The hard work has paid off for musician and online entrepreneur Charlie Wallace, who now has the financial freedom to realise his dream of becoming an international rock star.
It’s a ‘high school dropout becomes a success’ story for the former Taradale High School student, who has created a multimillion-dollar online business before the age of 30.
His teachers may have doubted he would be successful but Charlie has gone
from leaving school at 15 years of age to creating the world’s leading online learn- to-play guitar business, Guitar Mastery Method.
So successful has Guitar Mastery Method become that Charlie can now afford a rock star-like house high on the Taradale hills with fast cars, a swimming pool and a studio for his band Black Smoke Trigger. The band is also paid a salary so that they can put everything into becoming the world’s biggest hard rock band. Think Metallica, Alice in Chains and Mötley Crüe.
“I was busy being a teenager and playing in a band but when I realised that if I wanted the band to be huge, we were going to need a lot of money. I couldn’t borrow any so I had to come up with a money-making idea.”
Charlie’s first money-making scheme was to publish an e-book teaching people to play the guitar, but success didn’t happen as fast as he had hoped.
“I released the e-book when I was 16 and it made $20,000 over five years. I knew that if an e-book could make me $20,000 then I would be able to make a lot more money from developing an online video course.
“I told the guys in the band that I was going to put the band on hold for a year, develop the guitar course and focus on making as much money as I could so that we could go full-time.
“I had no idea that it would end up taking me eight years to get into a position for us to go full-time.”
During those eight years the band also changed in both name – from Horresett to Black Trigger Smoke – and members, with only Charlie and Josh ‘Baldrick’ Rasmussen being the originals.
Charlie put everything on the line to make a success of Guitar Mastery Method.
It took three years to develop the online courses and he spent many sleep- deprived days building the website, the member login area and payment process; editing video and photography content; as well as being the anchor tutor.
“It was a lot of work and what made it harder was that I didn’t have any funds to get any support, so I had to learn to do everything myself.”
Charlie believes he was destined to be successful from playing guitar strings.
“I always knew that I was going to do something with a guitar even though my teachers thought I was destined for not a lot.
“I started playing guitar after hearing a Black Sabbath song and I wanted to try and learn how to play it.
“I heard that you could illegally download it on the Internet, so I went online but failed to find it. But I did find this website called Guitar Tab and that gave me the prospect of playing this kick-ass song that I had just heard. I looked at these six lines [guitar strings] that had numbers on them and it just made sense to me; from that moment I stuck with it.”
Learning was a slow process, and Charlie had to search the Internet for different ways to learn instead of just relying on the one website. In doing so he was able to develop a unique teaching style that has become the secret ingredient to the business’s success and seen over 50,000 guitar wannabes subscribe and become guitarists.
“When I started to learn guitar it was about trying to get as much information as possible from all sources and then trying to make sense of it. I had to do
it the hard way and piece the puzzle together.
“I started to get really interested in how the brain learns because I wanted to learn faster, I wanted to absorb as much as possible.
Charlie also attributes Guitar Mastery Method’s online marketing success to what he’d learned from marketing guru and author of top-selling book ASK Ryan Levesque. Ryan has since become a close mentor.
However, when Guitar Mastery Method went live at 10 am on 5 August 2014, success wasn’t as instant as Charlie had hoped.
“I had been up all night getting it ready and managed to get just a couple of hours sleep on the broken fold out couch before 10 am launch time.
“I clicked the email ‘send’ button to say it was live and my heart started to pound as I was wondering whether I had just wasted three years of my life. I had no idea whether it was going to work at all. I kept hitting the browser refresh button over and over hoping for a sale yet nothing was coming in.
“It wasn’t looking good and although the website had been live for only 15 minutes, it seemed like an eternity waiting for the first sale.”
Charlie went for a walk outside to think about his next move: would it be going back to one-on-one teaching guitar, or working in a music shop?
“I went outside and pondered what would be next if this failed. I took a deep breath, walked back inside and hit refresh again, and at 10.17 am I had $47 dollars come in; it was the biggest $47 dollars I have ever earned.
“The first order was from the US and I was in celebration mode as it felt as if I had just made a million bucks.”
In the four months remaining in 2014, the business made just $13,000 – a long way from getting the band back together and paying them.
In 2015, turnover reached $80,000, then nearly doubled in 2016 to $150,000. In 2017, Guitar Mastery Method exploded with earnings reaching $1.5 million, then $3 million in 2018 and a staggering $5 million last year.
“The fastest earnings totalled $75,000 in 45 minutes. Our next target is to grow revenue to $15 million as soon as we can.”
Success has enabled Charlie to bring on staff and support agencies, including a social media firm run out of Vancouver, as well as to prepare to step aside to join the band.
Thanks to mentor Ryan, Charlie decided in 2018 to set a deadline for the band and its members Josh Coyle-Te Maro on drums, Dan Fulton on bass guitar and Josh ‘Baldrick’ Rasmussen on vocals to go full-time by March 2019.
Charlie said the early vision was to build up the business to sell, but he’s since seen it change peoples’ lives as well as realise the initial aim of funding a band.
“I’m not running any of the business day to day now. Ryan advised me to set a date to step away and that’s what I did, and the team has stepped up.”
Close friend Johnny (last name), a former builder, has risen to the ranks of chief operating officer – “he’s my right-hand man,” says Charlie.
Black Smoke Trigger’s success to date includes spending three months in Nashville recording an EP (extended play record) with one of the best music producers, Michael Wagner; making a music video for “Caught in the Undertow”, which has had more than 1 million views on YouTube; and reaching Number 9 on the US heavy rock billboard charts with “Set it off”. The band hopes to produce an album and tour the US in 2021.
All the while, Charlie has no plans to move permanently from Hawke’s Bay.
“It’s the best place to live. Most of our business is in the US, both with Guitar Mastery Method and the band’s music, but there’s an airport 15 minutes from my house and it’s only two or three flights to a US destination.”