Episode #087: 60+% Believe You Can’t Make Money Online


One of Leah’s recent surveys showed that 60% of musicians do not believe you can make money online with your music. In this episode, Leah and C.J. discuss why musicians might think this and explain how you most definitely can make money online with your music!

You probably already have the motivation, but you just need a clear path to see ahead and take the next step. Listen to this week’s episode to discover how you can earn money online with your music and move past the defeating behaviors and beliefs that hold back most musicians!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The error of Youtube learning from multiple sources
  • Berklee compared to Savvy Musician Academy
  • 60% of musicians do not believe you can make money online with your music
  • The starving musician mentality of “Waiting to be discovered”
  • The actuality of file sharing today
  • True fans will pay for your music and merchandise 
  • The benefits of streaming services
  • The demand for physical merchandise
  • Do you have to write a hit single and become a star?


“Our goal here is to offer as much value as we possibly can.” – @LEAHthemusic [0:06:54]

“60% of the people surveyed, these are musicians, 60% do not believe that you can make money online with your music.” – @metalmotivation [0:09:51]

“True fans will pay for music.” – @LEAHthemusic [0:14:08]

“(Streaming services) are most importantly discovery tools and platforms where they would never have found you if you weren’t there in a lot of cases.” – @LEAHthemusic [0:15:35]

“Can you build something bigger than just the music?” – @LEAHthemusic [0:19:58]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Join the TOM 3.0 Waitlist — explodeyourfanbase.com

Michele Vreeland (Student Spotlight) — http://michelevreelandmusic.com/

Book a Call With Us — http://www.CallSMA.com

Inner Circle Membership — https://savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle

Click For Full Transcript

00:19 CJ: Welcome to the Savvy Musician Show. This is CJ Ortiz. I’m the branding and mindset coach here at the Savvy Musician Academy. So excited to be joined once again by her eminence, my favorite marketer, Leah McHenry. Leah, how you doing?

00:34 Leah: Good, how are you?

00:35 CJ: Wonderful. All is well in your world?

00:39 Leah: Yes, crazy and wonderful as ever.

00:41 CJ: I know you get a lot of stuff going on. It can be a challenge for us sometimes to take out these times to do these podcasts, but we know how important it is for our listeners, and to our listeners I say. Please leave us a review. We covet your feedback, so go to your respective player and click as many stars as they give you. Write something very sweet, polite, and brag on us so other people can find it. And, of course, you’re always welcome to go to our Facebook pages, group pages, and leave a comment or question about the podcast again. We read all of these in our team meetings.

Before we get started today, let me just share with you a student spotlight. This is from one of our TOM students. Now when I say TOM, that doesn’t mean Thomas. That means The Online Musician, which is the flagship course created here at the Savvy Musician Academy, which is about to be upgraded. We’ll talk about that a little bit later, but this is Michele Vreeland and she writes “Hashtag win. I spent the last few days working my music website and Shopify shop. I did it while listening to Leah’s music, modern Celtic goddess that she is. I had two Fiverr guys helping me, one updating my website, and the other one building up my Shopify page.” Now Fiverr is a freelance site for those who are wondering. “I made all of the graphics through Canva and PicsArt. I’ve been following Leah for years, and finally in December, I decided to buy TOM, The Online Musician. 

“Before that I’ve joined in on as many webinars as I could, grabbed golden nuggets from her to try to ‘reverse engineer’, as they say, her program, but to no avail. One thing I must say, after years of listening to her podcast, when I finally purchased TOM, I was ready. I knew my micro-niche, branding, colors, and culture. So for me, I’ve been breezing through the classes. My first 90 days are fan building, so I wanted my pace to reflect that. It’s been a long road for me, but now it’s all coming together.

“My vision for my brand is clear and the clutter I had before is now a long lost memory. I have Leah to thank for that. Now I’m ready to make videos and graphics for the ads. In the past, I was always missing the simple element of build and grow. It was always grow, grow, grow, but no build, no backend to bring in the money. This feels like money to me. I get to express myself the way I always wanted to. For those of you who are still struggling finding your micro-niche, I say don’t give up. Keep trying things. See what works, what doesn’t. It took me three years to discover and fine-tune mine. It’s worth it. In the end you’ll be so happy and excited like me.”

03:19 Leah: I love that. I love that she realized that you can’t keep trying to reverse engineer stuff for free based off of free information podcasts. I mean, a lot of people try to do that, right? And they try to piece together random conflicting information even from YouTube, and Google, and sites. And what you end up getting is a conglomeration of conflicting information that’s not set in any particular order that leaves you more confused, frustrated, and banging your head against the wall wondering why nothing is really progressing for you. I’ve just seen it too many times. I’ve even done it myself before and realized, well, that was dumb. I just wasted a bunch of time. I could have just followed a system that was already put in place where someone already figured out how to do it, in what steps, and in the right order, and that would have just saved me so much time, and what is my time worth?

I think that’s what people have to decide is what is your time worth? I’m not trying to plug the program, but I also have no problem doing that either because I know how much it helps people. I know how much time it saves everyone. I know how much time I spent and money I spent to learn all of these things and I’m trying to do you a favor. I’m trying to help you guys. I’m not trying to just take your money, but you got to have skin in the game as we say, and people who pay, pay attention. If you try to get stuff for free everywhere you also have zero commitment to it, right? That’s just the way human nature works, and that’s why we have to charge.

04:49 CJ: That’s right.

04:51 Leah: It’s because there’s value. We’re exchanging value. We’re providing you an education and a service and cutting potentially years off your learning curve, and in exchange we get your money. I’m just kidding.

05:08 CJ: Actually, I had this conversation just the other day with a good friend of mine who’s a lead guitar player for a lot of major metal bands in the world. He has his own personal brand, and he’s building his thing. He does a lot of teaching guitar lessons and all of that. So I was asking him what his primary problem was with students and he said, “The big thing is they’re trying to piece together. They’re playing from YouTube videos.” And so we were talking about writing his copy and really selling his program.

And I said, “Well, what you have to do is you have to hang the albatross around that idea. So you need to call it, you need to say something like “if you’re tired of trying to do something with the YouTube guitar academy…” you have to start tarnishing it in a way for people to understand that you can’t get there because all of these young players are learning techniques, but there’s nothing to put it all together, like you said, like a system. There’s nothing to say how we get from, okay, just sitting on the end of my bed playing these little licks and things to writing music, being in a band, doing that full-time making that your career. You can’t get there at the YouTube guitar academy for that. For that you need somebody like him.

06:26 Leah: That’s right. I mean, as much as I love giving away free information this is a business. There are bills. We have to keep the lights on. There are staff that serve people. There’s a lot of overhead involved in any business. So in order to keep that running so we can help people continually we have to charge.

06:47 CJ: Sure.

06:48 Leah: That’s just the nature of doing business and offering people value. And that’s our goal here is to offer as much value as we possibly can. This podcast is free, but it’s not free at the same time. We’re taking time out of our schedules. There’s electronics running, there’s power, there’s Internet, there’s bills, so it’s actually not free for us to do this.

07:11 CJ: Right, yes. Well, I think, to be baldly stating this is if you who are listening have a gnawing on the inside of you, a calling to music that torments you, that frustrates you, and you don’t know how to get to where you need to get to, and you would do anything to solve that problem, to finally have a clear path to your music career, to finally know what to do, what is that worth to you? Because something that significant you will have to pay for. You’re not going to find that in a 10 minute YouTube video.

It takes so much. You have to learn so much. You have to not just learn a particular program or what have you. You have to then apply it to your particular brand, your micro-niche, your culture, your music, and then the coaches have to work with you to see that done. Whatever it may be, whatever the model is you’re following, you need help. And if it can be organized in a way that’s comprehensive, then sure, absolutely, people understand that. Well, I hope they understand that because you’re not going to go to Berkeley Music for free.

08:21 Leah: Oh, gosh. No.

08:23 CJ: This is a 10th of a 10th of a 10th of that.

08:26 Leah: Yeah. Unfortunately, I’ve met people who went to Berkeley, spent a hundred grand on their education and they don’t even know what their micro-niche is. They don’t know their niche. They don’t even know their brand identity. They have no artist identity at all. They have no idea how to even build a music career, zero, but they can play really well.

08:47 CJ: Right.

08:47 Leah: So all that to say those people are, I’m like, wow, now that’s some dedication. You obviously are serious. You love music. You want to do this, but, unfortunately, and I’m not trying to diss Berkeley, I think they probably have some great programs, but let’s just say what we teach is worth several degrees. And we have confirmations from people who have full-on marketing degrees, people who have taught at Berkeley and said, “There’s way more in your program than is ever in one of these Berkeley programs, and it’s a fraction of the price. Dang it.” So that’s my brag for the day is like, hey, we’re trying to help as many people as possible. We’re doing it for a fraction of what you could possibly get it with from any college, or university program, and then people want to complain that we charge for it. I’m like, are you kidding me? Just stop it.

09:41 CJ: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that kind of brings us into this topic today, Leah, which is based on some recent surveys that you took. 60% of the people surveyed, these are musicians, 60% do not believe that you can make money online with your music. 60% believe that.

10:09 Leah: I think it’s better than it was. I’m going to say probably a few years ago would have been closer to 80. I think people are beginning to wake up to this fact, but 60% is still a majority of people don’t believe you can make money online. And we survey people constantly. Anytime we’re doing live webinars, anything like that, we are always just trying to take the temperature like, hey, it’s engaging who is in the room, right? Where’s everybody at so I can make this most relevant to these people? And 60% this just tells me we have a lot of work to do, not just a third. And there’s other teachers out there, other programs, and they’re all trying to help people come to this conclusion that you can make money online.

And so we’re not the only ones out there doing that. I’m not going to take credit for that, but we’re one of several voices that are trying to help wake people up to this fact, and then give them a strategy in a very systematic way to do it. We’re not just saying you can make money online now here’s how you get some YouTube subscribers. To me, that is all vanity. There’s nothing meaningful about that. There’s nothing sustainable about that. At the end of the day, I want to know how do you live? How do you make a living off of it? My main goal with the programs at SMA is who cares about any of that stuff? I don’t care about vanity metrics. I want to know how you can make money and live off of your passion.

11:40 CJ: In your surveys, and I know you’ve talked to dozens and dozens of musicians yourself, what do you find are the common beliefs for why people don’t think this can be done? What are their objections?

11:54 Leah: Yeah, and some of these surprised me because I’m seeing some outdated beliefs, but I guess it just takes a while. One objection that people have, even sometimes comments, I always find these comments on our ads of all places, but you can’t make a living online because there’s file-sharing.

12:15 CJ: See, that’s Napster.

12:17 Leah: Right, Napster, file-sharing. People think that back when, I don’t think the Pirate Bay is up anymore, but the Pirate Bay was huge, and there’s other file-sharing sites. It’s just like, well, there’s a couple of studies that have been done where they actually showed that people who file-share aren’t less likely to buy the items. In fact, there’s an increase in their likelihood of buying something. That’s interesting to me. It’s almost like a try before you buy. Maybe there’s a percentage of people who are never going to buy anything ever, and they just file-share, and get everything for free, but that’s not your true fan anyway. Our goal here is finding true fans who love your music and want to support you. You’re probably not going to find the majority of your fans in the file-sharing community, although, maybe a percentage are. In my view that is a very outdated concern or objection, very outdated.

The other thing is I’ve had stuff leaked before. I think I had one of my albums actually leaked a couple of weeks, or a week or something before the release date. It’s happened to me. It can be upsetting. There’s also absolutely nothing I can do about it, like zero. I do not spend my time worrying about it. I don’t spend my time trying to track down whoever did it and threaten them. I view it as free publicity, free marketing, and almost like building an underground base of fans, if you will, black market fans, whatever, but I just don’t see this as a vital threat to your music sales. True fans will pay for music. They’ll find other ways to support you, too, even if that were the case. Those fans who are file-sharing and not buying your music if they’re a big fan they will absolutely go to your concert. They’re going to show up live. They will end up paying you money somewhere down the road. That’s why I’m not concerned about it at all.

14:30 CJ: Yeah, and I think that’s an important thing to note because, again, I think we’ve said this before in a recent podcast that people when you say selling your music online we tend to limit the sales to music as opposed to the fact that you have other things that you can sell. So somebody may have illegally downloaded your music to use that ancient phrase, funny to say that’s ancient, but they can’t download a T-shirt. They can’t download a hoodie. They can’t download a mug, or whatever. And so this is a total package. This is your little music empire that we’re potentially building here. Now closely related to that, Leah, is obviously going to be streaming. Things like Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, even YouTube, you got YouTube music now, which is just another kind of streaming thing.

15:22 Leah: Yeah. And they think the reason you can’t make money with music is because of these things when really it’s not. These things are not getting in the way of your sales. They’re going to help your sales. They’re going to help you. They are, most importantly, discovery tools and platforms where they would never have found you if you weren’t there in a lot of cases. If you don’t know how to do direct marketing and Facebook ads and such. If you’re not an expert on those things, these are amazing platforms where the algorithm is going to suggest you as the artist to people who are listening to other similar things. They’re going to go, oh, you like that. Here’s what’s next. Here’s what we came up with for you next. On YouTube, it’s going to be in the suggested feeds. On Spotify, they’ve got suggested playlists, suggested artists. If you like this, you’ll enjoy this.

It happens to me all the time, too, when I found an artist I really like and it will say on the bottom of the page other similar artists. I have come across so many new bands that I love just from those algorithm suggestions. So it’s absolutely your friend to be on those sites. Those sites are our friends, they are not the enemy. You do make some money with it, right? I mean, I would be on them for free if I didn’t make any money at all just for the discovery part of it, but we do actually get paid from it so that’s awesome. As people say that’s the new radio, but it’s a completely decentralized radio.

There’s not, I mean, yes, you have big labels involved with some of these, but ultimately it’s a very grassroots style where it’s all about supply and demand, right? It’s all about if you’re talented you’re going to get on the radar organically of potential fans and they’re going to up-vote you so to speak. You’re going to get onto more people. The more they save your song and save your playlist the more it’s going to trigger the Spotify algorithms, things like that. And it’s all happening organically. I would do it for free, honestly, if they paid me nothing just because it’s so valuable.

17:32 CJ: Yeah, and I think if you don’t learn to see these things in those broader terms that you just described, you are going to get so pigeonholed on that and it becomes you making the mountain out of the molehill as they say. You get obstructed because you just don’t see the value of just a brand awareness getting more people to get familiar with your music because ultimately we want to get them onto your list. We want to get them following you. We want to get them engaging with you. I’m assuming now attached to this, Leah, which is an objection you’re hearing is that, well, in light of then file-sharing and streaming, and all of this then nobody’s paying for music.

18:19 Leah: Yeah, and that’s absolutely not true. I hear about this in certain genres like, oh, in hip hop, or R&B, there’s digital only. Even in that case there’s ways of commanding a sale and that might be a term that just sounds weird to you. You’re also limiting it to just music like you already said. These people who are totally into that genre, or any genre, if they are a true fan they’re going to want the T-shirt, they want the necklace, they want the wallet, or whatever, T-shirt, hat, whatever you’re providing there. They’re going to buy the tickets. It’s really just a matter of finding those superfans and you don’t need to limit it to just music, but there’s so many. I think physical will always have a place no matter what it ends up being. Right now vinyl is making a huge comeback. Actual cassette tapes are making a comeback. They’re like a little novelty again. People are buying cassette players. We’ve talked about what was that? Was it Sony that came out with an anniversary Walkman?

19:23 CJ: A Walkman, yeah.

19:24 Leah: Discman and a Walkman, or something like that. These are for nostalgic reasons, but it’s also reigniting the novelty of it again. Physical will always have a place and even in hip hop genres and stuff where people think that, oh, yeah, in Leah’s metal world metal fans are. No. Even in the hip hop world you go to any record store there’s tons of vinyl. Tupac, and all these different artists they have a ton of vinyl, so people do pay for music. It’s a matter of can you build a brand that people get excited about?

19:58 CJ: Right.

19:58 Leah: Can you build something bigger than just the music? If you are thinking that the music alone will speak for itself, and you don’t have to do anything outside of that, that’s why no one’s buying it because you haven’t built anything yet.

20:11 CJ: Right. That’s what creates the starving artist because you just want to be on the street corner and play your music, and if people love it they’ll discover it, and they’ll do whatever. You’re leaving everything on the listener, everything. The onus is on the market itself instead of you being proactive in positioning yourself. Now, obviously, Leah, we still have the ultimate competitor, which is still mainstream radio. They just had the Grammys recently and there was artists I’ve never even heard of before. They’re being played somewhere to be able to earn these Grammys so that’s obviously still going to be mainstream radio. Whether it’s country, or pop, or whatever, you’ve got to be popular on radio in order to have those listeners.

21:08 Leah: Yeah. This is one of the objections that I hear from time to time is, oh, you can’t make money unless you’re a star, and you’re successful on mainstream radio that that has to have happened. Oh, my goodness. Well, I heard that argument when I was in Nashville when I was speaking on a panel with some other older gentlemen in the record industry. Some of them worked with some of the biggest names you’ve ever heard of, but, I think, I didn’t conceal my face very well on this panel because I had people who know me in the audience they’re like, “Yeah, we can tell that you weren’t very impressed by their perspective.” It was so old school to me. I was just like, you guys are still on Windows 7 right now, or something, and I’m on the latest Macintosh. That’s how I feel our perspectives are.

And, of course, everything they’re referring to about, oh, you need to be on mainstream radio. They’re like just write a hit. You just need to write a hit. Well, you’re speaking to a room full of songwriters who are brilliant, but they’re most likely never going to be the Lady Gaga who writes that hit song. It’s statistically not going to happen. Not because they’re not geniuses in their own right, but let’s be honest. It’s just very, very, very few people who ever do that. So that to me, if I’m sitting in there, I would think, “Well, that’s discouraging to me because I don’t write that kind of music. What if my genre doesn’t at all fit on mainstream radio, does that mean I’m doomed?”

22:50 CJ: Right.

22:50 Leah: So that to me would be discouraging. And, also, just knowing that they’re dealing with the 0.0001% of musicians in the world. They’re not talking to everyday musicians like you and I. Hey, we just want to make a living. We’re not trying to get world-famous. We’re not trying to become a household name. We just want to make a living from our music feel rewarded by what we do. We want fans around the world who hear our music, appreciate it, and support us. That’s all we’re asking for. We’re not trying to write a hit song. Those aren’t my goals.

23:21 CJ: Right.

23:21 Leah: I just want to be able to release something, maybe Crowdfund it, have it paid for, and be a little bit profitable. Is that too much to ask? It’s a very, very different perspective. I’ve also met musicians who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on radio airplay. Their parents, they remortgaged their house taking a loan out on their house to pay for radio play only for it to result in nothing but vanity metrics. Literally, did not build a single asset, not a single email address. They went nowhere except, oh, we got these plays on the radio and then that was it. This is what I’m saying. This is not a meaningful metric anymore. It’s sad to me. And so to me that’s an outdated goal and it’s an outdated way of looking at it. You’re in the old school industry if mainstream radio is a priority for you.

24:24 CJ: Yeah, yes.

24:24 Leah: That’s how I see it.

24:26 CJ: No, you’re exactly right. Of course, we’re seeing this in other industries as well. We’re still finding our way through the technological changes, but these simple premises, false beliefs are still intact. It’s just, again, another wall of impossibility for the average musician, no different than they were 40, 50 years ago when they were waiting to be discovered. Waiting to be discovered by a record label. Now they’re waiting to be discovered on Spotify. Waiting to be discovered on YouTube. It’s the same thing. It’s the same posture. And so the whole purpose here is to put you back in control. Well, actually, for the first time, maybe being in control of your music career because all you need right now, ladies and gentlemen, is a way forward.

I’ll tell you what, man, you want to motivate me when I’m really stuck in a situation whether it’s business or life, and I need to know I’ve got to make decisions and what-not nothing motivates me, I don’t need a cheerleader to come and just tell me I’m wonderful, or I can do it. If you show me a path, if I see a light, something that I can start heading towards, that’s all I need because all the energy and the motivation is built-in. What you need is because I know I’m talking to somebody right now who’s confused. You’re frustrated. You’ve probably said a lot of these things yourself. You’ve probably yourself alluded to the fact that it’s nothing but walls of impossibility. You don’t see any way in. Your particular music style is so unique. You don’t imagine that there’s more than a hundred people on the planet who would get into it. You’d be surprised to know that there’s probably a million on the planet who would absolutely love to hear. You just don’t know yet.

In a sense, you’re ignorant of the opportunities and principles and methods and tools that are available to you that will give you the end-around the record labels, the end-around Spotify, and streaming services, the end-around file-sharing, and that you’ll be able to create so many things that you’ll be able to sell to your clientele, not just your events, not just your CD, but so many other things because your music is conjoined to a culture, a lifestyle that your fans share with you. And there’s something so much broader that the music becomes a part of, and that you become a leader, and create your own little Pied Piper following of people that just absolutely love you. Superfans will buy your music. Like Leah said, the person who’s in their mom’s basement file-sharing is not your superfan, so you’re not targeting them. You’re not going after them. You’re not going to invest in them. You’re going to invest your time, energy, and effort on people who are passionate about your music. That’s your answer.

27:22 Leah: Yeah.

27:22 CJ: That’s your answer, but there’s a way to do it. And there’s a way to accomplish all that. And, Leah, like the testimony we shared, the student spotlight at the outset, it was somebody who was in that position, and for her it was when she took The Online Musician it’s just that’s when things began to go off for her. That’s when she really began to understand that there is a way out. There’s a way to do that. Once she saw the results and I think that’s what people are looking for, Leah is results. They want to see that there is a way forward. If you can open that up, that’s a tremendous thing for somebody. Working with you offline I don’t know how much you want to say about this, but you’re upgrading the existing Online Musician program.

28:17 Leah: Oh, yeah.

28:17 CJ: Can you share any bit of that?

28:19 Leah: Yeah, we’re just super excited. I’m in the middle of updating The Online Musician, the 3.0 version and that’s going to be coming out very soon. I’m excited. I’m excited for everybody who’s going to be going through that program. If you are an Online Musician 2.0 student, good news for you, you’ll be automatically upgraded to it, so woo-hoo.

28:41 CJ: Wow. Wow. That’s generous.

28:42 Leah: It is. And the price point is moving up and everything because we are really expanding the program as well. There’s some elements in there that we are really going more in-depth on that I feel are extremely important for every musician. Just keep your ear to the ground. We’ll be talking more about that in the weeks to come. Definitely make sure you’re on our email list, too, because you’re going to want to hear about that. We’ll be doing some live events around it. This is going to be probably our biggest enrollment for this program ever, and so super excited to be leading the way on that, and helping as many musicians as I can just begin this online music career. It’s never been a better time or more exciting time in history to do this.

29:27 CJ: Awesome. You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen on the Savvy Musician Show. So, again, guys, like I said at the outset please leave us a review. We would love to hear from you. Again, stay tuned for more information on what’s up and coming here at the Savvy Musician Academy. Big plans underway to change your life and give you that career that you’ve always dreamed of. We’re working hard for you. We’re committed to your success. That’s something you’ve got to know. Absolutely committed to your success. Leah, thank you, again.

30:01 Leah: Hey, thanks guys and thank you, CJ. Always fun to do these.

30:05 CJ: Take care.

30:07 Leah: Bye for now.

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.