If guitarist and teacher Brian Auer had a dollar for every YouTube view, he’d be playing a very happy tune. We asked Auer to describe his experience online, then asked Roseburg entrepreneur Trevor Mauch to provide some tips on how Auer might start turning his more than 1 million video views into cash. Mauch has used his online marketing expertise to build his young business, Carrot, into one of Oregon’s fastest-growing software companies.
Photos by Tom Boyd
I’ve never been accused of being an early adopter. I didn’t even buy my own computer until I was 27.
But one day, when I was living in Florida, I ventured onto a computer at a friend’s house and discovered something that changed my life. My mind had already been blown by the wonders of the Internet, and before you say Yeah, yeah, the Internet blew everyone’s mind, I have to tell you I’m talking 2005 or so. Most everyone else’s mind had been blown 15 years earlier. You’d have thought I’d grown up on an island playing with my best friend the soccer ball.
In other words, yes, I was a little behind the times. But I quickly caught up. After I discovered YouTube, I found myself looking up anything and everything only to discover to discover that it all was on YouTube. How to do this, how to do that. I would watch it every chance I would get.
After I moved back to Oregon, where my grandmother had a computer and an Internet (yes, Grandma was more techy than I was; I’m not proud of that), I decided I would create my own YouTube channel.
This was nothing like those elaborate channels you see today. It was done with my grandmother’s cheap webcam, which made my videos look straight out of the 1980s (it was the camera, not my partial mullet, I swear). After setting up my channel, I grabbed my guitar and eagerly started recording a lesson I titled “Learn all the guitar chords fast.”
To my surprise, it took off. Within a few days it had a few hundred views, and within a few months tens of thousands. Once it hit about 100,000 views, I realized I should probably start making more videos like this one.
So I finally joined all the other followers and jumped on the personal computer bandwagon, purchasing a used laptop from a bandmate. Then I started making videos left and right.
The first thing I noticed was that only certain videos would hit, so I decided to experiment. This was when I discovered “click bait.” I started shamefully using this tactic to gain view to my videos only to discover it brought a lot of the wrong traffic, namely haters and disappointed viewers.
Regardless, my subscribers were still building. How could they not, with videos titled “Fastest guitarist in the world” and “most brutal metal song ever?” When Google asked me to partner with them I realized that if I took this more seriously I might be able to start monetizing my videos.
So I came up with a clever user name (“Brian Auer”) and started recording and posting guitar lessons.
I was starting to think this was becoming something I might actually consider for a side job. Hasn’t panned out that way, but it did motivate me to put some effort – and a lot of time -- into it. Unfortunately I still used a crappy web cam, so I wasn’t receiving the best hits until I made this short and sweet video titled “Melodic Sweep Tapping.”
No click bait, just an original composition with a title that left me with some integrity. This video is now closing in on 1 million views. Of all the videos that I had put a whole lot of time and effort into, this one was the shortest and most direct.
I just played an example, showed the example played slowly with notation/tablature, and then provided a backing track that viewers could practice over. That became my formula for future videos, and my viewership numbers told me I was onto something.
But I haven’t been able to turn that something into something green that can be spent or saved. I’ve made a few bucks off YouTube, but I know more is out there. I have lots more material I can share, and my channel currently has about 7,500 subscribers to share it with. I even wrote a music book based on a learning method I developed and now teach. I sell a few on Amazon and would certainly love to sell more.
I’m committed to spending the time required to make this work. I’m just not sure how to make it work.
Trevor’s Tips For Taking Off
First off, great work getting started and not giving up. That's half the battle! Having a video with almost a million views is crazy good... not too many people can say they have had over 1.7 million (total YouTube views on your channel) people watch something they created. And the comments really speak to the quality of your expertise.
So, now lets take that momentum and build a business around it. There are lots of things you can do to build sales, but I'll lay out what I'd do in order to get this to between $3,000 and $5,000 a month in income.
1. Connect and Call to Action:
These days, there's so much clutter online. There are over 1 million videos around the topic of "playing guitar" on YouTube alone. Your amazing skills on the video that has 900,000-plus views is what brought people to the video... but it's connecting with the audience that will drive subscribers and loyal followers who will want to buy your first instructional book and other things in the future.
It’s important that you find ways at the end of your videos to build that connection, such as:
Action: "I hope you enjoyed watching this as much as I loved putting it together. Hit me below with comments or any questions. Also, I've answered a lot of common questions on how to play guitar better on my website at auermethod.com. Head over there for a free ADVANCED series on how to do what I did in this video.
Have very clear calls to action throughout the video that drive people to subscribe to your channel and go to your website for a FREE guitar lesson. Your video has a frame that says to "subscribe," but use YouTube’s built in features to add a link that'll pop up through the video to send them to your website and at the end of the video to subscribe to your channel.
Never assume people know what to do next. Make their next step logical and crazy easy.
2. Build a list of prospects:
Focus your website first to build your list, and second to sell your book, or course if you develop one. Grab a chapter out of your book and give it away free on your website and pair it up with a video. They came from a YouTube video so they likely love learning by video vs. a book, so make sure to cater to the way your market is already showing they like to learn.
A solid site to model that I know does very well is hearandplay.com. I know the founder of hearandplay.com and he sells about $5 million per year in online piano lessons. Ugly website, but very effective in building a list and guiding prospects to their paid training lessons. It all starts with building a list through a free giveaway at the top of your website. Then make them an offer for your book / video course after they sign up.
Action: Remove the image at the top of your website that currently doesn't really add value to the visitor when they land there and replace it with a clear call to action for people to join your list in exchange for a free video lesson series. Model the example below.
And match up the way you deliver the lessons with the way your prospects are already showing they like learning (video if they came from YouTube). Have a simple video in the upper left where you're jamming for 10 seconds on something that would blow their mind then say... "Now, I've been playing and practicing guitar for over 25 years, so playing like this looks second nature. But I had to learn it and struggled for a while until I figured out 3 simple hacks that changed the game for me... I now call them the Auer Method. I've put the first Auer Method hack + chapter 1 from my book together in a short video series that you can get for free here on this site... just enter your name and email and I'll email it to you.”
Then add a simple form to the right of the video that says "Get FREE Pentatonic Mastery Lesson.” After they put in their info, send an email with a link to a page with a video and chapter 1.
3. Make a compelling and clear offer
One mistake I've made over the years is I HAD made it too hard for people to buy my stuff. Once I found out how to position my products into an "irresistible offer" that was a no brainer for my prospects, then my businesses took off.
There are thousands of books and courses on how to play guitar…how does yours stand out and why should they buy yours vs. the others? Write down a list of reasons you feel your training stands out and is better than anything else out there. Then write down how those benefit your prospect. Those benefits should be used on your website to relay why someone should dive into your training.
"I took a friend who struggled for three years to learn the Pentatonic scales... but once I taught him these three "Pentatonic Mastery" short-cuts... within seven lessons he was [insert the desired feeling your client will get after mastering this]."
And then on the page that contains the free book chapter and video lesson, make them an offer to buy your whole series. As for your offer, when selling a book, it's hard to raise the value of a book over $20. So create a video course that includes this book and raise your price to $49. At that price point revenue can start to add up (just 100 sales a month is $5,000/mo)... at $20 per book + hard costs you'd have to sell 300-400 copies per month to equal $5,000/mo.
Action: Record a video series that accompanies your book chapter by chapter. That's your new product. Sell it for between $49 - $79 on your website (test it).
4. Leverage "social proof"
One of the best ways to cut through the clutter online is to leverage what other people are already saying about you. People trust third-party recommendations. So grab some of your best YouTube comments and the 5-star reviews you have on Amazon and add them to your website. Those will make a massive impact on the credibility of your training and your offer.
5. Stick with it and be a student of marketing!
In the same way that your guitar students want to learn from the master (you) to hone their skills, make sure you're finding mentors and training on how to hone your own skills to becoming a great marketer. Tools like ClickFunnels.com (software to create sales funnels easily) and training on how to build an online business are out there, and the right ones can help you really accelerate the results you get.
Stick with it and report back after putting some of this to play!