How Pop Culture Impacts Your Music School

March 1, 2018

Understanding pop culture can allow you to meet market needs as they’re happening in real time. Knowledge of pop culture enables you to anticipate shifting trends and identify new opportunities.

In 2003 rock ‘n’ roll was alive and well. Nostalgia for Nirvana filled our hearts and alternative rock was a twentieth-century holdout. I launched my music school in August of that year. Within months my studio was rumbling from teenagers with loud guitars and a love for music. It was a good year to start a rock school.

 

The Disappearing Student

5 years later 2008 came on like the plague as banks went belly up and the economy was ripped at the seams. Many of my teenage students dropped out as parents lost jobs or at least feared they would. I did, however, manage to maintain a healthy amount of younger students as my business limped along.

 

Rebuilding a Music School

The storm eventually subsided. Light began to seep through the parting clouds of the recession.  It was time to regroup and rebuild. I shifted my messaging and marketing in an attempt to attract younger students.

This younger demographic never left in great numbers. Perhaps parents were more likely to pull their 16-year-old from rock band than their 7-year old. The 16-year-old at least had the option to form his or her own garage band.

 

Ability to Adapt

I adapted by developing Kidzrock and Jr Rockerz as a way to better serve a younger population.  The 16-year-olds never came back in full force. So what happened? Where did all the teenagers go?

 

Find Your Blind Spots

At the time I was quick to absorb the blame. I had a buck-stops-here mentality. Isn’t that what good leaders do? Ownership and accountability is certainly a big part of leadership but there were cultural shifts I wasn’t taking into consideration. The musical flavor of the day has an impact on your business.

It’s foolish to try and seize every opportunity. You would lose focus.  Consider the benefits and risks of both action and inaction.

Great for Humanity, Bad for Business

Pop culture had changed since the launch of my studio in 2003.  Rock music was experiencing a recession of its own. Forming a rock band with your neighborhood buddies was a fading right of passage.  Music making software allowed anyone to be a musician. Great for humanity. Not great for music schools. The garage band was replaced by GarageBand.

 

Know What Your Customer Wants

Pop culture has a direct impact on your music school. Pop culture is the source of inspiration for your students. Kids aspire to be like their musical heroes.  Every pre-teen girl wanted to be like Taylor Swift when she made the jump from country to pop. That meant more girls at my studio with songwriting journals and acoustic guitar. Every boy wanted to be Billie Joe Armstrong after Green Day released “American Idiot” in 2004.  That meant more guitar slinging spiky haired boys.

 

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

In my 15 years of running a music school, I have found that the parents’ hopes and desires for their children never changes. The desire of kids changes with the winds of pop culture and top-40 radio. A new movie, TV show or singer has the ability to spark the musical imagination of an entire generation.

 

Meet Your Markets Needs

Understanding pop culture can allow you to meet market needs as they’re happening in real time. Knowledge of pop culture enables you to anticipate shifting trends and identify new opportunities. In 2010 the hit TV show Glee created new opportunities for music schools. In 2004 Israel Kamakawiwoʻole put the ukulele on the pop charts with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  The ukulele is now the fastest growing instrument in music retail. Someone has to teach all of these new ukulele owners.

It’s foolish to try and seize every opportunity. You would lose focus.  Consider the benefits and risks of both action and inaction. Will your studio be ready to react to the next musical wave? Will you be riding the wave at its peaks or after it washes ashore?

 

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