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At Music Entrepreneur HQ, we first began accepting guest posts in 2016.
There have been many benefits to this initiative and it’s fair to say a good chunk of the traffic we’ve gotten in the last three years or so (and even backlinks) has come from the great content that was created by contributors like you – thank you!
But I wouldn’t be transparent if I didn’t also admit that guest posts and advertising opportunities have been a double-edged sword for us.
And, that water has been gradually heating up over the years, to where it’s now boiling.
So, What Went Wrong, Exactly?
From our perspective, are several things that went wrong.
Here’s a breakdown of each:
It Started Taking Up Too Much Time
This was the first issue I encountered.
I noticed that correspondence with prospective contributors was taking longer than it should have.
When I finally got posts from willing guest posters, they were often poorly written and desperately in need of some editing love before they could be published.
I would usually be the one to edit the piece.
But that was just the beginning.
Once the post had been edited, I still had to design a header image, format the piece, schedule it in our editorial calendar, and so forth.
It all added up.
At first, I justified it by saying to myself, “well, it’s content I didn’t have to write, and every piece helps us drive more traffic, so at the end of the day, it’s good for us.”
I can see now that this thinking wasn’t serving me.
I don’t want to sound too important here, but I had much better things to do with my time, some of which I sacrificed to get guest posts ready for publishing (that’s on me, though).
No One Reads The Guidelines
If it wasn’t bad enough that we were getting poor quality submissions, we also had to deal with the fact that people didn’t bother reading our guidelines before pitching.
Some of them even started pitching without a clear understanding of what our website is about.
Do you honestly think we want to publish content about pools, drug use, environment, or otherwise, when the audience we’re serving are music entrepreneurs?
What part of Music Entrepreneur HQ confused you?
It takes all of two to three minutes to read 600 to 700 words (the length of our guidelines post), yet prospects repeatedly violated these terms:
- Guest posts must be 800 words.
- Guest posts must be on-topic.
- Guest posts may not contain too many self-serving links.
- Guest posts must use a similar style to our posts.
- You must provide an author bio and photo.
- You must do your own research.
- You can’t tell us when to publish your piece.
- You can’t ask for a specific type of link.
Which is honestly most of the points on the page (straightforward, don’t you think?).
Even as recently as last week, I had people asking whether they could have a dofollow link.
Please. Read. The. Freaking. Guidelines.
For better or for worse, it seems, when people are told what not to do, they go ahead and do it anyway.
It Wasn’t Generating Enough Revenue To Be Worthwhile
Last year, I started charging for guest posts, which eventually justified bringing on a guest post coordinator to handle everything on my behalf.
But before I ever got to that point, I spent a lot of my own time working on this, even though the revenue it generated was a far cry from what I was earning elsewhere (red flag!).
This is not a post about money, but honestly, $30 to have your post edited, formatted and scheduled by a four-time published author?
That’s unheard of!
I probably should have been charging closer to $0.30 per word (which would have been roughly $240 per post).
Even that seems a little cheap for what you ultimately got, which included:
- Exposure in our weekly digests.
- Promotion via our email list.
- Ongoing promotion via our extensive portfolio of owned social media assets.
Anyway, it’s my responsibility for not charging what I’m worth.
So, from now on, guest posts cost $300 (but we aren’t accepting them anymore, so don’t ask).
Guest Posts Were Creating A Disconnect For Our Audience
I would love to say that all prospective guest posters were sensitive to our content requirements and needs at Music Entrepreneur HQ, but that was rarely the case.
For every pure, value-adding, music entrepreneur who contributed to our blog (thank you), there were probably 30 SEO agencies, tire kickers and low-quality overseas contributors who wasted our time and energy (and therefore our money).
Some even tried to tell us how to do our job.
That should be evident when you consider that they weren’t reading our guidelines let alone checking our archives to see the type of content we publish.
And, honestly, that would have taken no more than a couple minutes to do.
So, as our guest posters continued writing about Seattle’s punk rock scene, enhancing one’s creativity, Android apps and whatnot (to be fair, some of that was relevant), I was working my ass off trying to crowd it out with our on-brand, value-adding content that spoke to the music entrepreneur we were trying to serve.
Yeah, that wasn’t working.
Now, to an extent, I’m just speculating on the disconnect this created, but in 2019 we didn’t benefit a whole lot from the content we published (at least compared to years past).
Our top visited posts in 2019 were mostly those that were originally published in 2015, 2016, 2017 and to some extent, 2018.
Our Hired Help Didn’t Want To Work On This Initiative Anymore
Hiring a guest post coordinator was frankly the best move I could have made for my own sanity.
It freed up a lot of time and gave me peace of mind.
I could pay the coordinator some of the money I was making to put the process on autopilot.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough work to keep anyone busy full time, and even if there was, I honestly think it would have eventually risen to the top of “crap jobs”, for reasons already noted.
I didn’t want to work on this anymore, but you know it’s bad when your first coordinator leaves after a few months, and your second coordinator gives up after corresponding with a few prospects.
You know you’ve got yourself a real winner (and, by that I mean a real loser).
I often tell my students to keep the winners and ditch the losers.
Well, it’s time for me to take my own advice.
Chargebacks Started Occurring
Nobody likes giving up revenue they’ve worked their ass off to earn.
At Music Entrepreneur HQ, we publish at least one epic piece of content per week that takes the better part of three hours to make (usually more).
And, if you hadn’t noticed, sometimes we publish a lot more than that.
It might seem like a drop in the bucket, but when you’ve got other projects outside of the business (to keep the business funded), especially to the tune of 25 to 50 hours per week, you can see how it all adds up.
For the most part, our customers were happy.
But some people were constantly on edge about their mere $30 investment (surprise, as I’ve been saying all along, people who don’t pay much are the most troublesome).
And, if the site was so much as down for a day (it happens, guys), they’d be on our case about it (even if we couldn’t do anything about it).
There was even a recent instance where an advertiser had sent us four months’ worth of money for an ad in our sidebar, not even realizing they were buying a sidebar ad.
They thought they were buying a banner ad on the homepage.
We don’t even offer that!
If we did, we wouldn’t charge $50 per month for it – we’d charge $1,000 per month (again, don’t ask)!
Trust me, all the terms were clearly laid out in our advertising opportunities post – there was nothing to be confused about.
People don’t read and that’s a problem.
We Are No Longer Accepting Anything – We’re Taking Control Of Our Brand Voice
We have big goals in mind for 2020, and that being the case, we will be throttling collaborative opportunities.
We don’t want guest post pitches.
We don’t want your advertising money.
We don’t want to put your link on our website.
We don’t want your infographic.
We don’t want press, news releases or story submissions.
We don’t want a bit of money for a lot of work.
I especially don’t want any of this in my inbox.
When I say “yes” to something, I’m saying “no” to something else, and right now that “no” would be creating new products, chasing down relevant and lucrative opportunities, optimizing the website for increased traffic and revenue, and more.
The only exceptions are existing collaborative partners, especially those who’ve been featured on the blog or podcast.
If you must ask yourself whether that’s you, it probably isn’t.
And, of course, if I reach out to you directly about collaboration, you’re welcome to contribute.
Otherwise, let’s keep the barrage of emails to a minimum, please.
I don’t want them, and I’m just going to end up forwarding you to this blog post anyway.
I’m not much of a fan of the saying, “rotten apple spoils the barrel” but in this case it seems to apply.
Nevertheless, I take responsibility for what didn’t work.
It’s not your fault.
It’s clear to me that accepting guest posts just isn’t consistent with who I am and what I’m up to anymore.
Things need to change.
So, despite the challenges, I thank you for helping build Music Entrepreneur HQ to where it is today.
We are always looking to work on high-quality collaborations with high-quality people.
But if that describes you, you’re probably the exception and not the rule.
With things changing as they are (especially with SEO, content marketing and social media), we need to take a different approach to reach our audience, and that means being focused on the few key things that matter in 2020.
Thanks for understanding.
I look forward to a prosperous year.
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