Membership Geeks

Behind The Membership: Amplified Artists

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The Covid-19 pandemic was unkind to most sectors…

And performing arts is one that suffered more than most…

But that didn’t deter Jim Cooney.

He's the founder of Amplified Artists, an award-winning director, choreographer, and educator, who managed to build his membership from the ground up, right in the middle of a global pandemic.

With his wealth of experience teaching in universities and offering guidance on a more personal basis, he decided to create a membership that could serve as an anchor for artists at a time when their industry had been decimated.

And as I'm sure you've already guessed, his membership journey has had its fair share of twists and turns…

Despite that, he’s managed to do more than just stay afloat, he's built a successful membership for his market. 

So, without further ado, let's go Behind the Membership to see how Jim managed to build a business and create value in a period of difficulty within his industry.

Could you give us an overview of what Amplified Artists is and who it's for?

So, it’s a membership community for professionals working in the performing arts…

That's anyone from performers to producers and everyone in between.

Basically, it helps them to build careers and lives on the pillars of artistry, money, and health.

The artistry end of things isn’t just their craft or area of specialization…

It’s also how they can brand and package themselves in a more attractive light so people hire them.

So, instead of just taking any job that comes their way, I help them carefully curate the careers they want.

Then there’s the money or business side, if you will.

Lots of people have fallen prey to the “starving artist” mentality that’s been plaguing the industry for a while…

So, I’m trying to ensure they develop a better relationship with money and get accustomed to building wealth.

And then the last part is health.

This involves mental, emotional, and physical health…

It’s everything from dealing with rejection to imposter syndrome and even eating right. 

Altogether, I’m dealing with their careers from a more holistic standpoint.

What made you actually decide to start a membership site?

I’m no stranger to helping people navigate their careers a bit better, it’s something I’d been doing on the side for a while…

And I was always struck by the fact that the stuff that I'm teaching could be taught.

We’re not rehearsing lines or smoothing out choreography…

We’re talking about the more abstract side of the profession delivered over Zoom and other virtual mediums.

These are things people would pay a mean buck for…

They'd pay for me to travel to them and provide me with accommodation… 

And this made me think about everyone else out there who couldn’t afford to do that…

Or those who didn't have access to people in New York, which is the epicentre of performing arts…

Especially when it comes to broadway musicals.

Besides that, offering this knowledge within a membership makes my job a lot easier…

I record the course once and let members have access to it.

Needless to say, I was initially a bit reluctant because the thought of launching, marketing, and consistently putting out content was overwhelming.

Ultimately, it’s a lot easier to answer questions, address concerns and encourage accountability within a membership than via a stand alone course or workshop. 

So, I thought to myself, if I really want to help people in the long-term, then it should be a via membership.

That's when I started looking into how to start a membership site and came across the Membership Geeks podcast.

The more I heard you say “less is more”, the more I realized I didn't need to be available 24/7 5 days a week to run it.

I really liked the idea of not having to launch regularly because that's something I would find stressful.

I was also very conscious when I built my membership that I needed to design it around my other commitments…

I still direct shows, choreograph and teach…

So I needed the membership to be something I could do anywhere and not be so intrusive on my time that I couldn't fulfil my other obligations.

How are you fitting the membership in around working on shows and your shows?

We host two live events a month – a Q&A call and a mastermind.

Since I only have those two live events I can work it around my schedule…

This means that I can't be consistent in terms of timings of the calls, but that's something that works for both me and my members as the nature of what we do means our schedules change a lot.

Any social media management, content planning or creation is done in my down time.

So, you actually launched during the pandemic, how did that go?

Let me start off by saying I can sometimes be more of a thinker than a doer.

I had been thinking about starting a membership for a while before I actually did it…

And the pandemic was the catalyst that pushed me into action mode because my schedule was wide open…

After all the whole industry had shut down… 

I think it was a blessing in disguise to be in that position, even though it was pretty scary.

That's when I bit the bullet and joined the Membership Academy. 

Absolutely no one was working in our industry at that time, but I still had people join my membership…

And as things started opening up, I noticed those numbers rising steadily.

What's been your biggest challenge throughout your time running the membership so far?

For the most part, I’m a perfectionist, and the thing about memberships is they aren’t the most straightforward kind of business to run.

Having to let go of that perfectionism and accepting that things won’t always go the way I envisioned them has been quite the challenge. 

Also, I now see the value of starting things simple.

Because I had that luxury of having my whole schedule free, I got into the habit of working on my membership…

Now that things have opened up and I have other jobs in the works, it’s a bit of a juggle.

So, I think wrestling with my own wants versus reality has been my biggest challenge so far.

If that's been the challenge, then what's made it all feel worthwhile for you over the last 15 months or so?

It’s been the wins for me…

Just seeing people’s success and their ability to overcome challenges at the end of the day.

I sent out a survey at the end of my first year just to get a feel of how people were getting on.

I asked people if they felt more confident since they joined Amplified Artists, and 100% of the people said yes – that shocked me.

I would have settled for 70-80% because not everyone is at the same stage of their journey, but the response was overwhelmingly great.

It's those kinds of breakthroughs that really resonate with me…

But also, it's my pride…

Just logging into my site and seeing all the content I’ve created become this living, breathing thing has been quite fulfilling.

What are you doing to retain your members?

Well, all but one of my members renewed their annual membership so that's good.

I have an onboarding sequence for every new member, survey them towards the end of the onboarding process and every 6 months I do a full survey of members asking them things like:

  • What do you use the most? 
  • What do you use least? 
  • What would you like to see added into the membership? 

And I use that as a guide on how to shape the membership.

So I guess that helps retention as I'm building the site around their wants and needs. 

When people have cancelled their membership for a specific reason I've reached out to see if there's any way I can help them…

It might be that I've extended their subscription for two months or invited them to create a course for the membership in return for a free subscription for the the rest of the year.

I always try to help if I can. 

We also offer free scholarships where people get their full membership for free.

How does your scholarship program work?

Someone approached me and offered to sponsor an artist to be part of the membership for a year.

And once one person made that offer, other people followed suit…

Then there was a big non-profit organization in New York who supported some artists.

And that's how it started. 

So now every 6 months I offer scholarships based on total donations…

The process is simple – A 1 minute video statement of applicants explaining why they're an artist and what they want to do with their art.

What are you doing when it comes to marketing the membership?

I have my blog posts and a mailing list, and that's really where most of my members come from. 

I haven't really cracked the nut of having people sign up automatically yet…

For the most part, people didn't really know what Amplified Artists was at the beginning…

And since there was no proof of concept, I mostly relied on price-based promotions and things like that to attract new members.

But over the past six months, I’ve relied on different packages to get people’s feet through the door.

As you know, our industry is still in the process of opening up, so we’re not out of this weird period yet…

It’s going to take lots of active efforts to get more people interested…

But so far, it’s been a slow and steady build-up of members.

Overall, what impact has the membership had on your life in business so far?

Well, considering that my industry was completely shut down, in simple terms, it gave me something to do.

I don't know what I would have done otherwise…

I've seen so many people get depressed, and I had my own fair share of breakdown days.

So, my membership kept me excited and motivated when things seemed bleak.

Besides that, I’ve enjoyed the freedom and stability it’s given me…

I no longer have to rely on people calling me over to teach them because I have my membership currently rolling out income.

So, when someone calls me to come in and teach, that's a bonus.

Final question what would your top tip be for anyone who's just starting a membership?

Right off the bat, it’d be to join the Membership Academy

You can watch all the YouTube videos you want, but having an actual roadmap and a community to engage with is much more helpful.

Beyond that, it’s important to keep things simple.

I have a tendency to try to do everything all at once…

And I'm still having to tell myself to keep it simple.

I wish I’d done that from the onset because I ended up creating a lot of unnecessary work for myself.

Learn more about Jim over at…

Amplified Artists

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