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How to Earn £1,000 in 14 days from Personalised Music Messages: with Sam Burkey

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Last week, one of our musicians set a new Encore record to become the first person to earn over £1,000 from the new Personalised Music Messages service!

Singing pianist, Sam Burkey received his first request on 2nd April, and within the space of just 14 days, he’d hit four figures!  

We caught up with him to learn how he’s managed to achieve such meteoric success in just a few weeks.
If you’re a musician looking to get set up with Personalised Music Messages, we recommend you check out our introduction article here

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Hi Sam, thanks for stopping by for a virtual interview!

First of all, can you paint a picture of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected your work? How has the lockdown affected things like your cashflow and getting gigs?

Like most musicians, it pretty much decimated all of my bookings overnight, which was a huge adjustment to get my head around.  First of all it was cancellations in March and April, then May, now most of June and July.  Who knows where it will end? It took a while for me to adjust to the new reality I must admit.  Then I got a call from Joel pitching me this idea of Personalised Music Messages.  As soon as he told me the concept I knew it was the right idea at the right time.

Why did you start making music message videos to begin with?

Firstly to keep my brain creative, to give me something to do.  But as I have got more involved in the process I’ve realised how much of an impact these videos can have on people’s lives.  It’s only when you start hearing stories about families being split up, sons and daughters who can’t visit their elderly parents in care homes or hospitals or in one case a married couple who haven’t seen each other since their wedding because the bride was due to move to the US that you realise how isolated so many of us are.  And the feedback I have had has been really heartwarming  – it’s been a great project to be a part of.

 

You’ve achieved a steady stream of about 5-10 video bookings every day for the last few weeks. What do you think you’ve done differently to other musicians in order to keep the bookings rolling in? To what do you attribute this success?

I’m not sure what other musicians are doing so I can’t really comment on that but I can tell you what I try to achieve from each video.

  1. MAKE SURE VIDEOS ARE BESPOKE: Unless the client specifies otherwise I have changed the lyrics to every song that I have recorded.  Try to get as much detail regarding the recipient as possible because the more bespoke the video is the more it will resonate with the person it is for.  Sometimes you can tell from the vibe of the enquiry that lyric changes aren’t necessary – e.g I did one song for an elderly couple who both had dementia – it made no sense to change the lyrics because the point of the video was that they could sing along to the song.  If in doubt, ask the client.
  2. KEEP POSITIVE: Start with a nice positive “hello!” – don’t be sheepish or apologetic.  You have to grab their attention in the first 5 secs. Don’t mumble and keep the intro short, positive and to the point.  Equally – keep the entire video length to under 2 mins – so I generally don’t go as far as the Middle 8 of a song.  I’m constantly asking myself: “At what point might I get bored watching this video?” The chances are your recipient has a similar attention span to your own – so keep it punchy.
  3. PUBLICISE: Write a promo and post it in the description part of the Youtube link – that way anyone who views it will know how to get in touch if they would like to book a video themselves.  These videos get shared around so that is very important.

We’ve heard from many musicians that they love the idea of creating videos, but they’re not sure how to market the service to their customers or fans without seeming pushy. What would your advice be to those unsure about getting in touch with their contacts out videos? How have you marketed your video service, and which channels worked best for you?   

You are trying to sell a new product so however you dress it up there’s always going to be an element of “pushiness”  – if that’s a word! Personally I found that emailing my past client list yielded very little.  I think I emailed 150 clients and maybe got 6 replies and 3 bookings….

What I have found works well is WhatsApp, or whatever messaging service you use.  Over the years I’ve built up a good relationship with lots of clients and have usually exchanged WhatsApp messages with them at some point.  That gives me a strong “in” to approach them with new ideas/products etc.  It also allows me to quickly make each message bespoke – mentioning their wedding, or their new kids, or dog or whatever it is.  Be friendly, polite and mention the charitable side of this service.

I always start each promo piece, be it in the YouTube description or when I get to talk product in the Whatsapp message with a strong tag line – in Capitals.  What is the service you are providing, what does it do in a nutshell and why should people read on.  This is really important if you want to capture someone’s imagination from the get-go.  And don’t be afraid to pull at a few heart-strings along the way.  Also, definitely use Instagram and Facebook to pitch to those who already know and follow you – that’s very important.  But again, make sure you put up a concise punchy post, with a concise, punchy video example – keep it short, people get bored very quickly!

 

 

You’ve filmed over 80 of these videos. With so many to get through, how do you make sure the video you produce is of a consistently high quality?

I use a very basic setup.  I have an iPhone XR – which I lean against a candle on a table to keep it upright, but landscape. The phone points at my keyboard and behind me is a painting to add some interest – and that is it!  At the end of each video I edit it down just in photos on my phone and then I change the colouring slightly and then upload it straight to the YouTube app.  I don’t use a microphone – I find it can be a barrier between myself and the audience – I want these videos to be as honest and personal as possible, that is what will resonate the most with those who watch them.

Based on surveying 500 potential customers, Encore chose to give each video a default price of £15. However, some musicians feel it is a little on the low side and have raised their price to £20 or £30. Has the £15 price point worked for you? Have you considered raising your own price?

To be honest, I’m happy with the price point – the tipping has helped a lot and that gives plenty of scope for customers who can pay more to do so.  At £15 per video I have had multiple clients order 3 or 4 each – I’m not sure I would get that at £30 a video – and remember you want these videos to be seen by as many as possible – not only so you can get more PMM bookings but also because anyone who sees you could have a private function coming up – and that’s when you can make your proper money.  So I wouldn’t worry too much about the short term – I tend to think of the bigger picture.

 

What would you say to a musician currently considering whether they should begin making Personalised Music Messages?

If you’re like I was – basically sitting around doing nothing and going crazy then you have very little to lose – give it a go!

Finally, can you recommend me a piece of music which has cheered you up while being on lockdown?

Well…  I have 2 toddlers so by the end of a day of juggling those 2 and trying to record videos without them screaming while the red light is on, I’ll happily put on Coldplay’s last album, “Everyday Life” or “In the Waiting” by Kina Grannis and settle down with a glass of wine.  Not really Feel Good music – but my 3 year old loves “The Sound” by The 1975 so that usually kickstarts the day.

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Are you a musician looking to begin earning money from home with Personalised Music Messages? Click here to learn how to get set up. 

 

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Jonny Venvell

Jonny is Encore's Head of Artist Relations.

He's responsible for supporting and helping musicians on the platform and writes most of the musician-facing articles on the blog. He can usually be found singing in choirs, drumming in bands, or nodding meaningfully to particularly good chords in London's jazz bars.

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