084: What types of content to create for a membership – 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 why it’s important to generate synergy between your content and why you should be diversifying it.

✍️ 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 www.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. You provide different formats and diverse types of content to your members, including videos, eBooks, learning paths, and other helpful resources. How important is it to offer various content formats to your members?

Damian Erskine: I found it to be crucial, especially on an educational site. Everybody learns differently; everybody assimilates information differently. So I’ve tried to strike a balance between providing enough diversity of approach for people. While also keeping things kind of streamlined and efficient. And I don’t want the site to get cumbersome or difficult to use. I won’t be able to find what they want and get there quickly. Thankfully some of my members were web developers and educators themselves, and they helped me to streamline the website a little bit.

So I basically, I have my standalone lessons. And then I have modules which are essentially courses, and then I developed learning paths, thinking that, you know, some people, everybody has different goals for their instrument. Maybe somebody wants to be a freelance professional like me, or maybe somebody just wants to get a little better at jamming with their friends on the weekends. So, I encourage my students to think about their end game. You know, who do you want to be when you grow up with your musical self and then tried to create paths through the material that lead to those places. I basically have three primary ways to access my information. And then I also then started to focus on other ways. To engage people’s interest in music generally, you know, like a developed a basis of the month page, where I take a world-class bass player that people might not be familiar with and post some YouTube videos and a short bio, and every first of the month, they get a new player live archive of my own music, but with charts, so students can look at the charts and read along with what we’re doing and, you know, just different ways for people to engage with music as a whole, even outside of the purely educational work and on something in the shed approach. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. So I feel like it’s been, yeah, it’s been worth doing. And I think that the site is pretty streamlined and efficient as well.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, that’s super clever. Like the ability to think, Okay. Like most people would just assume, here’s the course or here’s the content, here’s how you go through it. Step one says… Good luck! Let us know if you have any questions, and you took that approach of like, yeah, we have a step one, step two, step three-course type module thing, right? But then there’s also, well, maybe that’s not how you learn, or maybe that’s not what you want, maybe you don’t want some exhaustive. Your lessons, like you said, maybe I just want like five videos or something for some quick tips we can improve with playing with friends on the weekend. So I just think that’s really smart to kind of meet your members where they are and what they want, which is, it sounds like obvious, like, yeah, you should definitely listen and respond, but most people that are memberships are probably more thinking about how do I want to deliver this for me to do, and less about how do my customers actually want to consume it, right? They take an extra step. Back and forth, It’s a little messier to kind of figure out. And so I think a lot of people avoid it. So that’s really smart. You’re doing that. Is that something you got from the feedback you got from folks or is that just something intuitively you knew that was something I gleaned from my own personal experience?

Damian Erskine: I’m a music school dropout. I did not understand the information in the way it was presented to me in a collegiate setting. Afterwards, I decided, okay, I don’t want to drive trucks forever. So let me just get back to this and see if I can kind of work it out. And I basically taught myself, ultimately coming to understand much of the information in the same way, but I needed to approach it from a different angle. So I was very aware of the fact that I didn’t resonate with the way generally accepted path towards an understanding of jazz harmony and all that kind of stuff. So my general approach with my students has always been to be the teacher. I always wished I had, you know, be able to, that also means being available, like being a resource, having somebody I could just ask a seemingly dumb question to, but you don’t know until you know that there are no dumb questions, and you have to feel comfortable enough to ask those things. So that’s been kind of my methodology is just being a resource and trying to present material in a way that resonates with people. Cause everybody’s on the spectrum. You know, everybody starts from a place of not knowing. And then there’s somewhere in between that and, you know, complete mastery or something. So, trying to present materials in a way that can connect with people anywhere on the spectrum and start to lead them all in the direction that they want to go.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, no, it’s super empathetic. I really liked that approach. I think it’s very smart and people should take note. One other question I had sort of related to content strategy, so there’s the different lessons, different models you provide and different tool paths and formats, and that’s all good. I think you mentioned, do you also do sort of one-on-one lessons if somebody wants that?

Damian Erskine: Yeah, that’s another, it’s kind of another level of engagement. I think I’m nine months into the website now, four or five months in; I was thinking about the most meaningful relationships I’ve had with teachers and to me, they were ones and students, you know, as a teacher, and they were relationships that were more like mentors, then you know, I’m going to come to you every two weeks and take a one hour lesson and then see in two weeks, like I said, being, having somebody you can ask those kinds of questions to when you just don’t know something. So I actually created a mentorship tier on the website, which is more it’s 125 a month, but that gives, at that level you have any time asynchronous. It’s the germ. I learned the ability to communicate with me either via video, and I have a number of different ways we can communicate, those lessons every two weeks and then kind of a constant feedback. They can send me content. I can make suggestions like, ah, try it like this, you know, maybe focus on your articulation when you play this passage in this way. And it it’s been very beneficial. It also helped to mitigate the general low price point for most members because it is more a month, but I’ve also made it pretty exclusive. I only allowed five people at a time at that level because I want to be able to provide, I don’t want to overdo it and spread myself too thin because then everybody suffers. So yeah, you know, having different, different levels of engagement for people as well?

Ward Sandler: Yeah. And it’s also a way to like you said, offer the other content to like the masses at a very reasonable price, and then for folks that can afford it and want to pay a premium, there’s the one-on-one, which is maybe a way to kind of have. But, you know, your cake needed to provide a nice reasonably priced thing to people, but Hey, you know, here’s a really high-profit part of the business, which is just one-on-one lessons. So I think that’s a nice way to kind of marry those two ideas together.

Damian Erskine: Yeah. And a lot of my members have gone wound up taking occasional private lessons with me as well. I put a separate members store on my site. Where people can just book lessons with me, you know, either half, hour or one-hour lessons and people have taken advantage of that. And it’s great. It’s a great way to connect with the students. And it’s also a great way to help support me and support the site.

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: www.BassEducation.com

Ward Sandler:Great. Thank you!