Buidling a 2 Million+ Subscriber Channel on YouTube with Peter Hollens

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Peter Hollens is an incredible artist and creator. You may have seen some of his videos on YouTube. Today we’re going to talk about what goes into making them, as well as his online courses at Hollens Creator Academy. Peter’s incredibly passionate about this project and it shows. I feel like we’re both cut from the same cloth (minus the singing – I wish!) so this is a great (albeit slightly longer) episode.

Show Notes


Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of How I Buit It! In today’s episode, I’m so excited because I get to talk to Peter Hollens, who’s an incredible artist and creator. You may have seen some of his videos on YouTube (link in the show notes). Today we’re going to talk about what goes into making them, as well as his online courses at Hollens Creator Academy. Peter’s incredibly passionate about this project and it shows. I feel like we’re both cut from the same cloth (minus the singing – I wish!) so this is a great (albeit it slightly longer) episode. We’ll get into it next, but first, a word from our sponsors.

Sponsors: This season of How I Built It is brought to you by two fantastic sponsors. The first is Liquid Web. If you’re running a membership site, an online course, or even a real estate site on word press, you’ve likely already discovered many hosts that have optimized their platforms for a logged out experience, where they cash everything. Sites on their hardware are great for your sales and landing pages, but struggle when your users start logging in. At that point, your site is as slow as if you were on three dollar hosting. Liquid Web built their managed word press platform optimized for sites that want speed and performance, regardless of whether a customer is logged in or logged out. Trust me on this, I’ve tried it out and it’s fast, seriously fast. Now, with their single site plan, Liquid Web is a no-brainer for anyone whose site is actually part of their business, and not just a site promoting their business. Check out the rest of the features on their platform by visiting them at buildpodcast.net/liquid web. That’s buildpodcast.net/liquid web.

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And now…on with the show!

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, I am honored to have Peter Hollens as my guest today. Peter, how are you?

Peter: I’m doing great, Joe. Glad to be on here.

Joe: I am stoked to have you on the show. You are the first guest with my brand new audio setup, so this episode should sound more buttery than any previously released episode, which is nice. I’ll let you introduce yourself, but I have been subscribed to your YouTube channel for some time now, and I really enjoy listening to your music. You obviously released a new product that we’re going to talk about as well. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Peter: Sure. First and foremost, I am a husband and a father. Got a beautiful baby boy. I get to make a living singing on the Internet. I consult a couple companies that I really care about a lot like Patreon and Loudr, and a bunch of companies that are really helping to create a revolution. I recently finally released the beginning of my Creator Academy to be able to help teach other people who have passion to create for a living how to actually do that. A little bit of everything. Most people know me for the dorky guy that makes a cappella videos on the Internets.

Joe: That is certainly how I found you. It’s really cool to hear that you’re doing all sorts of other stuff. A lot of people take a lot of things at face value. You mentioned you do some consulting, you do the online courses, which we’re going to talk about. I think a big lesson of this show has always been diversify your income streams. It sounds like you’re really doing that.

Peter: Oh, gosh. I think it’s so important for anyone who really does want to make a living as a musician to have their hand in every cookie jar imaginable, whether that’s ad revenue, digital sales, physical sales, consulting other musicians, helping song write. Whatever your skills are, you need to be part of it, because things change so quickly and you never know where it’s going to head. You always need to be diversifying. I think that’s the role of creators moving forward, is that we need to be entrepreneurs and you need to think about it in the aspect of building your business in that way.

Joe: Absolutely. That’s great advice. Have your hand in all of the cookie jars, something I’ve been learning over the last couple of years. I’m recently self-employed full-time and I’m definitely learning that’s super duper important. Thank you very much. It’s awesome. I picked a really good time to do it. It was about three months after my daughter was born, so I figure, let’s introduce more instability to my life.

Peter: Right? Congrats on the daughter. That’s amazing.

Joe: Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun stuff to talk about. We do a lot of similar things. We make stuff online, we teach people online, we’re both family men, so I don’t get sued. You mentioned that the thing that most people know you best for is your a cappella videos. Why don’t we talk a little bit about that, and then we can segue into your online courses? When did you start doing that? I could look back on the YouTube channel to see when your first video was published, but when did you really start doing the a cappella videos?

Peter: I started playing with it the beginning of 2011. I went full-time about May 2012. Ever since then, I’ve been picking up on it and trying to expedite my workflow, and make sure that I have more and more content going all at once. Before I left for Broadway in November, I had 28 simultaneous productions being created or finished at that time. Now I think I’m more at 19 or 18, because I’ve released so many without being able to work on it when I was stuck in Midtown. I was on Broadway. I got to do 63 shows on Broadway. That’s kind of cool, right? Having the ability to sing on the Broadway stage and sing one of your own creations. Even being a really songwriter, being a Broadway writer now, which is the stupidest thing ever, but whatever.

Joe: That’s awesome too. You’re doing it all as far as producing and putting music out there and stuff like that. 28 simultaneous videos. I mentioned before we started the show, one of my recent favorites is your Disney villains melody. That’s the one that really pushed me to reach out to have you on the show. What was it like putting that together? What’s the process like? That is a high quality video.

Peter: Thanks. Initially, honestly, it was very conceptual. That’s obviously one of the videos where I’m like, “This is going to be made as, first of all, a labor of love because I’m a Disney freak. Secondly, from a business standpoint, as a fan acquisition model. I’m making this because I want it to be found and I want new people to find me and find my face and be like, ‘This guy is dorky. What else has he made?'” Then hopefully fall down the rabbit hole of all the other stuff.

I had really dabbled in a lot of Disney stuff, and then I had seen online that there wasn’t a lot of homage to the villains. I was like, “What are the best villain songs? I’m going to write them all out.” Then I said, “I really need to have one heck of a powerhouse female to do it.” I asked my wife if it was okay if it wasn’t her. I always have to ask permission, because she can sing darn good and she likes doing all that stuff. I reached out to Whitney, who I think has a tremendous following and is incredibly talented. Then we started talking and brainstorming. She is just as crazy as I am. Between the two of us, we finalized the concept. My production team then went to work on finishing the arrangement.

Basically, I get the arrangements. If we’re going to break this down all the way, I’ll go for it. I get the arrangements, it’s sent to me. Right over here I start sight reading everything in the studio off my iPad. I start from the lowest voices up. I’ll start bass in the morning. I won’t even speak. I’ll go into the studio, because I am a tenor, but I do have some nice low notes in the morning when I don’t speak. Sing all the lower parts, and then baritone, and then tenor five and tenor four and tenor three and tenor two and tenor one. I finish the entire song, the background stuff, and then I did a bunch of rough vocals. I sent it over to Whitney and I’d be like, “Does this work for you key-wise and blah, blah, blah.” Then I got a couple notes from her, sang all my parts, paid for her to go to the studio, get all her stuff recorded, and then edited all that stuff. From that perspective it’s tightening the rhythm and getting the intonation better. Once you add 110, 115 tracks of vocals, if they’re not pretty pristine in tune, it is a cacophony of madness and doesn’t sound good.

Then, mix it, master it, and then really conceptualize the video from that point on. In my videos, the videos that do the best are the ones that showcase how my music is being made, because the majority of people that run into me still don’t believe that what they’re hearing is really all a cappella. Unfortunately, I have to stick to that Brady Bunch thing a little bit. In this one, I really wanted to surprise the audience and have an element where we break out of that. I came up with the concept of one of the worlds, being that of Gaston, that we actually go into the real world. I tried to surprise the audience, that all of a sudden, on one of those close ups, you then pull out of it and all of a sudden, you’re in Belle’s town and you’re in that city. That was something we tried to pull off. Then we actually ended up going back into the good old cookie cutter Brady Bunch thing, and that was the whole thing.

Joe: Nice. There’s a couple of follow up questions I have there. First of all, I love asking this question. What’s the microphone and stuff that you use?

Peter: I have a lot of mics in my cabinet. Right now, I am really loving Telefunken mics. I actually am lucky enough to have one of 13 unreleased AK477’s. It’s a mic that they started to make, and then they decided was going to actually jeopardize their revenue off of their top end mic. They decided not to release it. I have that. Then I have an AR52 that they made, but I modified the capsule so it’s kind of like a Neumann, but really bright. I have this really dark, vintage sound that I can get out of one of my mics, and then a very bright contrast to that. Obviously, this is a podcast, but you can see it. Right when the proximity of about four inches, I can record one part, move my mouth over, and record another. Then I have about six or seven different amps that I go through to modify my instrument, because of course, as a one man a cappella guy, I only have one instrument to play with, but I have a bunch of different things to run it through to slightly adjust it.

Then of course, once I’m doing a background part, if I’m like, “I’m going to sing like Peter, or I’m going to sing like a dramatic opera singer who has been in the head with an anvil five times,” and then I modify where I’m placing my tone and I do that. You have to do a lot of playing around to get a really full sound with only one voice. I’ve had a lot of experience doing that.

Joe: Absolutely. One of the fantastic parts of your videos is that you do have a lot of different vocal styles. There are sometimes where I can’t really tell that it’s you singing. I think one of the other videos that really highlights that is the Ultimate Aca-Battle that you did with 10 second songs. You did all sorts of different cool voices in that one.

Peter: Honestly, that’s another example of a shtick-y fan acquisition type of a concept, but a really fun one. All of those ones that you make to be shared with the entire standpoint of, “How do I get somebody that doesn’t know me to share this,” that’s how I build a lot of those from the ground up. That’s fun. It’s like, “How do I make this song be done in as many genres as possible and be kooky and cool?” When you go to the visual standpoint of it as well, not just the audio standpoint, it’s like, “How many ways can I dress up to back up visually what the person’s actually also hearing audio-wise?” That specific video to way too long to put together. Oh, my gosh.

Joe: The Aca-Battle one?

Peter: Both of the ones you brought up, actually, are very time-consuming, but so much fun. They’re great. The cool thing about the villains medley that you brought up, is that actually really succeeded. I was at VidCon and we had released it the first day. I have never had a number one trending video. It was number for almost a full day. That’s pretty cool, and pretty cool timing when you’re at VidCon with everybody else and you’re like, “Oh, yeah. My video right now is trending. That’s pretty cool. Nice to meet you. Also, check out my video. It’s trending. It’s number one.”

Joe: That’s awesome. You mentioned the costumes. Another weird question that I had about this is, do you rent the costumes, or do you have a closet full of Disney prince costumes?

Peter: Actually, that is a yes, but that’s also because we build some of them and then we do rent some of them. It depends on how quickly I need them, if they do exist somewhere that I can rent them, and if they don’t, then can I afford to build it really quickly. Some of the times the costumes are super legit where you could take them to a cosplay convention and look totally legit. Other times, it is so cheap and so crappy and horrible, and it looks great on camera, but if you were in the room you’d be like, “Why are you wearing this?” In the end, it only depends on what the lens sees. That’s the beauty of the camera sometimes.

Joe: That’s awesome. The videos that we just talked about are super time-consuming, as you mentioned. Sounds intimidating to somebody who wants to start on the path that you have. Are there videos where you have where you get in front of a mic, like you’re the Ed Sheeran Game of Thrones video? What was it like shooting that? That seemed like it was one longer shot. Was it a little bit easier to shoot than the Disney villains one?

Peter: Audio-wise, that was more tricky because we really only heard 46 seconds or 47 seconds of actual material. Trying to come up with a concept where I could elongate that to make it an actual song and utilize the words and still be able to pay the publisher money for the lyrics that I didn’t own, and then not change the composition so much that I would get in trouble, and still be able to offer it to someone and be like, “This is a full song, even though it wasn’t a full song when we started.” That was time consuming. The actual layering of that, because it is so simple to the ear, anyway. Maybe there was only 36 or 38 or 40 tracks of vocals on that, which is very few for me. That was much quicker. Even from a visual standpoint of just doing the cloning, where pretty much you set up a tripod, you don’t cross, and then you feather between this fifth and this fifth and this fifth. Pretty much that video was shooting in 4K, pulling in close on a 1080 and then zooming it in digitally back and forth. That was actually pretty easy.

I have these fan acquisition videos, and then I have these passion videos. It goes in between the two. In my head I’m like, “My [inaudible 00:14:46] is this much.” If I keep doing fan acquisition videos, I start turning into a zombie and I don’t care about my life. Then I do something that I love, like whatever, if it’s a folk song original and I get refilled again. It’s like a dorky gamer. That’s how I think of it. This was cool because you take an Ed Sheeran name and SEO and song, which is because it’s Ed, so everybody likes it except for the Game of Thrones people, whatever. Anyway, then you mix it with Game of Thrones, which is another fandom trend. Then you hit it while it is a trend, and so that actually in and of itself becomes something that’s shareable. That was a win-win from a “I lucked out, it was topical,” and I happened to watch the episode right when it came out and so it was moving on it quickly.

It was funny, because I actually watched that one live instead of watching it later like I usually do, because I have no time. As soon as it came on, my buddy who was in the room, I looked at him and I was like, “I have to do this.” He was like, “You don’t have to. Come on. It’s gimmicky.” I was like, “No. I have to. I have to. It’s Ed Sheeran and he’s singing a melody that’s pretty. I have to do it. I have to. I’m doing it.” Then we moved on that, and that was fun.

Joe: Cool. We talked a lot about putting together your videos. I happened to mention three fan acquisition ones. What’s one of your passion ones? I don’t want to keep shooting-

Peter: Sure. Yeah. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of folk songs, so stuff like “Shenandoah” or “Loch Lomond,” or anything of Irish descent. I love that stuff because it’s pure and the melody’s there. I’m a huge balladeer. I like singing pretty ballads. Right now, in the pop world, that’s not a popular thing. Any time there’s anything that falls in line that works like that Ed Sheeran one, I jump on it. I want to bring popular, old folk songs back, the ones that were popular a century ago. I want to offer it to my audience, who have most likely never heard it, because they’ve started following me because of all the other songs you already mentioned. I like making beautiful versions of that and then showing it to them, and hopefully I actually get to turn a fifth of them onto music that I find to be very beautiful, and that moves me.

Even doing something more along Christmas music or spiritual stuff that I find is beautiful, and moves me, and may or may not be something that a normal person would click on, but since they’ve seen my name and they go, “Oh. ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,’ maybe I’m not Christian, maybe I’ve never gone to church, but I want to hear what Peter did with it, and be like, wow. That’s actually really pretty.” I love that. I love helping people stumble upon music that they might not have ever listened to. That’s one of the things I love about being so eclectic and always having been so eclectic, where you could listen to my Pandora and you could hear a Skyrim theme or Star Wars, and then all of a sudden you could hear “The Prayer” by Andrea Boccelli, or Jason Mraz, or Disney villains medley. I think that’s fun.

A lot of artists would be like, “You’re not a real artist.” I’m like, “I am and I’m making a terrific income, and I get to do and make music that I want. Any time I write an original, I have millions of people that could listen to it. Can you say the same thing? I don’t think you can.” It’s funny. I’m stealing your podcast over, but that’s one of the reasons why I want to be able to teach all of the things I’ve learned the last seven, eight years to people, and not just musicians, but be like, “This is how you build your business. This is how you can build your career on whatever product you’re making, whether you’re a musician or whether you’re an animator, or whether you like vlogging or doing Minecraft videos, or podcasts.” We have so much possibility. There’s no excuses anymore. I just want people to wake up and realize it, because like right now, we’re such whiners. You get out of college or maybe you don’t have enough money to go to college, or maybe you messed around in high school and you never had the chance, but everybody’s like, all these excuses. I’m like, “But the Internet’s there. You can learn anything you want now by typing it in and watching and learning and doing.”

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Let’s dive right into that. We both make online courses for stuff. You have a relatively new, at the time of this recording, website called Creator Academy. Is that right?

Peter: Yeah. It’s my last name, Hollens Creator Academy. I thought that would be the best way to launch it. Initially, it’s a macro course that basically teaches anyone making anything how to really do it. We cover everything from production to licensing to building a community to how to pick your content and how to start everything. It’s a lot, but it’s really, really, really high production. We have illustrations and animations. It’s a three camera shoot. All the audio’s been mastered. I’m already teaching at universities. If you can take it an universities and get credit for it and pay upwards of $1,000, then you should pay $100 and take it from me and start living your dream, you silly person listening to this.

Other than that, I’m really excited about going way more in-depth on teaching people video and teaching people audio, and the person helping my video course. Every single person that’s going to be teaching these courses are people who are simultaneously doing it. Somebody’s going to be teaching it who has millions of followers or has made millions of dollars doing this thing. It’s not like you’re being taught by a teacher, but you’re being taught by the person who is still doing it. I’ll be constantly updating in the course. It’s not like, “I just read six books and now I’m going to tell you how to do something that I actually don’t really know how to do, but I’m really good at telling you because I’m an Internet marketer and I’m going to make you pay $1,500 for it.” Those people kill me.

Joe: Right. People say, “Those who can’t do, teach,” but in your case, you are doing it and then teaching people how you do it.

Peter: Yeah. I’m totally fine telling people I failed at school. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a choral director, my choral director might’ve saved my life. I wanted to be able to give that back to kids. Then I couldn’t pull it off. It’s not in my genes to be able to pay attention in a normal school setting. I’m too ADHD. I don’t have the capability. I don’t fit the cookie cutter mold. It was a dream I gave up. Then about 18 months ago, I was bound and determined to do this, and so I’ve been researching and developing this initial product in this course. Out of all the companies that I advise, I have all these amazing CEOs that are on my board of advisors that are able to guide me along the way, and teach me that no, I can’t start an education company and make it a non-profit because I won’t be able to make a difference because this world is built on capitalism, and yes, I have to charge something, and yes, I need to make money so I can pay my employers to make more content and make it better.

I’m learning a lot. The ethos and the heart that I want to have can still live on through the capitalist crappy world that we have to live in. I want to teach people how to make a living and make a difference in the world doing what they love, because the more people doing what they love is honestly, the only way I see us normal people … I’m still bound and determined that we can still change the world and I’m never going to give that up, because what kind of life is that to lead? We can actually make the world a better place by allowing people to follow their passions and their ambitions, and inspiring people to do what they love. I want to help them do that.

The coolest thing is now that it’s out there and seeing all of my students and seeing my class fill up, like at University of Oregon that’s starting on Monday, in two hours, and seeing how excited people are, it’s crazy. It pushes me even more to build more and make more content, and get more incredibly intelligent artists and creators on there to help teach other people and try to exponentially do it. Oh, my gosh, it’s a lot of work, but it’s so addicting and fun.

Joe: It’s a crazy amount of work. You’re obviously passionate about it, which I don’t think anybody would be able to do something that includes this much work without being passionate about it. It also sounds like you have a team of people.

Peter: Oh, gosh, yeah.

Joe: I usually interview programmers. We’re very much like, “We’ll do it ourselves.” Field of dreams marketing. My online course platform is built on WordPress and I built that because I’m a programmer. Sometimes I’m like, “I should’ve just used Teachify or something.” I like owning the platform. When you built out Hollens Creator Academy, is this a platform that you own or did you use something like Teachable?

Peter: Initially … I already deleted it because I was upset, but initially, I had an entire app built. I wanted it to be mobile. I wanted it to be gamified. I wanted it to be built on community elements and have this entire thing that isn’t out there and wasn’t available and still isn’t available. I know now why, is because it’s so dang hard and costs so much to build a mobile app. I had it set up so the more you engaged, the more you were rewarded with badges. Those badges were connected to B&H discounts and Adobe Creative crowd. It all worked. In the end, I realized that even though that model is awesome and all those things are great. It’s fluff on top of the fact that it has to work and it has to deliver to all of these different people and all of these different platforms, whether or not they’re Android or IOS or on their iPad or on their desktop.

I learned quickly that I couldn’t build it because I didn’t have enough money. If my functionality was around 65%, that’s completely and totally not okay. I have a front end that’s built and adjustable. I have a programmer like you on my side to adjust it and make it unique. I’m currently using multiple platforms, like Kajabi and the infrastructure to be able to deliver it and have it work. Still learning the best of what else is out there, and I’m playing around with everything right now to see what’s best. Lucky enough, I do have my own designer and I do have my own programmer, and I want to be able to make it 100% unique to me. It’s such an incredible sigh of relief to be like, “This just works for everybody. All the content’s up there.” You can watch all 78 episodes and you’re having no problem. This is lovely.

Running support for even my beta group of 115 people, I was like, “Oh, wow. Yeah. Can’t make it from scratch.” Why go to market with a Ferrari? You have to go to market with your tiny little tricycle that barely works. Then you learn. I knew I should’ve done that, but I still got too big for my britches and I thought I could follow. That’s why I’m stubborn and you learn and you move forward.

Joe: Absolutely. You mentioned it just works. People get to consume the content. That’s the main reason that you created this. You have a teaching background. What was it like putting together the curriculum? I think a lot of people go, “I’ll make an online course,” and they’ll talk at-

Peter: Oh, my gosh, yeah.

Joe: They won’t structure it pedagogically, to use that educational word, in a way that aids learning. What was it like building the curriculum from your end?

Peter: First and foremost, it was a huge, huge learning lesson, because my first intuition was to “Blah, blah, blah, blah” and vomit it all out there. Thankfully, I took the advice of people who had been doing this for over a decade, and I structured it all out. I initially vomited and then I organized, and then I organized, and then I got somebody else to organized because goodness to gracious, I am not the best organizer. Then I had a professor to look over it, and then I had other people who make eight figures doing this to look over it. It was great that I was like, “Okay. I have this all written out in these modules that make sense, and this order.” The cool thing now, when I’ve created online for anyone, and then taking it to a university and making it work in their quarterly system, and looking at the benefits of the two is now that when I get through this first term of teaching it at universities, I’ll be able to A and B and see what works best for both, and then make a hybrid. I’m really excited about that.

Honestly, it’s constantly learning. It is very streamlined. I’m never going to stop trying to make it better. That’s the best thing about always wanting to get feedback from people and always trying to better the product, because it can always get better.

Joe: Absolutely. For a while I taught an intro to computers class that all freshman at the University of Scranton had to take. Somebody made a comment to me, “So you can take on a couple more classes, right? Intro to computers is basically on auto pilot for you now. You’ve been teaching it for a couple of years.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” I redo that course every semester because it’s so important. It’s freshman who don’t care about the material. They have to take it, but it’s how to be a good Internet citizen. Don’t talk on the phone when you’re also giving your sandwich order at the deli. A lot of professors, they have the same thing that they’ve been teaching for 10 years, and they don’t revamp it. That’s a little disheartening to me. The cool thing about teaching in the classroom as well as online, is you get to see people’s faces. As you say something, you realize what sticks and what doesn’t. It’s really nice to bring that feedback loop back to your online courses as well.

Peter: Exciting.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned that you have 78 videos. Is that one big course, or is it a couple of courses with different tracks?

Peter: Yes. It’s 76. I said 78, because I forgot. It’s as micro as I could. Some of the more intro to production of video and audio are a little bit longer, because you can’t get through anything that fast in either audio or video. They’re usually between four and 15 minute digestable lessons with illustrations and animation. It all sounds good, it all unfortunately, looks good because you’re staring at my face, which doesn’t look that good, but you got to love shooting in 4K. You’re like, “God dangit, I’m almost 40.” I think it’s a really good first time, first lesson for someone who has never made it as far as me making it, and then I think it also is a really incredible offering to the general public. I forgot your question because I’m ADD.

Joe: It was, is it broken up into different subject matters. My follow up question to that is now, we are coming up on time, but I do want to ask you, if I were to start today, what’s the experience like? Do you say, “Here’s where you start,” or do you say, “Here’s my catalog. Pick where you want to start”?

Peter: To actually answer your question that you asked that I didn’t, it’s built out exactly like that. The first module is where to start. That’s the title. Then we take you through the four or five lessons that exactly how to do that. It goes into my philosophy that I believe saves people years on their journey and actually gets them off their freaking butt to start and fail. Yes, fail, because you out there listening, if you haven’t started, you want to fail. You’ve been taught that failing is bad. It’s actually very good because then you learn and you improve. It’s where to start, reverse engineering your big idea, becoming self-taught, creating your content, production like audio and video. I go through everything. How to distribute your content, why you have to collaborate. The power of collaboration. Building and engaging your community, because if you don’t have a community, you don’t have a career and you don’t have an infrastructure to succeed and be able to continue it forever.

Then leveraging social media. That could be its own 50 hour thing, but it’s concise and important. The four or five specific ones that you have to pay attention to. Then monetizing essentials, because you need to make money. Then building your dream and blah, blah, blah. Obviously, it’s a little bit of get off your butt and go at the beginning and end, and a lot of concrete, “These are the things you have to put into action” in the middle. Anyway, for me, putting myself back to the 2011 me that was just dabbling in this, I would give anything to be taught this from me in 2011, because I would now be so much more successful and skip so many problems and errors.

Everybody thinks that their course is great, but I’m super excited. The coolest is that, I’m so super pumped to make this one better and make tons of others ones that are more specific exactly to the needs of my community. The coolest thing about having millions of followers is that you can pull them and you can crowdsource what do they want and what do you want to create, so that my R&D is quick and free and I get to just create it, then. It’s exciting.

Joe: That’s amazing. I’ll have two more questions for you, then. The big one that I like to ask everybody at the end of every show. We skipped the research question, because we were talking about so much other stuff. You mentioned that a lot of your research just now comes from your millions of followers. How do you determine what is good and what’s bad? I have four YouTube followers. Somebody commented and was like, “Bro, we’re 15 minutes in and you haven’t even started the demo yet.” I’m like, “That’s very good feedback. Thank you.” How do you weed out the bad stuff and know what’s a good idea to run with?

Peter: What I tell people is that you always going to have top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel. The top is like, “Oh, my God, you’re amazing. You changed my life.” I’ll take that and what you’re doing is saving my life, and that’s amazing. I can’t really let it sink in because it doesn’t make sense to me as an individual that’s just a dorky dad making music, but if it has, awesome. Then I ignore the stuff at the bottom that’s like, “Oh, my God, you’re so stupid. You’re the worst singer in the world. I hate your face. I want to come and …” There’s horrible stuff. You get polar opposites. There’s so much great stuff in the middle, and it behooves every single creator on the Internet to pay attention to what your com is saying and read your comments.

Some people are too vulnerable and too emotional to do that, but I think there is so much gold in there that you need to. Also, truthfully, in my opinion, if you’re building the kind of community that’s going to help you succeed for life that you’re going to be creating and fostering a community that isn’t just going to be a bunch of trolls, unless you are a troll and that’s how you get your following like some people out there that I’m not going to name that are very popular in the general public right now for apologizing for doing horrible stunts. Anyway, you want to create and foster that community. If you do, and if you put yourself out there and you’re making that positive, inspiring, family-friendly stuff, that your resounding loop of communication on all that social media is going to be so beneficial for you to pay attention to, whether it’s you reading it or your team reading it and getting feedback. That’s so important.

Polls and all that stuff is great, but just reading the comments is important as well. Also, to answer your question on the research level, it behooves you to always find those five to 10 people in your niche, in your vertical that are succeeding and surviving and thriving online, and see what they’re doing, how they’re innovating, how they’re making their money, how are they talking to their community, how are they running their business. You need to take that and you need to copy that. Steal everything they’re doing that’s working and make it your own. Steal is such a terrible word. It has all these negative connotations, but that’s what humans have been doing for centuries, and that’s why we are so successful, because we learn from each other.

Honestly, being copied is one of the biggest compliments you can possibly ever have, and was it Mozart that said, it’s like-

Joe: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Peter: Right. Everything in the world is a remix. Get over yourself and start doing that all the time. I pay attention to those people that I see in different verticals and different industries that are the best. I copy their ideas. Maybe I could be at something, the first person to do something and great for me if I do that, but I want to be the fastest early adopter of every new innovation that I possibly can. That’s why it behooves me to always have my tentacles out there and why it’s so important for me to be advising all these different companies so I can talk to these brilliant people that have graduated from Yale and Stanford and all these different industries and be like, “What’s going? What’s happening? Who should I be following? What should I be reading?”

That’s my research. Not only do I have my amazing supporters, because they’re not fans. If I said fans, it was an accident, because I hate that word. I have them to listen to and speak with and communicate with. At the same time, I have this amazing ability to talk to these CEOs that I should never have the ability to, but I feel so fortunate. Then I used Facebook and all these different social media platforms to filter out and listen to just the people I want. I don’t even really follow my wife on Facebook. I have unfollowed all of my friends, I’ve unfollowed people that don’t really provide value directly back to me to be able to succeed. That sounds really rude and rough and disheartening, but I don’t have enough time to do that. If I want to talk to them, I’ll text them.

Joe: I know exactly what you mean.

Peter: I think Instagram is the only thing I actually have that’s just my friends and family, which is why it’s the only place where I only follow 150 people. Everything else is like, I want to pay attention to the thought leaders. If I want to know what’s going on in VR and AR, I’m listening to just Robert Scoble and a couple of his friends. If I want to listen to what’s going on in crowdfunding, I’m listening to just Jack Conte. Thank God, because he’s the CEO of Patreon and he’s brilliant and I have a man crush on him. Thankfully, I advise that company so I can text him any time. You have all these different people to listen to and I only listen to them. When you get their posts, you actually read them because it’s teaching you.

Instead of me necessarily picking up a book that’s been written and published, by the time it’s been published and written, a lot of the information is too late because that’s how quickly everything’s changing and innovating now. I just read everything from blogs to people’s Facebook posts and tweets and that’s how I do my R&D.

Joe: I love that, because let me tell you, I get caught up pretty easily in the Twitter fodder of my friends. I gratuitously use mutes and filters now for tweet bots.

Peter: You have to.

Joe: It’s like a God send.

Peter: I’ve been using TweetDeck forever. I follow my fans because it makes them happy and it makes them feel really special that day or maybe that week, or maybe for some reason, longer than that. If I could turn this around and show everybody, it’s the private thing that I have that says, “People that I follow,” and it’s just the people that are providing value back to my life that I need to pay attention to. It’s not like it’s just business, but it’s emotional overall too, so it doesn’t sound like I’m just some Cretan that is only trying to … You know what I mean?

Joe: I know exactly what you mean. If we’re going to talk about social media for a minute, that’s an important thing to do because recent studies are showing that people are more depressed being on social media.

Peter: Oh, my God. You can’t listen.

Joe: If you are following people that you presumably care about, why are you depressed? I have 900 friends, I talk to 50 on a regular basis. That’s a vanity metric. I feel bad unfriending people on Facebook, so I just unfollow a bunch of people.

Peter: I think it’s for a healthier life if you do. It’s the same thing that we’ve been told always growing up. “Only surround yourself with the people that help you be a better person.” That should be the same dang thing on your digital self. We have our physical self and we have our digital self. What you’re taking on digitally is just as important as whoever you’re inviting to your dinner at your house. You don’t want to be caught up in a bunch of drama, you don’t want to be caught up in a bunch of gossip. There’s nothing positive that ever comes of that. The same stuff happens digitally. Honestly, if somebody you look up to or someone you want to be or look up to and you know for a fact that what they’re putting out there is this fake life, don’t you surround yourself with that.

That’s what this whole fake loophole is. You go down to Starbucks or whatever, I’m going to use L.A. as an example, because I think it runs rampant there. People are only using their social media to create this fake life for themselves, to make themselves feel better so they can get likes and comments. I’m like, “Don’t follow those people. If you know who those people are, you got to do what’s best for you. What makes you feel good? Does it make you feel good to follow the cutest dog Twitter on Instagram? Then do that.” This is us. We pick up our phone. We’re like, “How do I get my endorphin hit?” Make your endorphin hit positive for your life, not like, “I wish I was that person. I wish I was in Hawaii. Look at how cool that person is driving his Ferrari.” If that’s what you want, we can talk about money and fame and how that’s stupid. You should stop your podcast now because we’re well over your time limit.

Joe: We are, but I need to ask you one more question. That is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Peter: Trade secrets. Did I not give you any already?

Joe: You gave a million, but I always like to ask this because the guests always says “Trade secrets” like you just said. That’s my favorite part of the show.

Peter: Gotcha. Trade secrets. Sure. You want to know a trade secret? It’s 2018. Stop paying attention to anything other than attention. You want people’s attention. You don’t care about likes. You don’t care about subscribers. You don’t care about anything. You care about getting that person in Indiana, Joe, with his four siblings and whatever, you want Joe to watch you for 22 minutes, because after he has, he’s going to follow you to the ends of the earth because you provided value to his life. If you’re creating valuable things into the world, whatever you’re creating, you want that person to watch you for that amount of time, and you want them to fall in love with you, the person, not you, the product. Be a person first, a product second, and attention is the metric you pay attention to. That is powerful.

Joe: See? There was a pause there, but that is excellent. Likes are a vanity metric. Retweets are a vanity metric. How many people are engaged with you? That’s really want you want. That’s the people who are going to buy your course or continue to really promote what you’re doing. Man, that was an excellent trade secret, so I’m really glad I asked that question. Peter, thank you so much for joining me today. I had an absolute blast talking to you.

Peter: Thanks, Joe. Nice to talk to you too.

Joe: Where can people find you, before I sign off?

Peter: Oh, gosh. Everywhere on the Internet. Peterhollens.com is me. If you want to learn how to do what you love for a living, you have to go to the Creator Academy. I want to teach you.

Joe: That’s hollenscreatoracademy.com, right?

Peter: Yes. H-O-L-L-E-N-S creatoracademy.com.

Joe: Excellent. I will link that in the show notes.

Peter: I can give you, just for Joe, a special discount just for your listeners if you want.

Joe: I would love that. That would be fantastic.

Peter: That would be awesome. Cha ching.

Outro: Thanks so much to that and thanks to Peter for Joining me! That code is going to be BUILDIT, good for 25% off! Head over to buildpodcast.net/hollens to take advantage. What you heard is just a small fraction of what Peter has to offer. Peter, thanks again for joining me!

And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! And they recently rolled out Managed WooCommerce Hosting too. They are at buildpodcast.net/liquid. If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at buildpodcast.net/jilt. And finally, if you need amazing event management for WordPress, checkout Event Espresso over at buildpodcast.net/events.

For all of the show notes, head over to howibuilt.it/65/. Finally, If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! And until next time, get out there and build something!

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