Why Discounting & Using Udemy Was An Awful Long-Term Strategy

Why Udemy's Discount Culture Is Bad for Growth

Oh boy.

It’s time for me to eat some crow.

And that’s REALLY difficult for me to do because I have a fear of certain birds. 🙂

Anyway…

There are articles all over the Web about why discounting your products is bad.

I ignored them and thought that was odd advice.

Some of you warned me about Udemy.

I ignored that too.

My goal was to make my courses affordable for people to learn, and many of you praised me for that.

But I didn’t really understand the long-term limitations of a pricing structure like Udemy’s.

If you have not launched your product yet and/or are considering Udemy to sell your online courses, please pay attention.

There’s also a podcast for this post. If you’d like to listen, scroll to the bottom.

Constant Discounting Creates a Price Ceiling

The ongoing discount strategy is NOT good for the long run, and it often creates a proverbial ceiling when it comes to what some people will pay.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Offering too-frequent discounts trains people to buy only when there’s a sale.” quote=”Offering too-frequent discounts trains people to buy only when there’s a sale.”]

When a large discount is the #1 motivating factor for purchasing, you attract a lot of people who…

  • Put off starting/completing the course
  • Don’t take action
  • Are less motivated (because they haven’t invested much money)
  • Are more likely to expect a coupon before buying again (This one is HUUUUUGE!)

As a result, you have to sell a lot of cheap products to make worthwhile money, and you often end up with a less engaged student due to the low risk/investment.

Of course this is not ALWAYS the case, but I have a good sample size of Udemy stats to study and the results are clear…

When I opted out of the Udemy promotions last Summer, it was amazing to see the increase in course engagement/completion and how the average ratings improved.

The bottom line is…

[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t price low. Pack your product with value, and charge what it’s worth.” quote=”Don’t price low. Pack your product with value, and charge what it’s worth.”]

Should You Avoid Udemy?

If you care more about the volume of students, and are not concerned with the amount you earn per sale, then Udemy is fine.

Just understand that your income will largely depend on how much Udemy promotes your course (if you cannot drive sales yourself). And many of your students will never pay more than a certain price.

Notice I didn’t say “ALL” but “MANY.”

There are instructors on Udemy who are doing very well and are happy with their model. So I would never say it’s bad for everyone.

It’s just not for ME anymore, and I won’t be uploading there again.

Even though I’ve opted out of the discounts, there is still an unspoken expectation for what my courses SHOULD sell for because they are on a notoriously discounted platform.

I know this to be true because I’ve gotten messages in my inbox from people begging for coupons.

Begging

One guy was so relentless, I had to block him after the 10th message in a 3 day period.

Another guy criticized me because my courses weren’t part of the promotions.

Oh the NERVE of me for not selling a 3 hour course for 15 bucks! 🙁

I had two emails this morning from someone asking for a coupon.

And when people on Udemy ask for a coupon, they don’t want $5 or $10 off.

They want 75 to 90% off.

I’m Done.

This is exactly why Udemy is a bad choice for people who want to sell courses over a certain amount. That discount expectation is a killer.

They tried to fix this last year with a limited discount structure, but it flopped badly.

Just like JCPenneys discovered when trying something similar, they realized people need to FEEL they’re getting a discount.

Udemy knew they had to change it back so they could keep profits up. It may not benefit all the instructors, but it benefits THEIR bottom line.

So it really doesn’t matter what you price your course if you’re opted in to the discounts.

In most people’s eyes the value is always under $25.

That expectation is always there, and if you don’t offer that, you may look sleazy or like you’re trying to rip someone off.

It doesn’t matter how detailed your course is or that it’s 3 hours long. It “should” be cheap because it’s on Udemy.

Students wait for the next promotion, and it’s typically just a few weeks away.

And who could blame them? Why wouldn’t they wait for a discount? That’s the precedent Udemy set.

I’m just glad we can opt out.

I do get full-price marketplace sales (referred by Udemy) quite often for my affiliate course, but I bet they are from new students who haven’t figured out the “Udemy system” yet.

I also hate how their pricing looks scammy. “Oh, let me price my 30 minute course at $200 when I know it will sell for $20.”

Nope.

When you opt out, YOU control your prices.

Think Long Term When Setting Prices

The decision to start cheap will always hurt my course sales in some way because I set a low price expectation.

So if you want to control how much your course will sell for, you should consider other options like Teachable (where my future courses will be uploaded).

My 2create courses will stay on Udemy (minus the Udemy promos, of course) for now, and existing students will always have access to them even if I stop selling there. It’s part of their terms.

The truth is, only a small percentage of Udemy instructors earn a substantial amount of money selling courses cheap.

If you happen to have a top course in an in-demand niche, you could make five figures per month selling courses at $10 or $15 due to Udemy promoting your course for you.

Just remember that if you rely on Udemy for your sales, a competitor could come along with a better course and Udemy may promote their course over yours.

Many instructors feel trapped and obligated to participate in the Promotions because without them, they would hardly make anything due to the fact the students look for the discounts and they don’t have an audience.

Well I don’t feel obligated at all — even if that means I earn less.

I have no regrets about opting out of the Promotions last year.

I would much rather have 5 students who pay $100 than 100 students who pay $10.

When people invest more into a course, they are far more likely to complete it, act on the content and buy ANOTHER course for the same price or more.

If you attract more students that really NEED your course and not just motivated by a discount, you’ll make more in the long run.

So you have to sell fewer courses to reach your income goals, and you’re getting paid for your work.

“I Can’t Afford That Price!”

So how do you deal with people who complain about price?

If people are used to discounts, no doubt those comments will come. I get this all the time now that I opted out of the Promotions.

You simply explain that you invested a lot of time into creating your product, and your price is set to reflect that.

Why should you disregard the work you put into creating something just because someone doesn’t want to pay?

A higher price will help communicate the value of those who are ready to commit time and money, and drive those away who aren’t.

It’s that simple.

I’m no longer afraid of driving people away like I was before.

It’s about learning to create a product that people NEED and WANT instead of trying to target anyone and everyone by dangling a cheap price in their face.

Private Groups Are Beneficial

Creating a private Facebook group for my Spreadshirt (and future POD T-shirt design students) has been a learning tool for me as a course creator.

It’s helped me learn where I need to improve with structuring my courses.

I am listening to the problems that people have and noticed a common theme with the challenges many of you face that I wouldn’t have picked up on without the group.

I’ve had several A-HA moments! 🙂

This gives me direction with my upcoming 101 print on demand course.

So it’s not just about jacking up your prices. You also have to improve, deliver and give people what they need and want.

It’s a two-way street.

So having a group where you can interact with your potential students is great because you can learn about what they want and where they struggle most.

I will certainly use this info for my future courses.

I’m working hard to ensure the courses are setup for optimal learning and easy implementation.

I have to do my part too.

Quantity Doesn’t Matter

This may be hard to believe, but I don’t care about high enrollment numbers right now.

True Dat!

If I did, I’d still be opted in to the Udemy promotions.

For me, it’s about removing that cheap course expectation and finding the right price point that…

  • reflects value and doesn’t look cheap
  • pays me back for the time invested
  • is affordable

And you know what?

I STILL don’t have the perfect formula for pricing a product. I’m going to be testing and welcome you to share what you’ve learned.

But I can tell you this…

Giving products away for cheap is NOT the answer for me.

If you’ve benefited from my discounts then you might not like this. It might look greedy or that I’ve changed.

Well you’re right.

I have changed.

I’ve learned that it makes no business sense to price below the value for the long run.

As you can see, I’m such a work in progress when it comes to all this selling stuff, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

Listen To The Podcast

This topic was so important that I decided to also do a podcast. You can listen below or right-click this link and download the mp3 file here.

How WordPress Exposes Your Admin Username & How to Fix It!

How WordPress Might Reveal Your Login Info

I received an alarming DM from one of my e-buddies, Darren of Small Biz Geek.

This is what it said…

Tweet From Darren

Say whaaaaaaaaat?

Now, I will say this…

I know not to ever use “admin” for my username, and I’m aware of the nickname issue.

What’s the nickname issue, you ask?

Always change your admin nickname to something else, otherwise the name shown with your comments will be your username.

Go into Users from your dashboard, and edit your Admin user account. Make sure you change your nickname to something other than your username.

But I had already done that, so I wasn’t aware of any other username vulnerabilities.

Well there’s another one, and it’s a biggy!

The Byline Might Be Exposing Your Username

Darren figured out my login username for my new site, and he didn’t have to hack the database or go to great lengths to figure it out.

All he did was hover over a link in my author byline.

You might have the same vulnerability on your WordPress site, and there’s a very easy fix.

If you have “By [Name]” in your byline that usually shows up underneath your WordPress title, you might be exposing your admin username.

So I wouldn’t risk exposing anyone’s site that was vulnerable, the byline in the above example is not even hyperlinked, but I just wanted to show an example of what it would look like since I ended up removing my byline altogether.

Anywho…

Hover over that name in your byline. (Not all themes show the byline.)

You will notice it goes to http://yoursite.com/author/[name] 

Whatever you see in the [name] is your login username.

How crazy is it that WordPress has not addressed this yet???? As if WordPress is not vulnerable enough!

And since most of us post using our Admin accounts, this is dangerous. You are basically telling the hackers of the world what your WordPress admin login username is.

So all they have to do is run their script to figure out your password. And if it’s super simple then it’s not hard for them to crack into your account.

For the record, hackers easily crack some passwords by running scripts that attempt to figure them out. They typically start alphabetically and go down the list.

a… aa… aaa… aaab… aaabbb and then they had numbers to the end.

Sounds tedious, right? But here’s the deal…

This is happening at a rate of million of attempts per second because it’s a script, so they can go through the millions of combinations VERY quickly.

It’s not like John (or Jane) 🙂 is sitting at your login screen manually entering each option. This process is totally automated!

Many WP blogs get hacked because they use “admin” as the username and then a super simple password.  That’s why you should always use lowercase, numbers, uppercase and symbols.

If you’re using a password like happy123, then you’re begging to get hacked — especially if your username is exposed in the byline.

For the record, words that can be found in the dictionary are a big no-no — even if you add numbers at the end.

How to Hide Your Username In The Byline

This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s super easy and should only take you about 3-5 minutes.

Darren created a video that explains all this and shows you how to fix the problem. There are also text instructions below.

I would highly recommend you backup your database before making any changes. Pleeeeease!

Text Instructions

If you prefer text instructions, here ya go…

1. Login to your cpanel or hosting account control panel.

2. Go to PHPMyAdmin or whatever database software your host uses. It might just say “Databases.”

Your interface may also look slightly different. I’m on dedicated hosting, and my cpanel just got upgraded. The point is to find phpMyAdmin or your database icon.

phpMyAdmin

You will see your WordPress database name(s) and any other databases you have setup. It should look similar to the image below.

3. Click the name of your database (or the plus sign next to it), and it will expand a list of all the tables inside that database.

database

4. Look for a table called wp_users (or something similar) and click it. This is where all your blog’s users are stored.

This will bring up a table of all the users in your WordPress database.

5. Find your username for your admin account and click Edit.

You should see a field called user_nicename and it will be the same as your login.

This is the culprit and what you should change IMMEDIATELY! Change it to “webmaster” or anything other than your login username.

6. Click “Go” or “Save” and that should be it.

Now if you use the byline on your posts, your username will no longer be displayed in the hyperlink.

It will show the name you just changed it to, which is OK because it’s not tied to any of your login details.

What Is The Purpose of The User_Nicename Field?

In case you’re worried about breaking something with this change, here’s some reassurance.

The user_nicename field was only created to simplify the URL of the author archives.

It’s a slug to make the author post archive link appear “nicer”, hence the name.

So if your username is something funky with symbols and hyphens, then the user_nicename will simplify the author post archive link (URL).

If you change the user_nicename, you are changing the URL of the author’s archives.

The good news is WordPress will automatically make this change dynamically so you won’t have broken links in your bylines.

But if you happen to manually link to all your author posts somewhere else on your site (rare), then you will have to change those links to the new one.

There really is no need for a byline when you have a single-author blog anyway.  If you use Genesis themes like me, you can easily get rid of it by installing The Simple Edits plugin.

What If Your Theme Doesn’t Have a Byline?

This is pretty common today. A byline might not be coded into your particular theme.

However, even if the byline is not displayed, the author URL still exists because it’s part of WordPress’ dynamic code.

So you can still go to http://yoursite.com/author/[admin_username]. But if your theme doesn’t link to your author archives, then it would be nearly impossible to find.

Nevertheless, it still exists if you go to it manually. So I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you are going to change it or not.

—————-

Thank you, Darren for alerting me of this! This is such an important issue so I want to spread the word as you have done on your blog.

I can’t believe I’ve used WordPress all these years and have never come across this info! 😮

Look-a-here, ladies and gents! All WordPress users need to know about this. Please spread the word by tweeting the link below, especially if you have a website that targets bloggers.

[clickToTweet tweet=”WordPress is exposing your admin username! Here’s how to fix it!” quote=”WordPress is exposing your admin username! Here’s how to fix it.”]

My Income Evolution Online, Personal Growth & More!

My Income Evolution Online

Ya know… it’s been so long since I blogged here, I almost forgot my WordPress password. 🙂

How’s your 2018 been going for you? Mine has been super busy but extremely productive and more profitable than I expected.

So I thought I’d catch you up on lessons I’ve learned with my new site, struggles, personal growth and other insights.

The Golden Ticket

The year started off on a fun note. I received a Golden Ticket and was invited, along with a few other high-volume sellers, to meet with Amazon about the Merch By Amazon (MBA) program!

We had to sign NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements), but I CAN say that it made me even more proud and excited to be a part of this amazing passive income opportunity.

They even created a shirt design for us that we got to print ourselves!

Golden Ticket

The team was super cool and treated us to a nice dinner with some delicious desserts! We were all pretty vocal about the things we like/didn’t like, suggestions, etc.

I can’t lie…

Before the meetup, certain things about Merch would really frustrate me. But after talking to the team it made realize how hard they’re working to improve on many different fronts.

One thing’s for sure…

These people LOVE THEIR COMPANY. You can see Amazon has a certain standard for the kind of people they hire.

The Merch team is extremely passionate and dedicated to the program, and it was really cool to see their energy and positive outlook on the future of (MBA).

Detour Ahead

Merch By Amazon caused a COMPLETE detour with my business in late 2016. I saw the potential and knew I had to focus on it as soon as I got in.

To date, I’ve sold nearly 10,000 shirts on Amazon alone, and never dreamed T-shirts would be a big part of my income stream.

But I’m actually glad Merch distracted me because I was about to make a BIG mistake by creating the site about selling online courses from your WordPress site.

I was trying to force myself into a niche that I wasn’t really passionate about JUST to have a more focused/niche site.

Bad idea.

I also felt some pressure to start a new site because I really wanted to see what it was like to begin TODAY so I could share more relevant lessons. I was definitely forcing ideas for that reason as well.

Thank you, Amazon, for rescuing me from THAT inevitable failure! 🙂

The PSP Journey Begins

When I launched Passive Shirt Profits in June of last year, I knew that social media wasn’t going to be a big part of my marketing strategy.

That may sound crazy to you in 2018, but if you know me, you already know that social media marketing has NEVER been a strength OR favorite of mine.

As a matter of fact, MARKETING IN GENERAL has never been a strength.

What you need to understand is that being proficient at teaching, making videos, and being admired online doesn’t automatically qualify you as a great Internet marketer who knows how to sell their own products.

All I knew was that I wasn’t going to stress myself out trying to grow another social media account I would probably abandon.

So I decided to start with podcasting. I really wanted to see how much traction I could gain with doing nothing but focusing on that.

I also wanted to challenge the “Be Everywhere” strategy that a lot of newcomers feel they need to adhere to when starting a website.

My goal was to commit to podcasting weekly to see if it would drive people into my courses. I launched my first show in May, 2017.

Sales Were Off To a Great Start!

You may remember that the initial launch for PSP was great.

It was a good decision to offer a bundle package that was priced lower than the total price of all courses individually because most people bought the bundle.

I made more in the first 3 days of launch than I typically made on Udemy in a month (WITHOUT Udemy discounts.)

But let’s be real.

The sales were mostly from people who found out about PSP from THIS site.

The REAL tell would be the results AFTER the initial launch.

Well let me just say that after launch, things were slow.

Veeeeeery slow!

So slow that I wondered if I should keep podcasting.

But the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it so I decided to keep going in spite of doubts creeping up.

It’s funny how I’m always giving you all pep talks about never giving up, and I had to remember and start using my own advice! 🙂

Then in December, things started to slowly turn around.

Suddenly sales went from very sporadic to several per week.

Then in January it was like someone flipped a switch. (I think it had a lot to do with Merch accepting people into the program again.)

So my listeners and email list subscribers who had been waiting to get approved, decided to enroll.

My podcast downloads started increasing and so did my course sales!

podcast traffic

I launch a show every Monday so those are the peaks you see. I think it’s very important to maintain a rhythm with podcasting.

I took a 6 week break between Thanksgiving and the New Year, so that’s why you see the spike on January 8th.

But here’s the cool part….

Thinkific

I recently had my BEST. WEEK. EVER. for the PSP courses, and it was really encouraging to finally have a bit more momentum.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting numbers like this all the time, but compared to how things started, I’ll take it!

Also notice…

PSP doesn’t get many comments or social shares.

And if that’s what you view to judge the success of a website, well then you’d see it as a complete failure.

But ironically, it’s converting better with courses than this site did with a larger traffic base!

So yeah, no complaints here!

The lesson?

Don’t get caught up in social shares, traffic and comments. They don’t always equate to more income.

Keep Pushing No Matter What!

Let me tell you. It gets quite discouraging in the early days of building a new site as many of you know!

It was a VERY humbling experience after having instant success with 2 Create a Website.

This site just TOOK OFF like a rocket thanks to Google back in the day, and PSP has been NOTHING like that.

I knew I wasn’t going to have the luxury of building up my search engine traffic to 2,000 visits per day in the first two months like I did with 2Create years ago.

Even though I was prepared for a slow start, it doesn’t mean it was easy to swallow.

It took 8 months for me to really feel like momentum was picking up, and I know many people would have given up LONG before then.

That’s why you have to keep pushing and give it time.

And that’s EXACTLY why I wanted to share this.

I think it’s equally important you hear when things are challenging, and not just when they’re great.

You Don’t Have to Be Everywhere

I know how overwhelming some of you feel when you’re just starting online today.

With Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and so many options to choose from, it can feel like you have a gigantic hill to climb.

But I’m here to tell you to START SMALL.

Most people are never GREAT with every social media site. They typically focus on one or two.

You have to remember, when you see big influencers with 5 and 6-digit followers on multiple sites, usually it’s because they focused on one or two and the other accounts grew because of the success of the initial accounts.

So it’s not like they are spending that much time and energy on every site.

And who cares about the number of followers if you aren’t turning those followers into customers!

Be careful of getting distracted by looking or being popular on social media.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Just because people are clicking LIKE doesn’t mean they will click ‘BUY.’” quote=”Just because people are clicking LIKE doesn’t mean they will also click ‘BUY.’”]

Now THAT’s what I need on a T-shirt! 🙂

So focus on ONE platform that fits your style and audience, and commit yourself to growing that for the next 6 months.

The beauty of concentrating on one strategy is it will very clear if it’s working or not.

Kim George wrote a really good article on follower obsessions, and how to choose your best social platform. I envy her commitment and dedication to social media. I just don’t have it. 🙂

Set Realistic Goals

I was so proud of myself for setting a podcast goal that I stuck to EVERY SINGLE MONDAY until the Holidays. (I did miss one other week due to a death in the family.)

Staying focused is often a challenge for me, but I stuck with podcasting, even when I wasn’t sure it was the best thing to do.

And the great thing about my show is every episode is only 5-10 minutes long. So it only takes me an hour or so to record, edit and publish each episode.

I set a realistic goal for myself that I knew I could meet, and that is so important.

Plus, it feels sooooooo good to know I don’t HAVE to be on every platform. I no longer get social media marketing FOMO (fear of missing out).

For the record, I’m not suggesting that you ignore social media. I believe most people SHOULD consider using it today. This was just a personal decision for ME. I have a unique situation with multiple income sources (some are recurring), so I didn’t feel like social media was something I HAD to do. Having said that, I TOTALLY APPROVE the podcast-only strategy for starting out — especially if you’re in a niche where podcasting is hot.

Just remember, you don’t have to be everywhere. It’s a myth.

What I Need to Work On & My Personal Growth

Even though I feel PSP has earned what I put into it now (effort wise), there’s so much more I COULD be doing to earn even more.

I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished, but I still have a ways to go.

I haven’t setup many marketing funnels, don’t do much with landing pages, my email list, etc.

I am now getting help with those aspects of marketing.

Entrepreneurs who are incredibly successful focus on what they do best and outsource the rest. And I’m JUST now getting comfortable with doing more of that.

I’ve also grown a lot personally and professionally in the last year.

I’ve learned to be comfortable saying “NO” to unreasonable requests and being OK with not pleasing everyone (limiting certain levels of help to students only, no coupon expectations, pricing etc.)

I’ve set boundaries for what I will and won’t do in my business both online AND offline.

Boundaries are something a lot of women entrepreneurs struggle with. Google it. It’s like an epidemic!

Maintaining that boundary without feeling selfish or mean has often been a challenge for me. But I had to do something because things were getting out of balance in my business.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I created that monster by operating in “people pleasing” mode.

I just recorded a podcast on this very subject. Stay tuned.

Diversification Continues

It’s also been incredibly rewarding to create additional income streams. That’s something you HAVE to do as an entrepreneur.

My income sources look a LOT different from when I started online, and thanks to Etsy, PSP and Amazon, I’ve developed some new ones in the last 14 months.

And I have to mention AdSense because I’m always asked about it.

My response to that is…

What’s AdSense? 🙂

Seriously, if I make a $1,000 month, I’m having a good month. Fortunately, I’ve more than replaced those earnings with other income streams.

One thing’s for sure…

If you expect everything to remain the same out here, you’re in the wrong place. The only constant is change!

Three years from now, I might be talking about Merch in past tense and on to something else. That’s just how it goes.

But I’m going to ride this Merch train ’til the wheels fall off! 🙂 And it’s been a fun ride!

Anywho, I just wanted to update you all because it’s been a minute since I blogged.

Let me know what you are up to these days, and I hope your 2018 is going grrrrrreat!! 🙂

Passive Income Shifts & What My Marketing DNA Test Results Revealed

Passive Income Shifts & More Entrepreneur Lessons

Whew!

Life took an unexpected turn in early March, and my focus went from being a full-time entrepreneur to a full-time caretaker.

My dad, who has lived a life with near perfect health, got very sick, very quickly.

He went from being in perfect health on a Friday, March 2nd, to being near death the following Tuesday evening, thanks to a severe kidney infection.

He thought he had the flu. Unfortunately, it was much worse than that.

The infection got into his bloodstream and his body went into septic shock, and every single organ began shutting down one by one.

Before he knew he had the infection, he got dizzy and fell in the bathroom and broke BOTH of his ankles.

Yes… both!

So he cannot put any weight on either leg and is in a wheelchair.

He’s been this way for nearly two months because he had to get clearance for ankle surgery by several different doctors.

As you can imagine, for a man who was very active, this is driving him nuts having to sit all day and be so dependent on family.

He was finally approved for surgery this Wednesday. So hopefully the therapy will begin a few weeks after that and he can get back to walking.

Nevertheless, it all could have been so much worse. I’m just so grateful he is alive and his health is good!

Thank Goodness For The Biz!

In the meantime, I feel very lucky and blessed to have this online business… especially when I’ve needed “time off.”

Most of March was a wash in terms of getting anything done for the biz.

In spite of all that’s been going on, this is shaping up to be one of my best years in some time.

In February, I had a $10K revenue month with Merch By Amazon and over $13K in total print on demand revenue (Amazon, Etsy, RedBubble, Spreadshirt, Zazzle, etc.)

That was the first time my print on demand income surpassed my largest affiliate income source (GoDaddy’s reseller program).

As great as those numbers look, you have to know that Merch By Amazon is far from being a sure thing. I have invested an insane amount of time on this in the last year, and income is up and down like a roller coaster.

So please do not join Merch expecting your income to grow every month. Mine sure hasn’t. As one of my students said, you have to treat Merch as your vacation money and never rely on it! Nevertheless, I’m completely obsessed with this opportunity!

I also just had another record month with my PSP courses.

Course Sign Ups

As you may remember, my main method for promoting my courses is through podcasting.

For the longest time, affiliate income was my primary focus. Now it’s taking a backseat to course income, and this has been a long-time business goal of mine.

For too many years I was relying very heavily on affiliate income, and I wanted to see a shift.

Just Launched a Course? You’re Not Done!

One thing I’ve learned from my students on Passive Shirt Profits is that your work does not end when you launch your courses.

How many of you have ever thought, “If I can just get my course launched then the hardest part will be over.”

WRONG!!!!

That’s actually when the real work begins.

Creating the course videos was the easy part for me.  The bigger and ongoing challenge has been making sure students can execute!

Just because your course is live doesn’t mean it’s optimized for the best learning experience.

Some people get stuck in areas you might breeze through, or we assume certain things are clearer than they truly are.

Typically your first version of the course is going to be your worst, but your student feedback and questions should help you improve it.

Staying In Touch With Students

I tried something new this year with my Merch Course, and it’s really helped myself as a teacher and several students.

I began sending out weekly strategy tips to students, and many of the tips are very personal to my ongoing experiences with Merch By Amazon.

At first I worried about sending too many emails, but the responses have been awesome!

Students who weren’t selling anything are starting to see sales. I started receiving more “success” emails, and a few even began posting testimonials in my private group!

Shout Out

(I blurred out the name since it’s a private group and I didn’t get permission to share the name.)

Then I woke up to this today….

Course Testimonial

I eventually want to do one-on-one coaching/training for Merch due to requests, but I’m not ready yet.

However, this feedback and ongoing correspondence with students is prepping me for that when the time is right.

I may experiment with that once things settle down with my dad.

I Took a Marketing DNA Test

If you’ve ever struggled with how you should be marketing your business or even what kind of work you should be doing online, I’d highly recommend The Marketing DNA Test by Perry Marshall (I am NOT an affiliate.)

It revealed a lot about myself as an entrepreneur AND an online teacher.

It was recommended by one of my followers. (Shout out to Mitch!) I thought it would be fun to take. 🙂

Based on how you answer 15-20 questions, the test gives you guidance on the best methods to market your site.

It also gives you insight into the kind of work you should be doing based on your strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve always known that I’m doing the kind of work that fits me, but I wanted to see if the results aligned with what I believe about myself.

The results revealed that I excel more with right-brained, creative work and I connect with people best through video.Marketing DNAIt also said I have a way of getting inside my visitor’s heads that is almost “psychic and sometimes a little bit scary.”Marketing DNA TestHowever, I’m NOT so great at analytical work that requires a lot of attention to detail.

I’m also not good with thinking on the spot. I need time to gather my thoughts.

Marketing DNAThat explains why I fall in love with work like writing/blogging, video and T-shirt design creation, but hate overly analytical work.

That also must be why I abandoned my Accounting major in college. 🙂

With SEO, I wonder if that’s why I’d always start off using keyword research software but abandon it after I found a niche.

I could never make myself use it to research every keyword I wanted to write about. I always wanted to follow my gut and common sense.

With Amazon, I have my process I use to find a niche/keywords for Merch. But I spend waaaaaaay more time coming up with my actual shirt ideas and working in Photoshop than I do obsessing over research.

The other reason why these Marketing DNA results were so interesting to me is it made me realize the disconnect that exists between how I learn and operate versus some of my students.

Right-brained people learn differently than left-brained people.

Left brained/analytical people prefer structure when learning. They take notes, like to plan everything out, and need to have all their ducks in a row before uploading/launching anything.

I’m the complete opposite.

I don’t like to do extensive planning and preparation. I’m not a note taker and prefer to jump in and figure it out as I go — even if I know everything is not perfect.

I rely on my gut with a lot of decisions I make, whereas left-brained people use more logic and research before they are comfortable moving forward.

One way is not better than the other, and they both have their pros and cons.

However, as a course creator, I’ve had to learn to focus more on the details and methodical steps for people who prefer that type of learning.

I wouldn’t have been able to improve on that if I hadn’t stayed in touch with my students.

So remember, your course is never, ever complete. It should continue to evolve based on the feedback from your students.

I’ve been selling courses for nearly four years and I’m STILL learning.

Anywho, just thought I’d update you all on what’s going on with me. It’s been an up and down year for sure, but I’m taking it one day at a time.

I hope life is treating you well! 🙂

Why I Removed My 2Create Courses & More Updates!

What Happened to My Courses

Heeeeey everyone! Long time no “see!”

I wanted to update you all on some things since it’s been a while since I’ve posted.

The number one email I’ve received in the last few months has been regarding my 2Create courses. You may have noticed that most of them have been set to “private.”

After my dad got sick in March, I knew I wasn’t going to have time to focus on supporting students for two websites. PSP was my main focus, and I also have a private student group to support.

So I decided to set the 2Create courses to “private” to prevent new students from enrolling.

Then once things returned to normal in my personal life, I had to be honest with myself.

I wasn’t doing much with website building or marketing, other than passively using my podcast to promote PSP courses.

I’m making waaaaay more money selling my T-shirt designs than I am with the actual courses that teach what I’m doing. 

I’ve had about 500 students enroll in my PSP courses. While that’s not bad, it could have been so much better if I did more marketing.

I’ve never been comfortable or efficient with marketing my products. It intimidates me. That’s one business hump I’ve never been able to get over.

I admire people who are diligent with tracking email campaigns and conversions. It all just makes my head spin.

I’d rather make a T-shirt. 🙂

Why The T-Shirt Biz is So Rewarding to Me

For a long time, affiliate marketing and AdSense were my favorite and most rewarding ways to earn online.

However, POD now holds that top spot.

I don’t come from a design background so I’ve had to learn a lot.

When I worked as an HTML Analyst for American Airlines over 10 years ago, my team lead forced us to use Photoshop, but the company provided us ZERO training.

I remember staring at the blank Photoshop interface wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with all those tools and buttons as they stared back at me. 🙂

I never actually learned much about Photoshop until I quit my full-time job in 2006 to work on this site.

Fast forward 12 years later, I’m now using Photoshop and Illustrator to create some very detailed art that I never thought I would be able to do.

To see how far I’ve come, and then to have people buy my designs by the thousands, is incredibly rewarding and slightly addictive. 🙂

It also goes to show anyone can do this regardless of your design background.

I have one T-shirt that has netted over $20,000 in royalties.  Yes, from ONE T-shirt design!

Think Before You Leap

With all the income potential, print on Demand is not for everyone. Just like anything else, don’t get into this just because you are in desperate need of money.

You need the desire to learn the POD business and even something about software if you want to scale your income.

And for long-term success, you should be thinking of building a brand instead of relying on passive traffic and income like I’ve been.

Even if you’re a talented designer, you will quickly learn that’s just the beginning. You also have to understand keywords and find niches to design for.

It’s getting very competitive, so make sure you jump in for the right reasons.

If I’m honest, I was drawn to this venture for the money, but I’ve STAYED because of my love for the work.

When my dad was sick, I was super stressed. I found the creation process to be therapeutic.

A lot of my success has come because of creative ideas that just haven’t been done, and the creative work is what makes this fun for me.

On the flip side, you also have to be prepared for theft. That’s been the biggest disappointment of this whole experience. It’s why I use an alias for my POD accounts, and don’t share much of my work.

As a result of Amazon and other PODs not protecting our work with a wrinkle or watermark, my images have been stolen and re-uploaded to numerous sites.

Things have gotten a little better since using watermarks, wrinkles, etc., but you’re never going to be able to fully protect your work. As long as it’s online, someone will find a way to grab it if they want it. 🙁

I Enrolled in An Art Class

One of my goals for POD is to scan hand-drawn work. Then I could “ink it” (color it) after importing it into Illustrator, but I had to learn to draw first. LOL

Up until now, most of my designs have been created through shapes in software. Believe me. You can do a lot with this. That’s what I teach in my PSP Photoshop course.

Now I’m doing this more with Illustrator as I improve.

However, I wanted to learn how to draw free hand. So I enrolled in an art class.

We’re learning some basic drawing principles and how to shade using graphite, charcoal, and colored pencils.

Here are some cherries I drew with colored pencils. I was pretty proud of this because I was struggling with shading earlier in the semester.

I’m too embarrassed to show my first shading attempt. It was absolutely awful. LOL

So as you can see, I am now knee-deep in learning about drawing and T-shirt design. It has been a nice change of pace.

That’s All For Now

Anywho, I know most of you did not subscribe for all this print on demand stuff.

That’s why I haven’t been blogging much. I didn’t have anything noteworthy to share in this space. However, I wanted to update you on why I took down my 2Create courses since many have asked.

Those who have enrolled can still access them, but I have no plans to enable them for new students any time soon.

I DO plan to make updates for the existing students, however.

By the way, my dad is doing great!

He is walking again, and his ankles are doing well considering how severely he injured them.

Other than some initial stiffness when he first stands up, he’s walking well now! We feel so blessed and lucky he came through all that.

Thanks to all who reached out to inquire about his health. I really appreciate it!

Hope you’re doing well! Drop me a line below and let me know what’s up with you!

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha review – What Hi-Fi?

When Steve Jobs pulled 1000 songs from his pocket in October 2001, it opened up vast realms of possibilities in terms of the portability of your music collection. Of course, Apple’s first iPod housed MP3 files, and its early adopters later discovered that their smartphones could house similar lossy, but highly convenient, music files. But the push back against heavy audio compression has gained ground, and for those who want the best of both worlds – portability and high-resolution music – Astell & Kern is one of the best-known providers of premium portable music players.

The firm’s Kann Alpha is the third player in the Kann series, yet the first Astell & Kern player to implement Bluetooth 5.0. It boasts a more powerful built-in headphone amplifier than the previous Kann series players it succeeds, too. And thanks to the rearrangement of various components and the use of smaller resistors and capacitors, it promises added power in a smaller and more portable chassis. So, what can the Kann Alpha do? And, ultimately, does it deliver the goods?

Build

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha build

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

The new Kann Alpha is smaller than the older Kann Cube – a bulky £1500 ($1199) model that we said was “unlikely to find its way into many pockets” – but not by much. The Kann Alpha is just over 2cm shorter and thinner, and 5mm shallower. At 316g, it’s also significantly lighter. 

It’s still a substantial beast, then, but it will fit into an anorak, coat or hoodie pocket – just perhaps not your skinny jeans. The player’s angular metallic edges pressed against your skin would probably prove painful anyway.

A trademark feature of Astell & Kern’s players is the rotary volume knob in the top-right corner, and the one on the Kann Alpha is a joy to use. A subtle light shines out from around the dial, glowing different colours to denote the type of file you’re playing – red to indicate a 16-bit PCM file, green for 24-bit, blue for 32-bit and purple for DSD files. If you’re worried that the LED display might create electrical noise that degrades the audio performance, you can turn it off in the settings menu.

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha tech specs

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Screen 4.1in

Resolution Full HD 720 x 1280

Bluetooth version 5.0 aptX

Frequency response 20Hz to 20kHz

Impedance 0.8ohms

Built-in memory 64GB

Battery life 14.5 hours

Dimensions (hwd) 11.7 x 6.8 x 2.5cm

Weight 316g

The Alpha screams high-end when it comes to build quality. Its all-aluminium black casing sports a slightly different finish for every side. The back surface features a cool, brushed finish, while along the top edge is a ceramic black mirror finish, with little gold accents around the three headphone outputs – a 2.5mm and new balanced 4.4mm, plus a 3.5mm unbalanced headphone jack/optical out. The Alpha’s top edge, in particular, has a quality reminiscent of Sony’s more premium minidisc players produced in the mid-1990s.

One minor complaint is that although a special coating has been applied to this mirror finish, the Kann Alpha’s surfaces and screen quite happily collect finger and thumb marks as we fondle the player. It’s a small issue, but this is a premium player and we notice it enough to run a microfibre cloth over the Kann Alpha several times during the course of our listening.

On the underside of the unit is a microSD card slot for those who wish to boost the Alpha’s relatively humble 64GB onboard storage to as much as 1TB, as well as a USB-C port that now handles both charging and digital connectivity. Simply connect the Kann Alpha to your computer or laptop with the supplied USB-C cable and you can use it as an all-in-one headphone amp and DAC. Neat.

The Kann Alpha utilises dual ESS Sabre ES9066AS DACs capable of rendering MQA music. It supports the most popular file formats, too, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV and native DSD256, and decodes every music file we throw at it during our testing. It’s a similar story with wireless codec support. The Alpha supports LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, AAC and, naturally, SBC Bluetooth codecs. The Alpha also supports MQA-CD playback, by way of Astell & Kern’s CD-Ripper. In the Alpha’s settings menu, you can select a preferred codec for all your wireless listening, but if that isn’t supported by your headphones or Bluetooth receiver, the Alpha will switch to one that’s mutually supported.

On the top left side of the unit are three art-deco inspired, unmarked buttons. The central one handles play and pause, the uppermost can be long-pressed to rewind or short pressed to go back a track, and the lowest button is to skip tracks or fast-forward. A responsive LCD touchscreen completes a typically high-end Astell & Kern design and build. Add to this an increased battery life of 14.5 hours – up from 9 hours in the Kann Cube – with 3.5 hours to charge from empty to full, and things are looking resoundingly positive.

The Alpha’s internal amplifier has low, medium and high gain settings too, so you can match its output to your headphones’ sensitivity. This means that by setting the amplifier to high in the settings menu and using the balanced output, you can enjoy 12Vrms – the same power as the much bulkier Kann Cube. Our Alpha even warns us when it thinks we’re listening at too high a volume. Using the high amplification setting drains the battery at a slightly quicker rate, but throughout our listening period we only need to charge it three times.

Features

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha features

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

The Kann Alpha’s 64GB onboard storage is roughly sufficient for 2700 CD-quality FLAC files (16-bit/44.1kHz) or 199 tracks if you’re solely listening to 24-bit/192kHz WAV files, but here Astell & Kern has another trick up its sleeve. Our Alpha comes pre-loaded with V-Link (for YouTube Music or 720p video playback on YouTube over wi-fi), Tidal and Deezer apps – or, to give them their proper name, Open APPs. The Kann Alpha boasts support for 33 music streaming services over wi-fi.

Making them appear on the Alpha is by no means a one-click task, though, and Astell & Kern only just gets away with its decision to go down the Open APP route. You need to connect the player to your laptop (Mac users will need to download Android File Transfer), head to an Open APP store, download your preferred music streaming app’s APK, drag and drop this from your computer’s downloads into the Alpha’s Open Service tab on-screen, and then, when it appears under the Services tab on the Alpha, download it to the device.

So far, so good (if a little longwinded), but the pre-loaded Deezer app does not recognise our premium account. We download Apple Music, which lags and crashes before we can type in our details. And while Tidal looks good and is the most reliable of the lot, it does stop working at times during our testing.

While the Open APP service provides access to hi-res streaming for those with the relevant music service subscriptions – a good addition to any player – it is a clunky installation process and, in our testing, the results are hit and miss. The latter point is not an issue we’ve run into with other Astell & Kern players, so we’re left scratching our heads as to why we’re having issues with this player. We hope it’s down to a software glitch that’s easily rectified.

A way around the Open APP service is to use the AK Connect app, which essentially turns the Alpha into a UPnP streamer. We download the app, click on the icon in the Alpha’s notification bar and can now set Tidal, or indeed our smartphone itself, as our ‘Library’ and the Kann Alpha as our ‘speaker’.

Anything your phone (or chosen library) is able to access can now be played on the Alpha. The similarly priced FiiO M15 adds local music more intuitively – a simple toggle on this device means all music in our local network is accessed and added within seconds – but essentially both machines offer the same functionality in this regard.

Streaming trickery aside, at its core the Alpha is a very talented hi-res music player. The home screen interface is perhaps a little busy across the top, but swiping right to access the main menu, down for the notification bar (for wi-fi, EQ, USB mode, car mode, AK Connect and other functions), left to go to the Now Playing menu and up to see your listening history soon becomes second nature. Album graphics from downloaded files are beautifully displayed, too.

Sound

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha sound

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

We pair the affordable and wireless Earfun Air earbuds and AKG Y400 on-ears via Bluetooth and find the connection solid and sound quality admirable. But for the bulk of this review we focus on premium wired headphone such as the Beyerdynamic T1 and Grado RS1 – and to get the significant sonic goods, we suggest you do the same.

Listening to downloaded hi-res music on the Kann Alpha is truly a joy. Although we prefer the FiiO M15’s slightly larger screen and more intuitive interface, when it comes to sound, the Astell & Kern player is a clear winner.

Throughout Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms (a DSD64 file) we’re struck by the Alpha’s expansive presentation and impressive low-end capabilities. The intro of Money For Nothing builds to a crescendo and, as Mark Knopfler’s electric guitar comes in, we note just how much energy and jubilance the Kann Alpha can deliver.

The Alpha is as meticulous and honest as it is zealous, though. Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself To Dance (a 24-bit/88.2kHz FLAC file) celebrates Pharrell’s textured vocal through a sparkling and accurate treble, but never to the detriment of the track’s heavily processed “come on” backing vocal, which comes through with unusual clarity, musicality and accuracy. It’s joined by other vocal samples, some of which are lost in lesser players, to deliver a layered and highly competent performance.

Instruments in Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue (24-bit/192kHz FLAC) are three-dimensional and textured. Occasional cracks in the trumpet alongside the sprightly saxophone in our left ear during So What are dutifully laid bare. The FiiO M15 cannot handle these difficult and detailed musical passages with the same masterful hand. To listen to downloaded hi-res music on the Kann Alpha is to tap your feet and enjoy the rhythm.

We listen to a live recording of Eagles’ Hotel California (a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC file) and the clarity and space around the strings, even with an excitable crowd in the background, is adept to the point that we can almost physically place ourselves at the gig. It’s not the subtlest-sounding Astell & Kern player we’ve tested – it will expose flaws in lossier recordings – but in times such as these, music lovers might easily part with the Alpha’s significant asking fee for such a feeling.

Verdict

Fundamentally, players such as the Astell & Kern Kann Alpha must deliver hi-res music in a portable design – and it delivers this in spades. It is a powerful and talented machine. Despite stumbling slightly over the integration of music streaming services, we cannot fault its sonic chops. The battery will outlast a road-trip, the power handling is glorious, and the stylish, rock-solid build is (just about) small enough to take with you on your travels – when we’re allowed to do that properly once more.

SCORES

MORE:

Read our guide to the best portable music players

Read our Astell & Kern Kann Cube review

Read our FiiO M15 review

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha review – What Hi-Fi?

When Steve Jobs pulled 1000 songs from his pocket in October 2001, it opened up vast realms of possibilities in terms of the portability of your music collection. Of course, Apple’s first iPod housed MP3 files, and its early adopters later discovered that their smartphones could house similar lossy, but highly convenient, music files. But the push back against heavy audio compression has gained ground, and for those who want the best of both worlds – portability and high-resolution music – Astell & Kern is one of the best-known providers of premium portable music players.

The firm’s Kann Alpha is the third player in the Kann series, yet the first Astell & Kern player to implement Bluetooth 5.0. It boasts a more powerful built-in headphone amplifier than the previous Kann series players it succeeds, too. And thanks to the rearrangement of various components and the use of smaller resistors and capacitors, it promises added power in a smaller and more portable chassis. So, what can the Kann Alpha do? And, ultimately, does it deliver the goods?

Build

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha build

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

The new Kann Alpha is smaller than the older Kann Cube – a bulky £1500 ($1199) model that we said was “unlikely to find its way into many pockets” – but not by much. The Kann Alpha is just over 2cm shorter and thinner, and 5mm shallower. At 316g, it’s also significantly lighter. 

It’s still a substantial beast, then, but it will fit into an anorak, coat or hoodie pocket – just perhaps not your skinny jeans. The player’s angular metallic edges pressed against your skin would probably prove painful anyway.

A trademark feature of Astell & Kern’s players is the rotary volume knob in the top-right corner, and the one on the Kann Alpha is a joy to use. A subtle light shines out from around the dial, glowing different colours to denote the type of file you’re playing – red to indicate a 16-bit PCM file, green for 24-bit, blue for 32-bit and purple for DSD files. If you’re worried that the LED display might create electrical noise that degrades the audio performance, you can turn it off in the settings menu.

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha tech specs

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Screen 4.1in

Resolution Full HD 720 x 1280

Bluetooth version 5.0 aptX

Frequency response 20Hz to 20kHz

Impedance 0.8ohms

Built-in memory 64GB

Battery life 14.5 hours

Dimensions (hwd) 11.7 x 6.8 x 2.5cm

Weight 316g

The Alpha screams high-end when it comes to build quality. Its all-aluminium black casing sports a slightly different finish for every side. The back surface features a cool, brushed finish, while along the top edge is a ceramic black mirror finish, with little gold accents around the three headphone outputs – a 2.5mm and new balanced 4.4mm, plus a 3.5mm unbalanced headphone jack/optical out. The Alpha’s top edge, in particular, has a quality reminiscent of Sony’s more premium minidisc players produced in the mid-1990s.

One minor complaint is that although a special coating has been applied to this mirror finish, the Kann Alpha’s surfaces and screen quite happily collect finger and thumb marks as we fondle the player. It’s a small issue, but this is a premium player and we notice it enough to run a microfibre cloth over the Kann Alpha several times during the course of our listening.

On the underside of the unit is a microSD card slot for those who wish to boost the Alpha’s relatively humble 64GB onboard storage to as much as 1TB, as well as a USB-C port that now handles both charging and digital connectivity. Simply connect the Kann Alpha to your computer or laptop with the supplied USB-C cable and you can use it as an all-in-one headphone amp and DAC. Neat.

The Kann Alpha utilises dual ESS Sabre ES9066AS DACs capable of rendering MQA music. It supports the most popular file formats, too, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV and native DSD256, and decodes every music file we throw at it during our testing. It’s a similar story with wireless codec support. The Alpha supports LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, AAC and, naturally, SBC Bluetooth codecs. The Alpha also supports MQA-CD playback, by way of Astell & Kern’s CD-Ripper. In the Alpha’s settings menu, you can select a preferred codec for all your wireless listening, but if that isn’t supported by your headphones or Bluetooth receiver, the Alpha will switch to one that’s mutually supported.

On the top left side of the unit are three art-deco inspired, unmarked buttons. The central one handles play and pause, the uppermost can be long-pressed to rewind or short pressed to go back a track, and the lowest button is to skip tracks or fast-forward. A responsive LCD touchscreen completes a typically high-end Astell & Kern design and build. Add to this an increased battery life of 14.5 hours – up from 9 hours in the Kann Cube – with 3.5 hours to charge from empty to full, and things are looking resoundingly positive.

The Alpha’s internal amplifier has low, medium and high gain settings too, so you can match its output to your headphones’ sensitivity. This means that by setting the amplifier to high in the settings menu and using the balanced output, you can enjoy 12Vrms – the same power as the much bulkier Kann Cube. Our Alpha even warns us when it thinks we’re listening at too high a volume. Using the high amplification setting drains the battery at a slightly quicker rate, but throughout our listening period we only need to charge it three times.

Features

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha features

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

The Kann Alpha’s 64GB onboard storage is roughly sufficient for 2700 CD-quality FLAC files (16-bit/44.1kHz) or 199 tracks if you’re solely listening to 24-bit/192kHz WAV files, but here Astell & Kern has another trick up its sleeve. Our Alpha comes pre-loaded with V-Link (for YouTube Music or 720p video playback on YouTube over wi-fi), Tidal and Deezer apps – or, to give them their proper name, Open APPs. The Kann Alpha boasts support for 33 music streaming services over wi-fi.

Making them appear on the Alpha is by no means a one-click task, though, and Astell & Kern only just gets away with its decision to go down the Open APP route. You need to connect the player to your laptop (Mac users will need to download Android File Transfer), head to an Open APP store, download your preferred music streaming app’s APK, drag and drop this from your computer’s downloads into the Alpha’s Open Service tab on-screen, and then, when it appears under the Services tab on the Alpha, download it to the device.

So far, so good (if a little longwinded), but the pre-loaded Deezer app does not recognise our premium account. We download Apple Music, which lags and crashes before we can type in our details. And while Tidal looks good and is the most reliable of the lot, it does stop working at times during our testing.

While the Open APP service provides access to hi-res streaming for those with the relevant music service subscriptions – a good addition to any player – it is a clunky installation process and, in our testing, the results are hit and miss. The latter point is not an issue we’ve run into with other Astell & Kern players, so we’re left scratching our heads as to why we’re having issues with this player. We hope it’s down to a software glitch that’s easily rectified.

A way around the Open APP service is to use the AK Connect app, which essentially turns the Alpha into a UPnP streamer. We download the app, click on the icon in the Alpha’s notification bar and can now set Tidal, or indeed our smartphone itself, as our ‘Library’ and the Kann Alpha as our ‘speaker’.

Anything your phone (or chosen library) is able to access can now be played on the Alpha. The similarly priced FiiO M15 adds local music more intuitively – a simple toggle on this device means all music in our local network is accessed and added within seconds – but essentially both machines offer the same functionality in this regard.

Streaming trickery aside, at its core the Alpha is a very talented hi-res music player. The home screen interface is perhaps a little busy across the top, but swiping right to access the main menu, down for the notification bar (for wi-fi, EQ, USB mode, car mode, AK Connect and other functions), left to go to the Now Playing menu and up to see your listening history soon becomes second nature. Album graphics from downloaded files are beautifully displayed, too.

Sound

Astell & Kern Kann Alpha sound

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

We pair the affordable and wireless Earfun Air earbuds and AKG Y400 on-ears via Bluetooth and find the connection solid and sound quality admirable. But for the bulk of this review we focus on premium wired headphone such as the Beyerdynamic T1 and Grado RS1 – and to get the significant sonic goods, we suggest you do the same.

Listening to downloaded hi-res music on the Kann Alpha is truly a joy. Although we prefer the FiiO M15’s slightly larger screen and more intuitive interface, when it comes to sound, the Astell & Kern player is a clear winner.

Throughout Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms (a DSD64 file) we’re struck by the Alpha’s expansive presentation and impressive low-end capabilities. The intro of Money For Nothing builds to a crescendo and, as Mark Knopfler’s electric guitar comes in, we note just how much energy and jubilance the Kann Alpha can deliver.

The Alpha is as meticulous and honest as it is zealous, though. Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself To Dance (a 24-bit/88.2kHz FLAC file) celebrates Pharrell’s textured vocal through a sparkling and accurate treble, but never to the detriment of the track’s heavily processed “come on” backing vocal, which comes through with unusual clarity, musicality and accuracy. It’s joined by other vocal samples, some of which are lost in lesser players, to deliver a layered and highly competent performance.

Instruments in Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue (24-bit/192kHz FLAC) are three-dimensional and textured. Occasional cracks in the trumpet alongside the sprightly saxophone in our left ear during So What are dutifully laid bare. The FiiO M15 cannot handle these difficult and detailed musical passages with the same masterful hand. To listen to downloaded hi-res music on the Kann Alpha is to tap your feet and enjoy the rhythm.

We listen to a live recording of Eagles’ Hotel California (a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC file) and the clarity and space around the strings, even with an excitable crowd in the background, is adept to the point that we can almost physically place ourselves at the gig. It’s not the subtlest-sounding Astell & Kern player we’ve tested – it will expose flaws in lossier recordings – but in times such as these, music lovers might easily part with the Alpha’s significant asking fee for such a feeling.

Verdict

Fundamentally, players such as the Astell & Kern Kann Alpha must deliver hi-res music in a portable design – and it delivers this in spades. It is a powerful and talented machine. Despite stumbling slightly over the integration of music streaming services, we cannot fault its sonic chops. The battery will outlast a road-trip, the power handling is glorious, and the stylish, rock-solid build is (just about) small enough to take with you on your travels – when we’re allowed to do that properly once more.

SCORES

MORE:

Read our guide to the best portable music players

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Loose Womens Kelle Bryan, 45, reveals she has received the COVID-19 vaccine – Daily Mail

Kelle Bryan has received the COVID-19 vaccine due to suffering from an underlying health condition. 

The former Eternal singer, 45, appeared on Loose Women via video-link on Wednesday to discuss her experience with having the jab and her initial concerns about the process.  

The mother-of-two has suffered from lupus, an autoimmune condition, for over 20 years and said she ‘didn’t want to risk getting the virus’ after she previously ‘barely survived’ pneumonia.

Got the jab! Kelle Bryan, 45, appeared on Loose Women via video chat on Wednesday to speak about getting the first of her two coronavirus jabs and the after-effects of the vaccine

Got the jab! Kelle Bryan, 45, appeared on Loose Women via video chat on Wednesday to speak about getting the first of her two coronavirus jabs and the after-effects of the vaccine

Got the jab! Kelle Bryan, 45, appeared on Loose Women via video chat on Wednesday to speak about getting the first of her two coronavirus jabs and the after-effects of the vaccine

Speaking on Loose Women, Kelle said it was the ‘right decision’ for her to have the jab because of her condition, despite concerns in her community that that the vaccine has been rushed. 

She said: ‘In my community there’s a real worry and concern [the vaccine’s] come too quickly, has it had enough time to be developed again, so all those worries and concerns have come through my mind. 

‘But I have come to the conclusion I’ve seen the results are like when I got pneumonia. I didn’t want to risk getting the virus, I weighed it up and thought it was the right decision to make.’

The Hollyoaks actress likened the after-effects of the Covid vaccine to having an annual flu jab saying,: ‘I got a slight headache, but other than that I’ve been absolutely fine. 

Weighed the risks: The singer said it was the 'right decision' for her to have the jab because of her condition, despite concerns in her community that that the vaccine has been rushed out

Weighed the risks: The singer said it was the 'right decision' for her to have the jab because of her condition, despite concerns in her community that that the vaccine has been rushed out

Weighed the risks: The singer said it was the ‘right decision’ for her to have the jab because of her condition, despite concerns in her community that that the vaccine has been rushed out

‘My arm was slightly tender for a day or so, but no different to having my normal flu jab.’ 

Two days ago, Kelle posted a video of the moment she received the vaccine on her Instagram page, explaining how she was concerned contracting coronavirus could ‘seriously impact’ her health.

She wrote alongside the clip: ‘Ok so that’s part 1 of my #covid_19 #vaccinocovid19 complete. 

‘I know there are many especially in the #blackcommunities that are anti the vaccine and this is not to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do. I think its a personal decision that will be taken by all of us. 

‘As a person that barely survived pneumonia due to #lupus I didn’t want to contract a virus that could seriously impact my health and could like other viruses be fatal. 

Going for it:  Kelle posted a video of the moment she received the vaccine on her Instagram, explaining how she was concerned contracting coronavirus could 'seriously impact' her health

Going for it:  Kelle posted a video of the moment she received the vaccine on her Instagram, explaining how she was concerned contracting coronavirus could 'seriously impact' her health

Going for it:  Kelle posted a video of the moment she received the vaccine on her Instagram, explaining how she was concerned contracting coronavirus could ‘seriously impact’ her health

‘My experience of the #nhsstaff and volunteers that made it possible was positive. Home to rest . Stay safe and God bless.’ (sic)

This Morning’s Dr Zoe Williams was also on the lunchtime talk show to answer questions about whether the vaccine could trigger any side effects and said that in order for a vaccine ‘to be deemed to be safe’, it ‘has to be extremely safe’. 

‘What we’ve seen – and now millions of people have been vaccinated with this vaccine – is that we’re not seeing any long-term effects. People after those first couple of days all feel fine.’ 

She explained that there has been a ‘small number’ of instances where patients have had ‘allergic reactions’ to the vaccine. 

Medical advice: Dr Zoe Williams was also on the lunchtime talk show to answer questions about whether the vaccine could trigger any side effects

Medical advice: Dr Zoe Williams was also on the lunchtime talk show to answer questions about whether the vaccine could trigger any side effects

Medical advice: Dr Zoe Williams was also on the lunchtime talk show to answer questions about whether the vaccine could trigger any side effects

Last year, Kelle spoke out on Loose Women about her twenty-year battle with lupus, after contracting the autoimmune condition over 20 years ago.

The singer was first diagnosed with lupus after her girlband Eternal performed at Party in the Park in 1999. 

The diagnosis coincided with her departure from pop group Eternal and her parents’ divorce. Lupus is often bought on by stress. 

The singer and actress said she was proud of the way she has learned not to let lupus control her life but she came close to death in 2016 after she contracted a virus causing her organs to shut down.  

Suffering: Kelle contracted the autoimmune condition over 20 years ago and came close to death in 2016 after she contracted a virus causing her organs to shut down

Suffering: Kelle contracted the autoimmune condition over 20 years ago and came close to death in 2016 after she contracted a virus causing her organs to shut down

Suffering: Kelle contracted the autoimmune condition over 20 years ago and came close to death in 2016 after she contracted a virus causing her organs to shut down

She recalled: ‘I was coughing up blood from a cold to pneumonia, because my child had this infection.’

Worryingly Kelle’s organs and kidneys began to shut down, so doctors were forced to administrate adrenaline to kick-start her body.

The lupus then spread to her brain, causing her to suffer a seizure and harrowingly lose three days of her life.

Kelle has since recovered from the infection but said it’s been a tough road physically and mentally.

WHAT IS LUPUS?

What is lupus?

It is one of the chronic autoimmune conditions, where the body makes antibodies against itself and starts to attack it. Lupus – Systemic Lupus Erythematotsus (SLE) – has a range of severity. Some sufferers will have only mild problems, others have life-threatening organ damage to the heart and the kidneys.

What are the symptoms?

Tiredness, joint pains and muscle aches. A common first symptom is joint stiffness, particularly in the mornings. Skin and hair problems are a major feature of SLE – a rash in the shape of a butterfly over the cheeks and nose is common, as is hair loss and sensitivity to the sun. Other problems include depression and lung and heart disease, as well as kidney inflammation.

What can it be mistaken for?

It is often mistaken for other joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis which is also characterised by morning joint stiffness. It can also be misdiagnosed as a skin or blood disease.

How is it diagnosed?

If your GP suspects SLE they will request a blood test. The specific antibodies that attack the body can be measured in the blood. The diagnosis is made when there is the combination of typical symptoms and high antibodies.

Who is at risk?

SLE is ten times more common in women than men and usually develops between the ages 12 and 25.

What is the treatment?

Controlling the symptoms, as there is no cure, using anti-inflammatories and steroid tablets in more severe cases. 

Absurd Warzone parachute bug is ruining players landings – Dexerto

Warzone players have revealed one feature they really want added to the Call of Duty battle royale title — and it is copied straight from its top competitors, Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Fortnite was possibly the biggest game to ever exist at its peak, popularizing the battle royale genre to millions upon millions of fans worldwide.

It set off a huge wave of new BR games, including Apex Legends which remains super popular to this day and, of course, Warzone.

That said, while the games are all different, they bear several similarities and aren’t afraid to take ideas from one another when certain features work. For example, Fortnite introduced the Reboot Van as a direct copy of Apex’s Respawn Beacon.

Warzone Dam parachutes
Activision

Warzone is still in its infancy when compared to Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Now, there’s one feature in both Fortnite and Apex Legends that Warzone players want introduced to Verdansk, and it could be a complete game-changer.

Right now, most of you will judge your drops primarily based on where the first circle is. For example, you might like dropping Quarry but, if the circle is in the south-west side of the map, you might instead aim for Train Station or Promenade West.

What some players want to see is no first circle marker when flying in — you pick your drop based on where you like landing rather than where the circle is spreading out the lobby a little more and also meaning you have to adapt on the fly. This idea was posed by CIassic_Ghost on Reddit, and you can see here what he means.

Small suggestion: Reveal the first circle AFTER everyone has dropped from r/CODWarzone

This has proved a heavily popular concept with other Warzone players, amassing thousands of upvotes.

That said, there are some detractors too, with some players worried it would add too much RNG to the game or end with players always dropping in the same spots.

It would definitely make for a more interesting drop, but whether it would work long-term remains to be seen. Fortnite and Apex Legends clearly have some definitive staying power, so they’re doing something right — maybe Warzone could copy this to help bolster the game even further.