How I Made 30K by Changing My Policies | Episode 12

Music Studio Policies

In 2009 my music studio was in more trouble then I wanted to admit. The recession was doing a number on my business.  Parents lost jobs.  My music students dropped out and weren’t being replaced. Panic was in the air.


One day I received a phone call from a mom to inform me she was pulling her 12 and 14-year-old from lessons. $200 a month for a 16-year-old to play in a rock band just wasn’t going to cut it as the economy tumbled downward.


The next phone call was from a mom with 5-year-old twins. “Do you offer guitar lessons for 5 year-olds?” No, we don’t.  We were always fairly strict about this policy. We all know the outcome when you put kids this young into private lessons. Sometimes the results are OK-usually not. It was the one policy for my studio I was reluctant to budge on.


Something was wrong with this model.


So what was I to do?  I was purging students.  I had no choice but to get creative and try something different, something radical.


I had seen enough 4,5 and 6-year-olds try music lessons. The story is the same almost every time. A quick infusion of cash . The child makes little progress. The lessons seem hard. The child begins to hate music lessons.


The private lesson rarely lives up to their fantasy of what playing music would be like. Quite often the lessons are mom’s fantasy anyway. The fantasy of the “gifted child”.  2-4 months later the child quits to not only never return but to often give up on music altogether.


So what was I going to do?  I was purging students. I had limited funds to invest in marketing. I had no choice but to get creative and try something different, something radical.


Rock Band for ages 4-7. The cost to enroll ZERO


I have seen with my own 5-year-old son.  He could clap his hands in time. He could manage quarter and eight notes when he was engaged in music play on his painful out of tune toy guitar.


I announced that I was going to hold a free rock band class called Kidzrock. Why free? I wanted the freedom to invent on the spot. I wanted the freedom to experiment without the pressure of delivering a quality experience. I wasn’t even confident that this was possible.


3 kids signed up. I handed a 4-year-old boy an electric guitar and instructed him to play an open string. He couldn’t do it. His right hand didn’t have the fine motor skills to achieve the precise aim you need. He tried to pluck the Estring but instead created an electrical wash of noise as most of 6 strings rang out.


This is never gonna work. A rock band of 4-year-olds. What was I thinking? 40 minutes left in the class. I tried to get the drummer to play the we will rock you beat. She couldn’t do it. I put another girl on keys. Showed her the notes of an E minor chord. She couldn’t do it. 35 minutes left. “Who here can tell me the name of their favorite animal?” I’ll play games with them until the clock runs out. After 5 minutes that got old. 30 minutes left.


Then I got an idea. “Hey, drums just play foot, hand, foot hand” or kick-snare. I simplified the Queen beat to its core components. “Hey, keys. Use two hands just play these two note (e and g) use your pointer fingers to play each note” I changed the piano sound on the keyboard to synth to make it sound more electric, more modern, more exciting.


Then there was the guitar. What was I going to do? I’d have to do something radical to make this work. I grabbed a box cutter and one by one cut off each string except the low e string. The kids all oohed and ahhed as each string snapped.


“All right drums. Foot hand, foot hand, keys press down, play with the drums slow-slow with the drum. Guitar play along with us. Strum, strum” it was working. 4 years olds play real music as a real rock band in time. It was beyond simple but it was rock and roll. They played together in time as rounded out the sound on bass. Smiles stretched accross the kid’s faces as we settled into a single chord groove.


I was sold. This can work. Kids as young as 4 can play as a rock band. The kids were sold. Playing an instrument was easier then they thought. It was just as easy as playing their toy instruments except this sounded better this sounded bigger.


20 minutes later the parents came in. the band settled into their simple E minor quarter note groove. You should have seen the looks on their faces. I can only imagine the emotions they felt seeing their little kids who still nap and throw temper tantrums having a moment. Having a rock star moment.


This was the beginning of something big.


Over the course of the next few months I created a basic blueprint of a curriculum. It took a lot of experimenting with tuning and notation options and just trying to figure out what this age group can and can’t do. I eventually opened the class for paid enrollment. I made $30,000 in revenue for my first year with Kidzrock. Kidzrock saved my music school.  The recession grinded on and teenagers fled to garages and basements to form their own bands. My school filled up with, 4 5 6 and 7-year-olds playing in Kidzrock. These kids were my future students in private lessons. Some of them, 9 years later are still in Rock School. More students in my studio for longer was a win for everyone.







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