If you have ever thought about, considered, pondered, wished, or dreamed about running a group lesson program in your studio, then you need to read this post all the way to the end.
If you already run a group program, I urge you to read this post, as well. I watched music schools upgrade or convert their programs after seeing the flexibility and power of my system.
By the end of this post, my goal is to show you that:
1) It is possible to start a group lesson program in your studio before the coming school year
2) This program’s quality can exceed your expectations
3) Getting parents on board might not be as difficult as you think
Before we get started… a final thought:
In the last year, I have helped almost 2-dozen music schools begin or upgrade a group program in their studio using the system that I’ve used in my studio for a decade!
Because of this, I have heard almost every concern or fear that a teacher could have about group lessons.
There are 7 main concerns that I hear:
1) You Need More Space!
2) You Can’t Afford the Equipment!
3) You Have to Use a New Curriculum!
4) Parents Don’t Want Group Lessons!
5) I’ll Lose the Special Relationship I Have with Students!
6) Group Lessons Might Financially Ruin My Livelihood / Studio! (aka, everyone will quit!)
7) There’s Not Enough Time to Teach All These Students!
To keep this article a reasonable length, I only included the first 4… but I have included all 7 in the download below.
I was really tempted to just put all 7 in this post because those last 3 are sooooooo good. If you want to read all 7, you are going to HAVE to download the bonus ebook.
But…. That’s not all!
There are secrets, tips, tactics, and tools that I’m going to give away only to those who want to learn how to do group lessons in the simple and effective style that I devised.
I’m releasing my complete blueprint at the end of June… with videos, demonstrations, downloads, and observations of my group program in action.
If you would like to receive this blueprint, then you must download the BONUS ebook to sign up.
This will be helpful to someone who wants an effective and prosperous blueprint… either now or sometime in the future.
I will never release this information publicly on the blog in any form.
If you want it, you must sign up below.
With that said, let’s begin:
The Controversy Surrounding Group Lessons
Our industry has been evolving at lightning speed over the past five to ten years.
The connectivity that Facebook and social media provide has allowed ideas to spread quickly.
The dark side of this connectivity is the spread of disinformation, negativity, and lies as well.
Studio owners are warming up to the idea of group lessons. Preschool classes, lab time, and rotating lessons are all steps to move fully into the group format.
However, negativity and fear persist around the idea of making group lessons the CORE component of a studio.
Over the past year, I have collected emails, surveys, comments, and questions from readers and teachers. This is the basis of the 4 lies (and more if you download the full text) that you are about to read.
These lies and concerns can come from two places:
(1) outside voices and critics
(2) your own internal fears and unexamined thoughts
These can prevent you from moving forward with this rewarding educational format.
These can prevent you from moving forward with this rewarding educational format.
Lie #1: You Need More Space!
I will state this emphatically:
You do not need more space or even an outside location to do group lessons.
I have seen the setups of many different studios – whether they are “in home” or in a commercial space.
If you have a 10 x 10 room available to you, you can do group lessons with 5 kids. This is the setup that I have in my studio.
I am an advisor to a studio that has a 20 x 30 room that contains 12 full size Roland pianos. Their program runs with a master teacher and lab assistants.
In no case have I felt these locations were too cramped or that students were distracting to one another.
This is a straightforward concept… yet, I hear this particular concern over and over again.
All you have to do is get out a tape measure. Measure your space and measure the size of the pianos you want to use. This is a simple math problem.
Here are a few pictures of studios that use a group setup:
The Piano Express, Ashburn, VA
Daniel Patterson Music Studio, Indianapolis, IN
Mrs. Jones Piano Studio, Triangle, VA
The Bees Keys, Swindon, United Kingdom
Marin Piano Studio, Corte Madera, California
Don’t believe the lie that you need a huge commercial space! You can make this work no matter where you are located!
Lie #2: You Can’t Afford the Equipment!
I recommend that most teachers start their program with a class size of 3 or 4. This allows a relaxed start to your new program.
If that’s the case, it could cost you anywhere from $1,000 – $2,500 to buy the equipment you need.
This would include the instruments, the headphones, and the many other accessories that you will need. Instruments could include digital pianos, electric guitars, or any other instrument that has a headphone jack.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not a hefty price tag at all!
Once again, we can boil this down to a simple math problem.
I will do this math for both a single teacher studio and a music school with multiple teachers on staff.
Single-teacher studio. If you have four teaching hours in your studio per night for five days, that is 20 teaching hours per week.
At $50/hr, you can gross $4,000 per month, and possibly NET $2,500 – $3,000 per month after taxes, overhead, costs, advertising, and considerations for taking time off for holidays, professional development, and vacation.
Multiple teacher music school. Here’s a real-world example from a studio that I helped last year.
The owner / teacher taught 44 students each week in the 1-on-1 format.
They employed five teachers who taught 97 piano students total.
The owner was teaching close to 25 hours. She spent another 10-15 hours per week doing admin, marketing, and managing commercial space. Communication with staff and customers added 7 – 10 more hours per week.
Never mind that staff was unreliable and turnover was a problem. The owner was always on the hunt for qualified teachers who would stay for an extended period of time.
Her final take-home pay (for all this trouble) was about $4,500 per month. That was after subtracting payroll, rent, advertising, taxes, and administrative tools.
Now, look at what happens when you switch to group:
Single-teacher studio. What would happen if you cut down your teaching hours from 20 to 15… but were teaching groups of 4 or 5?
In this scenario, your rate would jump to $100/hr for 4 students and up to $125/hr for 5 students.
In only 15 hours of teaching per week, you could gross anywhere from $6,000 per month (four person groups) to $7,500 per month (four person groups).
I explained how to fill a group program like this in my most popular post on how to make $10,000 per month teaching piano.
A final thought… yes, this assumes that there would be no decrease in tuition, despite moving to a group program. This is reasonable to assume. I am the most expensive teacher in my immediate geographic area and teach only in groups… this has not stopped me from having the largest single-teacher studio in my metropolitan area of 1.5 million people.
Multiple-teacher studio. This concept is even more powerful if you apply this to a multiple-teacher studio.
In the previous example, the studio had approximately 140 kids with six staff members.
Payroll was eating up the bulk of the profits in the studio. It was also eating up huge amounts of time for the business owner.
With a 140-student studio, it is possible for a teacher to only need two master teachers.
If you split the student load right down the middle, that’s 70 kids per teacher.
In a five-person group, that put both the owner and other hired teacher at 14 hours per week of teaching.
This immediately doubled the owner’s take-home while cutting the overhead of staff pay. It also gave the remaining teacher a significant pay bump.
With the extra margins, she hired a part-time admin assistant.
Her working hours dropped from 50-60 hours per week to NEVER EXCEEDING 30 HOURS.
Now, what is the point I’m trying to make?
Don’t let a one-time investment of $2,000 or even $3,000 dollars stop you from improving your pay and quality of life. You need to keep re-reading this post until what you are missing out on sinks in.
I understand that some teachers have different goals or priorities in their studio. You might be a high-level teacher that only works with advanced students. Or, you might be a studio that focuses on pre-school.
But, if you are open to group lessons and see elementary and middle school aged students… you should consider this format.
The investment in equipment (some of which is pictured in the shopping list above) will provide a huge return on investment! More margins allow for a better studio… this is one of three ways that you can grow your music studio.
Lie #3: You Have to Use a New Curriculum!
There is a lot of competition for a music teacher’s attention right now.
Apps, old method books, new method books, practice tools, blogs, arts and crafts for your studio, new music, and teacher support systems all promise to be the “magic bullet” that finally changes things in your studio.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to change methods. You don’t need something new.
It is possible to adapt any method into a group method with little to no effort.
I do not have the room to describe this here. But, I will tease the information that I’m releasing towards the end of the month.
A successful group program hinges more on what you can draw out of children than the educational concepts that you teach them!
The old adage, “It’s not the method, it’s the teacher,” holds true.
Yes, there are some horrific methods out there that I would avoid. Yes, some are dated. Feel free to ignore these.
But, most generally accepted methods are so similar that the differences are negligible. People quibble over when 8th notes are introduced or if the method starts or doesn’t start with pre-staff notation.
Good marketing might make one seem better, but the core concepts are identical.
Your style of teaching and what you demand of your students is FAR MORE important than the method you use.
Personally, I discovered that I trimmed a LOT of fat out of my teaching when I moved to the group format. It demanded more skill and efficiency out of my teaching.
After a few years, I found that I could get kids to sight-read new music on their own within a few lessons. With few exceptions, I found that students could handle 15%, 25%, even 50% or more assigned songs each week. Musicianship went up, as well.
I attribute this to the time I had to work with them and the style of teaching that I began to use.
Lie #4: Parent’s Don’t Want Group Lessons!
I love this lie.
I saved it for last because it is the most common concern that I’ve heard from studio and music school owners.
This problem is easily solved… if you know how to do it right.
Unfortunately, when I converted my studio, I had no model or mentor for making the switch.
I sent out an email inviting parents to try my new “group lesson program.” I hoped that I could persuade half of my studio to join… but I wasn’t sure. Would it be more? Would it be less?
No one joined.
I began to push and have individual conversations with families.
After some uncomfortable begging and pleading, I managed to fill one group.
It took me several years to convert my studio over to group lessons. Save for a handful of my mid-intermediate and advanced students, I am completely group now.
Yes, parents didn’t want group lessons. But they would have been WILLING to accept group lessons if I had messaged the change differently.
The proof of this is in the lack of resistance that I experience now. New families and transfer students don’t even bat an eye when I explain my program now… but I focus on the parent’s wants and desires, instead of my own.
I message it in a way that is helpful to them.
Does this work? Some of the best minds in business seem to think so!
One of my favorite business thinkers says: “When you change your marketing, you change your results.”
I changed how I marketed the group… and I got huge results.
There are a few principles to be drawn from this:
- Your hardest families to convince will be your current families. There’s no way around it. People resist change. They don’t like to be out of their comfort zone. They think group lessons are inferior or they “just prefer the 1-on-1.”
- New families will be much easier to persuade. Over time, you will have new families join your studio. With the right presentation, they will accept your group program without question. Even if they are comparing you to other teachers who work 1-on-1. The fact that you already work with so many students in group lessons is powerful social proof that your studio is top-notch.
- Internal marketing is the key to making the switch. Once again, space constrains me from going into depth on this. I have written a 2,500-word step-by-step action plan on how to convert your studio. For those who have worked with me, the average studio has converted 90% of their families. Many studios have converted 100% of their families. My point is that it is possible even if you are not a natural marketer or persuasive person!
- External marketing will make you stand out. I have invested the incredible margins in my studio into outward facing marketing. I have funded AdWords, Facebook, retargeting, social, programmatic, and written marketing with the profits from my group program.
I can overwhelm the market with exposure and my branding because of those profits.
I am often the first teacher that most people find because of this. Many families don’t even look for a second teacher after finding me.
Thus, I can get my message across and invite them into my program… with little to no competition.
Success begets more success.
This is not a chance for me to brag on myself. I have no interest in doing this. What I am interested in is helping you see the big-picture ramifications of switching to group.
The average week in my group lesson program is relaxing and enjoyable.
I see 90 children per week and only work 21.5 hours.
I enjoy good relationships with my students and their parents.
Children make great progress. They love the social element that is added to their lessons.
Games and team activities makes music lessons feel more like other programs in their life. Sports doesn’t feel like such a big competitor in a group studio.
I love my group studio, and I wanted to share the truths that I’ve discovered.
What do these thoughts spark in you? What questions do they bring up? Let me know in the comments!
Latest posts by Daniel Patterson (see all)
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- Jon’s Story: Converting to a Group Piano Studio - June 21, 2017
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