At this very time when it is badly needed, we still hear of many people who get frustrated with online technology and feel like there is nothing in the world that could possibly make them master it. Musicians are not exempt from this seemingly insurmountable challenge. Bree Noble brings in Jaime Slutzky in this conversation to talk about how musicians can get over the tech hurdles that are holding them back from doing more things online. Jaime is the CEO of Tech of Business, where she helps people elevate and enhance their presence online. She works with all kinds of influencers, thought leaders and professionals, but has a special place in her heart for musicians, whom she helps to create their own online programs and courses through which they can share their expertise and build their brand.
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Overcoming Tech Hurdles: How Musicians Can Make Online Tech Work For Them With Jaime Slutzky
I’m here with Jaime Slutzky and we are going to talk about online tech. I’m excited about this because I get many people coming to me all the time, frustrated with online tech, feeling they can’t possibly master it. They want to do more things online. They want to market themselves. They want to help more people and teach online, but they feel like the tech is holding them back. I know this is going to be a great conversation. Jaime and I have known each other for a bit. We’ve been in a mastermind together once a long time ago. I’m excited because back then, she wasn’t working with musicians, but now she has found that she loves to work with musicians. This is going to be a cool conversation around tech and specifically tech things to help musicians make more money online. Before we get there, I would love to know a little bit of your background, Jaime. Where are you from? How did you get started working online and what made you decide to work with musicians?
Thank you for having me. I have been a techie all of my life. My kids were laughing, looking at my book from when I was growing up. It said, “Computer Scientist” is what I wanted to be when I grew up from as early as second grade. I forgot all about that. I got my degree in computer science, so it’s amazing. I’ve been in that tech space for a long time. I worked in corporate and then branched out on my own to do online web freelance work. I started that back in 2010. I’ve been in this space for a long time.
I live in the Seattle area, even though I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve got dual citizenship, which is fun but also helps me have more of a global feel because I’ve lived in two different countries. I decided to work primarily with musicians and with visual artists as well because there’s so much opportunity for creating a difference in a person’s life when they bring music into their lives, into their home, and into their being. I didn’t see enough online music programs that were accessible to the individual and that’s where I went.
I love that you’re taking that perspective because I do believe that about music. Sometimes I think it’s us crazy musicians that are obsessed with music that think that, but I’m glad to hear that civilians still think music as that important.
I have no musical instruments in my house. We rarely have the radio on, Pandora, Spotify or anything. We’re not a musical family and I feel like we’re missing out. I’m trying to figure out how to change that within our own lives here as well.
That’s cool. You can start introducing them to artists that you work with and say, “This is my client, check out their music.” I started doing that with my kids when they were little. When I was running the radio station, I’d get extra CDs that I always downloaded, like the MP3s. I didn’t need the CDs anymore and I would give them to my daughter. We’re like, “They sent me this signed CD and now you can have it.” She likes to listen to some of their music now. That was when she was ten. Let’s talk about the challenges for musicians and tech. What do artists come to you with that they’re frustrated with, that they need your help with that are keeping them stuck and not moving forward into areas where they could be expanding and making income?
Most of my clients come to me because they’re doing something in the educational space. Most of them are teaching one-on-one through technology or they’re thinking about, “I want to create an online course. I want to start a repository of learning content like a membership site,” or “I want to teach more people at once because I’m getting burned out. I’m trading time for money. I’m not making as much as I could. I don’t have that work-life balance that I was looking for.” They come to me and say, “How do I even start?” Most of my clients have picked a platform, whether it’s FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. That is the limit of what they are using to connect with their students and we need to go beyond.
We need to figure out how we’re going to create this next level of education product, what medium we’re going to use and how it’s going to look. We’d go through all of that. We come up with where everything is going to sit. Once we do that, then we start learning the technology. I walk my clients through, “This is how you record. This is how you edit. This is how you upload. This is how you interact with your clients using the platforms that we choose and things like that.” It’s more about what do you want to accomplish with your students? What do you want to help your students with? We then build the tech container to do that, rather than building a tech container and trying to shove whatever product we think might work. Start with the students. That’s the big thing.
A lot of questions I get are around, “Should I try to cobble together what I already have or should I build a whole other thing from scratch, even though that could cost a lot of money?” Where do you find that happy medium? The reason I’m bringing this up is because back in April, I did a workshop for the Bandzoogle customers to help them. A lot of them wanted to teach online. It was that time period where everybody was needing to move online and they didn’t know how.
I gave them many options. Everything from the most expensive, going into something like Teachable or Kajabi, using the website they already had on Bandzoogle, putting some content behind a password-protected page, and using their subscriber model. I wanted to give them ways they could get started because a lot of times, people are overwhelmed by the idea of building this whole thing like, “It’s going to be too expensive. What if I don’t get enough students?” How do you strike a happy medium with it?If you can translate something that you enjoy into a product, you're going to be more passionate about it, share it and feel good about it. Click To Tweet
One of the things that I think sets me apart from a lot of other people who are in this space is I am never going to say, “You have to use this tool.” I had an assessment and someone said, “This is why you are tool-agnostic because it just doesn’t matter. You’re going to make things work.” If you’ve got software that you’re using that you’re comfortable with, see if you can make it work without too many struggles.” If that piece of software that you’re using whether it’s your website or wherever your website is held, if it can work to have simple password-protected pages, start there.
If it can’t have password-protected pages, then don’t go to the next increment of, “I have something that has password-protected pages.” Look 3, 6, to 12 months in the future and say, “What do I want to be doing? How do I want to be serving my clients at that point?” Invest in your future self and in your future students. You don’t have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars. You have to invest enough that you’re not going to have to invest again soon because any time that we invest, we’re investing both time and money. Even if something costs a lot more now and we don’t have to touch the infrastructure again for years, we’re saving ourselves a whole lot of time, which allows us to make more money to make that bigger investment that is more worth it.
Where’s that point in where you’re building your business that, “I know this thing is working. I can make this investment?” Do you feel like there’s a point where people reach where it’s like, “It makes sense because this thing is growing and I believe I will have students a year from now and we’ll be out more than I have now?”
I generally say that investments should pay themselves back and be profitable within 3 to 6 months. If you are buying into a software that is $100 a month, in three months, you’ve paid $300, in six months, you’ve paid $600. If you are making more than that back and you’re then always profitable so you’re making more than $100 a month, once you hit that from 3-month to 6-month range, then it’s worth the investment. If you find a piece of software that’s $4,000 one-time fee, using that as an example, then it’s a matter of, “How long is it going to take me to get my clients to pay whatever the price point is or how many clients do I need in order to make that work?”
If you have twenty students on your roster now and think 30% or 10% of them or whatever number you think is going to be willing to convert over to whatever you’re doing next, then that is an immediate amount of money that you can count on. If you have those twenty clients and you determined that four of them were going to be willing to move over to whatever you’re offering next, and you’re charging $50 a month for it, that’s $200 straight off the bat income that can go towards your investment.
That’s a great way to break it down. I agree with that break-even model. I always tried to do that with everything that I did to make sure that I could at least break even on the front before I invested in it. That makes a lot of sense. Is there a platform-agnostic? If somebody comes to you and they’re like, “I have no idea. I don’t know about any platforms at all,” are there certain ones that you recommend?
Yes. I have to have my blueprint and I have two main tracks. One of them is WordPress based, where we’re using plugins and we’re doing all sorts of that stuff that may be over a lot of people’s heads, but then everything is self-contained on your site and you are in full control of all aspects of it. The other platform that I use and I’ve been using this for years is Thinkific. They are a learning management platform. They’re based out of Vancouver, BC, which is my hometown. I’ve gone into their office and met a bunch of those people. That’s not why I’m sticking with them but because I have built a relationship with them. What I love about their platform is that you can do a lot with that platform and you don’t need a lot of extra pieces.
It’s true and I’ve heard Greg speak. I liked their company. Teachable is similar. That’s the one that I’ve used for years. My audience knows that so anyone that’s in my Academy has been in Teachable for years. I encourage you to join Teachable. It’s the same as Thinkific on the organization of it and stuff.
They have a similar student feel. If you follow Bree and you’re doing this stuff, Teachable is going to serve you the same as if you were on my list first. I said Thinkific. I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of difference if you’re starting with something to use either one of them.
What do you recommend for the email side? When we go into this, people are like, “I need a platform,” but then maybe they’re not thinking about, “I need a way to communicate with my students and I need a way to market my program and all that.”
Email marketing is an important piece. I generally recommend either ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign. There are a few different reasons why I recommend one or the other for my students. For most of my clients these days, I have been recommending ConvertKit because the layout of their website is a little bit more leaning towards the creative brain.
They are focusing a lot on creatives. They’re doing a lot with musicians, which is interesting.
They definitely are leaning into the creative and I’ve seen it. I find that my clients enjoy using that platform more than they enjoy using ActiveCampaign. Even though I personally use ActiveCampaign, I do think that ConvertKit is probably a better fit for most of my clients.
I would agree because I use ConvertKit and I love it. I’ve realized I’ve been in there for years because I was looking back and my oldest ones were in 2016. I’m like, “I can’t believe I’ve been on this platform this long, but it’s a good platform. A lot of people are doing one-on-one teaching. When we first went into this stage of the pandemic, I was explaining to people that are teaching one-on-one in person, you can keep doing this. Don’t worry, you transition your students over to Zoom or Facebook Messenger rooms or whatever you like to do.
A lot of people have done that and that’s awesome buy maybe they’re getting overwhelmed. I know how this is because when I was doing one-on-one coaching, I started to feel like I had no time on my own. People were booking into my calendar and I had no control over my time and it stressed me out. We’re always looking for ways to streamline and to be able to do things where we’re not completely trading time for money. How do you help people make that transition?
Generally speaking, that is a big transition point for a lot of people because it is new and unknown. There is some mindset work that goes into it like, “I can be successful. I can support my students and help them learn that side of things is one of them.” The other one is a philosophy that I have, which is “We don’t have to translate the methods. We have to translate the results.” What I mean by that is because when you’re teaching face-to-face or through the screen in real-time, you teach it this way. It doesn’t mean that you have to do that exact same thing as an asynchronous lesson, as a recorded lesson for inside your course, or inside a group program. What we want is for our students to be able to hit the result that this program or that particular lesson has.
It’s thinking about things differently. I do a lot of work with my clients to like, “Let’s think about the goals of the students and if it’s a 10-week, 4-week or a 16-week program, how do we march them along through that program? Are there intermediate results? How do we teach asynchronously through the screen, through lessons, through downloadables, pictures and things like that to get them to that, which may look different than you do when you’re in that classroom. The other thing that we do is take advantage of technology. We can do video recording.
You can have your students record themselves on their phone, playing whatever the assignment is and they can send that to you. You can play that back and talk through all of the corrections. You can do that in asynchronous time. A lot of my clients will set up one day a week where they watch their student videos and they do all of the feedback for their students. You have changed the way your calendar is set up. You’re creating content on certain days, interacting with your students on certain days, and making it so that you’re in control of your schedule instead of the magic calendar app being in control of your schedule.
That’s what I’ve transitioned into. I’m doing three interviews and a couple of other meetings. That’s my focus. I can have the empty days that I need to do content, planning and student interaction. It is a different way of thinking when you move online. At first, it’s a little bit hard but we think, “They can’t get the result unless it’s in person because that’s all we’ve ever taught. Having someone like you is great because you can show them all the ways that they can translate what they’ve been doing. I do think key pictures can draw conclusions from people that they can’t get by you talking through it.
Demonstrations, pictures, and have fun with it. Think about how you like to learn and how you like to enjoy the time. Like when you’re not working well, how do you like to consume content? Do you like to go on YouTube? Do you like to scroll through images? Think about how you like to appreciate different things in the entertainment space. If you can translate something that you enjoy into a product that you’re creating, you’re going to enjoy that product much more and be more passionate about it, share it and feel good about it.
That brings to mind something, I don’t know if you do this with your clients, but I’m curious. Do you help them incorporate some gamification into their course or membership?If you want to gain more control over your schedule and leverage the talents that you've got online, create an online program of some kind. Click To Tweet
Yes. Gamification is making it fun, saying, “If you complete this exercise by this date, I’m going to give you whatever it is.” This goes all the way back to elementary school, where you got your gold stars. We are trained to work with deadlines and work with rewards. Those two are critical things. You can make the gamification works so well in the education space. When you’re teaching people something, you can say simple things that don’t cost you a whole lot. One of my favorite ones is, “Finish these lessons, and I will include your clip in my Instagram Stories. That takes no work, but it is such a cool thing that your teacher is sharing your work on their Instagram.
It’s frustrating as a teacher. You’ve got all this great content, you know that people want to learn it, but yet, they’re not doing it. I’m about to incorporate something in the first section of my academy that’s going to be like a coffee challenge. When you do these five milestones and you show that you’ve done the work, we’ll buy you a coffee at Starbucks. It’s not a lot but it works because I was in a program that did that and I was like, “I want that coffee. I don’t even know why.”
Anytime that you can dangle something at the end of a unit for your students, it doesn’t have to cost money. That’s why I use the Instagram Story example because it helps you think differently about rewards, but as a student, they want to be seen. They want to know that they’re making progress. They want to know that you care as much about their outcome as they did when they were signing up for your program.
Even a shout out within the community could be cool. I love that idea. I’m glad you’re incorporating that. I certainly didn’t think about it at first because I’m always like, “They’re going to be motivated because they’re paying and they want this result,” but it does help to give them little breadcrumbs along the way that they can pick up.
One of the ways that people do this as well is by not being able to jump around within the course. You have to finish module one before you’re allowed module two. Module two maybe a whole lot more fun for the student, but they have to get through module one. We reward them with module two and then they can continue in that way as well.
That’s one thing about Thinkific or Teachable or using a platform like that. You can create what they call drip content and keep people from getting to the next thing until they finished the thing before. Is there anything else that you find with artists, musicians in particular that is holding them back from using tech? I’ve heard you say that people say tech is a four-letter word. I have experienced that with my students and with people that are emailing me all the time. They say things like, “I want to do this. I know I’m a good teacher, but I don’t think I can handle the tech or I feel behind. I barely made it onto Facebook.”
The nice thing is, first of all, you’re not alone. There are people signing up for Thinkific, Teachable, for all of these course delivery or learning management platforms every single day. Those people don’t have any more experience with that than you do. One of the advantages that a lot of musicians have is that you’ve used a microphone. In some way, shape or form, you’ve used a microphone before, which means you’re already ahead of some people who have never used a microphone before.
What else have you done in your life and business that sets you up for it? If you send an email to Bree and you listen to a podcast, you are already there. You’re already further ahead than you realize. Think of all the small tech wins that you’ve had. Think of these as the next small tech wins. You don’t have to bite off, “I’m going to create this huge long campaign and funnels and this and that.” You have to think about what you can do for your students and find a platform that allows you to feel comfortable easily.
Watch a couple of webinars and videos that teach you how to use the basics of that. Master the basics, and you can always add an incremental. You’re adding gamification. That’s not a level one thing. That is a level 4 or 5 things that a lot of people add later on. To get started, you pick a platform, you do the bare minimum, and because you are already in the industry, you are already doing the work. You have an audience ready to come on this journey with you. It’s not like you have to go and say, “I am going to start teaching this instrument, this piece of music, or whatever it is and not have any street cred.” You have street cred already. It’s because the technology is new, that doesn’t mean that everything else isn’t already established.
That is a good point because, in some ways, tech is a much smaller hurdle to overcome than not having an audience. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ve never taught anyone before. All of a sudden, you’re going to go online and try to suddenly teach this thing. That’s way harder than being already a teacher that has your methodology, that you have got testimonials and referrals, and people that already teach with you. All you need to do is do it in a different way. It’s not that bad. I’ve seen it because my husband is a university professor. All of them had to go online this semester. Some of them, especially the older ones that weren’t as up on technology, it was hard for them, but they did it and it can be done.
I have a 70 something-year-old harmonica teacher in my portfolio. He’s delightful and he had such a ball learning all this stuff and he kept coming back to me and asking me the same couple of questions every single time. One day, he didn’t ask me that question because he figured it out. I want to say, “If he could do it, if you want to do this, you can do it too.”
Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you wanted to make sure that people knew?
I think that the biggest thing is what I was saying, that if you want to do this, if you want to gain more control over your schedule and leverage the talents that you’ve got online, then go for it. Create an online program of some kind. The online program doesn’t have to be asynchronous courses, online learning courses that there’s no interaction with you as the teacher. I know that’s one thing that a lot of people are afraid of is that if they go online with these group programs, that they’re not going to be connected to the teacher. You, as the teacher, can decide how many contacts your students have with you. If you want to have weekly calls with all of your students like a group call, you can build that into the program. You don’t have to completely be on the other side of the screen and not have any interaction with them. When you do group programming and do these kinds of things in the online space, there are a lot of ways to structure it. It’s a fun and exciting time. Now is an important time for there to be as many opportunities for people to bring music into their homes and their lives as they can.
That’s true. There are issues with the tech. You may do group lessons in the past and people can’t play or can’t sing together because of the lag. You don’t have to do that. You could do a weekly showcase where a few students perform for the other students, but in a way that you can still create a community that brings people together and allows you to connect with them. It doesn’t have to look like it does in person, but it can still be powerful.
When it comes to showcasing your students, you can do that in a number of exciting ways. We’ve all seen that people are putting together videos of virtual concerts and things like that, but you can do fun things online when you stop thinking you can’t.
I’m in this choir and they’re putting together a Christmas concert. What they did for the promo, which I thought was interesting is people were recording things asynchronously. What they did is they put everybody singing the same song together, but they each had a solo part. Each got a little solo, but it was all within the same song. I thought that was cool because it allowed each person to have their own spotlight, but not self-conscious that they were doing the whole thing themselves. Especially if they’re beginners or learners, that could be a cool way to showcase your students.
There are lots of ways. I love working with creatives and people who tear down the walls and say, “What can I do?” We can come up with some cool things. You don’t have to be afraid of technology. You don’t have to think that you have to always trade time for money and do one-on-one. “As soon as it’s possible to get back in-person with people, I’m jumping right at that.” Don’t think that way. You can still do one-on-one in-person when that becomes available again, but having your online programs set up and running is going to magnify and amplify your impact and your income.
You can work with people anywhere so why not do both if you love the in-person? I have some friends that are voice teachers. They still love the interaction of the in-person and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t have to teach every day, all day in-person if that exhausts you. Do that for two days a week and the other days you’re spending on your online students. It could revitalize you as a teacher to have those different mediums. If you want Jaime to help you to tear down these tech walls, reach out to her. How can they do that? What’s the best way for them to find you online?
Thank you so much. This has been such a great conversation. I love getting geeky about tech stuff. In fact, in my Academy, we have an entire call every month called Tech Talk Tuesday because I found that there’s much pain in relation to all the different tech platforms that you need to learn like, “Where’s this button?” Especially things like on Instagram that is only on the phone and they are like, “Where did they put it? Where do I click to get this thing? How are these people doing these things? I don’t know how to do it.” That’s the most popular call that we have because there is that pain point with musicians and me too. I occasionally have a question that I ask them like, “I cannot figure out how to do this. How do you do this?” Don’t ever feel shy that maybe you think you’re the only one that has these questions. Trust me, you’re not. Someone like Jaime is here to help you and hold your hand so you don’t have to figure it out because that’s a lot of hours that you don’t need to spend. Find her online and reach out to her if you’d like to talk to her about getting some help with your tech. Thanks, Jaime. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Bree.
- Jaime Slutzky
- @JaimeSlutzky – Instagram
About Jaime Slutzky
Jaime Slutzky is a lifelong techie who helps art and music instructors create profitable, sustainable and exciting online programs even if they are completely tech adverse.
Jaime sees how crucial arts education is in society and believes the most accessible way to get there is through online programming.
Jaime is the host of the Expand Online Podcast providing artists with strategies, inspirations and tech insights to allow their online businesses to soar.