MASS Vs BAM Which Program is Best For Your Music Academy? | EP 156

December 17, 2021

Music Academy Success System (MASS) VS Build a Music School (BAM)

One of the best things you could do for your business is to invest in yourself. To invest in your knowledge of business and marketing. Many of us start our music teaching businesses with little to no knowledge of these two disciplines. I would fall into the “no knowledge” camp. My musical and teaching abilities allowed me to grow my school to maybe 90 or 100 students. But it became pretty self-evident that my lack of knowledge in business was preventing me from taking my music school to the next level.

 

Two programs Music Academy Success System (MASS)  and Build a Music School (BAM)  teach music academy owners how to run a successful music school.  In today’s show, I’m going to hold these programs up side by side to look at what they offer and I’ll share with you my thoughts on each program’s strengths and where they could also make some improvements.

 

I’ll be honest with you, I secretly dreaded the business side of my music school until I joined the MASS program. The program helped me not only understand business functions but the program helped me develop a love of marketing. I loved it because when I took the time to put a marketing plan together I got results. I made more money. I figured all I need to do is learn more about this marketing stuff and I would continue to get better results. I was right. And here I am today with a marketing podcast.

 

Marty Fort and MASS

 

It All Started With MASS

Let’s look at MASS and BAM.  There are lots of coaching programs in the music education space but these two programs appear to be not only the largest in terms of members but the most robust in terms of scope and content. People have been asking and talking about MASS and BAM in the Music and Lessons Marketing Facebook group for years so I thought it might be helpful to look at these two programs in depth.

 

Before I begin the review a few disclaimers since I have a personal connection with both of these programs. I’ll do my best to present a balanced and honest review. As I already mentioned I was a member of MASS maybe 10 years ago for 6-8 months. I was pleased and grateful for the results I got from the program. After a few months, I felt I had learned a lot, became interested in learning more about marketing, and discontinued the program. I feel like I have a good sense of how the program has evolved over the years from the conversations in the Facebook group and speaking with school owners who are currently in the program.

 

The folks over at BAM were generous enough to provide me with access to the program so I could see what it’s all about. I was a little surprised they provided me with access and trusted me not to take some of their concepts since I also coach music schools. I have worked through most of the program-I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen so far. I don’t own a music school anymore so I can’t comment on whether I got good results from the program as I did with MASS.

 

I do think it’s important that you know that I reached out to BAM after reviewing their program to see if there were any ways I could help promote the program. I am now an affiliate partner of BAM so I have my biases but my biases are based on my experience with MASS and my impressions of BAM. The good news is both of these programs work. MASS worked for me and I’ve heard plenty of music schools express their appreciation of BAM. The question is which program is best for you.

Jonny Willson quote BAM

Program Costs

The way I’m going to conduct this review is to share the backstory of these two organizations and how they deliver their programs. I’ll provide an overview of what they teach in their programs and my thoughts on the value of what they teach.

 

First, let’s take a look at how much these programs cost. BAM charges $175 a month and MASS has 3 membership levels of $99, $199, $1,000 a month. Obviously, with MASS each membership level comes with added perks.

 

MASS and BAM’s Origin Stories

A little background on these programs and their founders. MASS was started by music school owner Marty Fort over 12 years ago. Marty was the first person that I’m aware of, offering such a comprehensive business growth and marketing program designed specifically for music school owners. Back when he started there were no blogs, podcasts, or Facebook groups that taught music school owners the fundamentals of business and marketing. None that I’m aware of. Since his start, our industry is now flush, maybe even saturated with self-declared business and marketing experts. And I certainly consider myself one of these people, hopefully adding value and not noise to our industry.

 

Marty owns three music schools in South Carolina, Columbia Arts Academy,  Irmo Music Academy, and the Lexington Arts Academy. The MASS website states that these schools serve over 1,600 students. Clearly, this guy knows what he’s doing. Clearly, Marty Fort has valuable information that school owners can learn from. I’ve heard of music schools with 500-600 students but Marty was the first person that I was at least aware of, with over 1,000 students.

 

BAM was started by Jonny Wilson, the former owner of Goodtime Music Academy in New Zealand. While Jonny was the owner of his school he had over 2,000 students split between his single location as well as his music bus program which I’ll address in a bit. He also developed an online elementary school music program that is taught to over 100,000 kids. Jonny also started the Goodtime Foundation which is a non for profit organization that provides free music lessons and mentoring to at-risk youth.

 

BAM was recently launched in 2019. I don’t know how many members are in BAM or MASS but I do know that BAM is generating quite a buzz on social media which is what lead me to want to check out their program.

MASS music academy success and BAM

Physical VS Digitial 

One significant differentiator is how MASS and BAM deliver their programs. MASS ships out a series of spiral-bound books. They hold a monthly call for members where they can call in and ask questions. This call is recorded and mailed to members on a CD and includes a monthly newsletter with program updates and new information. I have to assume that these newsletters and recorded calls are available to members online. MASS also provides a private Facebook group for members to connect. MASS hosts an annual conference for its members.

 

These conferences are impressive. I attended one and it was really well put together with great speakers, presentations, and break-out sessions. These conferences anchor the program. I was super fired up after attending the conference I went to. BAM had their first conference scheduled in 2019 on a tropical Island, somewhere between New Zealand and Hawaii, which was canceled due to COVID but they do play on doing their first conference in 2022 which will really elevate the program to another level.

 

BAM is delivered as an online course that covers all aspects of running and marketing a music school. The online portal also includes a free teaching curriculum for private and group lessons. I wasn’t expecting that; a complete curriculum that you can incorporate into your studio. BAM hosts a monthly mastermind group. They also host a members-only Facebook group where Jonny goes live once a month for some Q&A. Lots of similarities here. But the contrast of physical vs digital is significant. MASS is delivered physically (Books, CD, and Newsletters) and BAM digitally.

The Biggest Challenge MASS and BAM Face

Both MASS and BAM have to continually update and add new material to remain relevant. BAM has the upper hand here since they have technology on their side. There are lots of programs like BAM and MASS in other industries. All of the programs that I’ve signed up for or in sync with the BAM model; an online digital course. A course that shares its knowledge through video and downloadable files.

 

Messaging 

Next, I want to talk about each programs’ messaging. Their messaging is not only distinctly different from each other but reveals each program’s unique approach to marketing. By messaging I mean, the position that you take and the language that you use to express your brand promise and uniqueness. We can learn a lot about what makes these programs different, by simply looking at the first frame of the home page of their websites.  I encourage you to pull up both company’s websites (website 1 website 2) and just check out their above-the-fold on their homepage. The above-the-fold is the first frame of a webpage.

 

With MASS‘s website, we see a large crowd of people posing together at what looks like a conference. The headline reads, “THE LARGEST INTERNATIONAL COACHING ORGANIZATION FOR 100% MUSIC ACADEMY OWNERS ONLY.”

 

If you pull up the BAM website you’ll see a collection of selfies of people wearing #Bamsquad t-shirts. The Bamsquad is the name of the BAM community. The headline reads “We Help Private Music Teachers & Academy Owners Build Wildly Successful Businesses THAT MAKE A PROFIT AND A DIFFERENCE”

MASS

The MASS Website

The MASS website shows a large crowd of people which is social proof that a lot of people are in this program. It’s proof that this program must work on some level. Otherwise, it would just be Marty Fort standing alone in the picture. This image might even trigger a feeling of FOMO. Fear of missing out. Look at all of these music school owners that are in this program. What if my competition is a member of this group. I want the knowledge that all of these people clearly endorse. Powerful and effective stuff. If you take a step back, the headline reveals the heart of the marketing concepts taught in MASS.

 

The headline also summarizes for me what concerns me most about MASS’s approach to marketing. Let’s take a closer. “THE LARGEST INTERNATIONAL COACHING ORGANIZATION FOR 100% MUSIC ACADEMY OWNERS ONLY.”

 

MASS claims they are “THE LARGEST INTERNATIONAL COACHING ORGANIZATION.” How do they know this? How do they know they are the largest in the world. They might suspect that they are. They don’t have access to BAM’s sales figures or some of the other seemingly smaller music school coaching programs. There’s just no way to verify this claim. There’s no way to say with certainty who’s the largest. I’m not certain music school owners necessarily care. What if MASS found out that BAM was actually a bigger program; would they change their headline as a result?

 

The MASS program teaches music schools to make impressive yet often unverifiable claims. We’ll look at how MASS teaches its members this approach in just a minute.

 

BAM

 

The BAM Website

Let’s look at BAM’s headline. “We Help Private Music Teachers & Academy Owners Build Wildly Successful Businesses THAT MAKE A PROFIT AND A DIFFERENCE.”

 

BAM positions itself as a guide or a helper by saying “We help”. We’re here to serve. Who are they serving? “Music Teachers & Academy Owners.” How do they help music teachers & academy owners? By building wildly successful businesses that make a profit. They take it a step further and say “and make a difference” meaning we’ll help you not only make more money but we’ll help you make the world a better place. We’ll help you live a more meaningful life.

 

Brand Promise

All good marketing rests on the shoulders of a brand promise. A brand promise is an outcome or transformation your product or service provides. Perhaps your music school makes the promise of music lessons that are fun and easy. BAM promises to help you build a successful business. MASS doesn’t make a promise.  They’re touting their credentials; “the largest international coaching program,” in our industry.

 

We’ll take a deeper dive into their marketing programs in a moment,  but first I want to look at what these programs have to offer and what they teach. Both programs’ main focus is on business and marketing strategies. Another way to look at it is as they focus on how to run your business and how to market your business.

 

MASS’s Business Program

Marty Fort clearly knows how to structure, manage and execute business functions. He knows how to build the engine of a business and make it go. His program does a good job of showing you how to…

  • Get your finances in order
  • Manage staff
  • Implement retention strategies
  • Hire and fire
  • Oversee all aspects of human resource’s
  • Manage billing and collections
  • Pricing strategies
  • Take an educated approach renting or buying a building
  • Be in good standing with the IRS
  • Simplify your policies
  • Implement makeup policies

 

It’s funny because these are all the aspects of business that I initially hated. Marty presents and teaches these ideas in a way that makes them less intimidating, more accessible, and manageable.

 

When I joined MASS my business systems were in shambles. I don’t think my customers picked up on it but it impacted my confidence. I felt like I was running around all day like a chicken with its head cut off. My administrative functions were not well defined or well managed. MASS provided me with a framework that within 4-6 months helped me transform my music school into a relatively smooth-running operation.

 

A smoother running operation allowed me to invest more time into marketing, grow my business, and attract more music students. my business. I have to assume that the business operations portion of MASS has only evolved and improved over the years.

 

BAM’s Business Program

BAM also does a good job of providing its members with the knowledge they need to develop and manage business functions and systems. BAM has a great section on leadership, strategic planning, and how to research and learn from your competition. I feel like both BAM and MASS are somewhat compatible in this area. Each has its own take on this topic of course but this is where technology benefits BAM. MASS’s teachings on business management are stretched across three platforms; books, CD’s and newsletters. BAM has all of its teachings neatly organized in an online course platform.  As Jonny Wilson creates new content, it’s integrated into the online program. This discrepancy in delivery. Digital vs physical really favors BAM in areas where the two programs arguably provide similar or equal value. I think both Marty and Jonny have good business smarts and are generous in what they share in their programs.

 

MASS and Marketing

I think MASS does a good job of teaching its members how to use different marketing tactics and how to manage these tools. Public relations strategies, direct mail strategies, print, and digital ads. Google Analytics,  and SEO. MASS does a good job promoting the importance of omnichannel marketing or as Marty calls it ponds. As in a pond of water. Omnichannel marketing means you’re marketing across multiple channels all at once, that you’re not implementing just one marketing tactic but multiple tactics simultaneously.

 

This is where strategy comes into play and MASS does a good job of promoting the value of strategy and teaching its members how to think strategically.

 

MASS puts a lot of emphasis on website design and messaging. Your website is your number one marketing asset so I’m glad he shines a spotlight on this. Messaging is to marketing what a melody is to a song. Melody is the essence of a song. Messaging is the essence of your marketing. When it comes to websites and messaging; I really struggle with Mass’s recommendations.

 

My Concerns With MASS

When I joined the program I was given the option to use a website template, complete with sales copy provided by MASS. I see many MASS websites today using both the older and an updated website template. This template is admittedly unattractive. I say this because at the MASS conference I attended Marty said he gets a lot of criticism for how his website and design in general looks. His design standards not only don’t reflect the standards found in other business coaching programs, but they don’t reflect design standards that most brands embrace.  Marty said he takes this, what I’ll call homemade or even amateur, approach to give his marketing materials a more local feel.

 

I like the sentiment of what he’s saying in terms of leveraging your local appeal, but his website design and messaging completely go against the norms of conventional marketing. Go to YouTube and look up “Donald Miller and website” and watch just a few minutes of the first 3 videos to see what I’m talking about. Some of the teachings in MASS’s marketing program don’t seem rooted in data and research. Specifically the teachings of messaging, copywriting, and website layout.

 

BAM and Marketing

The BAM program takes a different approach. Jonny Wilson is a super-literate marketer. He’s constantly referencing his sources and where he got his information from. Marty references Dan Kennedy a lot. Dan Kennedy is one of the marketing greats for sure. But he’s just one voice. BAM’s marketing program is based on experience, research, testing, and data. I believe all marketing advice should be supported by research, testing, and data.

 

My biggest concern with the MASS program has to do with its messaging. I talked earlier about MASS making unverifiable claims. This pattern trickles down into the music schools they coach.

 

Their messaging strategy is to pound their chest and claim they’re the best. MASS allows and encourages its members to use the same sales copy that Marty uses on his site.  Copy that makes claims such as “we’re the fastest-growing music school in our city” or “We’re the only music school in our city that teaches x, y, and z.”

 

Marketing becomes misleading when you make claims that are just speculation. I’m going to read to you some headlines from one of Marty’s school’s websites. All of these statements are speculation. They’re unverifiable. They might be aspirational but there’s no way to say for sure whether they’re actual. If you google any of these phrases, in quotes, you’ll discover other MASS schools using the identical language.

  • Winner of more awards than any other music school in the Midlands!
  • The largest and most qualified teaching faculty in Columbia
  • The widest range of music lesson times
  • The most technologically advanced and fully stocked music lesson rooms in Columbia!

 

How does Marty Fort know how many awards his competition has won? He has no way of measuring how qualified his competitor’s staff is. Does he know for sure that he has the widest range of lesson times available? What if his competition begins to offer more lesson times than his schools? Would he change his marketing? Why is he constantly comparing his school to the competition? Does he really know how technologically advanced his competitor’s teaching rooms are? Of course not. Do parents even care about how technologically advanced a music school’s rooms are?

 

Your sales copy, or how you express your music school in words, is your unique brand promise. The MASS approach to marketing, oddly enough, is not to make a brand promise at all. Instead, they encourage their members to declare how great they are.

 

Only you can define your brand promise. Using a sales template to market your unique music school would be like using a template for your profile on a dating website.

 

Each person’s profile on Eharmony is a unique expression of who they are, what makes them unique, what they value and believe in. If someone used a template they would be misleading a prospective partner. Your prospects assume that the words, the promises, the claims that you make on your website are based on your experiences, not someone else’s. They assume the words on your website are an expression of your vision.

 

I encourage you to right now to google this phrase in quotes.”Winner of more awards than any other music school.” I did this google search before I started recording this episode and I got 4 pages of music schools all making this exact claim. 4 pages of music schools making unverifiable claims. If you look at these music schools’ websites you’ll notice that there is a lot of text that is a copy and paste job. I don’t fault these schools at all. The key to being successful in any business program is to put into play what the business coach is teaching you. These schools are just following the program.

 

Recommendations That Might Hurt Your Music School

I think it’s fine that MASS provides a template for its members to design their site. My issue is that MASS encourages its members, on some level, to make inflated statements that sound impressive but aren’t necessarily true. It’s sensationalism. More like tabloid journalism. In my opinion, it crosses some ethical boundaries.

 

Not only is this a questionable practice, but it’s also not in the best interest of the music school owner. It’s important that you and your competition can have an amicable relationship. Competition isn’t personal. Everyone’s just trying to make an honest living. How do you think your competitor would feel if you claimed to be the fastest-growing school after they just had a record month in sales? No one really knows whose music school is growing the fastest. So why claim your music school is?

 

Copying and pasting text from one website to another is a big no-no in the world of google. Here’s what google has to say about this practice “Create fresh unique content. Avoid rehashing or copying existing content.” That’s exactly what’s happening here with MASS. MASS members are being encouraged to insert the name of their city into a sales template. I encourage you to google “can duplicate text hurt my google ranking?” You will see a resounding yes.

 

BAM Teaches Music School’s To Be a Humble Helper

If we look at BAM’s approach to marketing, websites, and sales copy, it’s a completely different experience. The headline on BAM’s website which states that they help people achieve success and make a greater impact sums, up the program’s approach to marketing. They also want music schools to take this approach with their own marketing and messaging.

 

In one of the modules in the program, Jonny Wilson has a video where he talks about the importance of not talking about your music school but talking about how your music school helps children realize their potential. It’s the complete opposite of MASS. Jonny says don’t talk about you and your music school. Talk directly to the customer in your marketing and how you can help their child. I believe he said something along the lines of, stop using words like “we” and “our”. Start using words like “you” and “your.” So instead of “we offer the best music lessons in Boston,” Jonny teaches his members to bring the customer into the narrative with statements such as “your child will feel a sense of success and accomplishment after performing in their first recital.”

 

Very different approaches. “We’ve won more awards than any other music school in Beachwood” or “Our hope for your child is that he or she can develop a lifelong love of playing an instrument.” Which statement is more honest or genuine? Which statement is more likely to trigger a positive emotion? Which statement is more likely to lead to a sale?

 

Your Customer Is The Star of The Show-Not Your Music School

Making your marketing all about you, or product-centric marketing is easy to do. Just talk about how amazing you are. Making your marketing all about your customer, or customer-centric marketing, is a lot harder to do. It requires some soul searching. It requires you to turn inward and ask yourself “how are we unique? How do our music lessons help kids?” Once you can begin to answer these questions you can begin writing persuasive sales copy that’s not about you, but about your customer. Besides your customer is the star of the show.

 

Jonny Wilson takes the best knowledge from all of the marketers he’s studied and learned from and funnels it into his program and customizes it to meet the unique needs of a music school. As I said earlier, he references his sources which only support and add credit to his guidance and recommendations.

 

Jonny is also an out of box thinker. He grew his business by buying school buses and converting them into a traveling music school. This allowed him to bring the music lesson to the kids. He maps out in his program how his members can incorporate this model. He also cracked the public school code. Meaning he found a way to get public schools to allow him to come into the school to make a musical presentation and market his program directly to the students.

 

How to Market Your Music Academy in Public Schools

I tried for years to persuade public schools to market my music school. No luck. Jonny documents a step-by-step process for doing this. I actually interviewed a member of the BAMsquad who uses this method for getting into public schools. Check out my podcast episode number 68 called How to Market Your Music Studio in Public School. 

 

Something I encourage you to do is join the Music Lessons Marketing Facebook group and search the group for the words BAM and MASS and you’ll hear a lot of good comments from not only members in each group but folks that have been in one program and switched to the other. There are also people in both programs.

 

In Summary

In summary, I feel that MASS offers a solid program that teaches music schools about how to structure their business and create sustainable systems. The program seems to do a good job of helping school owners develop marketing strategies. But MASS’s approach to messaging is arguably deceptive and in my opinion, crosses some ethical boundaries. BAM is young but the program is expansive and comprehensive due to its use of technology.

 

I think both programs could provide greater guidance on organic social media. They both seem to teach a lot about ad creation but you can just hop on each program’s Instagram accounts to get a sense of their organic efforts. MASS mostly posts client testimonials. Social media is meant to be a platform that engages people. It’s meant to be social. BAM does a better job creating engaging and informative content but they aren’t that consistent on the platform. I do think it would be beneficial if they went a little deeper with Instagram since it really is a different type of platform than Facebook

 

BAM also doesn’t address website design messaging as much as I think it should. Jonny references Donald Miller as a resource for understanding how to create effective websites. Donald Miller has pretty much defined how modern websites should function in his book Building a Story Brand. I think it would be beneficial for BAM to create a few modules on how to layout your website and how to write persuasive sales copy for your website. Even if he just taught the Donald Miller method so people don’t have to necessarily read the whole book. The BAM program is surprisingly thorough overall. It’s pretty impressive considering they’re only 2 years old. I have a feeling the program will only evolve over the next few years.

 

Misleading Messaging

With all things considered in my opinion BAM creates a more user-friendly experience since it’s online. Their teachings of business and marketing are not only thorough but are in step with what most contemporary marketing giants recommend. I think MASS could really benefit from transitioning its program from books, CD’s and newsletters to an online course. I like what MASS teaches about business but I can’t get past their marketing. It’s not rooted in best practices and I think aspects of their messaging can be misleading to customers.

 

Special MASS and BAM Offers

I want to thank both MASS and BAM for answering all of my questions as I put this review together. . Both programs have made generous offers to you the listen of this show. BAM has provided you with a 7-day free trial of their program. You can visit davesimonsmsuic.com/bam to sign up for your free trial.

 

If you join MASS and mention this podcast on the application, you’ll get a free one on one Fast Track Call with Marty Fort  www.musicacademysuccess.com/apply

 

Even if you decide not to go with either program, at least get yourself a business coach and invest in yourself and your business.

 

 

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