In 2009, Graham Cochrane was unemployed. The startup he worked at had gone out of business. And with a wife and newborn daughter, he needed to find a new way to make money.
With little left in his savings, Cochrane began writing articles about his passion: music recording and mixing. While he was trained as an audio engineer, he faced steep competition. From global publishers like Guitar World and Modern Drummer to household brands like Fender and Roland, there’s no shortage of experts offering online tutorials and tips.
Today, he makes between $35,000 to $75,000 per month from his website, The Recording Revolution.
On his site and YouTube channel, he offers free content and premium courses to help musicians record and mix music at home. He doesn’t have a marketing team. His business is fueled by YouTube videos, blog posts, and email content—all created by Cochrane from his home studio.
I personally discovered Cochrane on YouTube a few years ago. I was teaching myself how to mix and record music. I recently reached out to him for an interview about his YouTube strategy.
How did he get started? What strategy advice does he have for brands and businesses trying to grow their business with YouTube?
What you’ll learn in this interview:
- The core principle in Cochrane’s YouTube strategy that helped him grow from zero to 23 million YouTube views.
- His simple system for coming up with new YouTube videos.
- Why he doesn’t focus on video launches or worry about complex promotional plans.
You can find out more about Cochrane’s story on The Recording Revolution website or by visiting his YouTube channel. Read the Q&A below for insight into how he’s built such a successful business using YouTube.
Starting with 0 YouTube subscribers
Millions of musicians watch your YouTube videos, read your blog, and subscribe to your emails. What advice would you give a new artist or brand looking to build an audience on YouTube?
The BEST thing you can do with YouTube (or any content creation for that matter) is to make a lot of content and make it consistently. I’ve made at least one video a week for seven years. People come to expect your content. You create a dependable rhythm like your favorite TV show. You know it comes on every week.
Plus, when you create more content you increase the number of places people find you online. Instead of seeing your brand for one or two YouTube searches, you start to appear again and again in search results.
What’s the No. 1 mistake you see other businesses or artists making with YouTube?
The biggest mistake is this: not having an email list and not focusing on growing it.
The goal isn’t to gain a massive YouTube following. The goal is to grow your business (i.e. sell). In order to do that, you need an engaged email list. It is still THE best way to sell your product or services these days.
Too many people want a massive YouTube following with lots of comments and engagement. I care more about those YouTube viewers clicking over to my site to join my email list so I can give them even MORE free content and, of course, offer them something to purchase should they so choose.
Tracking the ROI of YouTube
You create a lot of content on YouTube. But you also have a blog, email list, Facebook Page, and Twitter account. Do you spend a lot of time analyzing where your traffic comes from and tracking the ROI of social media?
I honestly have never paid attention to where my traffic comes from. I’ve just made content that I know my audience wants and needs and I’ve put it out where people will find it (Google search and YouTube).
My written articles get picked up by Google. My videos get picked up by YouTube. My hope is that I create content that is SO good that people want to share it, mention it or mention me. This is how my brand has spread.
YouTube publishing and promotion tips
What software do you use to record your YouTube videos?
If it’s capturing my screen for software tutorials I use ScreenFlow. I edit right in the same program. If I’m on camera, I use Final Cut Pro X to edit it all together. But to be honest I started with the free iMovie for years!
How do you come up with new ideas for YouTube videos? Do you conduct SEO research?
I listen to my audience. I pay attention to the words and phrases they use. What frustrations are they having right now? What desires or hopes do they have in this niche?
If I’m not sure of the answers to those questions, I do something super powerful: I ask them! And I literally write down what they say. I will also copy and paste interesting comments people make on my site or on social media and keep it as a nugget to bring out for a video later. I keep a running list of topics I want to cover.
When that inspiration dries up, I’ll interact with students and fans again to fill it back up!
An amazing thing happens when you ask people what they need and want and then you go and make it for them—they think you read their mind!
After creating a new YouTube video, what’s your promotional strategy?
I have days that I post consistently (Monday and Thursday right now). I then share on Facebook and Twitter and of course email to my mailing list.
But videos are small pieces of a larger puzzle for me. I’ve found that big launches or campaigns aren’t important to reaching my audience. Instead, each video is part of a larger on-going effort to provide valuable advice to my audience. So, there’s no launch for a new video.
Developing your YouTube strategy
You create a lot of YouTube content—but I think that the true source of your success is the fact that every piece of content you create connects back to ONE simple message: you don’t need a lot of expensive gear to create good music. Every YouTube tutorial, every blog post, every email seems to support and express that message. Do you agree that having an underlying brand message has been the No. 1 factor in your success?
You’re absolutely right, James. I’m very clearly making a statement with each video. I have a clear opinion and worldview about my niche. And that is super important because it forces people to react. Either negatively (they don’t agree with me so they leave) or positively (they agree and they love me even more for it). It’s how I build loyalty and trust.
My little tribe is filled with mostly like-minded people. It’s very intentional. I don’t try to create content for EVERYONE. I try to create content for a specific type of person and let THEM decide if they dig what I’m doing.
If I just made content that is so ‘balanced’ and ‘normal’ then I wouldn’t be that interesting. Why would anyone pay attention to what I’m doing? This isn’t an act. I really share my real opinions on things. This is how I see the world of audio. So it’s natural for me. I just press into it fully and don’t try to appeal to everyone.
Did you start out with your core brand message? Or did you just start creating content and discover your core message over time?
I think it was a bit of both. I knew exactly what I was going to create content on. It’s even built into the name of my site, The Recording Revolution!
So yes I had a clear voice early on. But it wasn’t that strong in the beginning. (And by voice I mean my message and brand). After months and years of creating content, I solidified my message a lot more and have become a stronger brand because of it.
I think you need to figure out that message before you start. But also know that it will develop and become more refined over time.
Are there any small tricks or techniques you think have helped your YouTube videos rise to the top of search results?
The best thing you could do is create YouTube titles and descriptions that have the most relevant search terms in them. An easy way to test is to start typing into the YouTube search bar the words you WERE going to use in your title.
Which search results come up? Now try other words (one word at a time because YouTube will autofill based on popular search terms) and you can see what other people are ACTUALLY typing into YouTube and see how many results those search terms give you.
This can give you a better idea of what to use for your video title and what words to use in your description.
Do you have any final tips for brands and businesses trying to find success on YouTube?
One big thing to understand is that YouTube has changed. YouTube no longer promotes videos and channels based on views but rather on minutes watched. They call it “Watch Time” and that is the currency of YouTube. This is to prevent people from posting stupid short three-second videos with clickbait titles and racking up views that mean nothing.
Now the goal of a YouTube channel is to create LOTS of content and LONG content that people really want to watch. If you can keep people watching you will be rewarded by the algorithm.
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