Last April, Professor John released his “freshman” album Freshman Orientation. Professor John, aka John Mallanda, wrote, performed, and produced the funky, bass centric album. The album displays his sophisticated electric bass technique developed from studying the most acclaimed bassists in the funk/jazz world like Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten, along with legends of funk like Larry Graham, Parliament Funkadelic, Prince, and Stevie Wonder. Professor John has also drawn from his experiences playing with a variety of funk, hip hop, and R&B groups in his home town of Atlanta.
I talked with Professor John about managing his finances after the album, and how his is supporting his album after its release last year.
Talking finances for most isn’t the highlight of their day. This usually holds true for musicians. Professor John is a different case. Having a background in accounting; the writer, performer, producer, also serves happily as his own book keeper. As soon as I started to ask about his accounting and record system, a smile came across his face.
His accounting knowledge led Professor John to use Excel for his book keeping. For many, an Excel spreadsheet can serve as a basic record keeping system, but I usually recommend using a more automated accounting system. Using a system like Quickbook’s can automate many processes and can be much easier to set up and manage. These systems can also generate a variety of reports to review and analyze your financials.
To get that much value from using Excel, you must have a least an intermediate skill set in both Excel and accounting. But if you have those skills you can create a custom records system that allows you to track what is important to you. Using Excel also means you can manipulate that data in infinite custom reports and analysis.
Professor John released his first album last year, but he has been growing a community for years. “I started building media content 3-4 years ago” on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. Posting regularly and networking with fellow musicians, Professor John knew that creating his own online community was the best way to get his music to the right people.
When Professor John released his album last year, he already had a small core following to start sharing his new music with. In today’s music world, he knew that the best use of his new music wasn’t to use it to generate revenue, but to grow his audience. The album was made available widely online for free, and extra content was given away to capture more fan emails.
Professor John has put much of his focus on growing his fan base online over live shows. Two main reasons for this focus is that, first, live shows can only put you in front of a limited number of people, and, second, it’s easier to target your specific audience online.
On a Tuesday night, how many people can easily get out to a bar? Professor John believes he can find more people to listen to his music online than trying to get into bars to perform. He has used Facebook Live (once seven day straight) but loves to use Twitch.tv to perform live online. Getting someone to a bar on a Tuesday night is difficult, but getting them to click a link to watch your music isn’t as difficult of a challenge. Performances also make it possible to reach out to the whole world for each show rather than just those close by.
Additionally, Professor John’s unique jazz funk style with virtuoso like writing put him in a special niche. Fans of this music can be very passionate but also less common. By working within the community he built, he is naturally attracting listeners that are more likely to appreciate the music he creates.
I asked Professor John what was the best indicator he had for tracking his growth, and in a beat he said it was his email list. Having direct access to those that care about what you do is critical. Professor John was pumped about seeing his email subscriptions rates increasing dramatically recently. His new album and consistent social media interactions has helped lead this growth.
Professor John uses various social sites to help drive emails subscriptions and new listeners. As mentioned before he makes great use of Twitch to network and share, in addition to the standard FB, TW, IG accounts. Professor John does a great job of not just posting on these social sites but working to engage with his audience. He shares others’ content and starts discussions regularly.
He avoids a major pitfall of many musicians in his automatic Direct Messages on Twitter. With many musicians, auto DMs ask for retweets, follows on other sites, and album downloads; however, Professor John ask questions and creates easy opportunities for fans to engage directly.
Just because he isn’t leveraging his audience for monetary benefit right now, doesn’t mean he isn’t getting great value from them now. He says “getting feedback from the community” is one of the best benefits from building this network. Having an engaged crowd allows for great feedback about his music, how it’s delivered, merchandise, and countless other topics; all of which can be used to improve what he is delivering to his audience.