How To Make More Money With Less Music Students With Darren Siman | Ep 70

Make More Money With Less Music Students

Darren Siman runs a music studio with group classes only…and his students love it. Darren creates a musical experience for these kids that they would never receive in a private lesson. The focus is on ensemble learning and performance. This model allows him to run a highly profitable business with fewer students. The lower payroll and tax expense leave more money in the business.


Darren’s Boston-based studio, The Jam Zone offers Kidzrock and Jr. Rockerz and DJ classes that serve kids ages 4-18. The private lesson is positioned as the destination. It’s for the kids that really connect with music and want to hone their skills.


Darren’s big challenge is that he receives phone calls from people that want private lessons, and as a salesperson, he has to show them how group classes are going to be more beneficial and more desirable for them. It’s the equivalent of someone going into a restaurant and ordering the chicken special and the waiter tries to persuade the customer that the T-bone steak will do a better job of meeting their needs. This would be an ethical effort as long as the waiter’s motivations are based on the customer’s needs.


But Customers Want Private Lessons…Right?

How can this work? How can a music studio not offer private lessons? How can they only offer group classes? A lot of people view group classes as being of lesser value than the private lesson. Customers perceive it that way and studio owners perceive it that way and they indicate that by how they price it. They present it as the more affordable alternative to private lessons. Sports, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, almost all of these after-school activities, start students out in a group class. But not the music studio. We do it differently, we start our students out in private lessons.  Why is that?



I believe we do it this way because that’s just how we’ve always done it. The fact that many, perhaps even most, kids don’t enjoy to practice.  The fact that many kids don’t love their music lessons creates an opportunity to explore other approaches to music education.



In 1915, if you wanted your child to learn how to play an instrument, or if you wanted to bring music into your home and you couldn’t afford a Victrola or a player piano, someone’s got to learn how to play an instrument. And the only way they’re going to learn is that they’re going to go to a music teacher. They’re going to learn how to read music. They’re going to be learning how to play classical music. Most likely if you had enough money in 1915 to own a piano, you were probably listening to classical music and not ragtime.


Classical was the proper way to learn the instrument. But things have changed since then. Technology has changed. Education has changed. People’s attitudes about even reading music has changed. There are other ways to learn. You can go on to YouTube and learn how to play a song and play it well and execute it well and play with emotion and still not know how to read music. Now, learning how to read music, of course, there’s a lot of benefits to it.


Note reading simply exists as a way for the composer to communicate their idea. It was the only way to communicate their idea. There was no way to even record it. But again, in 2020, it’s very different. There’s other ways to learn. And it’s important to be open-minded. It’s important to look at what’s best for the child. What’s the best way to engage children in music education? How do we make our music lessons fun? We all declare that our lessons are fun, but what are we doing to really make it fun? What are we doing to make them different? Survey your customers and ask them if they took music lessons as a child. And the ones who say that they did, ask them if they enjoyed their music lessons, what their impressions were of those music lessons.


And I promise you, a majority, if not almost all of them, will say that they hated their music lessons. That’s what we’re going up against. And Darren Simon today is going to talk about his group programs that his students love, that the parents love, and I can only imagine how much Darren loves what it’s doing for his bottom line. I hear these music studios talking about how anywhere from 40 to 60% of the sale is going to the teacher. And I guess that’s what you got to do, if you’re hiring teachers that demand top dollar. Even if you charge top dollar for your lessons, the majority of it is going to the teacher, not to you, the studio owner.


And you’ve got a lot of expenses. You’ve got rent, you’ve got utilities, you got insurance, you got taxes. What if your entire studio was nothing but group programs? Your profit margins would skyrocket, that’s a given. But the challenge here is, or the question to ask is, are these group programs, are they really going to engage kids and get them turned on and excited about playing music? And if the answer is yes, that it can be done then the private lesson can be positioned as a destination. The seven-year-old girl that wants to be a ballerina, well, mom signs her up the dance studio and she maybe goes into a hip hop class. The dance studio owner says, look, the hip hop class is fun, she’ll be with her peers. It’s going to be easy. She’s going to feel really good about herself in that.


And then look, if she really connects with dance, then she can look at maybe moving into a jazz or a tap program. And maybe from there, she can move into ballet. And then maybe when she’s older and she’s really getting good at ballet, she can then work with a private coach. Why doesn’t music do it that way? Darren Simon has committed to get in line how sports do it, how dance, martial arts and gymnastics do it. One thing that we can’t measure is the barrier that the private lesson in the practice expectation puts on a potential customer.


What if a potential customer is trying to decide between dance and private lessons? Well they’re going to have to buy an instrument, they’re going to, their child’s probably going to push back and resist practicing just like mom did, mom’s going to have to be on her child every day. This is certainly a fear that she might be having. She might just go with dance instead. That’s going to be easier. My daughter’s going to love it. I’ll just do dance.


We don’t know about these conversations that go on at home. What if we can lower that barrier to entry and say to our customers, anyone can do this. You don’t even have to buy an instrument to do this. Everything’s going to happen here in the class. You can buy the instrument later. Let’s see if your child’s really connecting and loving with this. And you know what, practice, that’s optional. Practice is going to allow your child to get to that next level quicker, but first things first. That means as studio owners we have to broaden our palate, our musical palate, just like the dance studio owner who started her studio because she loved ballet and wanted her studio to be all about ballet.


And now she comes into this artistic and philosophical dilemma of should she do hip hop or not? But hip hop is going to be a more accessible point of entry for the eight year old kid. The eight year old’s already being exposed to some of that music and to some of that movement. What can we learn about the dance studio owner and how can we apply that to the music studio? Can we broaden our musical palates a bit and focus, not on our wants and needs, but what the customer wants, what the market wants? How can we make it easier and more inviting for the people in our communities to sign up at our studios to learn how to play music?


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