Like many of you, I’m not only a performer, but I teach as well. I love teaching and consider it one of my major callings in life, and it was also the steadiest and most reliable form of income I had.
Up until recently, I structured my lesson rates the following way:
You could choose between a 45-minute lesson and a 60-minute lesson. You paid me for that time. Whether you paid for a year’s worth of lessons in September (no one did) or you sent a PayPal or Venmo to me after each lesson (most did). It was just that. I taught you for an hour, and you paid me for an hour.
Of course, I was dedicated, looked out for you, provided you with information about opportunities, but that was all considered gravy, and it was all, technically, free.
I could only earn as much money as I had hours available to teach x my rate, which, obviously, had to relate somewhat to what other teachers of similar experience and qualifications charged. So if I needed more money, I had to take on more students.
At some points, I had so many students that I didn’t have time to enjoy the performance side of my life-I barely had enough time to practice and would show up to rehearsals feeling like I was less than 100% prepared. It SUCKED.
So, that wasn’t working for me, and when I really stopped to think about it, it REALLY wasn’t working for my students.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always been lucky to teach a great group of talented, motivated, and hard-working students. But I had to cram in all of my hours with other students/gigs/concerts not to mention practicing, and there wasn’t anything left over besides their lesson and some free advice here and there.
I spent some time thinking about what a talented high school cellist REALLY needed in terms of their music education and taking it to a level that would allow them to succeed in college.
There were a lot of things that we weren’t able to accomplish in 45-60 minutes, and I wasn’t interested in supplying them with an a la carte menu of services that they could buy from me in order to reserve the time in my schedule. I certainly didn’t mind if they called me up with a question, but I was bound to be unavailable to even take their call.
I also couldn’t afford to just give away all of my time. As musicians, we don’t sell a product, we sell time. As performers, we sell an experience. and as teachers, we sell our experience (and knowledge, wisdom, and communication skills) aka. TIME.
What if I created a space where I had just enough students for them to feel like they were a part of a real community (especially these contact-free days) but not so many that I was teaching all hours of the day, night, and weekends. A space that had space.
Space to delve into their repertoire in real ways—taking our time to explore the nuances, thinking processes, and broader worlds of sounds and color.
Space where they were getting whatever non-teaching support they needed– be it for auditions, competitions, college counseling, career advice, or practice help.
What if I could create a space where they could lean on each other and find support and inspiration from their peers as well as their teachers. What if I could even give their parents the full support that they might need in all of this as well? What would that be worth?
And as one money-savvy (but by no means uber-wealthy) parent said to me the other day:
“Kate, one thing I am most excited for [my child] to learn from you is fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurship. You have found a way to give each student incredible value for their money while ensuring that you are bringing in revenue that allows you to do quite well. We’re paying LESS per hour than we were before, plus we’re getting MORE of you, and yet you’re making quite a bit MORE per hour. Everybody wins. It’s genius.”
And when they said that to me, I laughed. Because another parent had said a remarkably similar thing to me just the day before.
When musicians sell their souls for their art, leaning in hard to that old Starving Artist Mentality, they are telling students and families that there is no monetary Return On Investment here.
Their children might be better humans because of music, but they’ll be broke humans too. That’s what we are telling them; That’s the message we’re collectively sending them. It’s up to us, really, as role models, to show that there is another way.
Want to know the secret?
I’ll be talking about it in our private Facebook group (which is just a giant party full of awesome and amazing musicians), and you should join us there and be a part of that conversation. Here’s the link.
And if you are interested in figuring out how you can scale your offerings to create more revenue in exchange for fewer hours? Or how to create some additional revenue streams this year-of-very-few-concerts? I’m doing a FREE 3-day training for professional musicians next week (Tue, 9/1-Th 9/3 11-12 EST)
It’s called “From Panic to Profit” Because Alliteration is Awesome (See what I did there?) It’ll happen over in that same Facebook group, so click this link to sign up for the training and join the group all in one fell swoop.