music teaching business

A lot of teachers of music, especially private ones, just fell into this line of work.  Someone asked them to show them a few chords and one thing led to another.  This is fine.

But if at some point you find yourself really beginning to love teaching others, you need to start thinking of it as your career and your business.  And teaching music is a business.

Systematization

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

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Summer is here and that means vacations! For everyone else. Summer is often the most dreaded time of year for music teachers. Why? Well our students leave! That’s a lot of lost income, and unfortunately most teachers just let it happen. There are ways to handle this problem, or at least minimize the damages. So let’s go through some options every teacher should consider.

1. Bill By Semester

Do you charge for lessons by the month, or even worse, by the week? Try experimenting with charging for an entire semester up front. In this way they would owe for the summer semester or they would lose their spot come the fall. Often students that have been with you for a long time don’t want to lose you. Let them know you don’t want to lose them as students either, but that you can only guarantee that they can continue with you in the fall if they continue with lessons through the summer.

Although there are people that go on vacation literally all summer, it’s rare. Most of the time there are vacations here and there and they could easily have quite a few lessons. But they just don’t want to deal with it, so they quit for the entire summer, often never to come back. Billing by semester can alleviate this problem, by encouraging them to continue through their vacations.

2. Bill for the Year

Similarly to billing for the semester is billing for the year. Calculate how many lessons you plan on teaching in the year excluding holidays and maybe a couple of weeks for the summer and make a regular monthly bill. So as an example if you think 40 lessons a year is reasonable and you charge $50/lesson, you would multiply $50 by 40 lessons and get your students yearly income of $2000. Then divide it by 12, which would be about $166/month. Then require that when they sign up they either pay the $2000 outright, or they pay $166/month, every month. That way in the summer they may be taking fewer lessons, but you receive the same income.

It’s very important to make sure you are very clear about this type of billing, because it can be confusing. Show them that you are billing for a year’s worth of lessons, and they are just paying for those lessons in installments. Show them a calendar with all of the days you plan on teaching. Make sure this is clear up front, so when you or they miss a couple lessons in a month and they owe the same amount as always there is no confusion.

3. Summer Music Camp

Kids don’t just play all summer. Often their parents want to get them in extra programs because they have so much free time. This is where summer music camp can come into play. Plan a week where you have group classes, music appreciation, theory, and recitals. It can be extremely fun for students and can actually be an extra income stream for you! Plan on a few hours a day for about a week. Invite all of your students and try to join with other teacher’s students to minimize your load.

Camp can be so fun and rewarding, and you can charge quite a bit to make it worth it to you. Beyond the income you receive from the camp itself though, you’ll realize that it gets students to want to continue their lessons even after the camp is finished. Your retention rate will go through the roof. It can be a challenge to plan and organize, but the results will definitely make up for your work. If you own a commercial studio, or work at one, that is likely your best bet for venue. Be creative. There are plenty of places you can hold camps like these including local churches. Roll in your costs of venue into the price for the camp.

4. Get New Students

One way to make sure your income doesn’t drop during the summer months is to recruit more students. Although you may see a dip in your current students from June through August, maybe you didn’t realize that those months are also the months that most NEW students sign up. That’s right. A lot of parents want to sign their kids up for lessons over the summer. Even if your studio is full when late May or June hit, start advertising. You know some students will likely drop off for the summer, so if late May you can sign up two or three new ones you can keep the income you would have lost.

5. Free Group Classes

I know as teachers that get paid for our time the notion of “free” is not that appealing. But if you can offer a free group class, you’ll be surprised at how high your signups will be. These group classes are extremely attractive for the summer because parents want to get their kids into more activities. Once the group class is over, you can sell them on private lessons.

Recently we signed my three-year-old daughter up for ice skating classes through our city. It was free. She had four group classes and she loved it! After the last class the teacher handed out a $10/off coupon for signing up with private lessons, and she approached us directly saying she would like our daughter to continue with private lessons. This was absolutely never our plan. But now all the sudden our daughter is in weekly ice skating lessons. If they would have advertised to us before, we never would have signed up. But because they got us in the door and taking a few free classes, here we are for who knows how long paying for ice skating. As music teachers we should try applying this same marketing principal as often as possible!.

6. Start a New “Program”

Make the summer lessons sound different than lessons during the school year. Perhaps you could work more on sight reading and ear training than you normally do. Give this program a name like “Summer Sight Reading” and tell the parents what the outcome will be at the end of your 8 week course. Make up an awesome flyer and the cost of the lessons. It could just be the same cost of a normal 8 lessons, or you could discount it. These may be very similar to your normal lessons with just a little more focus on one particular topic. Framing the lessons in this way though can make the child and parent feel like it’s special and they need to stick around to get your special course.

Make a certificate for when they “graduate”. Make different levels for students that did it last year.

7. Encourage More Practice Throughout the Year

This could easily be an entire blog post, or even book by itself. But your most serious students will stay with you through the summer. Why? Because they are actually looking to learn and play well. The question then becomes how do you get your students to be serious? Well they need to practice more. How do you get students to practice more? For one thing try to encourage them to take lessons more often. Students that take lessons more than once a week are likely your most serious students. Try to encourage this. Even if they are not practicing, that extra lesson where you can practice with them can be invaluable.

8. Budget

Ok this one is not actually a way to keep your students. But if all else fails and you still lose students and income, you should have a budget. Well, you should always have a budget, but this is a good incentive to actually make one. I know what you’re thinking “I can’t budget, my income is all over the place.” or “I’ve tried budgeting before and it doesn’t work.” Honestly, you probably weren’t doing it right.

Let’s avoid the excel spreadsheet this time. Use some specific budgeting software. My favorite is YNAB. It’s not my place here to explain exactly how you should be budgeting, but YNAB makes it easy. I would suggest reading everything on their site about how to budget just in general, and you’ll get a better idea as to what you’re doing.

When you budget, even if you don’t bill by the year, you can budget that way. You get paid more during the school year, so you allocate some of that money for months where you get paid less. It works. I promise. Try it out!

Conclusion

Summer doesn’t have to ruin you. You just have to be proactive about it. Commit now to being different this summer and making some changes that will not only help your pocket book, but also your students. Because we all know the benefits of music lessons, and it would be a shame for your students to miss out on those benefits over the summer.

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management

Robin Steinweg

Summer Music Lessons

April 26th, 2016 by

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Summer lessons…

Do you lose students (and income) over the summer? Are you tired of the same old same old? Would you like to infuse new life into your summer lessons? Would you like to keep your income and promote your studio?

Here are 15 options to consider:

  • Break it up into three-month-long “semesters” and let families choose one, two or three months of summer lessons.
  • Teach piano students to play by chord symbol.
  • Zero in on a specific genre (folk, country, pop, blues, classical…)
  • Immerse the studio in theory. Use games.
  • Teach students a new instrument (guitar and vocal students could learn some piano, while piano students could learn to match pitches vocally, or learn some guitar chords/teach them all to play recorder…).
  • Use a video series, such as Mark Almond’s Piano for Life. or see Reuben Vincent‘s article in Music Teachers Helper blog.
  • Use an online series such as podcasts from James Dering.
  • Show them how to create their own arrangements.
  • Teach composition. Have them put a favorite poem to music.
  • Choose a theme and songs to go with it (oceans, animals, bugs, space, summer fun…).
  • Have a duet summer, and pair up students for lessons. Or just bring them together near the end.
  • Have an ensemble summer and teach them their own parts alone, then bring them together for a few weeks before they perform as a group. Add other instruments.
  • Teach every student one or more songs on several instruments (piano, guitar, recorder, voice,percussion,  bass…).
  • Many churches look for special music in the summer–teach them appropriate songs. Take on an older student as an apprentice—let them teach with your supervision.
  • Put on one-week camps, emphasizing rhythm, technique, note-reading… Ideas from TeachPianoToday.com,

More camp ideas from Sara’sMusicStudio.com

How do you change it up after the school year ends?

Have a stupendous time teaching summer lessons!

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

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The Savvy Musician in Action

Have you heard of it before? It’s an immersive, experiential week-long workshop designed to help artists and increase income and impact. 

The entrepreneurship workshop is brought to you by cutting edge David Cutler, author of  The Savvy Musician and a brand new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. In a nutshell, it is perhaps an event like none other. I’ve been to plenty of conferences but this seems truly unique. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management

marketing

In my last post I suggested you double your prices. If you’re marketing stinks though, you’ll never find students to fill your studio at those prices. Your low prices may have found you students just because you were inexpensive, and there was little risk on the part of the students. When you raise your prices however, you need to do a much better job at marketing yourself.

Before we can talk about advertising we all need to be on the same page about important metrics.

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio

 

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When I first began teaching piano lessons I had no idea what my pricing should be. I didn’t understand the economics of it all, I honestly was just looking to make some money on the side while I was going to school. I started off at $30 for an hour lesson. I was in college, and most of my friends were working some retail job for a little above minimum wage, so I thought $30 was really good, and it probably was. But what I didn’t realize was I was leaving a lot of money on the table.

As self employed teachers, the single most valuable asset we have is our time. If you price your lessons low, you may get more students, but you will be working more and making less. Before we start thinking about what we should be charging for lessons, we need to understand how the market works.

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Posted in Financial Business, MTH 101, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

talk to the experts

On Monday, November 16th at 12 p.m EST, join Brandon Pearce, David Cutler, and Kristin Yost for a one-hour live talk answering your pressing questions about running a music teaching studio.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to gain insight that will help you to flourish as a music teaching studio owner! Head over to the page to learn more about the panelists and ask questions in the comments section. The panelists will answer your questions during the talk. 

Here’s the link again: http://blog.musicteachershelper.com/livetalk/.

Don’t want to forget the date and time? Text savvy to 38470 to receive two event reminders to your phone.

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Posted in Financial Business, Music News, Press, Professional Development, Studio Management

SAKURAKO - Piano lesson.

It’s a harsh reality that the private music students you’re teaching right now will not be the same students you’re teaching a year or two from now. Every business goes through it. In the recurring revenue business world we call it “churn”, that is what percentage of your students quit from period to period. If you don’t refill the coffers with new students, eventually you won’t have a studio left. But what if you could just reduce your churn? What if you could keep your students much longer?

I’ve connected thousands of students to music teachers over the years, and have heard every reason in the book for why the student has to quit. Don’t just accept it! You can have a lot of control over whether or not your students continue.

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

The Savvy Music Teacher is a new book just out this month, offering a comprehensive look at what goes into making a decent living as a music teacher.  The goal of the book is to provide a strategy for making a positive impact on your community and translating that into a good income for yourself.  The book includes detailed discussions about music teaching options, a variety of income streams, financial explanations and strategies, and stories about successful experiences from over 150 savvy music teachers.

savvymusicteachercoverAuthor David Cutler, the Director of Music Entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina, starts by asking the readers to become aware of their own teaching formulas and priorities, while highlighting numerous ways to freshen or rethink methods and content.  For many teachers, this discussion might inspire some new ideas about how to match teaching approaches and formats with their personal interests and style.

A review of Cutler’s previous book, The Savvy Musician, can be found in an earlier Music Teachers’ Helper blog post at this link.

Read on, and enjoy an overview of the book, as well as a look at the book’s companion website…
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Posted in Financial Business, Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

There are four secrets of a successful studio. I realize it’s a bold claim to narrow it down to just four and you may be asking, what does successful mean? Keep reading.

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Like any other human being, your bottom line comes down to:

  1. food on the table
  2. a roof over your head
  3. decent clothes on your back.

These three essentials require an income and as a music teacher that means you’ll need students and preferably, lots of them.  The trick is figuring out how to attract and retain them. When you have met and exceeded your bottom line and enjoy a waiting list, I believe you have made a success of your studio.

After extensive research, David Cutler discovered that music teachers who generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate these three elements (OK, they are not really secrets but it caught your attention, right?) into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management