082: How to prepare for a membership launch – with Damian Erskine

Damian Erskine is the founder of BassEducation.com. His online platform provides inspiration, courses, and a community for musicians. In this episode, he joins Ward to discuss how much content do you really need before launching a membership site.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome, everyone! Today I’ll be talking to Damian Erskine, a very talented musician with an impressive career, now founder and creator of BassEducation.com, an online bass academy with over 150+ members, built with MemberSpace. He’s also the author of two books, a contributor of several music magazines, and a prolific MemberSpace community member! Welcome to the Membership Maker podcast, Damian! It’s great to have you here!

Damian Erskine: Oh, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me and thank you for MemberSpace. You guys have been wonderful.

Ward Sandler:Glad to hear it. Your community and membership’s success rely on amazing content, and creating that is not exactly easy. Your content library is now quite robust, but it must have been difficult getting started and ready for launch. How was this process and what advice can you give folks starting their membership?

Damian Erskine: Yeah, there was a pretty massive learning curve. The thing I primarily tried to focus on was not getting overwhelmed. The magnitude of the entirety of the process.Just focusing on taking small steps. So first, I mapped everything out, initially using a mind map, but then I moved to Trello and kind of started mapping out webpages in a more literal sense. And then just really put all of my energy into, you know, basically by day I was creating videos. I’ve made a content schedule and just started trying to record as many instructional videos as I could. And by night I was, you know, doing Final Cut Pro tutorials and watching how-to YouTube videos and researching best practices and how to get good lighting and all that stuff. Very much learning as I went. So I was either studying or doing, and I just kind of committed 150% of myself to it, and just kept taking as many steps as I could every day, without worrying too far about how tall that mountain was I needed to climb.

Ward Sandler: Yeah. So it was like that consistency, just like laying the bricks every day, just showing up and doing what needs to get done, right?

Damian Erskine: You know, it’s kind of the same approach I took to my own development as a musician. If I was always comparing myself to my hero and thinking, well, I’ll never be that good. I would feel like why even bother. But if I just thought, let me just try and be a little better tomorrow than I am today. And then I was yesterday. Um, We’ll just see where I get, and that’s kind of the approach I took with the site. I just thought, let me just see if I can take one more step in the right direction, you know, and this was kind of my COVID project. So I was like, well, all my tours are canceled. I’m essentially unemployed. I’m home. I actually had the idea to do this over a decade ago and never did it because I was always traveling and just, I didn’t have the time to really commit to it. And so I thought, well, no excuses. Let’s just, you know, let’s see what happens!

Ward Sandler: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great attitude, I got to say. I mean, for a lot of folks, especially in your case, right? Where you have this big shift and your business model, big shift in your week to week or month to month, not travelling, not doing shows kind of suddenly a lot of. Kind of get down in the dumps and be like, well, I guess I gotta go find, you know, a different job or something, but I think it’s really, you know, impressive that you were able to figure it out. I have a skill set here. , I’m a reasonably intelligent human, I can figure things out. How can I pivot the business and find something that would work? So is that just kind of a trait you’ve always had that like grit or that kind of creativity under constraint? Or is that something you feel like you kind of recently developed?

Damian Erskine: I’ve always had it to a certain extent. And I did have the benefit of having taught remotely a little bit already. Cause I’ve, you know, through my travels, meet people in different cities and countries, and I had also for the past five six years been teaching for an organization called Jazz Education abroad, were we where going to China and the Middle East and Asia and all these places and holding jazz camps. And I met so many students who wanted to continue working on some of these things with me, and also couldn’t afford many of the online sites. And I thought, you know what? I’m going to create a space. I’m not going to try and be, there’s, you know, a number of sites that do this and do it incredibly well. I’m not going to try and be anybody other than who I am, and people that are interested in me in the way I teach will find value here. And if nothing else I’ll learn something about it in the process. And if the subscription community thing doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll just, you know, at least nothing else have another website full of educational materials I can point my students do. So why not?

Ward Sandler:Yeah. That’s smart. So let’s kind of go to the launch part though. So it sounds like you had a lot of planning. You said you use Trello for a while to kind of plan out, I guess sort of like user flow right there, what would be on each page, kind of thinking through your lessons, your content library of sorts. So that’s one part of this, right? The organization of what content will I have and where will it be? Which is super important, because if you make that’s convoluted or all over the place, people are gonna get confused. They’re not going to find this content. You pop them a lot of time on, and then they’re going to cancel. They’re not going to command it. And it’s all this is a waste. So that’s important. But what other things you can say besides just, okay, my content. How is it organized? What are the things were you thinking about?

Damian Erskine: Well, initially, I decided upon a certain amount of content before I actually launched. And the thing, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was the sense that that feeling of I needed to be perfect before I Let anybody even know that this is a thing online, before I officially launched and just trusting in my process. And I really tried to bring users into the process, but I just thought, okay, it doesn’t need to be perfect. This is what it is on day one. And I take that same approach, make it better on day two than it was on day one. So I just focused on getting enough content that I felt it was worthy of existing as a destination online for people and then launched, and then immediately tried to focus on user engagement to try and help me figure out how to make this better for everybody.

Ward Sandler:And how did you sort of focus on, well, we can get to that in a sec. I kind of want to dig back into that. So there was the creating the content, knowing how much is enough, the launch, right? So you don’t because if you just kind of, I want to make it perfect ways to delay the launch and just be planning forever, creating content forever and not actually asking for any money out there. So it’s good that you kind of gave yourself. Okay. Let’s get like an MVP. Did you think about anything else in terms of like social media or email marketing or how to set up the website? Have you’ve created websites in the past? I assume, like, how’d you think about some of that other stuff?

Damian Erskine: I mainly focused on researching the best resources for what I was trying to do, you know, who to host my video, how to connect with different people online, always been kind of horrible at self-promotion. The one thing I had going for me was that I already had it a bit of a, you know, my own fan base with bass players that knew me from different arenas. So I just really focused again, I took the same approach that I did professionally, which was focused on being the best I can be and do the best, doing the best job I can do. And trust that word of mouth will help it to spread and get out there to people. I really didn’t do much as far as marketing or social media campaigns or any of that. Cause it’s just I’ve never been very good at it. It never felt organic to me and, and I needed this to be an organic process for myself. So I just focused on my strengths, which is teaching and playing, and worked on my weaknesses, video editing, researching apps and workflows and things like that. But that was pretty much all of my focus was on creating content and learning how to, make it effective, you know, and visually appealing and functional for people.

Ward Sandler:Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Damian; we really appreciate it; would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks that are trying to learn more about BassEducation?

Damian Erskine: Yes. Well, I was thinking of different resources. Like I knew that we should talk resources, and I was thinking more about the site type of resources. But some of them relate. YouTube is your friend. If you have questions, search for it on YouTube. I’ve learned how to do everything from fixing my dishwasher to fix my roof, to learn how to play Teen Town on the bass. YouTube is your friend, one suggestion. I wanted to make this suggestion to MemberSpace people and anybody interested in this kind of things: Research. One of the mistakes I made early on, you know, I’d be researching a lot of apps to use, for one service or another one functionality or another. And I made the mistake of just, well, it’s, you know, it’s cheaper. If I do the annual plan, let me just do that only to realize that service. There was some kind of deal-breaking obstacle with that service, like ‘Oh, I can’t actually do this.’ And then I wound up wasting that much money. So I would encourage people to explore sites, even if you’re paying more first, do the monthly plan, make sure the thing really works for you and then upgrade to an annual plan.

With regard to bass players, I would encourage everybody to reach out to me if you have any questions first and foremost. But I, I tell all my students, the best thing you can do is think about the type of player you want to be. You know, think about your idols, who you want to sound like, what you want to do. And I think there’s probably a relates to every, but beyond just the musical realm, and then reverse engineer that process a little bit. You can look at that player and think, okay, that type of player probably needs to know. You know how to read music, stylistic diversity, if they want to be a session, musician, whatever it is, and reverse engineer your, shed process and devote your time to your weaknesses, you know, prioritize your shed time or your study time when building a site, based on what’s most important to you and your goals. Don’t feel like you need to be able to do everything, be able to know everything, just focus on what you actually want to achieve, and what’s going to help you get from point a to point B as efficiently as possible.

Ward Sandler:That is really great, and what’s your website URL?

Damian Erskine: BassEducation.com

Ward Sandler:Great. Thank you!