Pricing your music teaching services is one of the trickiest parts of running your business.
Price yourself too low and you may not be able to pay your bills. Plus, your perceived value is lower. Why is this teacher so much cheaper than the others? Maybe they’re not as good.
Price yourself too high and you risk not getting enough customers. You may find yourself priced out of the market you are in.
When I started teaching music as a teenager, it was easy. I would charge $5 for a half hour lesson because that was half my week’s allowance! Pretty great!
An Art And A Science
Here’s the thing: pricing is part art and part science. But no matter what, it is much more flexible than you think. MBA types will call it price elasticity. This simply means there is a range of prices for whatever you are selling.
If you take a look at your typical American supermarket, you have prime proof of price elasticity. Why is one can of coffee so much cheaper than the next? Or why do some coffee beans cost five times as much as the lowest? Is it truly five times better in taste and value?
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett
Warren Buffet’s quote above holds the clue. If you can show and even let the customers experience the value of your services, then pricing becomes much more elastic. You can set your own price. It’s the reason why movie stars are not paid according to the actor’s union wage table. Their value (or perceived value) is beyond a wage scale.
Results of A Non-Scientific Survey
A few weeks ago, I set up a poll for private music teachers in the USA. Now this was not a scientific study at all. This was shared on social media and among teachers on my email list. The results are interesting though without a controlled environment they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Some of the takeaways.
Length of lessons
Out of the 177 responses, 68% (120 teachers) teach mainly 30 minute lessons. This was surprising to me as most of the time I hear teachers talk about their hourly rate. I too have focused on teaching 30 minute lessons as it is the perfect time frame for my young students.
As you can see, there is a wide range of pricing among our teachers. Of course this is influenced by factors of location, median income in that region, and proximity to urban metro centers. Out of our 177 participants, 22% (40) charge between $21-25 / lesson and just under 20% charge $16-20/ lesson.
Number of students
In our survey, 27% are clearly part-time and teaching less than 5 students per week. This is followed by 20% teaching 16 to 25 students per week.
Average age of students
35% are mostly teaching 10 to 16 year olds followed by 34% in the 8 to 10 year old average. Though I usually start my students in the 4 to 6 age range, most of my students stay with me for many years so my average age is probably around 8 or 9.
We had a pretty good distribution of teachers from all over the US and even a few who participated from the UK, Canada, and elsewhere. I think I should have added another question on whether teachers were based in a rural, suburban, or urban area. That may have given more valuable insight.
Level of Education
Most participants, 47% have a Bachelor’s degree followed by 31% with a Graduate degree.
Age of Teachers
The majority of participating teachers are in their 50’s followed by 30’s and those who are 60+. So as you can see, we have a broad representation of ages, degrees, regions, age of students and prices.
Further details on the survey.
Use password: openminded
Types of Buyers
In any area or field of commerce, there are multiple types of buyers.
1) Only the Best
Price is no object. These buyers want the best quality and will pay anything for it. In fact, the higher the price means that you must be darn good.
2) Value oriented
These buyers are not completely immune to price, but are looking for quality and the best value for their money. They want to know why you are the best teacher for their interests/needs and what makes you different than the others.
3) Budget oriented
It’s all about the price – can’t see difference in value. These buyers see all music teachers as a commodity with little or no difference from one to the other. Or maybe they just see lessons as a nice time-filling after-school activity.
What can I get for nothing or close to nothing? In my early days of teaching I had a teenager come with his friend for a paid trial lesson. At the end of the lesson he said, “Thanks you showed me a lot. That was great. Oh I don’t have any money. ”
Obviously you want to work mainly with the first group of buyers, the ones where quality is paramount and price is no object. The worst kind of customer is the last group – the freebie seekers. They are in a scarcity mindset where paying for anything, even if it brings them value is a non-starter. They are the leeches of the world and need to be avoided.
So how to get more students and higher fees?
Here’s a few ideas for jumpstarting your business this year.
1) New Teachers / Underemployed
If you are new or have only a handful of students, you may want to be at a discount to the teachers in your neighborhood. Do some quick research with Google for your zip code and see what other teachers charge. Then price at around 5 to 10% less. But if at all possible, do not stay in this mode for long. You need to specialize your niche to start raising prices. Also, as soon as you start filling up your roster, you need to start proving your value with your teaching content and experience. This will allow you to begin raising prices.
2) Specialty Niche
By setting yourself apart with a specialty niche or the unique value you provide, you can often command a premium. Because I am one of the only teachers in my community that will accept preschool aged children, I have created a specialty niche. Plus, once I have proven myself in the lessons, my retention rate is virtually nil.
“Raise prices. The number-one theme that companies have when they really struggle is they are not charging enough for their product…we see over and over again people failing…because they get into a problem called too hungry to eat…if you’re product is any good won’t people pay more for it?”
– Mark Andreesen – billionaire tech inventor/investor creator of Mosaic, and Netscape.
3) Existing Teachers
Now if you already have a number of students or even a waiting list, I would like you to try raising your prices this year. Start with 10%. One thing that often kills new businesses is underpricing their products and services. By coming in too low, you are struggling just to make ends meet. Plus, you are attracting better buyers from the Only the Best and Value Oriented groups.
How do you go to the next level?
Can you imagine yourself in the next few months having an increase of 20% in your monthly income? How about never having to worry about getting enough students again? Or what about how that feeling of accomplishment after having taught a day of great lessons while earning what you are worth?
Next week, I’m launching a free 5 day Music Teacher Marketing Mindset Challenge. It’s designed to shift your mind towards running a more profitable, abundant, and simpler music teaching business. For 5 days, you will receive one short email with a focused exercise to help align you towards success. You can join in the box below.
Course is closed for now. Join our free video training to be informed when it next reopens.
Author: Andrew Ingkavet
Andrew Ingkavet is an educator, author and entrepreneur.
His belief that learning a musical instrument builds skills vital to success in life has led to a thriving music school in Brooklyn, NY. Internationally, Andrew helps music teachers with the Musicolor Method, an online curriculum/training as well as a 5 star-rated book,The Game of Practice: with 53 Tips to Make Practice Fun. He is also founder of 300 Monks, a music licensing company.