- Who: Marc-Andre Seguin
- Website: JazzGuitarLessons.net
- Course Topic: Jazz Guitar Lessons
- Revenue Stats: Mid-Six Figures/Year
Who are you and what course business have you created?
My name is Marc-Andre Seguin and I run JazzGuitarLessons.net where I teach jazz guitar.
My courses allow students to improve their jazz guitar playing with a real instructor on camera.
We serve guitarists that can already play at a certain intermediate or advanced level. We don't cater to the beginners. If you’re just getting started on guitar and want to learn to strum and play chords at the campfire that’s not us! We're looking at mostly the 45 to 65 year old male, English speaking, mostly U.S.A., Australia and Europe. Our target customers typically play a little bit of blues, folk or other genres. But they’re really interested in branching out into jazz.
So we're attracting people into guitar but mostly into jazz.
What's the biggest benefit of taking your courses?
JazzGuitarLessons.net provides an entry-level, non-elitist jazz program where you can improve your jazz guitar playing with a real teacher. Explanations are clear and step-by-step. The biggest benefit (and our pride as a company) is that we eliminate the “overwhelm” people get when they start to learn jazz.
Because jazz is complicated … or at least it’s perceived as such. It's like learning chess or learning math. Where do you even start?
So in summary the biggest benefit is to eliminate overwhelm. Often our students have already bought five or ten books and they’ve got DVDs, and they’re already taking other jazz courses online. They come to us saying “I don't even know what to do man…” and we reassure them by showing them our step-by-step, easy to follow program.
Where did you come up with the idea?
Actually I was a professional jazz musician for years. I was living in Montreal and I started a blog in 2009, on the domain jazzguitarlessons.net. I started to publish blog posts and a few video lessons on YouTube. It all finally started to gain traction and what really got me going is I had private students on Skype. When I saw students paying and scheduling from Australia and the UK I was thinking “Wow I can actually make money online!” and that's how I got into it.
Why did you decide to create online courses in the first place?
Ultimately, I created the membership (our main offer) to monetize the audience that we had. At first I used only ads and Amazon affiliates links on certain products. Then I thought, “Why not create a course to show scales?” which was my first paid course.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created and launched your first course?
There was one BIG false start. I had another website prior which I started maybe around 2008. I wrote a 50 page e-book which covered basically everything I knew about jazz guitar and sold it for $50 and I only sold, like, three copies!
So I had a lot of doubts and fears, for sure.
When starting the new site, I did keyword research and I made a blueprint of about 50 pages. And I decided “I’m not gonna look at anything else until I get these pages down!” because I knew those were the most likely to bring me traffic. And I accomplished that in the first 6-8 months of 2009.
What made you turn it around and do it anyway?
Not being “good enough” is still an issue to this day, you know we all work on our stuff!
I would say seeing the snowball start where people were coming to the website and leaving comments and asking questions on videos. That made me think there's “something there” even if it's a really small niche. It’s a really small market, so I believed I could completely dominate it (which I did and still do!).
What are your online courses like?
It’s full-on video guitar lessons. I explain this stuff while I'm playing the guitar and showing them what to do. It's all videos with sheet music that is downloadable. We don't really use quizzes that much but we have the PDF sheet music, you know, for music notation.
Our main offer since 2016 is actually “the whole membership”, so what we sell is actually access to everything on the site. We currently have 18 courses and 50 tunes (jazz standards) arrangements in the catalog.
So if someone were buying everything “a la carte” indivually, we value our full catalog at over $4,500 — but you get it for less and there are also bonuses :).
On top of that we created the master meta curriculum called Concierge. Concierge will show you how to take all of this stuff and break it down piece-by-piece into a no-nonsense weekly program for 18 to 24 months. So it's a really, really huge course!
How long did it take to create your first course?
It's all ongoing, basically. But with the first course I created, I took a “Course on How to Create Online Courses” (no kidding) and I just followed through all the instructions and learned how to produce good videos and how to price courses and how to split your lessons, etc …
Then later on I started to create a series because jazz chords are complicated. So you start with the basic chords and go further up in more complicated chords. I created a 101, 102, 103 series for chords. And then for jazz soloing. And so on.
Actually, most of it has been created by my team. I think in 2017 we published eight different curriculum-based courses in 12 months. These are full length video courses with PDF’s and the extras. We did 101, and then next month 102, and then the next month 103. We used to run a promotion at every launch; it was good for the cash flow. And the process was to work as a team and delegate, have rounds of reviews, until we got our tuition perfect.
So for my situation I think it would be best to ask “How long did it take to create your membership site?” It's ongoing but it took three to four years I'd say.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sales.
That was the fun part! I didn't expect to build a membership honestly, I just saw it like “Ah we need a course about scales so let me create that and then promote it for a month and then leave it in the store as a standalone purchase …”
And I built the catalog in this fashion, launching a new course monthly or every other month. Launch it, run a little promotion and make a couple of thousand bucks and just go, “Okay, now we have 102 published in the store! Now next month we'll have 103 or maybe promote some of the old stuff”. It was promotion through emails.
These days, we do not launch and sell à la carte as much. We instead say “Well if you want what we just published, you need a membership! You get on board and here's a coupon for the membership!”
Do you have a lead magnet?
Boy, do I have lead magnets… I have tons of lead magnets! So at this point they're on any and every blog post that has sheet music. I think there's 130 lead magnets that are simply sheet music for the video/blog lessons.
We attract a lot of people because there's a lot of free content. Every piece of sheet music has an assorted content upgrade; it’s free and downloadable but you have to put your email in the form to get it. And if a visitor interacts with the website (i.e. downloads any lead magnet), somehow it means they’re interested in learning jazz. So we have email automations that promote our membership option. The subscription is all access so it's really easy to talk about it through email.
What's the traffic strategy that works best for you?
I told you earlier about the blueprint from 2009, which was 50 pages. I nailed those in less than a year and the traffic strategy working the best is just literally SEO, good SEO, and getting to it early.My philosophy is to be the best answer to whatever people are searching for. We try to have really relevant content and fun tips, lessons, podcasts, etc. - Marc-Andre Seguin Click To Tweet
We really have a powerful trio of -1- blog content, -2- YouTube content, and -3- social media. We’re making sure the stuff on social media is put out “as Marc” (me, the guy with the blue shirt in the videos). But that character is actually the brand itself, posting to Facebook and Twitter. We make sure we interact as a brand, even though the brand is “me”.
That’s really our strategy: SEO, YouTube, and social. And of course, making sure those channels are optimized.
What online course platform are you using?
I’m using Teachable (2015-2019). I've been looking for ways to get out of Teachable ever since I adopted it five years ago. We are currently in the process of migrating the content to Kajabi (2020-) just for the user experience, conversions, and redesigning the way people interact with the member’s area.
Are there any features you wish it had?
I don't think Teachable is meant for people that become a “superuser” like JazzGuitarLessons.net did so fast. When it comes to running a subscription or membership site, Teachable is not the answer, unless your content is pretty simple.
Teachable doesn’t create customer profiles in Stripe when they charge a customer. It means that if I were to turn off my Teachable account right now I lose all the recurring subscription payments from our customers. We have several thousands of dollars running monthly (past the five figures) in recurring payments. So if I turn off Teachable I lose all the monies!!! Very frustrating.
But all in all, Teachable is a good LMS. It's really nice when you just want to learn the ropes and sell only a few courses. I started to have trouble when I bundled all the courses into a membership offer. On a large scale, Teachable doesn't work for that purpose. It lacks automation, reporting, and ease of use for my team.
There's more to it (I’ll spare you the details), but we're migrating to Kajabi for the modern sales pages, the modern checkout pages, and for the better UX — both for our customers and our team.
Of course, if we could double JazzGuitarLessons.net revenues overnight, I would go for a custom solution or a platform we build from scratch. Right now our margins are good enough that I can pay my mortgage and I don't have to worry. I'm not gonna go for the “big investment” right now, but we’ll use Kajabi since it’s a good program that will do what I need.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
Right now I'm fortunate to say Gmail for business and HubSpot, and that's pretty much it!
HubSpot does everything because we sync our orders from Shopify (we don't use a Shopify store, we just sync Stripe and PayPal payments on Shopify and use HubSpot to create transactions associated with customers).
We use HubSpot as our CRM. It also works as the email marketing platform and even the CMS for the website. We use it for customer support and tickets. Everything goes through HubSpot which makes it much easier to manage my team.
Basecamp is our project management tool of choice and of course, as usual, we use Google Analytics and all the social media stuff and the Google search console.
Please share some idea of revenue.
Mid-six figures per year. But in terms of structure, I personally get both a “salary” for being the GM, and withdraw the profits that remain after that. It’s a well-oiled machine and I’m very proud of it.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
I bought a house in 2017 — that’s probably my biggest accomplishment, in my life so far. I never had a real job because I'm a lazy musician (LOL).
We have three local (Canadian) workers and many freelancers in the Philippines. I have changed the lives of a lot of people because I can give guitarists jobs, which is pretty amazing to think about.
Overall, I can travel and I have a pretty nice car, a good home in a good neighborhood and my wife and I both work.The idea that I’ve built something that is mine that I have full control of is great. It's not someone else's dream or it's not a government job. - Marc-Andre Seguin Click To Tweet
I'm a scientist by training: I have a degree in statistics. I'm an actuary by training also and I was going into finance when I finished my stats degree. I have two degrees in music as well, classical and jazz. I'm really happy that even though I'm a musician, I have the freedom to do what I want. I can adjust my schedule however I want and I learned so much about business over the years, I have a hard time believing it!
In the past year or so I made local business connections totally unrelated to music. I'm starting to get into partnerships and get clients to work on their business which is a totally new endeavor for me. The avenue for selling courses has been perfect for my own journey. I learned and I’m able to transfer my skills into other businesses.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
Yeah. Ryan Deiss at digitalmarketer.com said your threshold should be one dollar or more per subscriber per month and that struck a chord. He meant per subscriber on your mailing list of course. Right now we have 13,000 email subscribers and we make more than $13,000 a month in recurring revenues. So that's a good measuring stick.
We used to have this massive mailing list of 18,000 – 25,000 emails. I’ve learned to “purge” and keep a list of only customers and engaged users.
I believe Ryan’s metric is a sensible aim, even if you have a small niche and have (say) 5,000 people on your mailing list. I'm a statistician, I love data. So in my brain, these 5,000 immediately translate to one dollar each, on average.
If you think about this, even if only five percent (250 people) of those 5,000 buy and each make a $20 purchase, you can still say “Hey, I'm making $5,000 this month for whatever online business I started”, then that’s great. The hard part is to maintain that pace and keep em’ coming back, hence the need for me to transform JazzGuitarLessons.net into a subscription model.
What has creating your course business done for you personally?
I learned I am a learner. I took the personality tests and the Strengths Finder 2.0 and whatnot. And my number one trait is “learner”. I just love to learn. I learned business, personal relations, HR, business processes, accounting and bookkeeping and you know I learned how to lead troops.I'm a huge process guy and I love writing really clear ways of doing things so they're always done the same way by my team. We’re able to troubleshoot easily the tasks that are repeated often in the business. - Marc-Andre Seguin Click To Tweet
In addition, I would say that creating an online course business has shown me “how to live”, basically. You know … get up in the morning and do something without having to “go to work” in the traditional sense.
It's my own personal version of what “work” means — which is most often in the kitchen — right here on the counter near the coffee machine. I just drink coffee, talk fast, and play fast. So I'm really proud, because, as Sinatra said, “I did it my way”.
Do you have a story of transformation from any of your clients?
Oh yeah. Some guys have taken private lessons with me and have their *jazz* skills completely transform. Lots of people literally say “the past two weeks, I made more progress than in the past 5 years”. That’s the kind of impact the JazzGuitarLessons.net learning materials have on them.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?My best advice is to control your friggin’ product and distribution as much as possible. - Marc-Andre Seguin Click To Tweet
For instance, I was happy to host my new courses on Udemy, as an early adopter of their platform. And then they changed their commission structure in 2014 and we all got screwed. I remember Udemy said “Yeah man, if you bring us a customer, you keep 100% of the revenue, we don't even keep anything. Not even a fee.” And I was thinking “Wow, that's a really good deal!”
But then the catch: after you bring a customer in their system, there's no way you can beat the Udemy marketing machine. Udemy took these other guitar courses and discounted them to 95% through email promotions. There's no way I can compete with that. The customer you bring to Udemy, it’s the last you’ll hear of him/her. I got burned … and immediately started my own “storefront” for selling courses, through Teachable.So my advice: get on an LMS platform (Teachable, Kajabi, etc.) or WordPress LMS plugin and don’t sell your own stuff through a “marketplace” platform that has too much control over your customer data. - Marc-Andre Seguin Click To Tweet
Marketplaces are good because the audience comes built-in … but they can hold your business hostage if you’re not careful. Build your own audience outside of a marketplace, or convert them from the marketplace and bring them back to you (which Udemy actively and aggressively prevents, BTW).
Another example: relying on Facebook exclusively, that’s no good. I love Facebook ads, they used to work great two or three years ago. And then it got overcrowded. It’s really expensive now and people stopped getting results.
I must confess, I’m also guilty of putting all my eggs in one basket when it comes to SEO. Google is really feeding me 99% of my clients, maybe more. I know I can’t “control the internet” so to speak, but I know the internet can play fair. Google's game is getting the most relevant stuff in front of people when they search for it. So if I produce relevant, good content it will be found by qualified leads, provided I play by their rules (i.e. don’t try to cheat Google, they will weed you out in the next algorithm update!) It’s a win-win-win for JazzGuitarLessons.net
And one last piece of advice: get recurring revenues! Read John Warrilow, “The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry” as soon as you can and apply this knowledge. I've only been in the membership game work subscription three years but it's been really worth it.