How to Improve Music Student Retention: Daniel Patterson

Improve Music Student Retention

“Treating our students like VIPs from the moment they join our studios is one of the best ways to increase client retention.”

~Sara Campbell 


The VIP treatment is a great way to kick off a relationship with a new customer. The real challenge is making the customer feel like a VIP weeks, months, and years later. Focusing on constantly fueling your relationship with your customers is key to music student retention.


Making Your Music Students Feel Like a VIP

The key to making a customer feel like a VIP is to create a touchpoint map. Touchpoints are contact points. They are encounters or opportunities. Opportunities for you to make an impression or impact on how your customers feel about you. Below is a list of some touchpoints.

  • All forms of communication (email, school voice mail, website, digital marketing, etc)
  • Events, recitals, and concerts
  • The street view of your studio
  • The decor of your school
  • Your school’s bathroom
  • Gifts and cards


Exceeding Customer Expectations 

Customers have expectations of each touchpoint. If you can identify each touchpoint and brainstorm ways you can exceed that expectation, you are on your way to making your customers feel like a VIP.

  • The onboarding process of a new student is full of touchpoints.
  • Your website
  • Your contact form and autoresponder
  • Your first phone call
  • The first lesson
  • Follow up after the first lesson
  • 1 month later email: “I hope Jenny is enjoying her lessons”

The more you can reach beyond the onboarding stage and develop systems to continually treat your customers like royalty, to make them feel noticed and special and more than just another customer, the more they will feel like a VIP.  The only way to achieve this is through systems. The loyal students that stay on for years, are the easiest students to take for granted.

Customers that are taken for granted, don’t feel like VIP’s.


Create Systems So You Don’t Neglect Your Current Students

We all focus on getting new piano students. We obsess over attracting new guitar students.   But are you neglecting your current students? It’s easy to take your current students for granted. They’ve been with you for years. They’re happy and they aren’t going anywhere. They still need as much love and care as your brand new students. It’s like any relationship: you have to continually put in a little effort.

By creating systems you can keep the fire burning for your most loyal students. Besides, they are your biggest fans and are typically  your biggest referral source.


The real secret to growing your music studio isn’t in the amount of new students you obtain. The secret is in keeping the students you already have


Improving Music Student Retention By Rethinking the Lesson

In this video, I sit down with music school business coach Daniel Patterson from Grow Your Music Studio to discuss teaching students to be good lesson takers.

Good lesson takers? Is that a thing? Sure it is. This is accomplished by building a bridge between the home and lesson experience. In other words, bring the home into the lesson and the lesson into the home.


Music Lessons and Independence

Daniel’s methodology creates a parallel and fluid learning environment. The only difference is that in one setting the student is supported by a mentor, and in the other, the student is on their own.

As Daniel states “I won’t give them the answers. I teach them how to find the answers themselves.


–Video Transcript–


Daniel: Most teachers do a really bad job of making their kid good at the process of lessons. And what that means is that the kid is carrying an increasing amount of emotional stress the longer they’re in lessons. And so, for me, I thought, “What can I do?” And this might sound crass but trust me, it was done with the best of intentions. But I thought, “What can I do to make this whole process feel easy to the kid so that they never want to quit?” That even if they never practice at home, they don’t want to quit the lessons because coming here actually feels good.


Daniel: And I know that you kind of have a principle like always have the kid leave with a smile, that sort of thing. But I’m talking about the actual process of the lessons themselves and that’s where it comes back to early on, I indoctrinate the kids in how to approach the piano, how to approach learning the music and I downplay the musical facts, which most piano teachers at the beginning, that’s all they talk about. Facts, facts, facts, facts, quarter notes, half notes. “Let’s review the flashcards again. Here’s your theory book. Fill out all these worksheets.” I don’t do any of that.


Early on, I indoctrinate the kids in how to be a good lesson-taker because I know that if those kids are good at taking lessons, and they don’t have stress at home because I’m having them learn the music with me, they are going to stay with me for years, and that is exactly what happens.


Dave: So, you’re saying when they go home, they should just do what they did in their lesson?


Daniel: Exactly. There’s no, “Okay, let me read the notes and figure it out on page four.” It’s just recreating the experience.


Recreating the lesson experience at home. And so, what I try to do with the lesson is actually make the lesson environment be more like the home environment. And ways that I do that will be-


Dave: Have the TV on. Have kids fighting.


Daniel: I don’t quite go that far, but I will leave kids by themselves for periods of time because that’s what happens at home. I will make it difficult. I will not just… Again, most teachers don’t do this. I will not just give them answers, but I will train them how to find the answers themselves. And I will go to great lengths to do that. So, early on in my career, I would have done that. I would have tried to help the kid know how to learn it themselves. But, I’m saying that now the entire structure, the entire success of the program depends on that kid being able to do that.


And so, now it’s not an option. And so, I have entire systems in place, entire ways of teaching, more scripts that I use all the time that I know  work on the kids and help them get the concept very quickly.


Dave: I thought of you the other day. I was teaching a piano lesson and I can tell the girl was a little nervous. And I had introduced this new exercise to her. And I said, “Okay, now that you can read all the notes and you understand the rhythms, I want you to put it together.” Putting it together and said, “You know what? I’m going to leave the room and I’m going to come back with the clock.” And I said, “I’m going to come back when that hand is on two.”


I left for two minutes and I just stood outside the door. And just to give her some alone time… The whole dynamic changes once you’re out of the room. When you’re in the room, there’s the pressure that you’re putting on them. And you don’t intend on putting that pressure there, but it’s just there.


I’ve been doing that more and more where I leave the room and I realized, “Oh, in a group class, leaving the room is happening constantly. And yeah, I was very… When I heard about your group programs and lessons, I was a little reluctant, but teaching… I was reluctant to implement and I haven’t implemented it yet, but I’m starting to really see the whole value of it.


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