How to Market Group Piano | Ep 127

How to Market Group Piano

If you look at any culture in the world, music plays a central role. Music is a celebration of that culture. Music absorbs the essence of that culture and turns it into sound. You can hear music from the Middle East and perhaps you’ve never been there, but the music gives you a taste of what that world feels like. It transports you to that culture.


Music is an essential part of life. Imagine what your life would be like without music. Imagine what your life would be like without listening to music and without playing music. Your music studio is a doorway into the world of being able to play music. Everyone loves to listen to music. Everyone’s emotions are stirred up when they hear music. People who don’t play an instrument fantasize and they wonder what it must be like to hold music in their hand.


how to market group piano


— Show Transcript —


Music and Community

What it must be like to be on the other side, to transition from listener to active participant in music. It’s almost like being able to watch a movie and step into the screen and be a part of the action on the screen. We take it for granted because it’s been a part of our lives for most of our lives.


The promise you make to your customers is that they’re going to be able to step through the movie screen. It’s like that ’80s song, Take Me On by A-ha, with the teenage girl reading a comic strip and the boy reaches out from within the comic strip and pulls her into his world. Your music studio allows children to access the other side. Music not only brings communities and cultures together, but the act of actually playing music is quite often a communal event.


Ensemble Performance Elevates the Experiences

A solo piano can be touching, can be beautiful, can be full of emotion, but a piano backed by an orchestra takes the musical experience to another level. Music is the ultimate team sport. Yet for some reason, our industry doesn’t treat music as a team sport. We encourage children to build up some skills before they join the team.


When I was in fourth grade, we had the option to be in a program at school called Strings. It was group lessons. It was a precursor to Orchestra that we would have an option to participate in, in junior high school. In fourth grade, we called it Strings. Nobody could play. I picked the cello. Some kids played violin or viola. We equally sounded terrible, but we didn’t care. We sounded terrible together. It was fun. We made a big sound; an albeit out-of-tune big sound, but it was a big sound.


Making Private Lessons the Destination

I really liked my Strings class. I loved the cello. So what did my mom do? She signed me up for cello lessons. It made sense at that point for me to go into private cello lessons. I had tried private piano lessons, but I found it too laborious. As I mentioned in my previous podcast about the practice problem, I had a positive experience when someone simply showed me how to play songs on the piano.


When I went into a more formal learning environment with note reading and a method book, I lost interest and quit my lessons within a matter of a couple of months. Whereas when I went into cello private lessons, it was different because my teacher was helping me work on the material that I was learning in my Strings class. In addition to that, she also introduced me to the Mel Bay Cello Method.



Starting Kids Out in Group Piano

My cello lessons resonated with me in a way that my piano lessons didn’t because my cello lessons were helping me do well in my Strings class. I learned a great lesson from that when I became a music educator myself. From day one, I built my school around this whole idea of music being a communal experience. Initially, children had to develop some fundamental skills before they could transition into an ensemble setting, but then I flipped the whole thing on its head.


I made a group or ensemble be the introduction into playing an instrument, just like I had experienced as a child in my Strings program. As an adult and as a musician, my tolerance for out-of-tune music and poorly executed music is very different then it was when I was a kid. I didn’t care how terrible my group sounded and my string group sounded.


how to market group piano

Flipping My Music School on Its Head

It was so fun. I reminded myself of that when I flipped my music school on its head when I was putting complete beginners into a group setting, playing as an ensemble, learning as an ensemble. I noticed that the kids didn’t seem to really mind that they were out of tune. They didn’t seem to mind when they were hitting, or when they played a bad note. I also realized that their tolerance for repetition was much greater than mine. As an adult and developed musician, I had a tendency to have the group play a piece of music, and once it sounded pretty good after eight or 16 bars, I’d stop them from playing. I’d call it off and move on to the next challenge.



Understanding How Kids Think

I realized, the kids, could sit there for three to five minutes playing something over and over and over. I thought back to my childhood when I learned Heart and Soul on the piano when I played when I learned Chopsticks on the piano when I learned my first pop song on the piano, I would just play it over and over and over again because the child in me would dream and fantasize as I was playing. The adult in me when I play, I don’t daydream like that as much.


This Friday on May 7th, I’ll be hosting a webinar called The 3 Secrets of Marketing Group Piano. In this webinar, I’m going to talk about trying to change the mindset of a new customer. New customers want to sign their child up for private lessons because that’s what good parents do. They sign their children up for private lessons and there’s social pressure to do that. That’s what everybody else is doing. There’s social pressure to sign up for piano lessons. People believe that the piano is the best instrument to start off with.


Positive Peer Pressure

I don’t know where that belief came from. I think it’s a great instrument to start off with. I don’t know if it’s the best instrument to start off with. I mean, sure, the piano gives you kind of a bird’s eye view of music. You understand how bass, harmony, and melody work together. You have two hands equally engaged with producing notes. You don’t have that on the guitar; one hand is making the strings vibrate while the other hand’s freezing the notes.


I believe kids would be more excited about playing music if their first step into playing music was similar to what I experienced as a child when I was in my Strings program. Where day one, they’re in a group. Where day one, it’s a social environment. Where day one, they’re working as a team to create a sound. In a private lesson, the child is trying to please the teacher, the teacher’s giving the child an assignment, and the child wants the approval of the teacher the next week when they come back in, they want their approval of their parents, but in a group setting, positive peer pressure comes into play.


Kids Become Inspired by Their Peers

In the group setting, the approval of their peers is a part of the equation. That’s so much more meaningful to them than the approval of a teacher or a parent. It’s meaningful in a different way. The approval they seek from their peers can be a form of inspiration.


There’s nothing like a kid in a group piano class, looking at the child next to them, thinking to themselves, “Wow, what they’re playing really sounds great. I want to play that. I want to be more like that kid.” That is a real source of motivation. When you, as an instructor, play a little piece on the piano or you show a child, “Okay, this is what we’re going to be working on. Let me play for you what it sounds like in its final form.”


Making Piano Lessons Social

The kid goes, “Well, yeah, you’re 30 years old. You’re an adult. What you’re playing sounds really beautiful, but it also sounds really hard. I’m not going to be able to do that.” But when an eight-year-old is sitting next to a seven-year-old, and the seven-year-old is playing something that’s impressing the eight-year-old, now the eight-year-old is thinking, “Well, if that seven-year-old can do it, I can do it. I don’t want to come back here next week and have this seven-year-old next to me playing better than me. I’m going to practice during the week.” My whole approach to group classes has always been, the group is rehearsing together. They’re not functioning as a separate entity, because then it really is a social experience.


Dealing With Different Skill Levels in a Group

Now in this webinar on May 7th, I’m going to talk a lot about how to deal with these different skill levels within a group?” That was the first challenge I had. The very first group class I taught, it was a group guitar class, and instantly, even though everybody was a beginner in there, some kids were picking up quicker than others. How do you deal with that? Well, I came up with a way.


I came up with a way that would allow the group, allow the kids to progress together, each child progresses at their own pace, but nonetheless, there is a group sound that they’re creating. Now, when I talk about in this webinar how I’m going to teach you The 3 Secrets to Marketing Group Piano, I’m not going to be talking about some Facebook hack or Google ad-words strategy.


how to market group piano classes

Thinking Differently About Group Piano

I’m going to be talking about how to get parents to think differently about group piano classes because that’s the first hurdle; it’s the parents. When you talk about group piano to a parent, they don’t even really know what you’re talking about because they don’t have an image of what a group piano class looks like. It wasn’t a part of their life. The minute you mention group piano, they think, “Wait a minute, I’m calling about private piano lessons. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Everybody else is doing that. That’s what I did as a child. Yeah, I hated it. That’s what my mom did. My mom was a good parent. So I’m going to be a good parent, too. I’m signing my kids up for private piano lessons.”


Changing the Group Piano Narrative

I’m not going to reveal all the secrets that I’ll reveal in the webinar here on this podcast, but one of the secrets is how to tear down the story that parents have in their minds about group piano.  You achieve this by showing them an outcome, painting a picture of what the future will look like for their child and how group piano will get them there.


Some parents look at piano lessons as like a math tutor. They want piano lessons to be fun, they want them to be enjoyable, but some parents are really motivated by the character traits that they believe piano lessons will give their child. They believe that the process of learning to play the piano and struggling with it, overcoming obstacles, will build their child’s character – and it’s true. Mastering any instrument will help a child achieve that. There are parents who would like their child to enjoy piano lessons and would hope that they perceive it as fun, but that’s not necessarily what their main hope is.


Parents and Piano Lessons

Their main hope is that their child grows as a person from it, just like a child grows as a student at school. They know that their kid doesn’t love school. They didn’t love school as a kid, but they’re thankful that they went to school and they’re thankful for the life lessons that they learned as a student in school. It’s okay if their child doesn’t enjoy piano lessons. It’s okay if it’s a struggle. It’s okay if they want to quit.


This is an opportunity to teach your child the importance of commitment and follow-through, even when the going gets tough. Now personally, and this is not my philosophy or attitude towards private lessons. I do think they should be fun. I do think they should be enjoyable. I do think it should be a therapeutic experience. Practice, specifically, should be a therapeutic experience for a child.


Fun VS Rigor

But sure, there are parents out there that view music lessons, or put it in the same category, as they do math. They want it to be rigorous. It’s okay if their child perceives it as homework, it’s giving their child a competitive edge. They believe in, or they buy into this narrative, that music will somehow make you smarter. But even with math, a child starts out in a group setting. They’re doing math in the classroom.


When they’re struggling with it, they do what my mom did when I was in my Strings class, they get a private tutor. I was struggling in Strings.  Everybody was struggling in fourth grade trying to master the mechanics of their string instrument. My mom got me a private teacher so I could improve that skill. When a child’s struggling in math class, they get a private tutor to help them improve their math skills.


How to Market Group Piano and Reposition Private Lessons

I saw a big shift when I repositioned private lessons. The private lesson is for the child who’s taking their instrument pretty seriously, and they want to work through some of their frustrations. They want to get better. They want to improve those skills. They want to get those mechanics working for them. My group classes set the stage for private lessons.


Some kids stayed in groups forever, and they never went into private lessons and they weren’t progressing as quickly as the kids in private lessons. That’s fine. They could participate, just like in my Strings class. Only a few of us were in private lessons. And as a result of me being in private lessons and working hard at it, I became the first chair cellist by the time I got into junior high school. I was rewarded for my hard work.


Piano Lessons and Status

I gained a new sense of status by being the principal cellist of my junior high orchestra. I switched to double bass in high school and I maintained that title, that status, in the high school. When you present group classes to parents as an opportunity where their child can learn to grow musically, but they can also be a part of a communal experience because music is a communal effort. You can help parents understand how their child will develop leadership and team-building skills in the group class because they can’t develop those skills in private lessons.


There is no team, there’s no community in the private lesson. The private lesson teaches a child about setting goals, hard work, perseverance. The group class does that as well, but it brings in this whole social component, and this whole communal component and parents want their child to develop those skills.


Creating a New Opportunity for Your Students

They just don’t realize that that’s an opportunity or a possibility for their child when they’re signing up for music lessons. They’re not thinking about that. They turn to softball for that. They turn to soccer for that. But I would argue that with music, there’s a level of accountability that doesn’t exist in sports. You need everybody in the music group to be working together. In softball, you can have the right fielder out there picking dandelions and the game goes on. When a group of fourth-graders are playing music together, no one can stop to pick dandelions, the whole thing falls apart. Group music classes can teach children about accountability, which is something they haven’t really learned about yet.


They’re not getting that as much in school. If you can show a parent that not only is their child going to learn everything that they’re going to get from their private lesson, they’re going to get more. Now the parents’ perception of the group class begins to change. The way they value the group class changes, and they’ll be willing to pay more for that once they understand the true value of group piano classes.


Do you Offer Group Piano?

  • Do you offer group piano classes?
  • What’s your biggest challenge?
  • What about this blog post did you find helpful?

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