost treating it like you’re selling the content of the newsletter. Almost treating it like it’s, it matters more to you to get these people in front of your free content then in front of your products. Because if they liked that, it’s like, well, there’s more where it came from. And naturally just open your wallet and you know, you’ll get in. So
Melissa Guller: really smart. So let’s talk a little bit about your marketing, because we’ll get back to the online courses and what it looks like today in a second. How do you find new people? I think that’s such a struggle for a lot of creators. You said you were growing traffic pretty early on. So I’m curious just throughout your time having this website, how do you get new people?
Marc-Andre Seguin: So since 2014, uh, we realized, and that was through my coach, which, uh, I still talk to and I still talk to this morning, actually, was in a way he was my best man at my wedding. He’s not local, but we’re really close. And in 2014, that guy, uh, which will remain nameless, started to give me free, unsolicited business advice on the website. What do you know about what, what are you doing? And I found out he’s a successful business guy with several businesses, with a family of four kids and this and that, and he has a coaching practice. So we still barter. So guitar lessons for coaching. And um, you just told me in 2014 it’s like, yeah, you have all this stuff that you send people through email and YouTube videos and these sheet music upgrade, like these downloads of PDFs that goes with the lesson.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Why don’t you, why don’t you get them behind, uh, a portal of some sort or an email address or whatever. And of course my first answer was like, totally no, it’s never going to work, you know, resistance. And, and I realized like, Oh shoot, this is the way to grow the mailing lists if you want, because people are not necessarily offended going like, Hey, this is the sheet music that goes with that lesson. You watch me on YouTube, here’s a blog post, here’s the sheet music. It is free, but just give me your email but it’s still free, but gives me your email. And that was almost like night and day once we started to do that for every piece of content. Uh, and now that’s how we still collect leads. To this day we are, I’m not really satisfied with that number yet, but we have approximately 1300 organic leads per month.
Marc-Andre Seguin: It’s not a lot when you compare it to the amount of traffic we have. But just that number is mostly coming from these small content upgrades. You have a tune, you have whatever, or you have this ebook that I wrote that is free and we just, we just capitalize on the fact that we do not need to pay for ads. We don’t need to harass people if they come and if they use the resources, we know they’re qualified, we know they raise their hands and say, yes, you know, I want you to have my email. So that’s how we do with organically in one word,
Melissa Guller: it’s clever too because when they come to your site, they do get some knowledge for free. But then this one little step further, just give an email address in exchange for this download. It’s not a huge ask, but it’s something small both for them to, you know, earn the PDF. But also like you said, to show intent to show this is somebody raising their hand who is qualifying themselves as a good strong lead for you. Exactly. So once they do opt in to your list, of course, now you’re continuing to grow that email list over time. Let’s talk about what products you’re offering today. So what is your suite of revenue generating stuff look like these days?
Marc-Andre Seguin: So the, the whole automation lead funnel, quote unquote, we could call it this, simply offering the membership or subscription option, which was developed over the years. We know we developed a lot of curriculum based video courses and I got to really tired of reinventing myself every month ago. What type of package can we offer, what type of promotional thing or discounts can we run on people buying this? And then you know they buy it and the next month you’re like, do you want to buy again? Like no because I bought this last month and I didn’t even finish your course. So we solved that problem. Now with the main offer, do you know keeping the main thing, the main thing, it’s subscribe, you will get everything and of course we have onboarding and we have programs just for the people that get the membership, which people we can still buy a LA carte.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Like one time purchase as you go of course is that however, when you do that, you don’t get the VIP treatments, you don’t get access to the members only stuff. So that’s the main offer. People get offered within I guess the first 10 days of getting their email. They will get that offer in. If the do not, we just make a secondary Alec hard to offer, which I called first steps, which is in any case it’s a first course anyone should take when they go through the JazzGuitarLessons, not that curriculum and we make it, I guess the offer now is $79 that’s just Alec cards, one product purchase, and then if they don’t, we wait a weekend with discounts to guess it’s 40% off something like 47 bucks. So it’s like membership, membership, membership, membership, nah, maybe you’re not interested. Hail Mary, you want this instead. And then if not, or if they do or if they don’t.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And I guess if they don’t get the membership, then we send weekly promotional things. So every other week is a membership. Again, if you’re a different spin, it might be a discount. It might be first month at $1 or it can be a certain amount of discount off your membership and that’s every other weekend. The other week we make a a promotional offer of an Alec cart thing at the yellow card thing being the goal of, you know, getting people to make that small step, that small commitments with a course, a single course, and then like it and love it and go, Oh yeah, I’m going to get the membership now. So I guess that’s the plan. Maybe I should patent this plan.
Melissa Guller: I think it’s a really clever strategy because it’s something that we have done here at Teachable. A lot of businesses do. It’s almost like a down sell strategy is the people use where you make your main offer first, but then you acknowledge some people aren’t going to want that. Maybe the sticker price looks too large. Maybe it’s not what they’re looking for, but for whatever reason they might still be a little bit interested. So if you offer them something after that’s a little bit smaller, a little bit less expensive than you might still capture more people who could become customers. So it’s a really smart strategy.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yeah, I noticed you guys did that and HubSpot does that as well. And sometimes when people are not ready to take your main offer, it might be timing. It might be that it was not framed in a way that that clicked with that person and that person where they are in the, in their life right now or whatever. Maybe they were on vacations, you know, I don’t know. But what I noticed, and that’s a, a trick from um, a blog I read, I forgot his name, but really smart guy who worked for mint, started mint and started, he was one of the first employees at Facebook. They will come back with green is his blog is super green, but he has a lot of good business advice and said they started the sell this course for becoming an online guide that makes more than a thousand a month.
Marc-Andre Seguin: That was the theme. And it just said, you can keep people in your mailing list and suggest that membership, that subscriptions for eight months before some of them will say yes and it’s always the same offer. It’s just, it’s the verbiage, the words are tiny bit different. And then you interviewed us, well why didn’t you buy now? You bought, you bought now, but you didn’t buy six months ago. And uh, he explored that. If his name comes back, I will, uh, I will uh, LTL founder of one of the co founders, I think it was,
Melissa Guller: I know the founder is named Aaron Pat, sir. But it’ll come to, well, people can go on their own. Personal adventure. Mint is a fascinating company. I’m sure that is worth looking into as well as a quick kind of maybe Easter egg in this episode. It’s a great way to track your own personal finances so we won’t get into that. But this whole conversation I think is hopefully new for some listeners who haven’t considered that there are different ways that you can sell both in the strategy that we talked about, you know, start with the higher price. Go to the lower price, but also just like what you were saying briefly one minute ago about what will speak to one person might not speak to everyone in the same way, the way that you make an offer, even if you’re offering exactly the same thing, the way that you talk about it, even the time in their life that this comes up for them. It’s totally varied. And so you’ve mentioned before, you kind of have to keep mentioning the offer. You can’t just sell it once and then assume that if they didn’t want it the first time, they would never want it again. And I think that misconception,
Marc-Andre Seguin: absolutely. For me, the interesting part as well, you said you offered a higher price and you then you downgrade, but or you make a down sell. But for me the prices X a month, it might be 29 or 39 and then when I make that down sell offer that the dollar amount is actually higher, the commencement is lower. It’s you pay once. It’s like you’re not, you’re not a member, you don’t need to check your credit card and cancel. I’m not gonna try and trolled you. So I’m, I’m coming back by the way. Uh, the guy also founded Sumo. Are you talking about Noah Kagan? No. Okay. That guy, so, uh, he founded the AppSumo which I, I bought several products and that, that’s how I got into creating courses actually a lot of reading online resources too. Yeah. And I w I got on Skype with Noah like two or three times and he was collecting data on his past customers and of course I was able to get some advice, a amazing guy. And that’s as a build $1,000 a month business course that they don’t offer anymore. But he shared that says one of his blog posts on his, on his personal blog where he shared that keep offering to the people just what we were saying. It’s one of the like the 38 lessons he’s got in that PDF you can download. Okay. He has a ton of great resources on, yeah, I think was his website. Okay. dork.com [inaudible] go. Okay. For analogy, again, a lot will come up. It’s got a great podcast as well by the way.
Melissa Guller: Well, I think what’s interesting about his career in business is that it’s evolved quite a bit over time. Like I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him as well and what he five years ago is not necessarily exactly what he’s doing today, but I think very opportunistic and he’s really adapting. So that’s why I always find his advice to be very helpful. I will say he’s very bold personality. He’s not afraid of offending some people and I think that’s one of the things that his followers really like about him is that he’s very unapologetic about who he is, but great advice. So that’s okay.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Great resources. Great plus a four you know AppSumo to wait started when the, they found that niche, which is something that also happened to me. They founded the, erased it and it’s like, okay, now that you know, times change and let’s make it as good as possible and keep it running. Same with sumo.com which used to be a Sumo me or something like that and it’s like that’s a little share button on the, on the left of the website. I had no shame. I’m still using it, but it looks a little bit 2012 and that’s also, you know, it changes so much that he knows he can’t rely on businesses online to be static like the old models of you know what, you build a business and you can keep, I don’t know, building chimneys or homes or or cars the same old way for the next 20 years. Like it, it doesn’t work anymore. It’s, it’s a blessing and a curse I think.
Melissa Guller: Yeah, agreed. It’s interesting because online business in particular evolves so quickly and I think if you are a lifelong learner and you’re willing to keep up and just try new things in your own business, that’ll always put you so far ahead of the, because I think a lot of people are not as willing to embrace new opportunities. So for anybody listening, even if you haven’t started anything yet, just because somebody has been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean they’ll continue to always be successful. There’s always room for new people to try things in new ways, so I wouldn’t let what other people are doing, you know, deter you from starting and just don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Agreed. Agreed.
Melissa Guller: I thought on the down sell, just because you mentioned that your membership actually costs less money, is that you make a great point. We don’t want buyers to think that they should always be waiting for something to be cheaper and better. Next. I think most creators and Teachable, we always give our very best offer. First. Your membership is the very best thing that you have and then hopefully that’s something that people are excited about and then the down sell is really geared toward a different audience. Like you said, somebody who’s maybe not ready to go all the way in, they just want to dip a toe in the water. It’s more of a starting point, I think, than a cheaper offering.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yeah, I agree. It’s like you want to get a taste, you know low commencements get a taste. It’s a bit discounted and this is, I’m a tester, like a, I’m a real lifeline. I’m gonna go ahead and try these things and for years I would have told the opposite approach like this count to death and then you had these people, you built this, this following of people waiting for the next deal and only literally only buying when it’s a deal and never buying again or maybe next year for that next 10 bucks thing because I haven’t finished begin taking this course, which is also the advantage of having a higher price point is when people get engaged and they do the homeworks and they get in touch and they get involved in the, in the like the actual membership side, like being a full member and being part of a community. So yes, let’s talk about that actually. The concept that the different, yeah,
Melissa Guller: price point or even having a membership versus a one off changes. The quality of students that you attract I think is really important. Like, if you have this really excellent course, you’ve put a ton of your time and effort into it and you only charge 20 bucks for it. There’s also the perception that the course comes off as cheap if people don’t know you. So I think a lot of people are afraid to price at a higher price point, but not only do you earn the money that you’re worth, but you’re also attracting the right kind of students who are willing to put in the work, who value your expertise.
Marc-Andre Seguin: It makes you look more professional. Agreed. And then now you’re on a membership program. So how has your business shifted since you moved into that membership model? Oh yeah. Now we have subscription revenues are Khloe, I think this month is 79 or 80%. I’m really close to my numbers by the way. So 80% of the gross and the remainder that the rest is like private lessons here and there. Uh, these LA carte, like one time purchase that are used as promotional, like that first step thing or with whatever’s on sale now. And that’s evolved from 2016 and I have a few thoughts about this because in 2016 I went, all right, I have so much, let me just all bone bundle it, use a Teachable function, bundle, bundle, bundle and make this a monthly price. And my, my first thought is when I use to price this 19 bucks and it was less stuff in it as well, but 19 bucks a month I would discount it to 15 or 12 or nine even.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And I would hear that it was too expensive. It was too much of a commitment. Now that it’s up at 39 and 29 never have I heard so much of the people say it’s a steal. That’s a great deal and it’s twice the price, eh or more. Right and that that perception, you were talking about that that was a a really hard hard lesson to learn and I’ve also increased the price of the Elkhart courses. People can still get them. They used to be anywhere between 39 44 or 49 bucks, so 40 or 50 they’re all jumped simultaneously at the same time. 229 so it allowed me to have this higher value for all the stuff we bundle together. Go now you have 4,500 bucks worth of stuff waiting for you and now comes my second point. My second lesson about this was in the beginning I used to sell that membership a lot on the, on the amount of content you get all this like you know, get Netflix, you’re going to watch all your favorite TV shows and series and then I don’t know, house of cards and what not.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And as soon as I realize that we are number one, we’re not Netflix so we don’t have that, that same amount because we, I’m the only course author if you will. There are no other authors. There’s one or two, but it’s not as significant. Like the catalog is 99% me as well. Number one’s like, okay, we’re not Netflix, we don’t have that much stuff. And secondly, people learning music, especially learning jazz because it is quote unquote complicated. They’re not looking for more stuff. They’re already coming in, they’re already overwhelmed and they just want someone to take them by the hand and lead them through the content because they’ve bought books that collected dust that still collect us today. They’ve taken courses, private lessons, this and that. And if they wind up on my website, they’re not looking for more. They’re looking for less. So as soon as I got that, I just took all the courses that we had built and I lined them up and I called this the learning path, a to Z one course after another, and then I sold the membership as come learn from our aid, a Z approach. And don’t be overwhelmed. I’ll tell you every step of the way what your next is, whatever. So that’s been, that’s been the biggest insight into selling a membership. You’re not selling on amount, you’re selling on the benefits of what it is actually.
Melissa Guller: Hmm. That’s really strong advice. I think the way that you just phrase that too. People don’t want a ton of knowledge. They don’t want an overwhelm of information or another book to collect dust. They want the benefits, they want the outcome. They want to be led. That’s all. So true. And I think packaging it in a way that says, I’ll take you there one step at a time. I mean that resonates with me in a way that here, here’s all my knowledge, sift through it yourself. You know that good luck. Exactly. I think that’s such a powerful approach. So it can only probably happen for listeners who are at a point where they have a lot of content, but just the thought, how can I order this in a way that would create a path for somebody to follow is a really great idea.
Marc-Andre Seguin: [inaudible] and I have to admit this been, it has been an evolving ideal with the learning Beth, because I went, Hmm, some jazz guys are more looking to learn courts, you know, of course like accompaniment, you’re going to accompany someone else and you know, court storming and guitars like okay. And some other people want to play and no leads, guitar, they want to solo. So actually that and et cetera. So back to then when I started the learning path, I, I created three learning paths and it was just creating more confusion, confusion at, and eventually I created the one learning path. And that’s a really deep secrets for people that have a lot of content and are wondering how to better sell and stop, you know, fooling around with these discounted promotions on certain parts of content or bundles. Or if you, I’m going to share what I’ve done.
Marc-Andre Seguin: I call this a concierge program. And that concierge was, is simply a way to create a course, of course, says. So we have, I don’t know, 18 or 20 courses, and I created a curriculum of concierge that is saying, okay, let’s look at that first video course you should take now for jazz guitar. And let me split it in six weeks for you. And here’s your workout, your practice regimen, almost like your gym workout your coach would give you. And this week, that’s all you have to do. And if you do this every week, you can to master the entire curriculum and each section of a lecture, a lecture section in the Teachable platform is actually one course that’s split over six to eight weeks and each week has a video of me going through, you know, the assignments and a PDF that the printout that’s like, Oh, this is my program.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So you could go through the curriculum that like the course of themselves and just say, okay, that’s next, that’s next, that’s next. But my, my concierge program has just helped people know more of where they’re at because when they go complete each lecture that um, progress bar is the progress bar of all the courses they’re taking into curriculum and we figured it out. It’s, it’s about two years worth of learning if someone is serious, like two, two and a half years. Yeah. I mean it does take time to really learn an instrument. So it makes sense. Yeah. It’s almost like reminding me that of the difference between buying a gym membership, which may have different classes and options or you could go yourself and then investing in a personal trainer who will really guide you. Yeah, it’s like the fine line between actually taking a private lesson and, or just getting a membership, but what people say, can I take pair of lessons with me?
Marc-Andre Seguin: I’m like, man, sure, sure. I can repeat whatever it put in the videos for you. I’ll, we’ll do it on Skype, but I’m gonna tell you all the same stuff. Like I don’t have more stuff that I hide from my pro people. It’s like this is it. Yeah. This is literally, I’m curious before we, I know we have to wrap shortly, has anything been unexpected or surprising for you about running an online business? Absolutely. The first thing was that selling on the amount that we just talked about ordered like saying, this is a learning path, this is a to Z, take me by the hand type of thing. That was a big surprise. The other big surprise was I found this through the, say the first five years, I would say the first five years were prep and then the last, the second five years were, you know, business.
Marc-Andre Seguin: I expected to build a website for peers, for people that went to college and jazz or wanted to go, you know, kids, you know, 18 year olds wanting to audition for Berkeley college or whatnot. And it did not happen that way at all. I build these resources to realize that my, that’s a surprise. The target audience is actually 45 to 65 male. There are these guys that are older, older gentlemen, and the kids have gone to college and that guitar has been sitting in the case or in the corridor and somehow they’re that used to listen to miles Davis and Frank Sinatra. So I sort of pivoted and went, ah, that’s where my crowd is not over here. There, these guys are interested in, into way. I explained stuff to the kids that are going to college. They don’t need me, you know, they’re going to college.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So I that that was a big, big, big revelation. It’s smart though. You were listening to who was coming to your site and you said you adapted, you pivoted. A lot of people could’ve just dug in their heels and said, no, I wanna target this person. I thought it was very business savvy to pay attention to what’s going on and to really kind of go with it and make the, make things simple, simpler. And even when it is simple, make it like 10 times more simple. You know, you want to explain something on a video, whatever it is. I sat down, okay, in jazz we use this word called a comping. And comping is a short for accompaniment comping. So we say seat, it’s like camping when an O can’t call me. So I sat down and I wrote the curriculum to that comping course.
Marc-Andre Seguin: And actually what happened is that, which I wrote SL have the paper lying around somewhere, which I wrote. It became three courses became comping and one Oh one one Oh two in one Oh three that’s how I called my courses just for to be funny. And if I had been me from 10 years out of crammed this into one course and people would have been, you know, not learning anything from it. So that’s a, that’s also a bit of advice for creators. Just make it step-by-step, not assume that people have mastered the previous steps. Just drill it down again and again and again.
Melissa Guller: I’m sure too, it must be rewarding for somebody to finish the one Oh one level. But if you had all of that together, it would take them forever to get to the end and possibly they could give up in the middle. But if you can give people the sense of accomplishment of completing one level, I feel like that must give them a little bit of a boost to move on to the next one.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Yeah, small wins. The small wins are our, that’s what the community’s about as well. You know, we have these challenges on Facebook. We have these shout outs like, Hey, you know, Bob has been doing great these days and often as the guys that need these encouragements that they need this support that we provided to, uh, we have polls where like, okay, what type of guitars or amplifiers are playing through or you know, and we keep the people engaged to to see that it’s doable after all.
Melissa Guller: Yeah, that’s a small win, what you just said, encouraging people and showing them that it’s doable after all. I think that’s so important. Just showing that it’s possible. Seeing other people in the community who have accomplished things. I’m sure that must feel to any of your students like, Oh, if they can do it. So can I.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Absolutely. And there’s stories of people of all level because you know, music is, it’s difficult to like have two or three or 10 musicians to be exactly the same level. There’s always that guy that’s more advanced than this or that or that has a bit of a weakness in another area. And just seeing a beginner do something might be so motivating for an advanced player or vice versa. Maybe an advanced player will show something or have trouble with something in one of the thing things he posts on our Facebook group and then the beginner will be really motive. It’s like, Oh well I thought that Bob was a professional, but now I see him and I see his weakness. So it’s, it means there’s hope for me. You know, what type of thing that’s uh, that’s been at the heart of our approach.
Melissa Guller: I love that. Well before we go, what’s next for you and your business?
Marc-Andre Seguin: One of the things I told the team, I actually, I work with Filipino virtual assistants and I worked with local managers. I wanted to take a moment to thank them because a, I told them in a, as a joke in our meeting yesterday is like, I’m going to ensure I give you guys as least credit as possible for all of this so I could not have made it without that team. And it’s growing. We are, I did lose a few really good employees this year and I’ve trained new ones. So people that are on board, thank you. And I’m trying to make the business as good an environment for the people that buy the products and take the courses, but also for the people that work in it because the people that work with me, we’re, we’re musicians. So we know that, you know, life and work and music and, and families like we all have to balance it out.
Marc-Andre Seguin: So I wanted to thank them. And what’s next is I’m actually a, I would say serial entrepreneur. So I have other businesses and that’s an advice I would have for creators. I would not have expected that. The skills I developed that are non musical skills actually would be of use later in business. So I’m helping other businesses with their CRMs and I’m doing consultancy in fact. And I have this partnership in which we, we, we are building. I see. We’re almost like buying into business, you know, on the equity side. And we’re like doing a turnaround or flipping businesses. And this is totally, it’s a really strange world that I was not accustomed to outside of my actuarial studies. And in the end, it’s all the skills of troubleshooting and managing a team and building curriculums and making promotional emails and all these skills, these tools that, you know, maybe, uh, one of our grandpa’s or grandma’s would say, that’s not a real job.
Marc-Andre Seguin: It’s like, no, this is a realist job. This is where I built all my skills and where it’s taking me to do other business ventures that are totally not, uh, that are totally not musical. So that’s, uh, that’s what’s next is I’m a business guy and I didn’t even expect that I would be one, but I, I became one through music, which is sort of strange. And I met my wife and she’s the same, she has a music school and she’s really enter preneurial in whatever she does, but yet she’s a musician as well. So that’s, uh, that’s what’s next for us. I think.
Melissa Guller: It’s exciting to hear how both of you have had this passion for music and then turned that into online business opportunities. And now have grown that skillset of, you know, online business into even more opportunities. So it’s, it’s very exciting. And you know, I’m very hopeful for all of your new ventures. And before we go, just any last words of wisdom or inspiration for our listeners.
Marc-Andre Seguin: I’m trying to say something hashtag deep but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I would say don’t be afraid. Just go for it and the lead that the environment tell you what to do next because you can’t figure it out. We have small brains, you know, there’s so much happening. You have so little control over what’s happening, but typically when it comes time to do or or say something, it will let you will know. So follow that.
Melissa Guller: I think that was pretty #deep.
Marc-Andre Seguin: There you go.
Melissa Guller: Well Mark, thank you so much for joining the podcast. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know more about you and your business.
Marc-Andre Seguin: Thanks for having me, Melissa.
Melissa Guller: Thank you so much for joining us this week. You can learn more about Marc, JazzGuitarLessons.net, and Teachable in the show notes at teachable.com/eit10. Before you go, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can receive new episodes right when they’re released. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, we hope you’ll leave us a five star review on behalf of team Teachable. We hope you enjoy this episode about jazz guitar with Marc-Andre Seguin. We’ll see you in the next episode of Everything is Teachable.
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