At first I had trouble finding piano students, now I have to turn all of them away | How I marketed myself as a private music teacher

in sonicgroove •  24 days ago 

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For those of you who follow my blog, I post a lot of organ music, IT related things and very occasionally—piano music. I'm still a pianist at heart. I still always joke a lot about being chained to the piano when I was younger. My aunt taught me at a very young age and formed me into the musician I am today. My job is in IT and my passion lies within music.

A few years ago, I decided to start teaching piano (and organ...but it's quite a niche instrument). Of course, with a full-time IT job, this teaching endeavour was to 'test the waters' and determine whether my passion could be turned into a viable income. Firstly, I needed students to teach.

How did I find them?

I had to identify my target market and consider the type of students I wanted to teach. I believe that the most successful businesses are ones that fill a gap in the market and don’t try to do everything. You wouldn’t call an electrician to fix some wiring and then expect him or her to fix your leaking tap. Using this analogy, my teaching studio had to attract a specific subset of students according to my local area.

I then researched music studios in my local area and found out what type of students they are teaching. For example, I am only interested in teaching classical piano to students with a reasonable level of commitment to their learning. I would also strongly encourage students to prepare for examinations and perform publicly. The teaching studios and music schools in my area are mainly contemporary piano, with the exception of the conservatorium, so I believed I was reaching out to a market where traditional piano lessons were highly sought after.

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How did I reach out to them?

I put myself into a parent’s shoes and thought about how I would find a piano teacher for my child. Generational differences also came into play here—some may search online and others rely on traditional advertising. Online music teacher directories, which will already listed teachers and studios in my area were a good place to start. Creating a Facebook page was also a fast and straightforward way to create an online presence, without delving into a fully-customised website.

I had to accept some form of trial-and-error here and discovered what worked and what didn't. I purely focused on an online presence and invested in social media advertising. I learned that this didn't work for my local area and the type of students that it attracted. What did work was advertising in local church bulletins and producing flyers, which were displayed at local businesses that I believed would attract my desired clientele.

The BEST form of advertising

Ensuring you are actively involved within the community. Attending music events (concerts and recitals) or joining a local ensemble—perhaps as an accompanist or repetiteur. I discovered that the more involved and exposed you are in your local community, the more people will know of you and a reputation will be formed. Think ENGAGEMENT!

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As I'm also an organist and church musician, I'm regularly playing at services and giving organ recitals. It has not been uncommon for people to approach me afterwards and ask if their children could learn from me. In fact, the majority of my students were obtained because they heard their 'potential teacher' play. You should always do your best to uphold your playing standards and professionalism because "actions speak louder than words".

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Being selective and turning students away

Fast forward to the present day. I have a very small handful of students which I fit in around my day job. It's a handy additional form of income for my family (3 kids, 1 wife, 2 cats). Through this short teaching experience, I've learned that it's not quite the career move at this stage of my life. Perhaps when the kids have finished (or nearly finished) school.

For now, I'm being very rigid and selective with who I teach—because my time is valuable.

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Unfortunately, for new students, I often have to turn them down and refer them to another teacher. On the bright side, it's not a bad problem to be high in demand—I must be doing something right!

Yours truly,
@contrabourdon


I'm co-owner of witness untersatz with organduo!



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Well it's a beautiful read I think I enjoyed myself. So if I'm to get you right, you're saying the handful of student you choose to teach fits in with the requirements of your daily job? How about the financial aspect?

Thanks for reading! I'm only teaching students who are genuinely interested and committed to learning. Also, they have to fit in around my day job. The additional income from teaching helps make ends meet for my family :)

Okay, I understand now, unlike many teachers you're willing to forgo having a lot students because you want to produce the best. That's great.

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I think you made the right decision instead of spreading yourself too thinly. This was a good and inspiring post.

Thank you. Yes, I felt I was spinning lots of plates!

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  ·  24 days ago (edited)

Have you thought about teaching piano online like I do with the pipe organ? Saves a lot of time if you create many digital assets.

I think the piano market is kind of saturated. Lots of “YouTube” pianists too. I am in awe of your business.

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  ·  24 days ago (edited)

I'm in awe that there isn't really any competition to what I do. Since 2011...

You turn all of them away? So you went from having no students to teach to turning away the students who showed up after you learnt how to market your business? So you went from zero students to zero students. Tub Cat is so confused by your post title.

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I only teach a handful of students currently and I can't accept anymore right now. So no, I'm not at zero students ;)

To make private music teaching my full-time income stream isn't viable at this stage of my life. So this journey has been discovering what works best for me. What I forgot to mention, is that teaching also takes away from my own practice and performing. I didn't realise this until my time was eaten up teaching students. Hope that clears things up Tub Cat!

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Thanks.

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The piano sound is amazing! I always wanted to learn how to play it, but I never had much patience... Haha!

Everybody wants to learn in an instant!

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Good one!

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Our culture is so significantly different. @organduo and I have played many recitals and organ demonstrations all over Lithuania. Nobody has ever asked for private lessons for their kids. Some times they ask where it would be possible to learn to play the organ, but that's about it. Of course we have well developed web of Musical schools, so no way you could get many private students.

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Interesting. The private teaching market is big here. Music schools can be large as well, but I tend to think most go to private teachers if they want to learn seriously (or proper conservatoriums).

I see you have a big familly! 2 cats! (I have only one) 🐈🐈

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