Friday, August 25, 2006

How A Starving Musician With 78 Cents Started A Million Dollar Business

Billy Cuthrell Story

In 1992, Billy Cuthrell says, he was starving and had 78 cents to his name. He knew he needed to find a steady income since he wasn't making any money being in a band. Teach-ing drum lessons seemed like a smart way to capitalize on his talents.

After a breakfast of pork and beans one morning, Cuthrell walked to Kinko's, where a friend printed copies of his hand-drawn fliers decorated with magazine clippings. "This thing was ragtag," says Cuthrell, 32, of his business's first ad.

Despite its looks, the ad drew several responses. At first, Cuthrell drove to students' homes, loading his run-down Isuzu Trooper with drum equipment. "I was like the musical ice cream man," Cuthrell says. "The only thing I didn't have was the music playing outside the truck."

Eventually, Cuthrell rented space from a local music store and found he could teach more students at a physical location, so he opened his own. As business grew, Cuthrell hired instructors. He now has two locations offering lessons in guitar, bass, piano, drums and percussion, with 2006 sales projections of $1 million.

Despite Progressive's growth, Cuthrell still relies on word-of-mouth marketing, though he's branching out with a commercial that will run like a preview in local movie theaters. And his marketing materials have come a long way: The hand-sketched fliers have evolved into brochures-which Cuthrell hires someone else to design.

More on how musicians can go from being broke to being well off:

The Business of Getting More Gigs as a Professional Musician

The Self-Promoting Musician