I Turned a Music Hustle Into a 7 Figure Business – Here’s What I Learned

  • Graham Cochrane, 38, owns a business that sells online courses on music production.
  • Turning his sideline into a business and growing his YouTube channel taught him a lot.
  • He says he learned the value of offering free content to attract more paying customers.

I never thought I’d make a lot of money as a musician, and for many years I didn’t.

In 2009, during a terrible


I lost two jobs, one in finance when the department was dissolved and one in a software startup when it closed, right after signing my first mortgage and having my first child. My wife and I eventually had to use food stamps to get by. Willing to make anything work, I decided to focus more on my hustle on the music side.

I started freelancing producing music for bands and singer-songwriters and creating music production content on my blog. I also launched a YouTube channel, The Recording Revolution, where I taught musicians how to record professional-sounding music on a budget from a home studio.

Since then, I have grown my YouTube channel to over 600,000 subscribers. I post every week without fail.

For me, the best way to make money on YouTube was to create online courses and sell them.

So in 2010 I launched my first product, an online course that taught viewers how to use popular audio recording software called Pro Tools. I only made $10,000 in the first year of the course, but it was a start and over the years I created more courses on music and recording. In 2018, I made over $1 million in revenue from the sale of these courses.

The older I got, the more people started asking me questions about my business, not just about music. they wanted to know how they they could generate income by doing their own courses. In 2018, I decided to launch a second business by teaching others how to launch their own online business based on their own areas of expertise. This involved starting a second YouTube channel and blog and a separate website for online courses and training products. In 2021, this second business generated more than $1.2 million in revenue.

Growing a side hustle into an income-generating business requires consistency. In the years since launching my businesses, here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to be successful selling online courses.

Lesson #1: Creating Free Content Will Lead to More Paying Customers

In the business of information products and the sale of courses, it is necessary to reach many people to win their business. Some people run ads to get customers, but I focus on offering my best content for free because, in my experience, this generates more leads that can become paying customers.

At first I was nervous that giving away my “secrets” would mean that no one would buy my paid products or that I would have nothing left to sell.

But the opposite happened: the more content I made available for free, the more my audience grew and the more they trusted me. People who have done well after following the advice in my free content often send me emails saying that’s what made them decide to join one of my paid programs.

Even after launching courses for purchase, I continue to create valuable, free content on my blog, podcast, and YouTube channel.

My free content tends to focus on single bits of information, while the paid courses are deeper and more complicated. For example, I could teach a specific technique for free on how to make your drums sound punchier and more aggressive, but I also have a paid course that teaches everything you need to know about recording and producing great drum sounds.

Lesson #2: More hustle is not the answer

I absolutely despise “hustle culture”: In my experience, working more is simply not the answer to earn more.

In the first few years of launching my online businesses, I averaged 20-30 hours of work per week. But since my business products are online courses, once I finish a new one and publish it, it can continuously generate passive income. By doing this, I have created systems that keep my business running smoothly and now allow me to work only five to ten hours per week.

For example, on each of my YouTube videos or podcast episodes, I offer exclusive free training in exchange for their email address if they want to dig deeper into my content. I use automated software to follow up on those email leads to handle the qualifying and sales process, and eventually offer some of my paid digital products and make the sale for myself. Then, if they buy, my system automatically delivers the product and takes them through a welcome onboarding process, again via email.

Also, I have a virtual assistant who is in charge of uploading, tagging and sharing my weekly content. It also handles all customer service emails for me, making sure I don’t look at my inbox as much as possible so I can focus on creating content, which is the best use of my time.

When you’re ruthless with efficiency and effectiveness, you’ll have more bandwidth and time to really focus on real growth.

Lesson #3: If you are good at what you do, your knowledge will be valuable to others

When I started my business, I had a lot of self-limiting beliefs and feelings of impostor syndrome. Sometimes I fall into the negative thought that people wouldn’t think I’m good enough to learn.

But in reality, few people have cared that he doesn’t have a Grammy or that he doesn’t produce music for household names. Instead, they appreciate that my videos have helped them make better-sounding music. And as my skills and knowledge have increased, I have more value to offer my students and can take them further on your journey.

Here are two facts I learned that have helped me overcome feelings of impostor syndrome:

  • People don’t need you to be an expert, they need you to get results.
  • You just need to be one step ahead of them on the journey to teach them something valuable.

Lesson #4: Design your business to serve your life, not the other way around

I don’t believe in sacrificing everything in my personal life to grow the business.

Family time is important to me, so I built my business around it from the beginning. Originally, I just decided not to work on Fridays. My kids were young at the time, so we would have “Family Fun Fridays” when we would go to the beach or the zoo or have a picnic in our backyard.

As they grew older, I made sure to leave work every evening at 4:00 pm so that I could give them and my wife my full attention at night and on weekends. I also adjust my schedule as needed so I can get them to school every day, no matter what.

For new business owners, protecting this personal time could be making plans with friends and sticking to them or putting your laptop away at a certain time every night.

I didn’t learn these lessons overnight: it took me years of trial and error, experimentation, and battling my own fears and insecurities. And while building an online business is now more feasible than ever, it takes strategy, commitment, and consistent effort to make it happen.

Graham Cochrane is a business coach and author of “How to get paid for what you know”. He founded his YouTube channel and online music business, The Recording Revolution, in 2009. Cochrane has appeared on CNBC, Yahoo! and HuffPost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.