How To Market Your Music Lessons Using Pleasure and Pain | Ep 124

Using Tension in Your Marketing

In all marketing, you’re either moving towards pleasure or away from pain. Doesn’t that apply to life as well?  The same applies to music with its endless dance of harmony and dissonance.


Pleasure Vs Pain

Music can become too jarring if it’s pure dissonance. Music is boring if it’s an endless thread of chord tones.  Music becomes more interesting with a blend of tension and release. Life becomes more interesting with tension and release. Marketing also becomes more compelling with a similar dynamic; this give and take.


Here’s a Good Question

In this week’s episode, I answer a question from listener Demitris Maddox of Chatalbash Music


As you know, we have two reasons why we buy anything, either to move us closer towards pleasure or to move us away from pain. I believe that in the music education industry and the piano  industry in particular, that a lot of people try to market the going towards pleasure. You know your child will love lessons here. They will be an amazing person. I feel like that’s a lot of pie in the sky sort of thinking. I think that we don’t know if the child will love lessons here. It almost comes across as a lie. But I do feel that if a person markets the pain of said lesson or the pain of not getting lessons, then that speaks more true.


If I could think of an example off the top of my head, it’s something along the lines of, if your child doesn’t take lessons here, they will not be as well-rounded of a person. Having your child take lessons here makes them a more well-rounded person. I feel like talking like that sounds less pie in the sky and more grounded.


I think that when we are talking in marketing the pain of not taking the action of piano lessons, I feel like that speaks more directly to the end customer. It speaks more towards the parent. If we’re doing adult lessons, it speaks more towards the adults, and it kind of sets you up in a nice way, because there are a lot of piano teachers and a lot of music studios who are only talking about the hypeness of it all. I just wanted to know what you thought about that in terms of marketing the pain, because I don’t see a lot of people marketing the pain.



market your music lessons


– – Show Transcript – –


Pleasure and Pain

A lot of really great stuff going on here in this question. I want to break it down point by point. The first thing that  Demitris says, and he kind of dropped some knowledge on us, he says, “All marketing is either moving towards pleasure or away from pain.” I just love that. I think there’s a lot to chew on there.


Painful Memories of Music Lessons

Really good marketing balances both.  By pointing out a pleasurable outcome, you’re also defining the pain as well. Let’s say for example, a music school says, “We offer fun music lessons.” Well, there’s the pleasure, but you’re also moving away from the pain, the pain being that a lot of parents perceive music lessons that is something that’s not pleasurable. That’s painful because they themselves had negative experiences as a child with music lessons. Points to consider when you market music lessons.


It’s pretty safe to assume that a majority of the parents in your studio who’ve taken music lessons probably had either a terrible experience or kind of a mixed bag of emotions when it comes to them reflecting on their childhood music lessons.


Shouldn’t Fun Music Lessons Be Given?

The fact that we even have to define them as fun is I think a bit odd because everyone loves listening to music. You would think learning to actually do that, it would be redundant to say that it’s fun. It would be like an amusement park saying, “We’re a fun amusement park.” There’s no need to say that. All amusement parks are fun, but by simply saying our music lessons are fun, you’re showing people the end result and you’re also addressing that pain. You’re saying we’re going to move your child away from that pain that you experienced and more towards pleasure.


I encourage you with all of your marketing and as you’re writing it, ask yourself, does this sentence, am I defining the pleasure that the customer’s moving towards, or am I defining the pain that I’m trying to pull the customer away from? So for example, when you come out and talk about the details of your lessons and how much they cost and what the child will learn in the lesson, you’re not tapping into either pleasure or pain. You’re tapping into details and into facts. Not that those things aren’t important, but they’re not important upfront. Those become important once the customer has bought into this idea that you’re the ideal music studio for them, that you understand them, that you can guide them away from pain and towards pleasure.


It’s one thing to say your music lessons are fun. It’s another thing when people read your sales copy and say, “Wow, this sounds fun.” It’s another thing when a kid comes out of their first lesson and mom says, “So how was it? How was your lesson?” And the child looks up to her and says, “It was so fun.”


Ethical VS Unethical Marketing

Then  Demitris talks about how a lot of music studios make these pie-in-the-sky promises. “Your child will love music lessons here, “fun music lessons”, “life-changing music lessons.” These are pretty grandiose statements. It’s pie-in-the-sky marketing, or it’s an empty promise or even unethical marketing if all you do is say our music lessons are fun and then leave it at that. It becomes ethical marketing when you say, “Okay, this is the claim we’re going to make. Now we’re going to obsess over how to make good on our promise.”


What do fun music lessons look like? How do we define fun? How can the idea of fun permeate every aspect of our business? It’s one thing to say your music lessons are fun. It’s another thing when people read your sales copy and say, “Wow, this sounds fun.” It’s another thing when a kid comes out of their first lesson and mom says, “So how was it? How was your lesson?” And the child looks up to her and says, “It was so fun.”


Make a Promise in Your Marketing 

It all begins with making that promise. Part of that promise is real and part of it’s aspirational. “Life-changing music lessons”, that’s a recent headline I saw. I really like. Wow, that’s bold, that’s a big promise, life-changing music lessons. Well, I don’t know about you, but music changed my life for the better. I wouldn’t be the person who I am if not for my relationship with music, if not for my ability to express myself through music, if not for my ability to turn to music during a difficult time in my life, or when I just need a little emotional pick me up. It’s life-changing. Then the music school that claims that has to obsess over how do we do this? How do we make our music lessons life-changing?


That music school isn’t going to change lives by teaching more scales and more chord inversions. They’re not going to be changing lives if their students can work through curriculum and method books faster and more effectively than other music studios.


They’re going to change lives by also creating opportunities for their students, opportunities beyond the music lesson, performance opportunities, opportunities to be celebrated on social media, creating opportunities for children to be in leadership roles. Whatever claim you make on your website in your marketing, you have to obsess over what it is or how you’re going to make that a reality, otherwise it’s unethical marketing. It’s not a lie.  Demitris says, “Well, it feels like it’s sometimes a lie.” It’s just a promise that’s thrown out there that isn’t followed up by action.


If you say our music lessons are fun, it’s not a guarantee. It’s an aspiration. You can back that aspiration with a guarantee.  The Music Factory in Orange County, has a 30-day lesson pass, a 30-day money-back guarantee.


Aspirational Marketing

Let’s say you were going to write an ad about yourself on You describe yourself as a compassionate, caring person, that you’re a good listener and you care about those that you love. Perhaps those are actually character traits or attributes that you’ve struggled with in the past with previous relationships. But nonetheless, it’s something that you’re committed to working on, that you’re really trying to be a better listener and a more caring and compassionate person. Is it a lie to claim that that is who you are in your eHarmony ad? No, not if you’re actively working towards achieving that.


music lesson marketing

Make a Guarantee 

If you say our music lessons are fun, it’s not a guarantee. It’s an aspiration. You can back that aspiration with a guarantee.  The Music Factory in Orange County, has a 30-day lesson pass, a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with your lessons after 30 days, we’ll give you all your money back. Now that’s a guarantee. That’s putting some skin in the game.


If you say our music lessons are fun, our music lessons are life-changing, your kids are going to love music lessons here, and if they don’t, we’ll give you your money back after 30 days, we feel so strongly about our brand promise. Your brand promise is an aspiration. We’re doing everything we can to make these music lessons fun for your child. We’re going to even back it with a guarantee. We want your child to experience this and if for any reason they feel like they aren’t, then we’ll give you all your money back. That eliminates all the risks. You, the studio owner, you’re absorbing the risk, which is very appealing or attractive to prospective students.


Amplify the Pain

Then  Demitris talks about this idea that everyone’s always talking about these sort of appealing aspirations of fun lessons and lessons we love, but he says, “Well, what if we focus on the pain of not getting the lesson, that if your child doesn’t take lessons here, that they’re not going to be as well-rounded of a person that you hoped that they would be.” What if you position your music school as the one who can make good on the promise and that really nobody else can? That’s tricky.


Express Your Customers Feelings to Build Trust

Maybe I’m reading in a little bit to what he’s saying, but aligning yourself with the customer, expressing empathy, showing them that you understand them, saying, “This is what our hopes are for your child. This is what impact we want to have on your child’s life, and this is specifically how we’re going to achieve that,” you don’t start talking about chords and scales, but we’re going to achieve this by doing X, Y, and Z, the customer comes to the conclusion that if their child doesn’t take lessons with you, that they’re not going to achieve the results that they desire, that your customer or that your competition down the street when they call them, they didn’t do as good of a job as expressing the customer’s hopes, desires, and fears. They weren’t as empathetic.


I’m sure their lessons are probably good. They seem very professional and nice. But when they talk to you, they feel like you understand them on a deeper level. The implication is that if they don’t take lessons with you, they’re not going to achieve the result they desired.


Stomping Out Bad Music Lessons

All marketing makes a statement, but beneath those statements are implications. For example, the statement we make music lessons fun, easy, and accessible. Our goal is to have your child playing music and experiencing success on day one. Those are all very positive statements, very desirable statements, but beneath all that positivity is a negative undercurrent. Each statement is stomping out the fear that the customer has about music lessons, that playing an instrument seems really hard for your customer to do because they tried it as a kid and it was really hard.


After two to three months of lessons, they couldn’t play very much. You’re telling me on day one, my kid’s going to be able to play. I never felt like a success in music lessons. You’re telling me my kid’s going to experience success on day one. You’re moving towards pleasure and away from pain at the same time.


Pain From the Past

Demitris also says that when you talk about pain, you’re speaking more directly to the customer. Well, yeah, you are, especially if that pain really resonates with them. When you talk about the pain of music lessons of the past for the parent, there’s a good chance that either a parent is going to relate directly to that pain, or perhaps they never took music lessons, but they know that other people did, and that’s what they experienced. Or they were people like us who took music lessons and loved it, but also realize that many of our peers did not have such a positive experience.


There’s a classic sales strategy that works and it’s to come out on the pain. Statements such as playing an instrument is hard to do, right? Or all kids love music, but not all kids love music lessons. Or have you ever heard someone play an instrument and feel like it would take forever to accomplish? Perhaps it seemed even impossible. Those are all statements of pain. They’re also a bit shocking. Why would a music school come out and say something so shocking? Why are they addressing my greatest fear? You take that pain, then you amplify it a little bit more with another statement.


Lift the Customer Up With Pleasure

Then from there, you transition into the pleasure, into the solution. Here at Dave’s Music School, we believe that playing an instrument is easy and then anyone can do it. Our approach to music education allows children on day one to accomplish X, Y, and Z, and feel, then you name an emotion. By addressing the customer’s pain, you can build credibility and a sense of expertise.


It’s like if you went to the doctor and you said, “Yeah, Doctor, you know, I’ve been having this problem in my elbow and I’m just not sure what’s going on,” and then the doctor says, “Well, are you experiencing a slight pinching in your neck?” “Yeah, actually I am, now that you mention it.” “Are you feeling a tingling in your fingers?” “Wow. Yes. How did you know?” The doctor’s the expert on building a sense of trust in this doctor. I only said that my elbow hurts and the doctor is putting the puzzle together for me. You can do the same, or you should do the same in your marketing.


Your Marketing Message is Just the Beginning 

But once you get your beautifully well-crafted message, you have to obsess on how do you make that a reality? I encourage you to pick one word, perhaps it’s fun. Perhaps it’s life-changing. Perhaps it’s even rigorous and say, “How do we get this idea? How do we take this aspiration and have it permeate through every aspect of our studio? All of our marketing express this desire. How do we in the lesson make this desire become a reality?” It’s no longer pie in the sky marketing. It’s no longer an empty promise. It’s an aspiration. The ultimate sign of marketing success is when your customers describe you to their friends using the same language that you use in your marketing.


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