Let’s say you’re a music teacher but you aren’t getting as many students as you want. How do you market your music studio better so that you can attract more students? Do you create better social media ads? Are you targeting the right market? Are your lessons for experienced or inexperienced musicians? These are all the things you have to think of as you grow your business. Learn more about growing your music studio with Daniel Patterson, the owner of Grow Your Music Studio and he does exactly what he says. Join your host, Bree Noble as she gets Daniel to share his tips and tricks on marketing and advertising. Double your revenue today.
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How To Properly Market Yourself And Grow Your Music Studio With Daniel Patterson
I am excited to be here with Daniel Patterson from Grow Your Music Studio. When I first met him on Clubhouse, I was so excited about what he is doing because I work with many musicians. I know many of you readers, you may actually have a full–blown studio or you may be doing music lessons on the side to make a little extra income. Add in those extra income streams that I’m always talking about, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a side hustle or a full-blown thing.
You’re going to learn a ton from Daniel because he helps people based upon his business name, Grow Their Music Studio. Before we get into all of the tactical stuff that I know he’s going to teach you, I’d love to know, Daniel, what is your background in music? How did you get started? I know you had mentioned you had taught piano. How did you move from that into helping musicians on the marketing side?Your website has one job and that is to get people to contact you. Click To Tweet
I’ve played the piano since I was four years old, was taught in a classical style but as I moved into my twenties after college and getting an education degree in Music and all this, I did the playing and gigging. I played and sang at a piano bar and those sorts of things but my first love was always teaching. I experienced that frustration of wanting to teach more and not wanting to do all these side gigs or playing at bar mitzvahs or playing at Nordstrom on the piano, which I did all of those things but just to teach. My personality, I get obsessed with the stuff. I obsessively started studying marketing in those first five years that my studio was in business and got into the online marketing world.
To be honest, a lot of the stuff that we have to do in online marketing, it’s overpowered for running a local studio. I very quickly grew my studio to a big size. I’ve got into group lessons and then at a certain point, in some of the teacher organizations I was in, people started coming to me and asking, “How are you doing this?“ It led to me starting to do gig work, building Google Ads accounts for people and then it led to the blog and the videos and all these things. Grow Your Music Studio started in 2016. We’ve now served over 600 studios around the world. Australia, mostly North America, Europe, Middle East, East Asia, almost everywhere and it all came from this idea that I discovered what I felt was a secret. As it turned out, it wasn’t but I felt like I had discovered the secret like here’s how you get students and I wanted to share that with a lot of people. I know that wasn’t the most brief of stories but that’s kind of the genesis of how all this came about.
I love that you said, “I thought it was a secret.” That’s a really important point because, like you said, the online marketing world is overpowering marketing-wise to help you locally and a lot of people don’t realize that. They think, “I’m only doing stuff locally and how can the online world help me because then I’m trying to market to everyone,” but obviously, we know how to like niche it down to the local place. I love that you said you thought it was a secret because of the fact that a lot of local studio owners don’t even think to go online.
They’re doing all the old school and there’s nothing wrong with the old school ways of going out to local music teachers and putting up flyers at libraries and all the things that we do as local teachers, which are all great but they can only go so far. Especially now, after 2020, even more people are spending more time online and are used to this world. It’s a perfect time to talk about this. I thought it would be cool to go over what you help people with by talking about a case study that you mentioned to me, somebody that you help basically triple the size of their local studio, which I was like, “That’s amazing.” Why don’t you get into that? We can like stop along the way and hit a few points.
You made such a good point there with the idea, the distinction between online and local. The best way to set the story up is maybe with a little bit of an image and a thought to give people context for this story. This movie is several years old now but most people have seen it. In the first Indiana Jones movie, there’s this scene where there’s this guy with a sword and he’s like doing all this fancy sword work and Indiana Jones pulls out a pistol and shoots the guy. He was overpowered in that fight. That’s what online marketing is in a local market. This is the context. If you’re competing globally, you have global competition. On a scale of 1 to 10, your chops probably have to be 8, 9, 10 to compete at that level.
At the local level, the odds of the best business person in the world being “one of your local competitors,“ which I don’t even think that’s the best terminology. We don’t have to be competitive. There are more than enough people out there that would love to learn music if we would give them a chance and be visible to them. The odds of the best business person in the world being the competitor down the street is very unlikely. If you bring much more sophisticated tactics to that local business, I think my career and the person we’ve already talked about is a good demonstration of how that plays out. I could jump into that story if you’d like.
Yeah. Let’s do it.
It was a couple of summers ago. I had written a blog post for my blog. As it usually happens whenever I would do that and promote it, I would get kind of a flood of inquiries or people just reaching out or responding to emails that I’d sent out, that sort of thing. One of these was a young lady out in Los Angeles. At the time, she was 25 or 26 years old and she was building her YouTube audience. She was doing local clubs. She was doing covers. She was writing her own music, performing that and she was at the place in her career yet where she was fully supporting herself on that. She was teaching on the side and she contacted me because she wanted to grow her student base. She wanted to get to a certain income amount. She said, “Can you help me do that?” Her goal at the time, she said, “I want to go from $3,000 to $6,000.“ Over the course of 5 to 6 months, I did some coaching work with her. She implemented all these things. What we worked on was the seed of an idea that she was already working on. We just fleshed it out in a lot more detail. It was this. She wanted to charge above–market rates for LA.
My suggestion was, “We have to define the programs that you’re offering your students.“ She was already offering some packages. Her basic thesis was, “If I want to charge above–market rates, I should have programs that cost way more than that to position myself.“ What we did together was really tighten up her copy, tighten up the sales funnel that she had in the studio, improve the offers in those various programs. The result of that was about nine months later, she had tripled her income from $3,000 to $9,000 per month. What’s interesting and I think this is just an awesome PS to the story, is that she told me originally her plan was to have these high–level packages to position her. She had one at like $240 a month, $300, $400, $500, $600. She had these previous packages. She never intended to sell those high ones. She ended up within a year having four people at that $500 mark.
It wasn’t as if she just said, “Here are some lessons. They’re $500.” She did a lot of work. We did a lot of work together really thinking about her positioning, how her copy should be, what her sales all should look like, looking at how people were interacting with her website. It wasn’t as if she slapped a sticker around the side of the boxes and, “That will be $500, please. She put a lot of thought into it but I think instead of advertising boring music lessons, she built a brand around her lessons. She had specific messaging. She spoke to the things that her target audience wanted. She had distinct offers and she had those price tiers.
Let’s unpack that. Was she very clear at the beginning of who her perfect student was? Did you work on that with her? Didn’t she know and then she wasn’t messaging that well enough or did she have to be like, “I love to work with this student?”
She specifically wanted to work with adults. She was open to working with kids and she did have some younger students. Everything about her website was very focused on reaching adults who had either never taken lessons but wanted to and then her higher tiers were positioned more towards people who wanted to build a career in music as well. Perhaps they were a performer already and they wanted to get better at performing, things of that nature.
Those offers were distinct and depending on how she advertised or what she was advertising, her ads might look very different. Her copy looked different because she was advertising something extremely distinct, not just something generic. She knew who her target audience was. She knew what their thoughts were. We had discussions around things that they said to her. I had her run a survey inside of her studio. We poured over that data, the responses that we got back from those folks. She had conversations with friends that weren’t even considering having taking lessons but trying to get the perception of what lessons for an adult would even be like. She could address that in her copy and her advertising.
I’m a big fan of doing that kind of market research and talking to people and asking very specific questions so that you can get their language around it. What kind of offers did she create here? What was distinct about the different packages that she had and how was she marketing those specifically?
I’d say the main difference was the amount of time they would get with her. In the lowest tier, it was a pretty standard lesson package. Of course, we didn’t advertise as such. We did make it sound great. We positioned her well. Out of respect to her, there are taglines that I could say here but she worked hard to come up with those taglines, so I don’t want to expose her branding too much because it’s worked for her over the long term. She went beyond platitudes. You look at a lot of music websites and they’ll say things like, “Explore our classes, discover the love of a lifetime or we inspire our students.“
There’s nothing wrong with that. Even some of the things that I’ve said over the last five minutes could be construed as general advice, build an offer. If you’re in some sort of business, you can’t go two minutes on Facebook or Instagram without getting an ad from another business personality out there that’s giving that general advice. There’s nothing wrong with that general advice. The problem is, most people don’t make the connection on how to use that general advice specifically. The marketing for most music studios or music–based businesses is really general and that’s why we get those platitudes.
“We have kind and caring teachers here or a creative kind teacher.“ There’s nothing wrong with that but that doesn’t promise anything. That doesn’t promise a result to the student and people don’t want general platitudes. They want to know what they’re going to be able to do. The best marketing is always specific. What we did was build really specific marketing. Without getting into specific examples that she gave, I could give examples that could describe what I’m saying specifically. In other words, I’m being very general here but I could get into specifics if you’d like.
Let’s do that.
If you were going to advertise to, let’s say, your target market, you want to work with kids or teens. Here’s an angle you could take to come up with something that’s more specific. Instead of just lessons for kids and teens or unlock the potential that your teenager has. Here’s an angle you could take. Ask this question, “Who is responsible for the bad thing that your lesson program solves?” In other words, people are recruiting a solution when they buy into your business. Find the villain that the parent would identify as a villain and write a hook or an angle or something specific that paints them as the bad guy.
I know this has nothing to do with music necessarily but that’s the point. We’re drawing in parents with what’s relevant to them for these teen students that we’re trying to get in our studio. Maybe we have a real passion to help teens who would also have a career in music, maybe what we want to nurture and shepherd them up to be great musicians too. We’re not going to do vague platitudes. What we could write is Fortnite turning your teenage son’s brain to mush. That is a headline that’s way better.You need to treat social media like a vending machine, not a wishing well. Click To Tweet
It has nothing to do with music but it’s the attention grabber that would draw parents into an ad or to actually help them feel like that the studio website that they’re on is relevant to them. Is your daughter spending too much time on social media to do something useful with the time? That was a little vaguer but you see the point that I’m getting. Obviously, either one of those things could apply to the other but that’s a way that I would make those more specific.
You need to poke at the pain a little bit of the person that you’re trying to prompt to invest in what you’re offering. That was something that weirded me out at first when I started doing marketing. I’m like, “Is that being mean to them? Is persuasion bad?” Over the years, I’m like, “Sometimes we don’t even know what we want at first. We need to be shown the solutions that are going to help us. We might not even realize we have this problem until someone says, “Is Fortnite turning your child’s brain to mush?” You say, “My kid is spending five hours a day on Fortnite. Why am I not doing anything about this?”
Maybe that wasn’t coming to the front of their mind because they were busy doing other things. That really is a problem that they have. They’re just not realizing yet. I think that’s a great point that you make about the whole pain points in your marketing and talking to the right person. I know that some people might be tempted to talk to the teenager because they’re the person that’s getting the lessons but let’s be honest. They’re not the person paying for it.
You could get the attention of a teen perhaps in a different way but that messaging would be much different and it’s probably more effective to go for the parent anyway. I’m not saying that we need to wrap this point but what could we consider a final thought potentially would be the idea that we don’t have to focus on that pain. There are other things that we could focus on. I’m even thinking about the specific type of student.
Another angle to take would be a specific type of student that might benefit from the lesson program. Write something specifically for that customer. It might not appeal to everyone but it would appeal to a certain parent. If you’re going after a child or a teen, a potential headline or hook could be, “Is your child so shy they can’t look their classmates in the eye?” This is how it was in the end, addressing what you said there because it’s such a good point. I do think people feel weird at first speaking this way. I’ve had plenty of clients say, “I feel weird saying that, using persuasion.”
The truth of the matter is that we all know what we should be doing. We all know that we should be “eating this way“ or doing these activities or investing this much in our IRA. We all know that stuff but inertia often bogs us down. I think the wake–up call for the adult student who’s getting older, life’s only going to get busier. If you’re advertising for adult students in their twenties, “Life only gets busier after your twenties.” Now’s the time to join the studio, to pursue that dream, to pick back up that skill that you were pursuing when you were younger but didn’t appreciate back then. It’s actually a service to people to tell the truth to them and that’s what this is.
I absolutely agree with that but it does take a little bit of education on our part as marketers when we first started out to realize that that’s the case. Let’s move into how can we use social media to get this message out there. What are the best ways? I know you do both organic and paid ads.
I have pretty extensive experience in both. Let’s talk about the proper use of social media, how it fits into promoting the music lesson business and maybe most importantly, how to avoid making it an endless treadmill of hoping this works. Thinking about this topic, I came up with a thought. It’s that we need to treat social media like a vending machine, not a wishing well. In other words, if you go to a wishing, well, you take the coin, you take the money, you throw it in the well and hope that the universe gives you your wish. If it doesn’t, you’ve probably even forgotten that you threw it in the wishing well, whereas if you go to a vending machine, you put the money in and when it doesn’t give you what you want, you’re actually a little bit upset. This isn’t working the way it should so there’s this angst that comes up like, “I’m mad.“
I was watching the TV series, Killing Eve. It’s a great show. Phoebe Waller-Bridge did it, one of the producers. She’s awesome. There’s a scene in there where someone can’t get the thing out of the vending machine and they’re beating on the vending machine. That is the way that I would want people to approach social media. You should actually expect a measurable result from social media. Many people get caught in this treadmill of, “I just got to keep putting content out there and eventually, it will work.” That’s not it.
The way most people treat social media is like that wishing well. There’s this vague feeling that you have to turn out content. It’s going to somehow bring business, students, fans, Spotify listens or likes, those sorts of things. You need to have defined evidence of success. You need to make an offer. Each post that you make needs to be supporting a goal. You need to measure against that goal. You need to actually make sure if you’re getting to that if you’re not, if your social strategy isn’t helping you get to that goal then you need to reexamine that. I don’t want to sound like a contrarian.
Most people know this fellow but guys like Gary Vaynerchuk have popularized the idea that you have to post constantly on social media for attention. I don’t disagree with him but you have to look at the context of what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to get people just to act. Most people are being perfectionistic with their content and that’s kind of Gary’s messaging but even he isn’t posting on social media to post every day. He’s got a goal that he’s after. He’s apparently hitting that goal quite a lot because he’s still doing it. If he wasn’t still getting something out of what he’s done, he would not be posting.
The truth is when he went from making DailyVee to WeeklyVee, I guarantee you, that was in response to his content not performing as well as it once did. He was filming that daily show for nearly two years then he went to a more sporadic basis and he’s not as loud as he used to be. The idea is to treat it like a vending machine. You want something specific out of it, be very clear about what you specifically want and then measure against that goal. That is the best way to treat social.
I think where artists and musicians get stuck is that they understand, “If my call–to–action is to buy or join my Patreon, get a sample lesson,” or whatever it is, they can measure that. You can’t have that be your goal for every post. What other kinds of calls–to–action or things that you could measure can you have along the journey of your customer?
That goes back to the story I told you earlier about the case study. It’s that understanding what that top–level motivation and goal are of your target audience, understanding what that is and then making your top–level content. Maybe not quite as much of a pitch but drawing them in with the headlines, the images, the videos, specifically for music lesson business. It’s going to be different for if you’re promoting your act or a band or that sort of thing. That’s going to be different for if you’re promoting, you’re an actor or a band. That’s going to be different. That’s just beyond the creative itself. In that sense, putting out a lot of material does make a lot of sense. Even in that sense, measuring through putting the funnel will tell you an awful lot about the kinds of things that your audience wants to hear whether it’s music or whether it’s advertising for a lesson program. You’re going to know what works and then you double down on that stuff.
I’m always trying to encourage people that I work with to always keep track of their numbers because your numbers are going to tell the story. A lot of times, people are like, “I don’t know what numbers to keep track of. Numbers stress me out,” or whatever. I know you’ve got some numbers that you think that everybody should be watching.
Specifically, if you’re promoting music lessons, a music lesson business whether you’re doing it on the side or you want to do it full–time, these sorts of things, the potential is there for things to be very complex or simple. That’s kind of what I was talking about. I’d prefer things to be simple. The story I’d tell you is that in my own music lesson business, I was a single teacher studio. I taught group lessons. I promoted a specific group lesson offer. I had fluctuated between 95 to 100 students for many years before I shut that down and did this full-time, which was a tough decision but nonetheless, it was a decision I made. During those years that the studio was on full board and full capacity, it was just me seeing 95 to 100 students a week in groups.
To maintain that studio size and work that 20 to 25 hours a week, all I had active for me was Google Ads, some organic things that I was doing in Google as well but I never formally or officially did SEO. I made sure that I was listed in directories and that’s about it. I was on Google Maps, Google My Business and using Google Ads. I would send that traffic all to my website. It was a very simple four–page website, a clear offer. You heard some of the headline examples I was giving earlier. I was speaking in those evocative, emotional terms, making bold promises about what I could do and they were not empty promises. They were based on things that I saw my average student doing and made clear what they were going to get out of the experience.It’s actually a service to tell people the truth and give them a wake-up call. Click To Tweet
The reason for the simplicity was that website needed to only do one job and that was to get them to contact me. It wasn’t to get them to be impressed with me and to know where I went to university. Part of the time, I was doing a live performance. It wasn’t to promote any live performance. One job, I want them to want this and I want them to contact me. Everything on that site pointed towards to get in touch with me. It was very clear what they were going to get and what they were supposed to do next. From that point, there was nothing sophisticated in the backend either. There was no crazy automation funnel. Literally, people filled out a simple contact form. I would get their info and then I would contact them as quickly as I could and get them in for an intro lesson.
That whole intro lesson was scripted as well. It was basically a script for me. I would vary but there were some definite messaging points in that. I would finish working because I worked with children. I would finish working with the child. I’d turn to the parent. They would have this bright look on their face because I saw how easy it seemed to be for their kid, which it wasn’t always like that. I think as I got better as a teacher, I made it look easy, even though it was still the same intro lesson. From that point, do you want to join? It was almost always a yes. I can count on one hand in a decade how many people ended up not signing up once they’d gone through that experience. It was designed to overwhelm them with the idea that their child was going to have a really good time here and that it was a high–quality education.
I did promote my lessons as fun and casual and I still had 60% of my fun and casual students performing in a worldwide achievement program where they’re getting tested and graded against a worldwide standard. It’s that classic image or analogy of if you want to give your pet their heartworm pill, you put it inside a piece of cheese and they’ll gobble it up. If you just try to give them the pill, no one wants it. That’s, unfortunately, what most studios do. They say, “Here’s the pill, take it.” They don’t wrap it up in something much nicer so I’m giving them something good. I’m giving it a package that is a very easy yes for parents. When the kids are leaving, they are beaming and they feel like $1 million. It’s hard to say no to that.
Getting back to the numbers, one of them I’m assuming is how many people are signing up for a sample lesson and then another number to watch would be the percentage of people that are then signing.
There are four numbers primarily that I’d recommend any studio owner keep track of. How many people are visiting your website? How many people are actually reaching out to you on your site or if you’re using landing pages, you get a little more sophisticated and use something like ClickFunnels or go a high level or lead pages, one of these? For most single teachers to use, you might not even have to go farther than having a simple 4 to 5–page website, nothing fancier than that. How many people are finding your site? How many people are reaching out to you from your site? How many of those people you’re getting in touch with because people will reach out to you and then disappear off the face of the planet.
It’s the cost of doing business. At best, for every ten people that reached out to me for lessons, I would maybe get in touch with 5 or 6. I get studio owners to contact me all the time like, ”All these people contact me but they don’t.“ It’s just the way it is. It’s that inertia I talked about earlier. The final number, the fourth number would be how many people actually signed up. If you get in touch with someone, have a phone conversation with them, have a Zoom conversation with them potentially in this day and age or if they come in for a lesson, an intro lesson, most of those people should be signing up. If not, it’s probably a sign that they’re not feeling that excitement and that messaging probably needs to be worked on.
You probably need to employ some really powerful stories. That’s something I would do with the parents. I would tell stories of other students not by name. I want to protect people’s privacy but I would, in general, tell stories of students in the studio or what they were doing or I had tons of student performance videos all over my social channels, kids doing amazing things. I would use all of that in the process of recruiting students into the studio.
What’s great about those numbers is then you can look from one number to the next and take a percentage and be like, “These many people are visiting my site but only this many people are filling out the form. What do I need to do to my site to make more people fill out the form? Do I have enough calls to action? Do I have enough direct messaging that’s speaking to them?” I love that you mentioned all of those numbers because then you can see, “From this one to this one, if I could just improve this percentage by 1% or 2% even, I would have so many more people eventually hitting the mark on actually signing up. Let me ask you this question about websites. Nowadays, people are like, “Why do I need a website? I can use Instagram. People can DM me on Instagram and I can have a whole conversation there.” Do you think people still absolutely need a website? Can they do social media? Is the best way to have them work in tandem?
I’m going to give a multi-faceted answer here but I’ll try to be brief. If you’re running paid advertising, you need a home base to send someone to. You actually need to send those people to an offer. It’s going to be difficult at the top of an Instagram profile to have a robust offer there. You can DM people. That’s a strategy that I teach people but where are you sending them to? Even if you’re DM-ing people on Instagram or Facebook, which I have clients that literally built their studio from the ground up, never even getting an ad doing exactly that strategy. In the course of that conversation, you have to have a home base to send them back to. If, for no other reason, that Instagram DMs, Facebook DMs, don’t have calendaring software in them and you have to have a place where they can literally sign up on a calendar to meet with you.
There needs to be a home base and for my money, a website is a good home base. Someone could get away with a one-page website. I’ve had clients have only a one-page website, not much more than a landing page. You could do that. You could have a landing page but someplace where they can see your offer, see what makes you unique, see social proof. You can get that on the Instagram profile but once they see the social proof, where’s the thing that they’re going to say, “I want to be involved with that.“ You have that link right there in your bio. You could put a Linktree link, a landing page link or your website link there but someplace for them to be able to investigate you. That’s going to be important.
Everybody needs a website and a place to send people. Now, playing devil’s advocate, you could just have a scheduling link that you send them directly through DMs and they never even have to go to the site. I still say that you need that because of taking advantage of, like people might be Googling your name. People might be Googling lessons near me or whatever so you need to be able to have a place they can go from Google.
Let’s say we’ve got many musicians here that probably already have a website as a musician. Is there a problem? I know you mentioned like yours is only this. Only lessons, you didn’t mix it in with all your music stuff. Is there a big problem with, say, I have a BreeNoble.com and it’s my music site and then I wanted to have BreeNoble.com/lessons and it was a tab on my site? Do you think that that’s an okay way to go?
Are you saying that’s actually what you did or are you using that as an example?
I did not do that, no. An example because I do have students that are multi-faceted and do have tabs on their website like that.
I’m going to give the simple blunt answer first and maybe provide some context points along with it because there are shades of gray in every truth. In every case where I’ve had someone who had multiple things that they were promoting whether they had a wedding band or they had a solo career, where we split those two things into two different sites, their response rate on their website went up. I’m not saying you can’t do it. I’m just saying that for the average person like me, I think it’s the better part of wisdom to do that. The shade that I was talking about a second ago would be if you’re such a well-known quantity, if you have mini–celebrity status and people are searching you out by name, not finding you because they typed in piano lessons, guitar lessons or vocal coach and then they happen to come upon you. If someone is searching you out by name then it probably doesn’t matter. If the way people are discovering you is through a general search and they’re shopping for a teacher then we want to provide as few distractions as possible.
I’m glad you said that because I agree with you. My one caveat would be, “If you’re starting to do lessons and it’s going to hold you back to go create a whole another website, have on your website, Get Started then when you get into the mode of like I’m going to market this thing then you move to the big website.“
That goes back to that comment I made briefly about Gary Vaynerchuk earlier, which is just do something. His whole messaging is to get people to stop second–guessing, to stop trying to build something perfect. I think what you said there is absolutely valid. There’s real wisdom in that. The idea that if it’s between nothing and a site that’s promoting multiple things then go ahead and do that but realize that we don’t want to stop there.
People get caught up and they’re like, “I have a Bandzoogle website. Should I get another Bandzoogle website? Should I do a WordPress?” They get all of this cycle of indecision and I don’t want you doing that. Put it on your site for now and it’s going to be worth it because once you’re focusing on it and wanting to really market your studio, you can afford to pay the extra $200 a year or whatever for this website because it’s going to generate that. In every case, it did better when they had a website that was specifically for that. You probably generate that by getting one more student so it’s totally worth it. I wanted to go into, let’s say, people already have a studio and it’s doing well. I have several friends that are maxed out. They’re on the waitlist. How can they scale that more? One way is to go online, which I’ve talked about on here and doing online lessons. What are some other ways that they can scale that when you’re maxed out on one-on-one?
There are two primary ways and I think there are some other ways that are coming to the fore. Let me just briefly mention those and then if we want to jump into any of those, I’m fine to do that. There are group lessons. I’m a huge proponent of that. The second is hiring other teachers. I’ve done that in the past. I prefer group lessons. Not to put too fine a point on it but in my own studio, I was working part-time hours, like 20 to 23 hours a week and making six figures because I was doing group lessons. For me, it’s a hassle of needing to get a commercial location and hire people and have to deal with state law and federal law around employment and all this liability. For the years that I taught, I taught out at the front room of my house for the bulk of those and carried a general liability policy that covered business use of my home, which is shockingly cheap in the grand scheme of things and I much preferred that.
For someone that they do want to be dual–career where they’re promoting a musical career, to have all those extra things to think about in terms of the location, staff and all those other things, compare that to group lessons, I’m going to say group lessons almost every single time. There might be instances, unless someone’s wanting to really go for it. You don’t manage people, a location and a thriving music as a business as a part-time gig. I don’t think you’d do that. I know a few people who do but they’re on the other side of a big complex process where now they’re on the other side of that complexity and they’re back down to simplicity.
One of my actual very first clients ever, there’s a case study on my blog and her name’s Kaitlyn. You can Google, Grow Your Music Studio Kaitlyn. She was an Atlanta public school teacher who had two dozen students. We worked over a twelve–week period. She doubled her studio. She now has 6 or 8 people working for her, hundreds of students and the middle part of her journey she was working like crazy learning all these business things, these sorts of things. On the other side of that, she’s opening a second location. She has a studio manager now. She’s not teaching. She’s not the primary teaching teacher. I don’t want to paint this rosy picture because I’m sure she has her stresses as well. I keep in touch with her. It’s been years since we worked together. What I’m saying is that she’s now at a place where there are entire weeks where she hasn’t gone to the studio. She has people running it for her but to get to that place cost her an awful lot. I don’t see how that would be compatible with trying to do a second thing on top of that.Go beyond the general platitudes. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting because I had someone on the show, I believe she’s also from Atlanta, Tara Simon. I don’t know if you know her but she did the same thing. She hired other teachers and she’s expanded. It was part of her mission that she really wanted to serve as many kids as possible. I get that but I also can say that managing people is not easy and they are representing you. Ultimately, it’s on you if they do something that doesn’t jive with you. It’s like you said, state laws and all that. I definitely think that the group thing is a much better option. How do you find that that works with pricing? Are people still willing to pay a healthy price when they know they’re not getting one-on-one?
That is what I spent a long time of my career working out because there are two things that probably jump to someone’s mind when they think about it. For the parent, the thing that jumps to their mind is, “That can’t be as good as one-on.” For the teacher, they buy into that belief and so they assume that they should discount a group lesson. What I’ll tell you is that if your marketing is good enough and your teaching is good enough, neither one of those things has to be true. I was the highest-priced teacher in my area, teaching kids in groups of five. I did not allow a beginner to come into the studio unless they came through one of my group programs because they actually went faster for any kid.
There’s no way to go back in time and see. In the early days when I was very unconfident about it, I would have kids that more or less, same age, same ability level, they’d been on the same track. In terms of their progress and development, they were passing their books and roughly the same amount of time, one kid stayed in one-on-one. One kid went to the group and the kid in the group just shot ahead of the other kid. We could probably do an entire episode on group lessons so I’ll maybe cut right here. What I found to be true was that you can’t separate the learning experience from the environment in which the learning experience is happening. It was so much less of a pressurized environment for a child. They were more relaxed. It forced me to be a better teacher because here I’m having to juggle five kids.
Here’s the other thing and this is unusual. This is the unique contribution I’ve made to the music education world. There are not many group systems out there that are being taught that allow a teacher to teach multilevel groups. The kids that I taught, they weren’t all on the same level. They were mixed. I would have a beginner in the same group as a kid had been in there for years. They were both having a unique educational experience but there was a series of rules that I created for myself that allowed me to juggle the balance of that. What had to change was me. I had to become a much better teacher to handle those demands. What came out of that was a very unique group structure. It’s probably beyond the purpose of this conversation to go into exactly what all that entailed. To answer the question that was originally posed, I would say that group lessons as a format can be advantageous over the complexity of something bigger.
I hope people that have thought about doing group are reading what you’re saying. Beyond getting the point across that you can charge more for group and you don’t have to discount and all that, you have to believe that what you’re offering in the group is just as valuable as one-on-one. You have to get yourself there first before you can do it. I’m glad you said that and you gave some examples of actually doing better.
Early on, it might’ve been a little bit of an act of hubris to leave them at the price that my one-on-one lessons were at but they were coming for an hour. The one-on-one kids were coming for a half–hour but I was seeing four kids in that hour in the group. Over time as I improved and I saw the results, I thought, “I’m definitely raising the rates on this because everybody’s loving it. They’re getting great scores on this international achievement scale.“ Parents knew it so there was buy-in but there was a real strong self-belief that came. It took a little while for that self–belief to show up for me.
Group is one way. I know you said you had a few more ways that people could scale.
The third way other than having other teachers teach for you would be some sort of either completely online program or some hybrid program. This goes right back to the initial story. It’s that part of what that particular client did at the beginning in LA was she started creating training videos that became a part of what they were buying into. She also made it and this is one way to scale, depending on how you define scale but in her higher–level packages, she actually allowed people to communicate with her via a particular messenger app. You can use anything, Voxer, Slack and WhatsApp. It doesn’t matter which one but she would allow people to communicate with her and they would send like, “I’m struggling with this song,” and they’d send like a video clip to her and she would teach them right there. She’d shoot a little selfie video and give them a tip. That was part of the access that they got.
What she would do is she would do it during non-peak hours. She would handle those videos in a non–peak time where maybe if you’re teaching kids and it’s during the school year, you’re not doing anything until 3:00. If you’re teaching adults, some adults are available during the day but most are going to be coming after work hours. If you save until mid–morning a batch of videos that you got sent the night before to do that, that’s a way to scale your time where that time might not have been as useful. You’re getting paid a premium amount to offer that service to people. That’s a way to scale. The online course, I think this is the dream. A ton of people approached me in 2020. Especially with the pandemic, the music teaching industry had to change to stay in business. I know studios that went out of business because of the pandemic. I know other businesses that thrived because they made the switch to online smoothly.
There’s this thought of, “If I can teach a student online, why couldn’t I teach an online course? Why couldn’t I record myself?” The experience on their end is that they’re seeing someone on a video screen. Why not pre-record that material?” A lot of people have this thought of, “I’m going to build. I want to sell an online course around teaching an instrument or writing music,” or those sorts of things and this goes back to something I said earlier. Local competition is not as fierce as global competition.
I would say that for the person who’s wanting to scale using an online course, be ready for the challenge level to go way up because there’s an awful lot of people that are already there and doing it. There’s an awful lot of people jumping into the mix, wanting to do it as well. A hybrid version could be maybe you don’t want to go global with that. Maybe initially, you build something that’s an online course just for your local market where it’s a supplement to your traditional teaching studio where they’re getting a value add. It maybe allows you to not have to spend as much time with them or you get to charge a premium rate because you have that. You get your feet wet in an online course arena or the asynchronous instruction arena and then from there, you can move up to the big league so to speak.
That’s exactly what I was thinking because it is true. There are so many people coming out with courses right now. It’s crazy. The marketing chops that you have to have to be able to compete. Someone like me, I live and breathe marketing. I have to in order to get my stuff out there and compete and you don’t have time for that if you’re teaching this many hours a week and all that. I love the idea of the hybrid because you could then trade that for your time. You could maybe meet with the students only every other week and give them an asynchronous assignment or have them go over a certain section on the weeks that they’re not there and still charge the same.
You didn’t ask but I’m going to go ahead and volunteer my opinion. It might sound initially that I’m going back on what I said earlier but you’ll see where I’m getting to in a second. I think the best way to scale, the best business model for music as a business is to hire someone else to teach group lessons for you. You cannot beat that. Our largest client in 2020, their studio did $1.5 million in revenue in one year. Several large offerings they have and the mini offerings that they have are group lessons and the owner isn’t teaching those. He’s hired people to teach those for him. It’s a partner pair, a guy and a gal, that owned the studio together. That big, there’s going to be a lot of responsibilities to share.
I know it’s going back a little bit on what I said earlier. If you did have that desire to scale a little bit bigger than just doing groups yourself. There are clients we’ve had in the past, at least in my business, where they started teaching group lessons themselves. The next step was for them to come in and mentor someone on how to teach group lessons and then eventually start handing off and taking fewer hours themselves so that they could focus on other projects. It’s pretty good.
You could build that online course that you want, spend time focusing on that but that’s a good point. We’ve covered so much during this and you’ve given much of your secret sauce. Is there anything that you think that people need to know that we haven’t covered before we finish up?
We’ve really run the gamut. Maybe just to summarize, I’d say if you’re wanting to build a music lesson business, get clear on some of the boring stuff. Know those metrics that I said earlier. Have a simple funnel. I know that’s a popular word these days. Russell Brunson has brainwashed all of us but I love Russell. He’s great. His books are great. His courses are great. His products are great. A simple funnel clearly delineating exactly what you’re going to do for them, spoken or written in evocative terms, emotional terms and concrete terms. This is the primary message I give. That’s the message I put out there. This is what you need to build. It doesn’t have to be overly complex. The whole reason I could even build a global brand out of Grow Your Music Studio, which I realized we’re not the biggest online business, not by a long shot but it’s a cutthroat industry and we’ve done really well.
We’ve got a great team of people but the only reason I could build that business, this side hustle that then became my full-time thing was because the studio was run so simply and the marketing component of it took up little of my time. Once I got some of these things in place, these assets, a website that I barely changed over a seven-year period, a Google Ad strategy that I barely changed over a ten-year period. These simple things in place allowed me then to focus on other passions, other interests and eventually another business. That’s the message I would give to someone.
If they’ve loved what you’ve been saying and they want to learn more, how can they connect with you? Your website and your socials.
You can Google Grow Your Music Studio and you’ll find our social profiles or you can go to GrowYourMusicStudio.com and we have tons of free resources there, downloads and actually, there are two things, in particular, I would point out. We have a Facebook guide for music teachers that has been downloaded quite extensively. That’s a great resource but I pulled out of the archives a presentation I gave many years ago and you can find that at GrowYourMusicStudio.com/bree. If people wanted to go to that particular link or URL, there’s a presentation that we haven’t made public for quite some time but it goes much deeper into a lot of the concepts I’m talking about here. It was a presentation that the Music Teachers National Association asked me to present. I presented it in four different states in some of the state conferences that the MTNA puts on. I’m wanting to specifically point that one out.
I’m going to be also sending out some other resources from Daniel as well because I know it’s going to help the people in our audience that have music studios or want to start one and grow one. Thank you so much for all of your wisdom. We appreciate it. Thank you for giving your time and expertise.
- Grow Your Music Studio
- Tara Simon – previous episode
About Daniel Patterson
Daniel Patterson is a marketing consultant for music schools. Since 2016, he has worked with 600 music schools and private music studios; he has helped them increase their student base, begin premium programs, and support studio owners in their business life.
He is the owner of GrowYourMusicStudio.com… which is the studio owner’s best resource for learning how to grow and operate a profitable teaching studio or music school.