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Ask HN: How Can I Sell My Project?
97 points by ClassicalmOnly 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments
I have a popular YouTube channel about classical music called "ClassicalMusicOnly", https://www.youtube.com/classicalmusiconly the channel is more than 10 years old and is probably the most popular classical music YouTube channel with more than 270,000 subscribers and around 190 million videos views as of today. Also I developed a social website around classical music (where one can create lists and listen to them, discuss works and composers, ask for recommendations, get recommendations according to his followed composers and starred works among other features) with the same branding name https://classicalmusiconly.com/ and launched it in December 2017 and it was featured in many top websites (please see my SHOW HN post in my user profile) and its traffic has been slowly but steadily growing in both Google search and direct traffic. Also I have social media accounts for the project (Facebook+Twitter+Google plus) with more than 70,000 combined followers. I've been maintaining and developing this project for the long term (there is no advertising on the website, no promotions whatsoever on my YouTube channel or my social profiles beside my own services links). The popularity of my project outlets is entirely built on organic traffic and I haven't spent a dollar on advertising or promoting my own services. How I can sell this project in the most fair and fastest way possible?

First, I commend you for doing something that you really enjoyed. That is great and must have taken a lot of sweat and hard work.

Now, you want to sell this thing. This is where the issues start. You have not monetized it at all so technically it is not a business (no real revenue). Your best bet is to find someone who can use this to compliment something similar that they already do at a bigger scale and they are willing to provide an "emotional" price for it. To be blunt, if you try to sell it someone who purely is looking at it from a business perspective, the valuation is almost zero.

So here is what I suggest:

1. Setup a Patreon account and ask for people to contribute

2. Setup Affiliate Links for your social website and have a way for users to pay and when they convert, your affiliate partners get paid a commission.

3. Sell merchandise or other "related" items on the website.

4. Ask members of the website to subscribe and pay for some "premium" content if possible.

5. Find other bigger classical music folks/companies who may show some interest but do Steps 1-4 first.

I am not private equity type guy but buying/selling businesses excites me and when I see sellers like you who have put in so much hard work but never did it as a business, it breaks my heart a bit because you won't get a good valuation just because it was your baby. All the best.

I disagree with the zero valuation. If you have an investment property for sale, that has no tenant, is it worth zero?

Personally, I have a similar project and I think I'm going to go the Patreon route, maybe merch. My followers/users aren't mega wealthy or enterprise users, and I work on my project for the community and the love of it. I never want to make them the product. This route won't make me mega rich or famous, but it will live and maybe even give me breathing room to prioritize it along with my professional work.

The valuation would not necessarily be determined by revenue only. Website traffic, page authority on Google, subscribers or users in general can be valuable to potential buyers.

These have very little value until you've proven that this traffic, subscribers, and users won't go away the moment you try to monetize them.

Really amazing story - what you built is so cool!

I think I can help you; most of the suggestions here are ‘growth hacker’ themed: if you drop me a private line, I can probably provide some music industry perspective that is going to be worth more than just monetize and flip, and ideally protect the integrity of your work so far.

Absolutely DO NOT use Flippa or BuySellEmpire. I made the terrible mistake of trying to use them. My experience was so bad I ended up saying "screw it" and never sold my product.

I don't own a business or anything, but I've seen these thrown around a bit. Why do you recommend against them?

Can you please give more details?

Congratulations on the audience that you've built up. You've done an incredible job in attracting and retaining an audience based on a common interest.

Selling the project immediately likely won't give you the greatest value for the effort you've put into it simply because there is a lack of evidence on whether you're able to sell anything to the audience.

However, there is still some value in the audience, credibility and web properties and you can approach classical music promotion companies, etc. to see if they would be interested in taking it over.

If you collect data and have an insight into user preferences, this could add additional value but as what some have said, you'll likely get more money if you show that you can also sell to this audience.

Hey there! This is a great site, and I'm sure it must hurt to let go of the project. The fact that you're looking to sell the project "fast" suggests to me that you might be in a bit of a tough spot. The fact that you care about being fair tells me you care about this project.

I've got a couple of suggestions.

1. If you are in a tight spot financially and need to sell the site due to some emergency, come clean about that to your users. Let them know that the site they love is in trouble. It may help give you a little infusion of cash that will allow you to keep the project going for a bit longer.

2. If selling is still in your playbook, you need to demonstrate your property's value. Right now your list is untapped and therefore I couldn't tell just how many of your users are buyers. You need to do that work for your buyer.

I see you have a Patreon, and that's a great start, but it's not necessarily compelling enough on its own. If I were you, I'd start with affiliate marketing.

Think about what your audience has in common. If they are classical music listeners, the odds are high that they either play an instrument themselves or want to learn how to play one.

For those who want to be a musician, the answer is obvious: become an affiliate for high quality music instruction courses online.

For those who already are musicians, you might have a better sense of their problems than I would. Maybe they're more interested in better equipment or instruments. Perhaps they are more focused on monetizing their music, in which case it would be a good idea to take a look at courses online that focus on the business side of music-making.

If you created the site I'm seeing online, perhaps another thing you could do is connect music instructors with music students by giving instructors the chance to sell their lessons on your platform in return for a percentage.

Another source of potential revenue could come from in the form of grants. Find a local university (perhaps your alma mater?) and see what the music department says. Other than teach and research, professors pretty write grants for a living. They may have some ideas for you.

If you are yourself a musician (and especially a music teacher) you may be able to create your own course and sell it online to your listeners. You could create a "beginner's guide to Classical Music" and teach people about it.

Classical Music also shares quite a lot in common with film scores; you could monetize by allowing your users to sell their music to film makers who need music.

I hope some of these suggestions help. Good luck!

I think #1 is a great suggestion. I’d expand that to say the OP should be explicite about what they are asking. I.e. “I need $x to survive. Rather than selling this community I’d prefer to ask everyone for $y”.

Maybe a bit of a stretch, but what if you hit up avenues where actual classic concerts take place, or agencies that aggregate those (I have no clue about any of this), and display upcoming live events near the super rough user location (e.g. the nearest bigger town), with a referral link to buy tickets. If they buy tickets, you get a cut. I have no idea if this is feasible or if it would be profitable (versus the effort to get event data and all that), but in my mind, that's both ethical and useful.

Or hey, have you considered just adding an option somewhere to donate somehow, and seeing if something happens?

For what it's worth, your site looks great, I'm not affiliated at all but it's really worth a click: https://classicalmusiconly.com/

You can try posting on https://transferslot.com/ and see what comes through. I was able to get some interest on Vora (getVora.com) by posting to this site.

https://flippa.com might be relevant also. I've never used it though.

How much are you selling it for? I am interested

Same, email in profile.

Approach classical music brands, maybe Linn?

Have you considered selling the website infrastructure as a service for other communities?

Off-topic question, what software your social site is based on? or developed by your own? I think a social site should allow members to post casual post to encourage interactions. Maybe you can try some more Facebook-style platforms like Jcow(https://www.jcow.net ) to rebuild your site.

can you turn on advertising in youtube? they probably already run ads you should get your cut.

They dont allow it on copyrighted music.

Then why would someone pay money for the channel if they can’t make money off it?

The social followers and steady traffic means nothing (unless we are talking about millions of visitors a month).

There are other ways you can monetize things. Sell merch, shoutouts built into the video. Other things like that.

OK but has the OP done those things? If not he should start doing them, document the earnings and then he might have something to show potential buyers after a year.

Right now, its all a question mark and either a risk, or time waster for potential buyers.

Isn't most classical music in public domain? (Asking sincerely.)

Much of the music is, but the recordings of many specific performances are not - and specific performances are often what listeners are interested in.

I could be mistaken, but if the original recording is no longer copyrighted, how can someone copyright an individual performance? Doesn't that fall under the derivative works portion of copyright law? Thereby making it the automatic property of the property holder - which in this case would be the general public, no?

> Every Song Has Two Copyrights: The Underlying Composition and The Sound Recording. The underlying composition is the music and lyrics as they would appear on a piece of sheet music. From this copyright, infinite amount of sound recording copyrights can be created. Every time a song is recorded, whether by a new artist, in a different key, with different instrumentation, or completely remastered, a new sound recording is created and the person or company who owns that recording owns its copyright. However, even if you own the new sound recording you do not own the copyright to the underlying composition, and in fact must get permission to distribute your work.


Thanks for this. I am shocked to learn that re-recordings of previously copyrighted work are not deemed derivative works and actually receive their own separate copyright even after the original has expired.

What exactly are you shocked by? Are you saying that you can perceive the work a composer does as creating something of value, but you can't see how the work done by an arranger or a performer adds value to that original composition work? In the pop world, where the majority of artists don't write their own songs, there is an incredible amount of additional creative input between the songwriters handing over their guide track and the producers/performers releasing the finished product. If the moral principle behind copyright is that ownership of any original creative work remains in the hands of its creators, then it makes sense that those arrangers and performers should retain the rights to their own contributions, separate from the work of composers and lyricists.

Why do you want to sell it?

This is one of the coolest sites I have ever seen shared on HN.

Great website, thanks for supporting classical music!!

What is the monthly ad revenue from youtube?

There's a really hard problem when you're dealing with an online audience of classical musicians + fans/supporters in a social media setting. The problem is that the people who are most knowledgeable and passionate about classical music are mostly the performers, and classical musicians are a terrible demographic for making money. The basic problem is that your most enthusiastic users have no disposable income. The vast majority of classical musicians live a gig-hustle lifestyle + private teaching, and supply far outweighs demand for classical performers and teachers. I did that life for 20+ years and was pretty good at it, but there's just not a lot left over at the end of the day. Full-time salaried positions for classical musicians boil down to low-paying university positions and decently paying professional orchestra positions, and both are extremely hard to get and very limited in quantity. So if you're buyer has any sense, it's going to be hard for them to figure out a business model.

That means if you want to sell, you have to pitch the business model. Aside from the actual musicians, you probably have as some part of your user base, classical music supporters. And these people are where the potential money is made. This are two segments. One is the traditional arts supporter: Older (60-65+), white, Democrat, female, tons of disposable income. Your user base is unfortunately not likely to have much of this segment. The next segment you want to look for among your users are people who used to be musicians that have moved on to other, more stable and lucrative careers. That group is disproportionately male, in their mid-30s to mid-40s, left-leaning politically, has disposable income, and is generally pretty eager to spend because they used to be really broke and are typically interested in treating themselves to nice things.

That's going to be the bulk of your value proposition if the business model is going to be to monetize your users directly. So I'd try to figure out approximately the size of that demo in your user base. When I worked in the market research industry, I did a fair amount of pro bono work for several orchestras around the U.S. studying their audiences and trying to help them figure out pricing models. That was about 10 years ago, so my data is old. But given the nature of the beast, I doubt they've changed substantially since then.

All in all, I think you have a tough proposition for a potential buyer in the sort of traditional, "I have the eyeballs, now show me the money." kind of model. But I would encourage you to maybe consider some other options.

As I said before, there is an entire class of people--basically the older, white, liberal aristocracy--who support classical music and the arts almost out of a sense of class obligation. You (or a potential buyer who was motivated) could try to find an investor willing to fund this project at a very moderate rate of return as a sort-of "break-even + a little extra" investment that also promotes the arts. Your business model there would eschew advertising because it's not really going to give you much of anything as income anyway and just annoy your users. Instead, you'd need to find some value in premium features such that you could charge a subscription for them.

Along similar lines, this could be spun off into a non-profit with a mission to spread the beauty and joy of classical music through social technology. You (or again, buyer) might have a lot more success here, especially if there are existing connections with the donor community for classical music.

The last idea before I switch gears is that you might be able to sell directly to an Orchestra. It's true every orchestra around the world is struggling financially. But these kinds of projects are things that donors can get really excited about. Arts organizations everywhere are trying all kinds of different ways to improve audience engagement and mostly failing miserably for reasons I won't go into here. But I could easily see the board of a major orchestra diving in and using your existing audience and technology to try and juice their attendance and revenue through various partnerships + really targeted ads.

Switching gears for a moment. . . . This is going to sound totally nuts, and I don't even know how to start down this path. But it strikes me (as well as everyone else, probably) that Apple is absolute shit at social networks. Especially social networks revolving around music. You could make a strong case for being acquired by Apple on the grounds that you've built up a sizable audience in a very difficult market without blasting ads or invading user privacy--all values which align with Apple in general and where possible. How to go about getting to have that conversation, I'm really no help at all. But maybe someone else here does.

I really wish you the best of luck. I love this project, and if I had the cash I'd buy it off you, quit my day job, and figure out how to make this work right now. Feel free to reach out by email in my profile if you want to talk any more about this or anything or if there's other ways I might be able to help.

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