Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Tips for Setting Your Lesson Fee

As a beginning private teacher, I used to feel uncomfortable concerning lesson payment. Coming from academic situations where music education superceded all, I hated ending a lesson asking for money, or reminding my student about next month’s invoice due. What needed to change, however, was my view of what I do, its value, and how I convey its value to my students.

What I do is educate, and in any academic situation, education is paid for by tuition. This tuition is not merely an hourly fee for services rendered. Each student is paying not only for music instruction, but also for a guaranteed place in your studio and preparatory planning for each lesson. This includes hunting for repertoire for a particular student, organizing recitals, researching summer music camps, and even writing recommendations. The commitment to your students’ musical advancement is a full-time effort, and goes above and beyond an hourly fee.

Influential Factors of your Fee:

  • Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in music should be charging at least $15-20/half-hour.
  • If you have advanced degrees, or extensive performance experience, charging more is certainly acceptable. Prospective students also place more importance on degrees because it is easy to evaluate.
  • Research what your colleagues with similar credentials charge in your area, and set your fee accordingly.
  • Take a look at your local economy. What does a month of ballet lessons or karate lessons cost? This is a good indication of what parents are willing to pay for extra curricular activities.
  • Increase your fee around 5% per year.
  • If you are worth more, charge more. If you are charging too much, you’ll know it because you won’t be able to attract students at that rate.

Rules to Charge By:

  • Charge everyone the same fee. If not, word will get around that you charge some students less, and the results will not be pleasant. If you have students at differing fees, bring everyone up to the same level.
  • Don’t offer a family plan. Is your time and expertise worth less to one person in the family than to another? It is much harder to teach family members than people who are unrelated. No matter how hard you try to make sure the less-advanced student feels good about her progress and ability, there will be rivalries and feelings of jealousy and discontent.
  • Don’t give discounts if students pay in cash. It doesn’t matter whether you are paid in cash or check- you report all your income.
  • Don’t negotiate or justify your fee. If a prospective student complains, “That’s too much!” or “So-and-so charges less,” your response should be: “I understand, but that is my fee.”

Raise your fee if:

  • Your roster is full
  • You haven’t raised your fee in 2 years
  • You are below the prevailing local rate for teachers of your qualifications and experience

Good teaching deserves good compensation. If your studio is full, your students are happy.

About the Author

Sarah Luebke
Nebraska native Sarah Luebke completed her MM in vocal performance at the University of Kentucky, and her BM in vocal performance at St. Olaf College. Recently she has been seen performing the female lead, Jane McDowell, in "The Stephen Foster Story" and the ensemble of "Big River" with Stephen Foster Productions. Other performances include the soprano soloist of Bach's St. John Passion, La Fee ... [Read more]

8 Comments

  1. Stengel99

    I absolutely agree. Parents don’t expect to get lessons for free, and many family with disposable income are willing to pay a premium for a reputable teacher. I recently increased my rates when I surveyed other teachers and found I was at the low-to-middle end of the pricing spectrum. I was astonished to learn that teachers with less qualifications got away with charging significantly more (e.g. guitar dudes with no degree or teaching credential). Thanks for this post!

  2. Michelle Payne

    Agreed agreed AGREED! The first time I raised my fees I was so scared that I would lose students…. I GOT MORE!!!

  3. Ronnie Currey

    Great article. I also feel that parents are willing to pay more for a good teacher. If a good teacher charges less, parents feel that the teacher is worth less. You pay for what you get!

  4. Robert Bishop

    some great advice, i feel exactly the same when it comes to ”asking” for my fee from a student, but your offering a good service (hopefully) and that comes at a price!

  5. Sarah Luebke

    Thanks, Robert, for your comment. I want to emphasize that teachers that take the time to utilize all that Music Teacher’s Helper has to offer really should be looked upon as the “cream of the crop” of music teachers out there. Don’t underestimate what you offer your students with the fee you set. Many private teachers would never think about reminding their students about upcoming lessons, e-mailing students about their progress, or setting up a website to keep parents and students informed. By using Music Teacher’s Helper, you already have a leg up on the competition!

  6. Barbara Cobham

    I like the idea of approaching it as tuition. I have not had a studio for very long and so am still learning about policies and changing them as I go. The tuition approach does not leave parents asking what the rate is “this month” as one family I have this year has been doing.

  7. Mary Brown

    I learned a while back that charging tuition for the school year was an important move. I take most school holidays now after sitting waiting for students to show up on days school was out. I charge a monthly fee based upon the year’s tuition divided by 10 months (September-June) Students are told how many lessons they will receive for each school year and given a calendar to keep track of the days the studio is closed. Letting parents and students know ahead of time what to expect helps avoid misunderstanding. Getting studio policies down is just as important as how much you are paid!

  8. Sexy costumes

    It would be great for MTH to have a Marketing Tracker included, so that it is easy to log what type of marketing was done, as well as being able to keep track of how successful each one is, and where the students that we do get come from. If this could be shown on a graph or something similar, it would be easy to see at a glance which marketing is the most successful, or which months of the year are best.

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