- Who: Beth Blackerby
- Website: violinlab.com
- Course Topic: Violin Training
- Interesting Stats: Typically serves 1,500 people in her membership
What market does your online course serve?
Violin lab is specifically geared toward adults either learning violin for the first time in their lives or who are picking it back up after some years of not playing. Many adults learned as a child, then quit to pursue other interests. Surprisingly my largest demographic are 60-year-olds and over!
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
The violin students who enroll with Violin Lab have the advantage of sequential learning. There are all kinds of YouTube videos about violin playing, but because the violin is such a difficult instrument to learn, the order of skill acquisition is extremely important to success. Violin lab maps out every step of the journey, so as you follow the curriculum you are laying the foundation for mastery and artistry.
How did you get into the market?
In 2007 I was giving private lessons to two adult learners. Both possessed a refreshing zeal and determination to learn. They had an enormous appetite for any information regarding playing and could talk for hours about anything violin related. I assumed that there must be more adults like them around the world with the same enthusiasm and desire to learn.
At the time only a few YouTube channels existed with violin instruction, so I had the idea that the internet needed a comprehensive and sequential curriculum to make online learning successful. I also wanted to create a place where like-minded adult learners could share ideas and learn from each other's experiences.
After several hundred hours of creating videos, Violinlab.com was launched in 2009.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
I never had a moment's doubt. I knew that it had to be done. There was nothing else like it on the planet and I felt I was the best person to do the job. I knew I had a solid pedagogy. I wasn't afraid of the learning curve and had a husband who had been a videographer in his former life. So with his help, we went full steam ahead.
What's your online course like?
Violin Lab is primarily video instruction with supporting resources to make learning more effective. For instance, after learning about vibrato, I have music workout videos for people to play along with. So all lessons on music come with sheet music, audio files, and play along players to make practicing more efficient.
How long did it take you to create your course?
It took around a year and a half to Launch Violin Lab. Creating the curriculum and instructional videos certainly took the most time. For each lesson, I wrote a full script and edited several times. I never did read those scripts in front of the camera, but for the sake of being able to speak fluently without hesitation, it was important to write out all of my thoughts. In the process, I found that I learned so much myself by forcing myself to think in granular detail and focus on process and sequencing.
The website took several months to build and then all of the little tasks like embedding video, uploading resources, etc had to be done.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
Once Violin Lab was launched, I paid for Google AdWords at first to be found. Then I started working on my YouTube channel. I realized most people were looking for instructional videos via YouTube, so I concentrated on putting good content there. I don't exactly remember the first sales, but they trickled in. Over the course of a year, as I gained more traffic I started showing up higher in organic searches. By the second year, I was on the first page!
Do you have a lead magnet?
I have several videos on YouTube where deep into the video I say aloud: “thank you for watching all the way through the end of my video”. Because you have such a long attention span, I would like to offer you a free trial to Violinlab.com. Just email me at ……. with” I have a long attention span” in the subject line.” I promote that video which seems to be working pretty well. I get a string of leads every day, which often leads to sales.
What's the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Initially, my best traffic strategy was putting substantive content on YouTube. When I put up my vibrato video showing the technique in slow motion, there was an immediate uptick in traffic to the website. Before I put a video on my YouTube channel, I work very hard to make sure the information is not already out there in abundance.I always ask myself: “What can I teach (what insight can I give) that they can't find anywhere else online”? -Beth Blackerby Click To Tweet
The traffic from YouTube drove up my SEO which is now the highest driving force of traffic.
What online course platform are you using?
I have a custom build. When I first started Violin Lab, WordPress was in its infancy. At the time it didn't have any of the features I needed so a custom build was the only way to go.
Do you like it?
The front end of the website has been remodeled several times over the past decade. With each remodel, I add new features. And of course, I'm always thinking of new ones. I want to find a way to encourage people to practice more frequently, so I want to have some sort of “Practice Club” page where they can log on and post their practice times. Then I'd like to have incentives or prizes for people who practice the most.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
I use the video platform Vimeo, and another new platform called soundslice.com. I'm able to embed players that show how the music syncs with the audio. These are wonderful practice tools and my members love them!
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
I have done little to nothing with social media. It seems to be a burden that I can’t overcome. I feel the specialization of my subject matter makes it too difficult to hire someone to post content. I really have neglected that component of running an online business.
Please share some idea of revenue.
Currently, the average sale is around $20. That's the cost of the basic monthly membership. My sales vary from day to day. Sometimes during the day, only one person joins the site, sometimes 10 people join in a day. There seems to be a large amount of fluctuation.
Many people cancel their subscriptions because they realize they don't have enough time to devote to learning the violin. Others keep renewing their memberships from year to year, so again, the revenue fluctuates greatly.
Please tell us a little about what the money you've earned from your course has done for you.
Violin Lab’s greatest contribution to our family's finances is to put our children through college! The fact that they can graduate debt-free is an enormous gift. It has also allowed me to build a lovely backyard studio where I can keep doing this for the rest of my life!
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
Over the past decade, Violin Lab has had around 20,000 memberships. However, at any given time, there are around 1,500 memberships.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
Creating content for Violin Lab has without a doubt made me a better teacher! I feel like I understand what I'm doing on such a deeper level now. And the more I know, the more I still want to grow as a teacher and an artist.
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
I have so many stories of transformation that I don't even know where to begin. There is the father who learned to play the violin so that he could play his daughter's favorite song at her wedding. And he did!
There is the 72-year-old prodigy who started when he was 71! Then there is the Spanish army lieutenant who practices 5 hours a day while his country is not at War.
I have a story from a young woman passing time playing the violin while living in a tree in the outback of Australia, protesting deforestation. There is the young man who emigrated from Yemen to Algeria, who has found his passion for the violin and is now setting about pursuing it professionally.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?For anyone starting an online course, my advice is to think deeper than you ever have about how you do what you do. Imagine explaining it to an alien who has never heard of your subject. -Beth Blackerby Click To Tweet
There is no such thing as too much detail. Don't concern yourself with making videos short for the sake of “short attention spans”. If your delivery is cohesive and well-spoken, and your content is of high value, people will listen!
Don't underestimate the value of great audio. It is impossible to listen to someone and understand what they are saying if you have to struggle to listen. I wish I had known more about the technology of recording when I first started. I went through so many transformations with recording audio over the years. Finally, I found the best system, which is a hypercardioid microphone, a good audio interface, and then adding compression with a good digital audio editing program.