What is one of the easiest and most effective ways to teach music lessons online and earn extra income? By using Muzie.Live! Bree Noble introduces Sam Reti, the Founder of Muzie.Live and a guitar teacher and musician. Muzie.Live is a music platform with high fidelity virtual classrooms where you can conduct online lessons. It makes teaching so much easier for you by allowing you to manage students, assignments, and scheduling in one place. Sam, along with thousands of teachers, believes that Muzie.Live is even more effective than purely face-to-face classes! Tune in and learn more about Muzie.Live!
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Muzie.Live: The Easy And Effective Way To Teach Music Lessons Online With Sam Reti
I am here with my friend, Sam Reti from Muzie. I’m so excited to talk to him about what he has created for musicians because this is a fantastic tool. It was made by a musician for musicians. These are the tools I love talking about because when they are made by a musician, they totally get you. They get what your needs are. We’re going to get into that later. I want Sam to give us a little bit of his background, your musical background, and how you ended up starting Muzie.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. With Muzie, it started as a college project. This was a few years ago. I went to Berkeley College of Music. Originally, I was there. I wanted to be in a band and record albums. Typical rock star dreams. I did that for a little while. I had a band for the first two years and that fizzled out and so I needed something else to focus on. I had this idea for practice software for students.
While I was at school, they had a startup lab and it was like an incubator to try to get businesses and ideas coming from the college. I joined that. My dad and I were working together on it. He’s a software developer. We worked together on the very first practice app that we built. It was my final project for college but it worked pretty well, so we turned that into our business. For a couple of years, that was the main product. It used to be called, I Want to Practice.
A very straightforward name. I like that.
We did that for a couple of years. We started developing Muzie in early 2019, which is ironic because it had nothing to do with the pandemic. It was way before that. We started building the tech. It was for a slightly different reason when we started. What we wanted to do was on-demand music lessons. The idea was we’d have a pool of a couple of hundred teachers online. A student could come online and request a lesson and then it would automatically pair them with the most suited teacher for that student’s needs. That lesson would be conducted online and it was pay by the minute. It was a unique idea as far as posting lessons online but we started doing that.
We launched it in January 2020 and very quickly realized that we were going to need more things designed for teaching your own students instead of acquiring new students. The pandemic rolled right in and everybody needed to switch online. Fortunately for us, we had already built all of the online technology and all of that stuff that was all part of the teaching. All we need to do is format a little bit about how you’re going to interact with your own students. From February of 2020 until now, that’s what we’ve been doing, helping teachers teach online. It’s fun. It’s going well and I can’t complain.
I know that you also teach. We’ve been on a call before and you’re like, “I got to go. I’ve got a student or something.” You are utilizing this and experiencing what needs you have.
That’s the best place to start from. In college, once I got out of that, I’ve started teaching. I’ve had students for a while and now I’m in Colorado. I’ve got a whole new batch of students here, but they’re all online. The nice thing is that I get to beta test everything with my kids because they tell me what they want from the student side. I get all the feedback from all the teachers that we work with. That designs the product.
We’re driven by what the teachers ask for. It’s rare that I implement something myself and without getting feedback on it. Now what we do, we have something, it’s the list. Every teacher suggestion that comes through goes onto the list. The more something gets suggested, the higher up it goes. When it reaches the top, that gets built next. It’s like a super democratic process. The nice thing is that we know that the teachers and the users, this is something that they’re looking for.There are many benefits to teaching online, one of which is that you don't have to travel anywhere. Click To Tweet
That’s smart because that’s going to keep them coming back for your product. If you keep giving them what it is that they need.
Hopefully, it’s more useful. It gives us things like that.
I’m curious. This idea of someone coming in and being matched up with a teacher and paying by the minute, it’s a super interesting idea. Did people use it in that way or maybe they used it to try out a teacher? How can a musician make progress as a student if they don’t have a relationship with their teacher? I could also see how they would use that to test out different teachers to see whom they’d want to continue with.
It ended up being more in the vein of tutoring needs. If we were ever to go back to that model again, we would refocus it at colleges and have it as an open tutoring line so that if you’re stuck on something, you can call in for a couple of minutes and get a little bit of help with something. That became a clear problem. People were fishing for a teacher, then you take that teacher and go offline or go onto something else with them. It all got ruined by the pandemic, anyway.
It worked in your favor.
It ironically put up a wall for us right away because a lot of people that were on the platform were like, “No extracurricular stuff for now,” to figure out what’s going on and how they’re going to manage whatever this was going to be. The teachers, everyone was saying the same thing like, “This would be awesome if I could bring my students on here.” That was a pretty clear line of, “Let’s slightly change it.” The nice thing, though, is all the infrastructure is the same. The audio-video connection, the sound profiles, and how the system works were already built all ahead of time.
When we got to the first year, there was a lot of implementing more features that were going to help as like a classroom-based tool. What we focused on a lot is providing enough material, content, and features that make it, so online lessons are equal to in-person lessons. It’s tiring hearing the whole like, “Online lessons are like a second rate or a secondary lesson somehow.” We’ve got thousands of teachers that can prove that wrong. Like myself, personally, I only teach online. I do find with that and I’ve never had students complain about it or anything like that.
I’m sure it’s made your life better and easier, too, because you don’t have to travel to students and have them traipsing through your house, all the things that we used to do to get lessons.
There’s a lot of benefits to being online. They don’t have to travel anywhere. I don’t have people in my house, but also, I have students who are in Washington or Chicago or Massachusetts and I’m in Colorado. We’ve never even met each other and we’ve had the lessons online for years. We’ve had hundreds of lessons together. They’re all progressing. They’re learning their material. It’s all about how you utilize the tools and that’s why we are so focused on making more features that help with that online teaching.
Do you have discovery tools on your platform or are people finding their students’ other ways and bringing them to Muzie?
We took away all the discovery stuff because it started getting conflicting with how the program works. Now you bring your students to the platform. You would sign up as a teacher and you invite your studio to come and sign up for accounts. The way the system works is a little bit like Zoom with the audio-video connection, but that’s where the similarities. The design of the platform is that everything that occurs on the laps, virtually, if we share a file, if we record the lesson, use an interactive whiteboard, any of the tools, all that content goes automatically into the student’s account and their account doubles as a practice room.
The idea is that for a teacher, you’re going to save a lot of time because instead of having lesson notes, emails and videos that you might be making, and you have to do all of that after class and send it out to the parents so then the parents have to hand it over to the students then it gets masking of what apps. You might have some stuff on Google Drive. You might have some stuff on text messages, some on emails. Now it’s a complete mess. It’s making it harder for people to teach. Our concept is that with Muzie, you go on there and you have your notepad for your lesson notes. All the files are shared automatically.
You have a library that you can build up of all your content. You can make videos right inside the platform and share them right with your students and vice versa. Your students can upload their materials and make videos and recordings for you. It’s a hub for everything that goes on in the lessons. When the lessons are over, the student has a practice area with all that material already loaded up so they can track their progress inside the platform.
That is the coolest. When I heard about all the ways that you make it easier for the teacher, I was excited about this. I’m trying to get my head around the idea of the virtual practice room and how a student would use that. It sounds like they can go in there and maybe they’re singing through a song and there’s a section that’s giving them trouble. They can video themselves and send it to the teacher and say like, “This is what I want to work on my next lesson. Do you hear where my voice is cracking at this point or whatever?”
That’s dead on. They’ve also got metronomes and tools like that built right into their account. They can go in. They’ve got a practice timer. They can pull up whatever material was shared during the lesson. If you record the lesson, the students can rewatch portions of that lesson that are important so they can create their own practice routines and everything like that. When they get stuck or they need something, they can record themselves. It’ll go right into a folder that’s shared between the student and the teacher. It makes it easy.
The students don’t have to record themselves on a phone and then upload it and text it or whatever they’re doing. It’s all built into one product. The nice thing is it’s all built into the cloud, so it doesn’t matter what device your students use. If they’re using the iPad on one lesson but they’re using a laptop in the next lesson, that’s totally fine. All the content will be saved to their account. It doesn’t matter what machine they’re using.
That’s good, especially for teenagers who are flipping between so many different devices and stuff. If I’m a student and I am working with a teacher and I can come in there anytime I want and work, is it like going into a Zoom meeting by yourself? Do you go into your practice room?
We have the lesson room and the practice room. They’re two different places. The lesson room looks more like a Zoom meeting with all the icons on the bottom and your video screen going and everything. The other one is more like they’ve got a chatbox on one side, files on the other, and all the content related to all the lessons they’ve been doing. You can see lesson history, recordings, files. It’s like a dashboard. That way, the students can pick and choose what it is they want to work on it. They pop up into windows on the screen. It makes it flexible. Based on how you want to practice, you can set up the window however you’d like.
We’re also building a new assignment tool that something is going to come out soon. That’s going to allow teachers to attach lesson notes, files, and instructions all into one bundle. The students can track how much practice time they’re working specifically on that assignment. The teacher has a little bit more insight into what the students are working on specifically. We’re always adding more stuff. Pretty much every Sunday, we do an update. There are always new things. It’s all from our teacher lists. It’s easy to figure out what to do next.People are under the assumption that a duet online is somehow possible. It pretty much isn't, no matter what you do. Click To Tweet
The one thing that musicians struggle with is the online latency issue. How have you guys dealt with that, or is it more that maybe they play own background piano part and they’re singing and they’re not trying to like do it at the same time?
It’s a little frustrating because there’s been a lot of misconception or misinformation been pushed around about how it works. People are under the assumption that a duet online is somehow possible. It isn’t. No matter what you do, there’s no technology the public has access to that can speed up Wi-Fi or create instantaneous video connections. If they did, you’d sell it to the military for billions of dollars. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in. There’s a lot of people that are being told that there are tools out there that do this, but in actual practice, they rarely work.
I have this constant conversation with my students. They’re like, “What about JamKazam?” Now, this new one is the JackTrip box or something. They’re in the constant search for this unique thing.
It’s like the holy grail or something but it doesn’t exist yet. It’s a physics problem, not a software problem. That’s what I try to explain to a lot of the teachers that might be curious about that. No matter what, that’s not the reality. Saying that, if it’s a perfect day, the Wi-Fi is high powered or you’re both on ethernets and you’re down the street from each other, then you probably could get close that you might not even notice.
The one thing we’ve seen that teachers can do is things like you can play a chord nice and slow, a slow chord progression, and have your students play over that. That usually works well because you can hear both of their separate channels, so they don’t cut each other out. You’ll still be able to hear everything and it will come in pretty much in line. If you’re playing it slow enough, it won’t matter.
That’s one way, but we have a specific tool we built called Clips, which is designed specifically to allow you to do what we call virtual duets. Clips is designed so that the teacher can hit record, then they play their half of the duet. Instantly, that recording is shared over to the student side. The student can play the recording and play along with what their teacher recorded. That way, the teacher can hear the student playing along with the performance, so you can still evaluate the student as if it was a true duet but it’s just from a recording that you made for ten seconds.
That’s amazing. The teacher is not distracted by having to play and listen at the same time.
Yes, you can sit and listen. That’s where we try to explain like there are benefits to online teaching that you would never get in person, like that. The cool thing with our Clips tool is if you make a clip, it saves there forever, so you can go back to that clip and share it with a different student. Over time, you’ll build out a huge library of all these different little clips you’ve recorded. You could use it to record little segments of the lesson that might be important, but the duet feature is cool because it allows you to experience it or at least allow your students to experience it, which is the important part.
Do groups use this or is it mostly individual lessons?
We’ve got tons of groups. There’s a lot of teachers that are doing groups and hybrid groups. The hybrid groups are interesting because that’s like having 3 or 4 kids in the classroom and 3 or 4 kids online.
Hybrid is such a hard thing to crack.
It’s an art form. Especially like setting up your classroom for it is a whole mission in itself, but we have designed the platform to allow for that teaching. What you want to do is invite all the students who are going to attend regardless of in-person or online. All the content that, again, occurs in the lesson when you share the files digitally to the online students, the in-person kids are all getting a copy of all the content as well.
We also have in-person lesson rooms, which is a feature that allows teachers to record their in-person lessons. They can still use digital file sharing and the whiteboard. The advantage there is you have your iPad or your laptop seated between the two of you. You can provide the content digitally as well as physically.
The students always have a virtual record of everything they’re working on. With the hybrid, sometimes it’s, I’m in class one day and I’m online the next. They go back and forth. Having it saved virtually is helpful for the continuity, so the students aren’t half on a notebook and half on the computer. You can keep it all digital and that solves a lot of those problems.
That makes sense a lot. Do you find that there is like a particular clientele for this or is it all over the map? Do you have homeschoolers using it? Do you have private teachers using it? Do you have group lessons using it? It sounds like you’ve developed it to serve so many different teachers.
This is technically not our first product in music like the teaching space because the first one we did from that college project turned into a whole learning management system of its own. One of the big things we learned from that project was that everybody teaches slightly differently. You have to make it almost modular so that people can pick and choose what they need and make it work the way they want it to. That was something that we had in the back of our mind the whole time while we were building it.
We have public schools, private schools, orchestras, private teachers, studios, and institutions. There are teachers who work at multiple different studios. There’s everything you can imagine. As far as big groups, small groups, everyone is on it. They all do it slightly differently, so that’s so many features available. We try hard to make it so that it doesn’t become hard to use, that all those features are accessible and useful to you.
It doesn’t get overwhelming and confusing. It makes sense.
That’s something we learned on our first product that got overblown and there were too much stuff. This time, we make a very conscious effort that when we add something that it has a direct purpose to enhancing either the quality of the lesson or your student’s practice. It has to fit in these specific criteria. We’re not just going to build something for the sake of building it, it’s got to be pretty relevant to helping you teach.
How did you guys grow? I know you’ve grown a ton. Was it mostly word of mouth?Unburden your clients. Click To Tweet
Yes, almost exclusively. Facebook groups and things like that. The Expand Online Summit was a great one.
That’s where I met you.
Those things have been helpful, podcasts, stuff like this. A fantastic way of reaching out and meeting new people. We don’t do paid ads or Facebook Ads or anything. We found the teachers like the product, they tell their friends, then they tell their friends and so on.
Also, if students are on there, they might have a different teacher and be like, “I use Muzie with this other teacher.”
We even have teachers who take lessons. They have their teachers use it, too. That’s pretty cool. Like if we get somebody from maybe a university and they like it, then they’ll probably tell all their faculty members about it. That helps the spread through places that might not be so easy for us to cold call or something like that. A lot of it is people enjoy the product and tell everyone else about it and keep going.
For those that are reading that this is super intriguing, what are the pricing options for teachers?
We have quite a few different options and the last one in the column is customizable. You tell us what you need and we can work with you. Mainly, we have a free account. The free account is limited. It only gives you a good quality audio-video connection and a little chatbox. If you don’t need many of those other features or you don’t have that many students, the free account is a great option to have a higher-quality audio connection. We have a standard account that’s $14 a month. That includes our file sharing, whiteboards. It’s got tons of metronomes, a chat log, the practice rooms. All that stuff is in there. That does only one-on-one lessons.
The pro account, which is $24 a month, has lesson recordings, group rooms for up to ten people, but that can also be expanded based on what you need. We have preloaded games, worksheets, and activities that are going into that account as well. We also have institution accounts so an admin could buy for their whole studio. Those are $25 for the admin and only $20 per teacher. The teachers get all pro accounts. It’s slightly discounted to do it that way to incentivize the studio to all stay connected together. The customizable accounts are based on what you might need, like for orchestras and stuff like that.
That is so incredibly affordable for what you guys are offering, for sure. One thing I remember mentioning when I had you talked to our Out to Launch students, is that you’re doing most of the customer service. They have you in the background advocating for them and helping. You guys are very hands-on and much a personal company.
It’s a huge part of how we’ve been able to grow. I personally managed the chat support on the website. It goes to my phone as a text message. A lot of people think I’m crazy, but it’s the only way. I believe, honestly, for me, it’s the only way to do it, because I want to know exactly what’s going on, on the platform. That’s a little of my control problem, but that’s fine. I want to be able to communicate with the teachers. I do all the demos personally on the platform. I’ve met hundreds of teachers.
Alone, that is an invaluable learning experience in itself. The chat support is fun because I can interact with people. I can figure out where things might not be so obvious if I get a common question about where a button is or how a function works or something and people are constantly not sure that I know that needs redesigning. It’s a good way for us to keep on top of optimizing the platform. It’s not terrible. Sometimes there are 3:00 AM chats that you need to either ignore and stay asleep or roll out of bed and deal with. That’s one of the other benefits of how we’ve grown. People appreciate the fact that it’s a real human being on the other end of the line.
I was going to say that. I can’t imagine that did not contribute to your growing through all of the referrals that you have.
I hope so, at least. I feel like I connect with a lot of the teachers. It becomes more of like your friends that are chatting in to see what’s going on stuff. That’s nice to see. Having the hands-on experience, especially for students, too, we try to act like a personal assistant for every teacher, because if your students are having questions about how to use the platform or where something might be or how something works, instead of them pestering the teachers with all the questions, we have them send their students to the chat support as well because then we can give them videos or handouts or instructions.
Again, you’re saving the teacher so much time.
That’s the idea. We want to unburden you from a lot of the stuff that has been added onto your plates because of online or the last few years of teaching. It’s about optimizing time for teachers and increasing the engagement and quality of lessons for the students, which overall should increase retention and better studios and better teachers. Hopefully, the cycle goes around.
Is there anything else that we didn’t cover that you wanted to cover about Muzie or your experience with working with teachers online?
I don’t think so. Not specifically. If anyone’s interested, the website is Muzie.Live. We have a Facebook Group called Muzie Teachers. That’s another place that if you want to chat or say hi or check out what we’re working on, we’re very active there as well. You could message us directly. It’s 9 times out of 10 you’re going to get me as the person responding. You can say hi. It’s most likely going to be me that responds. We’re a family-run business. It’s my dad and me who do most of the work and we’ve got people around us in the family that helps keep the ship sailing. If you’re interested, come reach out.
Do it, you guys. Go to Muzie.Live. Check it out. It is so affordable for all of the tools that they are offering for all teachers. Thanks so much, Sam. It’s very inspiring to hear about all these tools that you’ve built and that you have the best interest of the teacher and the student in mind with this platform.
It’s what I wish I had when I was a kid.
That’s how we build good products. It’s the same thing for me. I’m doing the educational teaching that I wish I had when I first went out as a musician. Thanks so much.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
About Sam Reti
Sam Reti is the founder of Muzie.Live, a guitar teacher and musician. Sam has been designing and building music education software with his dad, since graduating from Berklee college of music in 2016.