Dan Mumm has been using Sellfy since 2013 to sell his music albums, guitar tabs, video lessons, and more. Throughout the years, as a professional musician, Dan has established a profitable online business, allowing him to be independent of record labels and take full control of his time. His digital products are loved by guitar players across the globe, and he even opened a second Sellfy store just for his Brasilian customers. Interestingly, he keeps his marketing efforts smart and relatively minimal, yet sales keep coming in. In our interview, he shares valuable lessons for all creators who want to make an income online.
How do you define yourself as a creator?
I’m interested in many aspects of creativity, so I don’t really like using labels. Everything I do supports writing music, but, if I had to define it, I’d say I’m a Composer. There are many other things I like to add to music for inspiration, but the core of it is writing music. I do the production, mixing and mastering. I also do the business stuff to maintain everything online.
How would you describe your music style and where do you get inspiration?
The music I create now is a combination of heavy metal sounds and electronic influences. There’s a lot of synthesizer at work and it’s a little progressive. I bring many classical compositional techniques into it so it’s a hybrid of many different genres, of things that I love and that other people are interested in.
For a couple of years, I went through a phase of doing just Classical music arrangements with electric guitar in heavy metal and hard rock style. I’ve been a huge Classical music fan since childhood. And also, doing Classical music is a great way to get exposure because people already know these songs.
How do you create music that draws people in and generates an income for you?
As far as creating great content goes, I think it’s really important to find something you’re passionate about and that other people are also interested in.
If you create only what you want to create, it’s very unlikely that other people are going to be interested in that. But if you only create what other people want, then you may not be interested in it and then it’s not going to be fulfilling. Find a crossover between the two and move in that direction.
Also, pay attention to what people say they dislike, especially at the beginning, just to see what’s working and what’s not. If you move in the direction of what’s working and keep refining it, you’re going to end up with fantastic content.
I think a great way to approach it is, every time you create a new song, to have a goal in mind that there’s going to be something about it that’s better than the last one. Never stagnate, always try to increase the quality of your work and your ability to resonate and connect with other people.
When did you realize you could sell your music online?
When you’re trying to get noticed by a record label or doing something along those lines, it’s really a gamble, you don’t really have a lot of control over the outcome.
If you’re in control of selling your own music on a larger scale, like selling online, then you’re in control of your level of success and how far you go with it.
And that really motivated me to figure out how to do it. And the more I saw the potential of the Internet as a means of being independent, I just completely gave up the idea of trying to get on a record label. I decided to take control of it myself.
At first, you couldn’t really get on iTunes unless you had certain connections. It took me quite a while to make that viable. Now I work with an aggregate site that puts my music on iTunes, Spotify, and other places, but I don’t make a lot of money from that. And, I don’t get a lot of control over it. Something like Sellfy is much more effective in making a high percentage of the sales that are coming in.
What were your first products and how did you create them?
A few years ago I had done my first solo album and I had someone else do a professional mix on it because I didn’t know how to mix or master anything at the time. I did a Kickstarter for the album and spent a ton of money, but it just didn’t turn out well. It was really disappointing. That motivated me to learn how to mix, both for having more control over the end result and also if I knew how to mix, I wouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars every time I wanted to release new music.
So, I remixed that first album myself. I already had the original mix on iTunes and I was looking for another avenue to sell the new mix. That’s what I ended up putting on my Sellfy store. And then, once I made a few sales, I realized the potential and it was enough to show me that I could take control of it. Later, I made a PDF e-book with the music in guitar tablature so people could learn the songs from my album. And it just went from there.
Originally, when I put that remix of my album and the tabs for learning on my Sellfy store, I wasn’t really doing anything in terms of promotion. I may have made a video for YouTube. It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years ago that I realized I could package my classical arrangements from various Composers and sell them as collections. I had a lot of material, like 50-something classical arrangements. It was an immense amount of work I had done and I wasn’t making much money from that.
How did you get your first customers?
It was with YouTube, originally. I think I posted the first video in 2008. It was more like fooling around and it took me a while to realize that I could actually create professional content there.
I also realized I could make a video every time I did a song, which is a great way to share, especially with guitar works because people can see what you’re doing. So, my audience kind of emerged from there. Enough of those people were interested when I put a link or made a promotional video saying I released something new, and people actually bought it. That got the ball rolling.
Tell me more about the marketing strategies and channels you use to generate sales…
With a record company, you’d have a budget set aside for the artist to promote new music, a new album or a new video. As an independent artist, if you don’t already have a bunch of money to spend, it puts you at a major disadvantage.
It took me a while to make it work, but I eventually made the first sale through Facebook advertising. And then I sent out an email, using the email feature on Sellfy, and many more people bought it. I couldn’t believe it! I eventually figured out how to use Facebook advertising as a means to both promote my music and the product at the same time so that the ads can at least sustain themselves. That has worked out really well.
I also keep in touch with my followers and customers with weekly newsletters where I talk about different subjects that my mailing list would be interested in. Every time I do a new song or a new music video, there’s a product associated with it. The song and its video promote a product package, which then also promotes my whole store. Facebook advertising brings in new people and the emails keep people coming back.
So, I now have systems in place for advertising, email campaigns and putting out new products. It’s more streamlined now, but it took a lot of work to figure out. Those classical songs still make a huge portion of the money and they bring people into hearing my original music. I can say it was one of the best things I’ve done.
How has Sellfy impacted your life and your business?
Before I started using Sellfy, I had other ways of supplementing my income by working with various companies, doing performances and promoting products like guitars.
Sellfy allowed me to become more independent in that regard. Now I’m not relying so much on other people or companies to make money. It has given me the ability to be more independent, and I feel more in control of what I do, which is great.
The biggest part that’s changed is having control over my time. It’s something I’ve worked towards all my life. Now I can spend time getting inspired, writing music, and not having my day broken up by other commitments or having to worry about things like paying the bills. To have control over my time as a creative person means a lot to me because I can really get myself into a positive mindset, I can focus on doing my best. It gives me huge freedom.
Also, many more opportunities have opened from doing this stuff online. For example, I now have a signature custom-made guitar model with Greeson Custom Guitars. That’s something I always wanted. And then, I have signature pickups with a pickup company Planet Tone, so cool things like that that have happened. I’ve been able to go to China and Germany and various places to perform. But lately, I haven’t been really doing a lot with that, I’ll probably get back into it in the future. I’m more focused on the content now, but there are definitely more things on the horizon.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
I think one of them I mentioned earlier, which is about being able to combine what you’re passionate about with what your audience likes.
Another big lesson is just the potential for being independent by working online. It takes a lot more work than you think, but it’s absolutely worth it. And, if you’re really determined to make it work, you can – as long as you’re willing to modify your approach and learn along the way. If it doesn’t work, you have to be willing to admit that and find out why. I’ve done a number of things where I stuck to something for a long time that just wasn’t working, hoping or thinking it’s going to work eventually.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m trying to reach a larger audience and I’m trying new things with my music. I have certain ambitions as a Musician, as far as writing music is concerned. I want to bring up the quality of everything that I’m doing. I’ve got many different things I’d like to try, both in video and different styles of music. But mostly, I’m trying to branch out and reach a bigger audience.
Check out Dan Mumm's Sellfy store and official website.
Connect with Dan on his Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Instagram.