Blog

Why You Should Double Your Music Lesson Fee

 

jazz-199547_640

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.

The Market

The cost per hour of a fairly average lawyer will be in the $300+ range. Even the best music teachers don’t make that much per hour. But why? Does it have to do with experience? Obviously not. You can be a lawyer and start charging exorbitant hourly fees with seven years of school. Seven years!? Sounds like a lot, but how long have you been playing your musical instrument? I’m going to venture to say most experienced music teachers have much more experience and knowledge of their craft than lawyers do theirs. So why can they charge such astronomically high fees? The answer is simple: the market.

Who needs a lawyer? Businesses with deep pockets and individuals in trouble or looking to file a lawsuit. That’s really the end of it. In all cases there is an absolute need that the person or business can’t avoid. Lawyers can therefore charge fees that make our heads spin, and people pay them.

My point here is not to encourage you to be a lawyer. It’s to help you understand you shouldn’t be charging what you think you’re worth, you should be charging what the market will pay you. The market will pay you in most cases much more than you think you’re worth.

Be the Premium Product

Music teachers aren’t lawyers. You are unlikely to be able to charge $300 an hour. Can you charge $100 an hour though? Maybe. For most people, price denotes quality. Are you positioning yourself as the low cost provider, or the premium product? There are plenty of people in this world that have more than enough money to pay a private teacher $100 an hour. Those are the type of people that are likely looking for the most premium teacher to hire. In your advertising, your website, and the way you talk about your lessons you should let people know that your lessons are some of the best out there. If you think of yourself as a premium teacher, you’ll come off as a premium teacher and students will want to take lessons with you.

Don’t only teach your students during their lessons. Write articles on your website about how to play, and have your students study them throughout the week. Those articles will go a long way in establishing yourself as a premium teacher. Potential students will see them, and know that you are the real deal.

Videos are also an excellent way to get yourself out there, and enable you to charge more for your lessons.

Why It’s Important

Once you start to teach you’ll find that your best students will stay with you for a long time. If you started the student at $30, it’s going to be a very difficult thing to raise that price significantly. The student came in looking for a low cost teacher, and you’re fulfilling that role. If all the sudden you say, “No I’m actually worth $80 an hour” all they see is a price increase. You’re the same teacher, just way more expensive.

Unfortunately the only way to fix low priced lessons is often to drop the students and gain new ones. This can be a pretty emotional experience because as teachers we can grow pretty attached to our students. Unfortunately it really needs to be done if you’ve priced yourself too low.

Let’s imagine you have 30 hours of students a week at $30/hour. That’s $900/week. The limit to how much you can make is your time. It’s hard to even get 30 hours a week of students because most of your students are in school during the day, and have a bed time. Even if you wanted to work 12 hour days, it’s going to be difficult to fill.

So the answer is… charge more! You’ll be glad you did. If you started charging new students $80 an hour, but only find 15 hours to teach, you’re already coming out ahead.

Conclusion

My simple suggestion to you is to start advertising much higher prices. Double them. Even if you already charge $80 an hour, charge $160. Most likely what will go through potential students heads is “Wow, he must be good.” I’m not saying that in all cases you’ll be able to double your prices, but you really should give it a try. If you were to find one ongoing student for double your rate, it would be worth it. Don’t stop at one though. If one person will pay you that amount, two people surely will. It’s your job to find them.

About the Author

Brian Jenkins
I'm a pianist, teacher, entrepreneur, and owner of YourMusicLessons. YourMusicLessons has now connected hundreds of teachers with thousands of students, and collectively we have taught tens of thousands of lessons. I've learned a lot from teaching, and making these connections. I'm now feverishly working on national expansion. I love sharing my journey, with both music, and entrepreneurship throug... [Read more]

22 Comments

  1. Jean

    True! So many teachers undercharge, which makes it more difficult for those that realize our worth and that we work double the hours we teach! Thank you.

  2. Gail

    Wow! I’ve just read your article. I am in the process of raising my tuition so this encouragement makes me feel much more comfortable. Reminding me that I may loose some of my students, but I’ll potentially gain new students and work less hours just makes sense.

  3. Brian Jenkins

    Glad it helped you! Don’t hold back, raise your prices more than you are comfortable with. Test the waters and see if you can find some students. It is really worth your time to do all that you can to find students that are willing to pay more. I don’t teach a whole lot anymore, but when I did I raised my prices from $50 to $90, and I didn’t see a big fall in new students.

    If I were to look for new students, I would probably raise my rates even higher.

  4. Brian Jenkins

    Totally agree. If everyone started charging more, it’s not like music lessons would go away, teachers would just be paid more.

  5. Andrew Ingkavet

    Totally agree Brian. I’m charging well over $100/hour for several years now. As long as you provide the quality and structure, there is elasticity. I will probably raise it again as I still have a waiting list – pricing is not an issue.

  6. Brian Jenkins

    Thanks for the comment! I think it’s helpful for other people to see that charging more is possible. A lot of teachers never even experiment with much higher prices.

  7. Carla Anderson

    Wow – I don’t know that I agree with this. $160?? I’m more interested in providing music eduction to everyone who has the talent and motivation and capability, and it makes me so sad to consider the idea of excluding people simply based on their income level. For me, my time spent with my 19 students brings in far more than what I’m getting paid, and part of my reward is seeing them flourish and become excited about music! I do appreciate the encouragement to be more confident in charging a price that is fair in regards to the market, but I suppose I’m looking at an average market, and not scouting for folks with 6 figure income. Not to mention, it’s hard to hold a piano recital with only two students!

  8. Brian Jenkins

    Hi Carla, thanks for the comment. You’ve made some great points. One thing I want to make clear is that I don’t mean that everyone should be charging $160/hour. My major point is that teachers can generally charge a lot more than they think. Often we’re charging low prices for students that would be happy paying more, and missing out on students that are just as motivated and excited, but can afford what music lessons should really be worth. The teacher’s location makes a difference as well. Some markets have more pricing elasticity than others.

    I’m also not suggesting that with higher prices you’re never going to get a full studio, it just may take longer. But your point that you get much more value out of your teaching than what you get paid is well taken. If that is your major goal for your teaching, more power to you.

  9. Marc

    This is a great article! I wish musicians would have this attitude about their live performances as well. My band was offered a show at a restaurant/bar, they wanted us to play for 2 hours for “exposure” (no pay). Meanwhile they are selling alcohol, selling food, making money and we entertain the crowd for nothing? I don’t think so. My response was “bring 5 of your staff members to my house, load up all the equipment you need to cook with, make me a dinner for free, and in return I’ll tell my friends your food is really good. Because that is exactly what you are asking us to do”. It’s outrageous how musicians are treated in that way, no one would ever have the nerve to ask anyone in any other profession to work for free or for “exposure”, only musicians get taken advantage of in that way. Charge what you are worth at a minimum and like the article says charge your market value if you can get more. We’ve all worked so incredibly hard to get to where we are as musicians. If you WANT to give away that talent for free or for cheap, that is fine, but at least be aware that you are worth more.

  10. Brian Jenkins

    Thanks for the comment! I agree. All too often musicians are expected to do things for free/cheap because a lot of people just don’t understand the value and work that is needed to perform or teach. I’m optimistic though. I know there are people out there that are willing to pay a premium for a premium product. I personally feel like I should be looking for customers like that.

  11. Kevin Smith

    Interesting article, but often not as simple as that. It all depends on demand for the instrument, the area that you teacher in and your experience. You still have to be able to compete with the local market, whether you like it or not!

  12. Brian Jenkins

    Thanks for the comment. There are definitely a lot of factors to consider. The point of the article isn’t to set a specific price you should be setting, it’s to encourage teachers to raise prices quite a bit as an experiment to see if people will pay much higher prices.

    Price setting isn’t only about analyzing the market, it’s about actually testing different prices. If you make more money by charging significantly more, then that’s the correct price.

    Teachers tend to set prices like everyone else, that’s not the best way to maximize your income. If you set yourself up as the premium product, people WILL pay more than the average. A lot more. Will it be possible to charge $200/hour where everyone else is charging $30/hour? Probably not. But maybe $80/hour would work. There’s no way to no for sure until you test it.

    Because price is the single most important factor in long term return, I argue everyone should test the high end of what people are willing to pay, by doubling their prices.

    I’m not saying in every case it will work, but it’s one of the most important things to test.

  13. Marc

    Higher price also leads to better students I’ve seen it time and time again. I charge more than double than a friend of mine who teaches piano. She is always complaining to me about low retention rates, people paying late habitually, no call no shows, etc. I almost never have any of those problems, I think its because she is attracting people looking for a deal and I’m attracting people looking to learn. When talking higher prices I run into a lot of teachers who feel guilty about it as though they don’t deserve it, and they don’t want to out price people who want to learn but can’t afford a high rate. My response to that is clearly you are worth it, look how much time you spent learning your craft it was a huge commitment. Also there are no shortage of teachers doing lessons for cheap, one look at Craigslist and I see 4 different teachers at $20 an hour or less. My advice is don’t “race to the bottom” and try to compete with people who are teaching for next to nothing, set your rates high and make sure your lessons are worth it and the business will come.

  14. Brian Jenkins

    That’s a great point. Higher prices definitely weed out students that are just “experimenting” with lessons. If someone pays your high prices, often that means they are serious about their music education.

  15. Marc

    Thanks Brian for bringing up this important issue, it’s a topic that musicians need to discuss a lot more often.

  16. Chuck

    Drop my loyal students with whom I have a long-term relationship and a responsibility just because I haven’t changing them signficantly more than the market rate up till now?! I’m sorry, you may be a skillful teacher and be making some good points but your credibility as a decent human being is zero with me.

  17. Removed Account

    I would hope we could have a conversation without resorting to calling me an indecent human being. My number one responsibility is to my family. There are plenty of people, including you apparently, that are fine with not getting paid what you deserve because you feel a personal conviction to give people charitable music lessons. Good for you. That’s not me.

    I personally believe that the service we offer is worth much more than a lot of people pay us for, and I also believe that given the right placement, customers will pay us what we deserve. You don’t have to drop students. I don’t think most people will, that’s why I suggest the best way to do this is to set your prices high from the beginning, so you never have to drop anyone.

    If that wasn’t done, and you need a higher income because of a growing family, then it may be necessary to drop some students in order to help your income. You’re welcome to continue making less than you are worth because you feel a moral conviction to help teach music to lower income families, but for me my first responsibility is to my family.