How to Follow Your Passion and Build a Successful Online Business, One Video at a Time

Image courtesy of Mike Johnston.

by Jeff Pedersen

posted on 09-13-2019

Mike Johnston started giving drum lessons at a local music store when he was just 17 years old. Little did he know that his love of music and teaching would lead to a creative career that now sees him hosting drum camps at his studio in California, teaching clinics at drum festivals worldwide, and creating online drum lessons for both his website and social media.

Like many young musicians, Mike originally imagined his future as a rock star. His band, Simon Says, landed a record deal when Mike was 21 and for the next six years, he toured the world. However, Mike soon realized that he missed teaching and started experimenting with online content; posting short lessons and exercises for his students to try while he was out on the road.

“It was 2006, and I saw YouTube as a place for me to store videos,” says Mike. “But when I came home from a tour, lessons that were supposed to only be seen by one or two students would have 10,000 or 20,000 views. That was eye-opening.”

So, he quit the band, left the record deal behind, and refocused his time on education.

Rock star teacher, producer

Mike quickly saw the potential to expand his teaching business and reach more students online. His initial goal was to move 10% of his YouTube audience to a paid website. Apple had just started breaking up albums and selling individual songs so, using the same model, Mike filmed specific lessons and sold them for 99 cents each.

To produce the highest quality content, Mike knew that he had to do more than just teach. “My speech had to become clearer, my lighting had to be better, and I needed to invest in camera equipment that would give viewers a better view of what was happening, since they weren’t there in person. I had to turn the delivery of information into an art form.”

After encountering limitations with his original video editing software, Mike purchased Adobe Premiere Pro and never looked back. Mike spent nights and weekends on YouTube and learning all he could about Premiere Pro, Photoshop and Lightroom as well as Dreamweaver, to enhance his website.

“Learning about scopes in Premiere Pro helped me tremendously,” says Mike. “I would edit something and it would look great to me on my cheap computer, but when I saw it on someone else’s computer it didn’t look the same. Once I learned about editing with scopes and trusting the scope more than I trusted my eye, that was a big deal.”

Currently, it’s the Lumetri Color panel that Mike is most excited about. “When I first started doing color correction and color grading it was quite intimidating,” he says. “Then the Lumetri Color panel was launched, and it all made sense. Even if I have no idea what I’m doing, I can still just move sliders until it looks good!”

Feeding a growing business

Soon was more lucrative than the drum school Mike owned, so he sold the school and focused exclusively on building his online business. Today, that business comprises free tips and tricks for his 150,000 YouTube followers, plus monthly, half-yearly, and annual subscription plans for those who want to dive deeper into their music education.

Recently, Mike added Adobe Premiere Rush to his video arsenal for producing content when he’s on the go. His followers don’t only tune in to see him perform or give a clinic, they’re also interested in his adventures and experiences around the world; from breakfast delicacies in Dublin, Ireland to the nightlife of Taipei, Taiwan.

Image courtesy of Mike Johnston.

“Adobe Premiere Rush allows me to instantly capture those moments,” says Mike. “I don’t have to mess around with ISO and aperture. I just pull out my phone and capture the life happening around me. I can then easily edit it on my cab ride back to the hotel, even giving the video a little color grade for a cinematic look. Anything that saves me time and lets me stay connected with my students is valuable. That’s where Premiere Rush fits into my life.”

Mike is always looking for the next thing that will help him build upon his passion for teaching.

“I’m happy and honored when I realize there’s a kid out there that doesn’t have access to drum lessons but is now learning to play based on watching my videos,” says Mike. “My drumming has taken second place to my teaching because how I present and delivery information is so important. Adobe video tools have helped me create a successful business doing what I love.”

Mike Johnson will be presenting his session “Passion to Profession: Building an Online Content Business” in the Adobe booth at IBC 2019 on Sunday, September 15th at 5:00 PM, Monday, September 16th at 4:30 PM, and Tuesday, September 17th at 11:00 AM in Amsterdam. If you’re not attending in person, tune in to the livestream on the Adobe Premiere Pro Facebook page (@premierepro) on Sunday, September 15 at 5:00 PM CEST / 11:00 AM ET / 8:00 AM PT.

Topics: Creativity, Video & Audio

Products: Premiere Rush, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud