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How Much to Charge for Music Lessons

How Much to Charge for Music Lessons

Our friend Brian had a painting in his college dorm room.

 

It wasn’t anything special… It was kind of heavy and fell off the wall a lot, so he hammered it back in over and over. He was young and didn’t treat it very well at all (like most college students’ possessions…).

 

A couple years later, he found out that the painter had died, and that his work was actually worth quite a bit of money. When he discovered what it was worth and that it was valuable and would re-sell for a lot —he had much more respect for the painting. He bought a nicer frame and gave it the honor it deserved.

 

When he realized its value, he treated it with more respect.

How much to charge for music lessons is an important choice to make. It’s one of the first you need to make when starting your business. Charging the wrong amount is a common mistake made by many studio owners.

If your price is too high, few people will join your studio. This is especially true in your early years. If your price is too low, people will assume your services are not up to par with your competitors.

Charging too little also drags down the collective earning potential for all music teachers in your area. This hurts your local economy, which doesn’t help anyone!

Over the years, we’ve tested the following ideas. Investigate the guidelines below to make sure you choose just the right amount to charge for music lessons.

Before we get started, here’s the first important principle: Value the service you offer!

When considering how much to charge for music lessons, remember that your ability to teach has significant value and worth.

Sometimes musicians, whether out of modesty or insecurity, undervalue the work they do. This can come from a lot of different sources—a relative telling you to get a “real” job, public schools cutting music programs due to lack of funding, or maybe a friend asking how you expect to make money through a “hobby.”

If you struggle with undervaluing your skills—and we all do at some point—remember three things:

1) Consider the value of music in culture.

Throughout history, creating music has been a valuable art form in every culture. The same is certainly true today.

Your teaching helps people grow, both as artists and as humans. In music lessons, you have the opportunity to shape another person’s musical perspective. Even more importantly, you can impact your students’ lives in a meaningful way.

 

2) Appreciate the value of your skills.

You’ve invested countless hours and a small fortune to develop your skill. So remember that people should respect you as a trained professional.

Go into situations with the confidence of a specialized educator and businessperson. This conviction goes a long way in expressing your professionalism in both business and education. Truly applying this fact allows you to increase what you charge for music lessons.

 

3) Realize the number of elements that are covered by tuition.

When you think about all the expenses and factors that are covered by the money you earn, it’s staggering.

Parents often don’t think about all the “other” costs that go with owning a business. They are not just paying for the half-hour you spend with their child. The tuition also covers the following items:

Direct benefits to students and parents:

  1. Purchasing teaching materials (office supplies, pencils, stickers, games, props, etc.)
  2. Scheduling lessons
  3. Answering parents’ questions, via phone or email
  4. Lesson planning outside of lesson time
  5. Scheduling & planning events (recitals, studio classes, community service, etc.)
  6. Researching and preparing students for competitions or extra activities
  7. Writing letters of recommendation for college applications or scholarships
  8. Helping students choosing a new instrument
  9. Researching articles about music education online to share with parents and students
  10. Attending student concerts at school
  11. Evaluating and choosing new method books and music
  12. Planning Recitals (including venue rental, photo copies, reception, etc., unless covered by a separate fee)
  13. Communicating with school teachers about students and events

Business side of studio:

  1. Accounting (collecting payment, sending out invoices)
  2. Marketing and development (Website, Facebook, Blogging, etc.)
  3. Professional development (conferences, books, journal subscriptions)
  4. Time spent at MTNA chapter meetings (meeting local teachers to stay current and relevant)
  5. Professional membership dues (MTNA, state, and local chapters)

 

Your own expenses:

  1. Cost of your instrument
  2. Maintenance of your instrument—tuning, repair, cleaning, etc.
  3. Years of school and lessons, educating yourself to do this job
  4. Your own practice time to maintain skill
  5. Your own performing
  6. Taxes (self-employment—up to 30%, which is higher than normal job)
  7. Transportation (if you teach somewhere other than your home)

 

On top of this, remember private teachers have no paid vacation, maternity leave, retirement fund, or health insurance. These items often come with other jobs, but they need to be covered from the tuition charged by private teachers. Remember this when deciding on an amount to charge for music lessons.

how much to charge for music lessons 

Have you elevated your own views on the value of your music teaching? Great! Here are the six key variables to consider when deciding how much to charge for music lessons.

Variable #1: Education

When considering how much to charge for music lessons, the first and most straightforward element to consider is education. The more music education you have, the more you should charge. If you have an undergraduate or graduate degree in music, be sure to emphasize that to potential clients. They should know that you have a specialized education, which is very respected.

If you don’t have a formal degree in music, you won’t be able to use that as a way to justify how much to charge for music lessons. Instead, highlight your other skills rather than your lack of formal education.

Remember to draw positive attention to your strengths rather than taking an apologetic focus. Your potential clients want to believe you’re a confident, successful performer and can help them achieve that too. Be sure to represent yourself well.

Instead of saying “Even though I don’t have a degree, I can still…” say “I have experience playing [instrument] for [this many] years and have even [done this unique gig, played with this famous person, performed in this location, etc.].”

Don’t say: “I don’t have a degree, but I’m still a strong teacher.”

Instead try: “I’ve studied violin for 12 years and have played in [this] orchestra.” Remember, every musician has some level of education—in order to teach successfully, you have to have taken lessons for years.

Also, consider getting easier, quicker, and less expensive qualifications than a traditional music degree. Earn a Suzuki certification, or become a member of NAME, MTNA, or other professional organizations.

Dalcroze, Kodaly, and Orff also offer workshops of various lengths on a regular basis. Successful teachers are always looking for ways to develop more skills and increase their education.

suzuki logo

Variable #2: Performing Experience

The amount to charge for music lessons can increase if you have experience performing. If you have a significant track record as a performer, you need to share that with potential clients. You will consequently be able to charge more than those with little practical experience.

Be sure to frame your performing history in the most positive way possible.

Avoid: “I play piano in a bar.”

            Instead, try: “I have played consistent weekend gigs for the past five years at [location].

Avoid: “I sometimes sing in my church, but only when the director is on vacation.”

            Instead, try: “I have served as a guest musician at [location] on a regular basis for the past [number] years.”

Variable #3: Teaching Experience

If you have teaching experience, you have a considerable head start when considering how much to charge for music lessons. If you have taught in the past or are currently building up your established studio, you can charge more than someone without teaching experience.

After all, potential clients want to know that you’ve had long-term success, so be sure to share it. You only have to have had one student to say, “I’ve been teaching since [year].” Because of this, it’s important to get a least one student as soon as possible so you can honestly build up the length of your teaching experience.

Variable #4: Location

Median income

Assessing your studio’s location is very important when choosing how much to charge. Use the US census information to look up the median income of your area by town or zip code. (http://www.city-data.com).

You can charge more in communities with a higher median income. Typically, residents in more populated areas are accustomed to spending more on services, especially from professionals like you. In smaller towns or more rural areas, the average price of music lessons is generally lower.

Value placed on the arts

If you live in a community that prioritizes the arts, you can expect to charge more for music lessons. However, not all communities put a high value on music.

The truth is that people in some areas are not as willing to invest in the services we offer as music teachers. If you live in one of these communities, it will be an uphill battle to earn a higher income. However, gradual changes can be made as people see the impact you’re having in your students’ lives and how you’re improving the community through your teaching.

Competition

This one is a little tricky to figure out. It’s good to have a sense of what your competition is charging. If you already have connections in your community, check with friends to see what they know about local teachers. If there is a local association of music teachers, they might be able to share an average range.

TRY THIS TIP: Do a Google search to see if teachers around you disclose lesson prices on their websites.

How much to charge for music lessons

Variable #5: Target Demographic

Private music lessons are a luxury service that not everyone can afford. Because of this, you need to keep your target demographic in mind.

Ideally, your services will be aimed at families who can easily afford lessons. While everyone should have music in their lives, the happiest and best clients will be the ones who are financially able to pay for your service. Non-profit organizations and public schools aim to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy music. However, if you want to stay in business, you will need to target a market of clients who can comfortably pay what you ask.

The philanthropist in you might yearn to offer cheaper music lessons. But if you want to meet your financial goals, you have to realize you’re running a business, not a charity. You should be paid well for offering high-quality lessons. It’s certainly nothing personal against those who can’t afford your services. Remember, if you don’t charge enough, you won’t be able to pay your overhead expenses and might not be in business very long. If you don’t charge enough per student, you will be overworked and constantly under stress, and you’ll have clients who won’t value your lessons as much as they should.

We’ve found that people who can’t comfortably afford our prices often pay late and ask for unreasonable financial favors, like waving late fees or getting discounts. This is stressful for us as teachers and can make us feel guilty to ask for the appropriate fee.

A good clue as to the ability to pay for lessons is the initial phone call with prospective parents or students. If their first question is “how much do lessons cost?”, they are not your ideal customers. Instead, you want clients who are looking for value, not bargain.

The ideal client will ask questions about your education, experience, and teaching philosophy, rather than simply about how much they have to spend.

See our discussion of how to show potential clients your value in chapter in our blog post here. (Coming soon!)

Variable #6: Services offered

Most teachers offer different lesson lengths. Obviously, shorter lessons will cost less than longer ones. Consider making the per-minute price slightly cheaper as the lesson length increases. For example:

30-minute lesson = $25

45-minute lesson = $35

60-minute lesson = $45

This looks good to potential clients and can help you sell longer lessons. Longer lessons are often better for both students and teachers. Even though you make less per hour during longer lessons, you will make up the time by taking care of administrative details for fewer students. Of course, you also need to take into consideration a student’s age and maturity level when choosing a lesson length.

Another creative suggestion to get people in the door is to offer less expensive introductory classes. Our studio offers Music Together®, which is available for babies and toddlers, ages 0-5. For this class, parents pay $18 per 45-minute class, which is less than half of a normal private lesson. This cheaper rate draws in clients with an affordable option when the children are young.

Classes like these create loyalty and a bond between teacher and family. Then when the kids outgrow the class, the parents are eager to transition into private lessons.

Because we’ve built up loyalty for years at a lower rate, clients are happy to pay more when the time comes for one-on-one study with a teacher. (For more information about offering beginner classes, see our blog post here.)

And Music Together® isn’t the only option for offering affordable introductory classes. You could develop any basic program for a reduced rate for a group setting (e.g. beginning choir, instrumental ensemble, group theory class).

This is a win-win: students do not pay as much to get a music-making opportunity, and you still make as much as you do when teaching private lessons—if not more!

Variable #7: Fees

Some teachers charge different fees in addition to regular tuition as well, like a recital fee or materials fee. Some also charge a registration fee that covers beginning of the year expenses.

 

When considering additional fees, be sure to specify what they will cover. Some common options are:

  • Office supplies
  • New music or music games
  • Recital venue rental
  • Printing of programs
  • Reception food
  • Administrative hours

 

Consider how much time each new student takes you, between phone calls, emails, accepting payment, and setting up a new student account.

 

Other teachers charge enough that fees are essentially included in the cost of lessons. This is a choice that is very much based on what makes sense to you as a teacher and businessperson.

how much to charge for music lessons

Exercise to Determine How Much to Charge for Music Lessons

This exercise will help you determine how much to charge. This is an important process, because changing rates becomes more challenging after they’re set up.

 

  1. Go through the list of variables given in this chapter and list your response to each one.

    Example: For Variable #1, list your educational background and years you’ve taken lessons, as well as any additional training you’ve received (Suzuki, Kodaly, etc.).

  2. Check websites of other studios in your area. (Some list their prices.)
  3. If possible, ask other teachers in your area for a feel for the average rates.

This is a very general formula, but it may guide you as you determine what you need to make per hour in your location.

 

The first step is to look up the median income in your area from the website listed above. https://www.census.gov/epcd/www/zipstats.html

 

Next, fill out this formula:

Median income / number of weeks you teach = x

x / number of hours you work per week = The amount you need to charge per hour

 

Example: Let’s say the median income in your area is $40,000

$40,000 / 40 weeks per year = $1,000

So you need to make $1,000 per week you teach to keep up with the median income:

 

$1000 per week / 20-hour work week = $50

 

Therefore, you need to charge $50 per hour to keep up with the median income.

Many Variables

The bottom line is that you have many, many variables to take into consideration when choosing how much to charge for music lessons. You offer an important service—life-changing lessons with a lifelong benefit. Remember to choose a target audience who will value your skills and talent as a teacher!

So, what other variables could we have missed? How do you determine how much to charge for music lessons? 

We’ll also be happy to answer any questions you have— just send us a note here.

Be sure to Like Start My Studio on Facebook for access to high-quality resources and valuable information. Thanks for reading!

 

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