Episode #076: An Interview With Karen Barrow (Elite Student)


Her online music career began early in the days of MySpace—gaining 30,000 followers—and at one point, one of her music videos gained 12 million views, and yet Karen Barrow still had no money to show for it. Like most artists, she was confused, frustrated, and unsure about her music career because of all the changes in the industry. Then, she found the Savvy Musician Academy, went through The Online Musician course, then joined the Elite program, and that’s when things started to change. If you want an honest look at what goes on behind the scenes of our Elite coaching group, then this episode reveals it. Listen in as Karen shares her own story of struggle, awakening, and the progress!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The reality of today’s average musician.
  • How Karen refined her personal brand.
  • The impact of music marketing coaches.
  • Overcoming doubt and taking action.
  • Karen’s major victory.
  • The power of a pruned email list.
  • How major artists are realizing the power of the internet.
  • Why views and a large audience don’t produce results.
  • How Karen took control of her music career.
  • The power of a professional mindset.
  • How ecommerce changed Karen’s results.


“You need two things for success in any area. You need principles. Whatever principles govern success. Then number two, you need coaching.” — @metalmotivation [0:08:43]

“I’ve started to lose the idea of it’s not for me, I can’t do it, it’s not meant to be.” — Karen Barrow [0:13:37]

“Listen, you guys could tear it up with 50% of what Leah teaches you, if you just understand that one element that Leah really emphasizes traditional marketing principles.” — @metalmotivation [0:21:16]

“You’ll really understand the revolutionary aspect of social media when social media itself disappears and you realize you’re just talking to a person.” — @metalmotivation [0:22:45]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Episode #073: Record Label or Independent Artist? An Interview With Jens Hilzensauer Pt. 1 . – https://savvymusicianacademy.com/73

Episode #074: Record Label or Independent Artist? An Interview With Jens Hilzensauer Pt. 2 – https://savvymusicianacademy.com/74

Episode #067: Leah’s Recent Crowdfunding Results, Part 1: 80k in 30 Days – https://savvymusicianacademy.com/67

Episode #068: Leah’s Recent Crowdfunding Results, Part 2: Mistakes & Lessons Learned – https://savvymusicianacademy.com/68

Episode #069: Crowdfunding Q&AKaren Barrow’s Facebook Page –https://www.facebook.com/ScarletteFeverOfficial/

Click For Full Transcript

00:21 CJ: Well, welcome once again to the Savvy Musician Show. This is CJ Ortiz, I’m the branding and mindset coach here at The Savvy Musician Academy and I’m beginning a three-part interview series, which is really, really special, I’m excited about it. It will be me interviewing three of our elite students from The Savvy Musician Academy. And this is special because I think it gives everyone just a little bit of background, a little behind the scenes look, at what some of these independent artists who are doing everything they can to maximize their success going exclusively online. And I think it’s really important that you not just hear from Leah from the front end, or from me on the front end, but get to get a, again, a fly on the wall sort of view from someone who’s actually going through the program and experiencing some results.

So, whereas normally I would include a student spotlight, the whole thing is a student spotlight and I’m really, really excited about it. And so today I have someone very special, someone who I’ve actually worked with in a coaching call and a delightful artist, and you’re going to learn so much more about her. Coming all the way from the United Kingdom is Karen Barrow, one of our Elite students. Karen, thank you for being with us on The Savvy Musician Show.

01:41 Karen: Oh, my pleasure CJ.

01:42 CJ: Like I said, you and I have had the chance to work together and that’s probably one of the cool things about the Elite Program is it’s not just a course that you take, like for example The Online Musician, but you get also these other elements working with coaches and we’ll talk a little bit more about that. But Karen, let’s start at the outset, you are an independent artist, you’ve put out music before, you’re getting ready to put out another album, crowdfunding and all that good stuff. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you first come across Savvy Musician Academy. How did Leah come across your radar?

02:20 Karen: I think it was a couple of years ago. Just a bit of background. My career, I sort of started my career on that cusp of the internet. So when I was starting out, it was the whole MySpace thing and I experienced probably loads of people, I built up 30,000 people in MySpace, and then it went overnight like that, gone, and the whole point of my career, I always knew I wanted to be independent, but it was all about chasing radio and chasing media and if these guys play you, you’ll get noticed, it will happen, blah blah blah. And I just reached a point in my career where I’d done everything that had been asked of me. I had the radio play, I had songs in the billboard dance charts. I had all of that stuff, but it still, the internet was this big mammoth beast that had come along and I had like 4,000 fans on Facebook.

I just wasn’t getting the sales. So, I was looking for something else, realizing that this was just a waste of my time, just putting out music, hoping that someone on the radio is going to give me the break or on TV or whatever. And I stumbled across Leah, first of all, I think the first course I did of hers was just like the Online Musician Course. And then I did the one following that, which I can never remember the name. I did a few of her courses. This was before Leah existed. And I reached a point where I had set up my first funnel in terms of email, which is bringing leads in and doing the whole … at that point, it was like a three-day song giveaway. Three songs, three days. And then they were in the funnel and that was great. And that was fab, and I started to build this list. But then I was like, “Great, so where’s my sales?” And I was like, “Right, this is great. What’s next?”

And it was like a year later, the Elite Course came on my radar and I didn’t sign up to it immediately because I was umming and ahhing and like, “Ooh, is it really going to deliver, am I really going to … I don’t know, I don’t know.” And I was just kind of plateauing around, not really knowing what to do, not really knowing how to put a promotion together. And I was building this list and I didn’t know what to do with it. So, I kind of decided it’s all or nothing because this isn’t working. What’s wrong? Something’s wrong. And it’s a case of either, go big or go home. So, I decided to take the plunge and I went for a leap.

04:43 CJ: And how long ago was that?

04:44 Karen: Oh gosh, it was at the beginning of the summer, so I think it was like May.

04:49 CJ: Okay, May. May of this year, 2019.

04:52 Karen: Yep.

04:52 CJ: Now, your stage name is Scarlet.

04:55 Karen: Yes.

04:55 CJ: And for a while, there was Scarlet Fever. And of course, after a session that you and I had, which we talked about branding specifically, you had done the branding bootcamp in the Elite Course and we had an offer there to just do kind of a one-on-one. And, even though we’re not taking an extensive amount of time in that sort of thing, from that initial branding bootcamp and from that initial branding call, how much was opened up for you in terms of the importance of branding yourself as an artist now, in the online space?

05:26 Karen: I can’t possibly state the impact that working with the coaches, you know, you guys, the weekly sessions with Melissa, as much as the course content is mind-blowingly incredible, it’s been that one-on-one coaching that has really been a game-changer for me. Because it stopped me getting stuck in this micro-world of, is it this, is it that? Is that kind of quite right? Is it this? But maybe it’s that. Because it’s just that being an online musician, it’s a lonely world. It’s not like I sit here and I’ve got my community of labels to talk to about decisions and branding and marketing and blah blah. And that’s what that gave me, was just that opportunity of an actual trusted professional person. This is what you do. Okay, let’s put it on the plate in that arena. It was massive. It was absolutely massive.

06:24 CJ: Once you got into the program, working with the coaches and stuff, what was the first major victory that you had?

06:30 Karen: I think the first major victory was … that’s an interesting question actually because I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, it was actually over the summer, I did a flash summer sale and over a weekend I made like £300. And it was like, “Oh, Oh wow, I’ve made some money. Oh, that’s weird.” And I think that’s been the interesting thing for me. At the time I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty good. £300.” I’m pretty ambitious with my goals so I didn’t see it at the time for what that meant. I mean, obviously what that meant is that my list building, my audience, that my email was on the right track.

And I think that the other big one actually was, I had a session with Steve as well, which was amazing. And something that had slipped through the net for me was understanding about how to actually keep pruning your list and how to check the house of your list. Because when I was looking at my list, I was frustrated because I had a good open rate, good click-through rate, but I didn’t feel that I had the sales. Of course, I had a list that was established from before Elite, before Savvy Musician, I didn’t know about pruning my list and getting rid of people who aren’t engaged. So, my buying percentage was really low. And then as soon as I pruned the list, I had that thing of, “Ah, brilliant, it’s actually that.” Had I not spoken to Steve and I looked at all of those figures, I’d have been like, “Well, what’s wrong? I must have my targeting wrong. I’ve got to go back to going through my targeting.” And it’s been, I think that’s what the coaching has done, it’s helping me look at the right thing rather than going down this forever ending tunnel of, is it this, is it that? Is it that you guys have helped me go, no, branding, tick. The right people, tick. It’s not that, it’s this.

08:31 CJ: Isn’t that amazing? You know, I’ve often told people, I’m so glad you said it that way, because I’ve told people for years when I talk about … and I do motivational stuff on the side, and I try to get them to understand that you need two things for success in any area. You need principles. Whatever principles govern success. Then number two, you need coaching. And the coaching part is what stumbles them because think they can figure it out, right? They’re going to listen to the free podcast. They’re going to listen to the free YouTube videos, right? And there’s somehow they’re going to figure it out. But what they miss about the coaching part is that like a professional athlete for example, like over here in the United States, you have a pro golfer like Tiger Woods, right? Well, Tiger Woods has a golfing coach, but that doesn’t mean the golfing coach is necessarily better player than Tiger at all, not even close.

But what the coach does, is watches his technique, watches so he can tell when he’s starting to get into a bad habit or he’s missing something very simple that he already knows, but the player can’t keep all of that in mind all the time. And so yeah, you get trapped and you think it’s something you did wrong or you think it’s the problem is in an area that the problem is not actually in, and it is, it’s a rabbit trail and you waste so much time, you waste so much emotional energy, you get discouraged, you start to turn on yourself, you start with all the mind games of, is it worth it, it’s not meant to be. All of these things that we do, and it’s just a simple fix. And so now here we are in this new era of the music industry where this becomes imperative.

I don’t know if you saw this? This is a new article and you know Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, there was an article about him in a recent issue of Guitar World Magazine, and it says, “Smashing Pumpkins leader on why, as an artist, you should focus completely on the internet.” And it was interesting because he says, “Going out into the world and playing down the street, don’t even bother.” And then later on he says, and this is a literal quote, he says, “If I was going to give you 60 seconds of advice, I would put your whole focus into reaching people through the internet.” That’s amazing. So I think more and more people are beginning to understand that this is what you need to do. But that’s kind of an ambiguous general statement. What does that mean? You were doing it, as you said, back in the days of MySpace. You were on the internet, but it’s the new dynamics of how social media has changed. Things like email opt-ins. Did you have any idea it was as involved as you’ve learned it to be?

11:10 Karen: No, the funny thing is, and I was doing it. But the interesting thing is when I realized that the internet was there and I was first speaking to music marketing gurus about the internet, it was the same model, just different. They were still going for, “You’ve just got to get the views, you’ve just got to get the audience and then they will come.” These imaginary people who will come and make your career. And, I sat there at that point before Leah, I had 12 million video views, and I still couldn’t buy you … I couldn’t buy you a pint, CJ.

11:47 CJ: 12 million video views on YouTube, right?

11:50 Karen: No, no. This was on Facebook. Because I was advertising on Facebook.

11:53 CJ: On Facebook? Even on Facebook?

11:54 Karen: But what I wasn’t doing, was doing anything with that audience because I didn’t know how. Obviously, through the first courses, I stumbled, well not stumbled, I learned that we need an email address and that’s great. And I sat there and I looked at my new little list and I was like, “Great, now what do I do with you?” Because I still didn’t know. Do you send out an email saying “Buy this?” So, every now and then, I’d send out an email but there was no focus to it, there wasn’t direction. I didn’t know about putting together campaigns and promotions and how to actually start leveraging this list. I didn’t know.

12:34 CJ: Yeah, so now there’s an intentionality, for example, to your email. There’s intentionality to your social media posting. So tell me, how does this make you feel in terms of your own personal empowerment, feeling like you’re starting to get more and more control over your own career?

12:53 Karen: Well, it’s funny you should say that because the biggest change I’ve had, and I spoke to Melissa about this a couple of weeks ago, and I said the biggest change in my mentality is that for the longest time, for my whole career, I think I thought about making it in music as being this magical thing. It’s the moment of magic, the magic audience that’s going to make all the difference. When suddenly I’ll wake up and there’ll be all these sales, the magic branding, the magic. And what I’ve realized, it was all about, for me, the biggest change actually, the breakthrough, was that session with Steve when I realized, no, there’s nothing wrong with my list, I’ve just got to get rid of people who aren’t engaged. And from that point onwards, I’ve started to lose the idea of it’s not for me, I can’t do it, it’s not meant to be. That stuff that you said earlier, all of that negative self-talk of, it’s not my time, not in this lifetime. It’s, you can’t make money from [inaudible 00:13:52] all that stuff.

Now I’m in a professional mindset of, “okay, I’m now, at the moment, I’m bringing in £500 in sales a month. Okay, let’s look at how I get to my next goal, which is going to be £1,000 per month. And then my next go, which is going to be blah, blah, blah. And on it’s going to go. So, I’m no longer thinking about it in terms of finding the magic potion. I’m just going to look at how I now grow, which is great, it’s really exciting.

14:23 CJ: That’s amazing. Even though we’re in this new era with the online space governing, so much of all sales, not just music, all sales and commerce being done online, but I think artists, musicians in particular, still think like the old way. Meaning, that in the old way you would wait to be discovered by the record label, right? And so nowadays you’re waiting to be discovered on the internet, that somehow your video will go viral. And that will be answered, as you said. Instead of saying, “No, I can literally create my own space, I can literally create my own empire.” And so I think one of the funny things that Leah often says, is when people will see her ads and they’ll say, “Well, if you’re making all this money as an independent artist not touring, then why have I never heard of you?” And she says, “Well that’s the point. I’m only targeting people who listen to Celtic fantasy metal. So it stands to reason that you’d have not heard of me.”

And so we just had a recent interview with a gentleman, the name of Jens who, a proficient online marketer himself working closely with Leah on some other projects, and he was talking to some German record labels and they were absolutely puzzled, could not figure out how Leah was doing what she’s doing. And, of course, everybody resorts to scam and all these sorts of things. Just because you can’t figure something out, doesn’t mean it’s done illegally. Just because you can’t figure out how somebody is doing something, doesn’t mean it’s done by magic. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty powerful magicians do pretty powerful magic tricks and for the life of me, I could spend all my days and never figure it out. But then you watch a video showing how that sort of trick is done, and you feel stupid that you couldn’t figure this out. Can you understand why people just can’t wrap their heads around this, now that you’re doing the sort of thing yourself?

16:17 Karen: I can, because it’s a huge amount of work and it is a huge amount of discipline and dedication. Because the thing is, if you don’t show up every day, then like had I not shown up and not put in all that work and not had that moment with Steve, I wouldn’t have had that breakthrough. I had another one where it came up in the group and someone was talking about making sure that all of your audiences have also included that you only want to target online shoppers and people engage with online shopping. It’s a small detail, but it’s a big thing. Because why target people who don’t buy online. And it’s all of those details that build the puzzle. It’s not magic, but all of those details, when you look at them as the picture, it’s like, “Wow, Oh, how do you do that?”

17:01 CJ: Exactly. And it’s pretty amazing that you’re doing something like this for the most part on your own, that you’re not doing it with a team of people or whatnot. You can get to the place where you might have to bring some things in and you’ve done little things like maybe you hire something out, a little graphic design project here, but there’s so many now inexpensive vendors to do that. Tell me a little bit now, because I don’t know how much you were doing this beforehand, I’m sure you did, but how has the e-commerce element that you’re taught in Elite, the merchandise and all of that, how has that changed things?

17:36 Karen: Oh gosh, it’s massive. It’s absolutely massive. And I think that again, Shopify has been the moment of, you know, an out of control independent artist to someone who actually has a business. Because last Christmas and this was before I did Elite, but I’d done all the other trainings and I was building my list and I was not stupid, I was kind of having a look at what other independent artists were doing, who seems to be successful, “Oh, they do this Christmas promotion, okay, right, well, I’m going to do this Christmas promotion.”

And I remember hearing Leah talk about figuring out the numbers. And I was like, I’ve got no idea what that means, and I don’t know how you figure out the numbers, but I’m going to do something. So, I had this idea of I’m going to do Christmas promotion, but at that point I only had WooCommerce and I had the free WooCommerce, so I didn’t have upsells on that, I didn’t have any ability to actually really control, it was purely like a purchase platform, I didn’t know about writing the correct sales descriptions or even the right photos, or didn’t know any of that. So, it’s a miracle that I actually got any sales. I did, no way near of what I actually wanted at that time to get at, but what Shopify has done, especially with the analytics, I’ve got this incredible tool, and to actually really now start using that data to grow. Shopify has been huge, but I will say this, I can see how easy it is to get, again, sucked in down the rabbit hole of the perfect app.

19:16 CJ: Right, right.

19:18 Karen: The perfect theme, you know. So, I think that for me, I’ve got it at that place of … And that’s why I just listen to Leah. I got the apps that she recommended as being the vital apps, and I put it to bed. Because you could easily spend a year, two years, just sitting on Shopify, tweaking pages. So it is incredible, but it’s another whole universe.

19:41 CJ: And it adds a tremendous amount of, you know when people try to wrap their heads around when Leah Tout’s making six figures with her own music without touring, that’s part of the reason of how that’s accomplished, is because of the Shopify element. You’re not just selling your CD’s and vinyl, which she does, but she’s selling bundles, she’s selling accessories, she’s selling everything from shower curtains, literally Leah shower curtains, bedspreads to journals, to T-shirts to hoodies, to mugs, to hats, to a smartphone covers, jewelry, shoes, sneakers, all of this stuff being sold under her own personal brand that she’s marketing to her list, email wise, et cetera. Tremendously empowering. But you said something Karen, that I thought is really, really noteworthy. Well, two things you said. Number one, you said the Shopify element took it from just being an artist, willy-nilly, moving around, trying to make things happen, to actually being a business.

20:49 Karen: Yes.

20:50 CJ: And then the second thing is, with the Shopify thing, like all the other aspects of this type of approach to music marketing, you can end up getting pigeonholed and too focused on the apps and all of these sorts of things. Tell me what you’ve learned in terms of how important just the basic principles of marketing are. Copywriting and marketing, that are always true no matter what software you’re using. I always said, “Listen, you guys could tear it up with 50% of what Leah teaches you, if you just understand that one element of, Leah really emphasizes traditional marketing principles.”

21:26 Karen: Well, funny you should say that CJ, because I have an example that’s occurring right now and it’s blown my mind. So, I’ve been running the eCommerce adverts, you know, here’s the T-shirt, blah blah, and I had about nine pounds something cost conversion, I can’t think of the word but you know what I mean, nine-pound, whatever. Anyway, I hadn’t done it before, but I actually created, based on one of Leah’s trainings where she talks about the surround [inaudible 00:21:55] where you write a really compelling, long post, just outlining your journey, and just talking a bit about life as the independent musician, blah, blah, blah. Just to kind of, little bit of a story, and I woke up this morning, I ran the advert yesterday, and I woke up to £100 worth in sales, with a cost conversion of £1.67.

22:17 CJ: Wow, isn’t that amazing?

22:19 Karen: It’s slightly different to what you’re saying because it’s not copywriting on Shopify, but it’s copy, you know, it’s getting the right copy, again, promoting the right copy. And that I just found like, “Wow, that’s crazy.”

22:32 CJ: Yes. And a lot of the coaching calls that I’ll do, we have monthly coaching calls with each of the coaches when everybody can participate, not just a one-on-one like you and I did, and I’ve been telling them recently just about that very thing is when you’ll really understand the revolutionary aspect of social media when social media itself disappears and you realize you’re just talking to a person. That’s why it’s not all about the software, it’s not about the media. Even though we teach these things in depth, it’s really about your personal relationship with your fan, with your follower, engaging with them, creating this know, like and trust relationship that marketers have never been able to achieve, advertisers have never been able to achieve, in the history of advertising and marketing, so much so that I would tell you that if social media had appeared a hundred years ago, at the same time marketing and advertising appeared, the rules of marketing and advertising would be different. Because, up until the age of social media, you could never be personal with somebody, so you had to fake it. You know what I mean? You had to make that sales letter personal and you had to throw in all these 90-day guarantees to try and get people to take a risk on your product or service. Now Karen is going directly to her audience. That just adds to this sense of empowerment and limitless growth.

23:54 Karen: I think that’s why those big moments are almost hard to see because that isn’t the big moment. The big moment has been the year of building the list and all of the posts I’ve been making and all of the stories I’ve been telling them, so when I posted that one, people have taken action on it. And that’s the point that you say, that it’s the background relationship building, so that when you do ask for the sale or the promotion or whatever, it’s there.

24:22 CJ: So tell us real quick, what’s next for you, what’s next for Scarlet and how they can follow up with what you’re doing.

24:31 Karen: Again, I’m staying close to the fire. So that for me right now, at the end of October, means that I’m going to very, very quickly go through the holiday training. And I’m going to apply that and I’m going to be realistic about that, I’m going to do that this year with a view of learning from it. And then next year I’m going to be attempting a crowdfunding campaign. And I’ll be honest, it’s a real big mental block for me, because I’ve got that horrible fear of what if you don’t raise any money, but it’s the next thing. So, I’m going to have to smash through that one.

25:04 CJ: That’s pretty cool because of course as you know, we just did the three episodes on the crowdfunding, and Leah took risks and hosted it on her own site and you know all the details of that sort of thing. But, I can tell you from just the way things have taken off since you’ve come into the program, and just how well and professional and dedicated you are in applying everything, you’re going to do just fine. Because you’ve got great music, you’re a great artist, and I want people again to … we’ll put your contact information in the show notes, but I want you to go ahead and tell everybody how they can reach you. But, I think it’s going to be easier to see that you’re going to continue to be a great example of what an independent artist can do in this new era of the music industry utilizing social media, marketing, Shopify, e-commerce, email, all of these powerful, powerful … They’re always changing, right? You see it just in the group, we have to keep updating it, revising and changing things, because these mediums are always changing. But that’s okay, you’ve got to feel empowered about the next year, even though you might be a little leery of the crowdfunding aspect, but think of how armed you’re going to be in 2020 with what you’ve learned in the past six months.

What kind of progress, you start the compounding, the multiplying effect, where the effort is not just two times the result, but 10 times the result. That’s that limitless aspect if you’re just faithful to the principles. Don’t be moved by what you see, right? Don’t be moved by your feelings. Don’t get all caught up in your head. Stay close to the principals. Know that they work just like the laws of flight work and just keep pushing ahead. And Karen, you’ve been doing such a great job of exemplifying that. So, tell everybody how they can reach you, learn more about your music.

26:52 Karen: So all you need to do is go to, it’s a funny spelling. It’s Scarlettefever.co.uk. And that’s S-C-A-R-L-E-T-T-E, scarlettefever.co.uk.

27:04 CJ: Yeah, so Scarlette, and for all you Americans, all you yanks, .co.uk, not.com, .co.uk. We’ll put this in the show notes so everybody can follow up with that. But Karen, I’m so glad you were the one that we got to start off this little series, talking with some of the students because like I said, you’ve been such a great example and I had the chance to work with you one-on-one and see up close what you were doing, and again, we are all so proud of you, behind you 110%, committed to your success. So, thank you for taking the time.

27:39 Karen: Thank you CJ. Thank you so much.

27:41 CJ: Well guys, listen, if you want to hear more of this, please go and subscribe to this podcast, whatever player you’re listening on, whether it be Spotify, Stitcher, iTunes, just be sure to leave us a review. We covet those reviews, we do read them in our weekly team meetings. They mean a lot to us. If they give you the option for including stars, then give us the maximum of five stars. But we appreciate that. And again, thank you so much, we’ll be back next time with another student interview. Take care.

48:58 CJ: All right guys, we will see you next time. Take care.

Leah McHenry

It's become my absolute obsession to find out what will make musicians successful today. In the face of many obstacles, and in the vast sea of the internet, we have an opportunity that has NEVER been available to us in the history of the music business.