Piano Tuition Costs
Most music instructors don’t charge enough for lessons. Many are petrified at the thought of raising piano tuition costs.
FEAR and UNCERTAINTY. Uncertainty as to how their customers will respond and fear of losing students. A mix of fear and uncertainty leads to a lack of confidence.
See What Your Customers See
Before we dive into FEAR and UNCERTAINTY let’s explore VALUE. To understand value, you have to see your business from the customers’ side of the table.
What recurring services do you pay to enhance your life? Perhaps a personal trainer, a therapist, a tutor, a hair stylist. What value do you place on these services? What if your trainer raised her rates by $5.00 a session?
Would you seek out another trainer with better rates? You might have to buy one less drink a week at Starbucks but you would make it work. You probably wouldn’t think twice about the increase since you value the benefit and impact this service has made in your life.
Prices are ultimately set by value, not by the competition or supply/demand, but by value. – Ron Baker (Author)
Read more: From first phone call to first lesson – how to sell your creative piano teaching
People Pay for Feelings
The way you feel about your trainer, therapist, or hair stylist. is the way your customers feel about you. Your students value the experience you provide. No one wants to pay for something they don’t value.
If you have poor student retention the problem is most likely the lesson experience, not your pricing. Your students stay with you because of how the lessons make them feel. No one buys what you sell. They buy how it makes them feel. No one buys things. They buy feelings.
The chiropractor isn’t selling back adjustments. She’s selling relief from pain. The barber isn’t selling a haircut. He’s selling self-confidence. The music teacher isn’t selling music. She’s selling happiness.
Music is a transformative uplifting experience. People will pay a lot of money for happiness. As music lessons marketing guru Danny Thompson says…
We’re not in the music lessons business. We’re in the feelings business.
Loyal customers value the feelings you provide more than the money they have to part with. Money is emotional. People get emotional when they make or part with money. The highs and lows are significant. No one will give a sigh of relief when you raise your rates. Few, if any, will leave. The emotional price for leaving costs more than your $10 increase.
You know you’re priced right when your customers complain—but buy anyway. – John Harrison (Clockmaker, 1700’s)
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Cheap Means Low Value
Let’s first look at how you came up with your initial teaching rate. You most likely found out what other teachers or studios were charging and entered the market at a lower rate.
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This was my pricing strategy when I started my music school. I didn’t want the price to be a barrier for people. I also needed students-lots of them. A few months into my teaching business a customer commented on how cheap my lessons were. The word cheap rubbed me the wrong way. Cheap means low quality and even worse-low value. I didn’t want to be perceived as cheap.
I wanted to perceived as affordable yet high in value. I needed to increase both by prices and my value. Increasing prices is easy. Adding value takes creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. It also requires developing a system to educate your customers on the value you offer.
Perhaps the reason price is all your customers care about is because you haven’t given them anything else to care about. – Seth Godin (Author)
Related: The ins and outs of piano studio marketing
How to Add Value
Below are some ways you can add value to your music lessons business.
- Create real-time musical experiences in the lesson that the student can’t create at home (duets, accompaniment, improv)
- Invite parents in at the end of lessons. Treat it like a performance.
- Work on creating a culture and community in your studio
- Offer social or movie nights
- Reinvent the recital. Make them fun and more performance oriented. Include music trivia from the stage, prizes, audience participation.
- Use emails, blogs or vlogs to educate parents on what you believe in and what motivates you. This will help build trust and loyalty.
Look at the Numbers
There are two factors to look at. How much new revenue will your increase generate and how many customers can you afford to lose. You have to budget for the gains and the losses. In my experience, the losses have been minimal.
Let’s say you have 80 students at your studio. A $10 monthly increase would infuse your school with $800-literally overnight.
Let’s look at the losses. How many students do you think would drop out of your business? I’ve lost two students in 15 years due to a price increase. For argument’s sake, let’s say you lost five. That’s $400 in monthly losses. You’re still ahead with a $400 gain.
How to Raise Piano Tuition Costs
Begin with committing to an annual raise. People expect their costs to go up each year. The electric bill, the lawn guy, dance lessons, summer camp and yes, music lessons. These costs all rise a little each year. No one likes it but everyone expects it.
Take a look at your own expenses for operating a teaching business. They rise every year. Does your take-home pay rise every year? It should-you deserve it.
How to Announce a Price Increase
I raise my rates every January. I announce the increase in a letter that I mail home mid-November. This gives customers plenty of time to budget for the new year. The thought of an extra $10 in January feels distant and uneventful. Most people read the first paragraph, see “$10 increase”, crumble up the paper and shoot for the trash can. They have bigger financial concerns to occupy their thoughts.
Your tuition increase letter should include these 6 points. Mail this letter home. Envelope-stamp-old school.
- Establish value
- State increase
- Added benefit
Read more: Tim Topham’s open letter to piano parents on the value of a creative education
Dear Music Studio Parent
Since our start in 2010, I have strived to offer fun and engaging lessons at an affordable price. As a parent myself, I know the importance of making every dollar count when it comes to running a household.
Please accept this letter as notification of a $10.00 monthly increase in tuition, effective January 1, 2019. This change in tuition is a result of the increased costs of operating the school.
The following are some added benefits that I will implement in 2019
- Wednesday night improv class-FREE!
- Discounted rates for winter/summer camp
- A movie night once a semester
The gift of music lasts a lifetime. Thank you for choosing (your studio name) as your family’s music school.
Have you ever raised your piano tuition costs? Did it work? Leave your thoughts below.
Thanks so much! I was just about to write a letter and thought I’d check if TopMusic had a template. You just saved me SO MUCH time and angst. Well done team.
I am considering a $5/lesson increase in pricing. Do you recommend this much of an increase, or should I implement it more slowly? I have been teaching private lessons for about 10 years, and I’ve actually never had the nerve to raise my price until just recently. Last winter, I started raising the price for only new students because my schedule was getting to be absolutely out of control. I was overwhelmed with students and actually had to start a wait list due to no more time in my schedule. I’d like to raise the rate for the rest of my students at this time, as I’m starting to consider scheduling for the fall. What do you think?
Hi Jackie! This depends on a few things -my main questions are: how far under market are you already? And how is the local economy currently? If you’re coming up from a lower level, I’d recommend you go ahead and adjust up the $5/lesson now. It’s actually easier to go across the board up and just get it done. And I agree with you – fall increase now is best, rather than waiting til midyear later to adjust tuition. Some teachers have the school of thought that loyalty clients shouldn’t get increases and only new clients should have the new pricing. I’ve done that and my problems with it are: messy accounting with the possibility for errors, and also a feeling like I’m working just as hard for every client but not all are paying full rate. I prefer to feel equal about every one of my families, so I prefer equal pricing. Truly a personal preference though! For your price increase, I’d caution you to expect some fallout, but it sounds like you have a strong waitlist, so it should be good!
I’d be interested to know how much local teachers all over Australia are charging for their lessons? I am thinking of increasing my prices as they have been the same rate for the last 10 years! I think it’s time. I’ve noticed music schools in my area (Perth) charge anywhere from $35-45/ 30 minute lesson. I am a travelling teacher and drive to and from students houses. I am interested to know other people’s rates. I currently charge $35/30 minute lesson and I discount it to $60/full hour.
Most teachers in the US charge $35-$50 per 30-minute lesson (Australian dollars) $35 does give you some room to move up!
I think the cost of learning piano that increases doesn’t matter if we get really high quality lessons. I’ve studied piano and it’s not at a cheap price, but I can really play the piano well. And my teacher is the best teacher, we learn piano not afraid of being wrong. If we are not concentrated, my teacher invites us to try again. This is the best. clavis.nl
Sounds like music has had a big impact on your life!
A really nice article! I totally agree with what you said about cheap meaning low value. Reasonable pricing helps me get students who value what I do, and makes my profession really enjoyable.
Students who value you make for great loyal customers! thanks for your comment
I raise mine every year, sometimes by quite a bit when I feel like it is justified by the value added. I haven’t lost a student for this reason once in at least the past 4 years of teaching (or even been questioned once about my rates) because of all the value my studio has offered during that time since taking a hard look and reinventing my studio. My retention rate is extremely high and I am proud to say that my students make a concerted effort to be at every lesson, and we really enjoy our time working together and they love growing in their musical ability. You are correct that we are selling feelings! They love coming here, and I love teaching them and feel like I am appropriately compensated and respected/appreciated as a teacher!
thanks for sharing. All purchases are about feelings!
I was terrified to raise my rates for the first time! I was so afraid of what my families would think or say. I had legitimate reasons for the increase (increased overhead costs) and offered compensation in the return of a few freebies, such as an annual recital. I didn’t take the time to truly realize my value as a piano teacher until I had my first recital this past spring and saw the results of my teaching: the hard work of my students, the smiles on everyone’s faces, the happiness in the faces and voices of families and friends, and the amount of praises and thanks I received. Not a single family said anything about my rate increase as the first payments rolled in and now I finally get to enjoy (as do my students) time off over the Christmas holidays and two more weeks throughout the year. Thank you for this atricle. All of your points hit home.
thanks for sharing your story. It’s a good feeling when you worry and nothing bad happens. A sign your students really enjoy working with you
Historically I charged a medium rate, raising them occasionally when it felt right. I was working very hard, teaching tons of students. A couple of years ago I realized that I have been teaching for many, many years and my teaching has become very excellent. I decided that I should be charging the same as the most expensive teachers in my area. I figured that even if I lost a couple of students, that would mean that I was working less and earning more. I also noticed that the more you charge, the more your students respect your teaching. However I did wimp-out a little and implement a sibling discount rate. Also, the higher rates attract better students without the problem of students forgetting to pay. So now, I am getting paid what I am worth and have fantastic students.
Thank you very much for your insights. I am about to raise my rate by $5.00 and I am terrified I will lose students, I am not worth the raise, etc etc. BUT because I travel to students and offer them a service that most teachers don’t, I find it absolutely necessary to raise my rates. I like your idea of the personal letter. Thanks again for your encouragement.
It’s ok if you lose students. The gains will make it worth it. I’ll bet you $5.00 that you won’t lose less than 3 🙂 Ok how about a virtual handshake. Are you raising your rates $5 a month or per lesson? Try to see your product and the value you offer from their perspective. Think of your musical mentor as a child. What did that person mean to you? That’s what you mean to your students.
When you raise your price your students have to options. Continue on or quit. They have that option every day yet they keep coming back to you. They value YOU. Try to value YOU as much as they do!
Stick with your plan. Write the letter and mail it.
oops I meant “You won’t lose MORE than 3 students” Your students will respect your professionalism
I work in two primary schools plus a highschool. The primary school sets the price we can charge. Every year I find myself having to push for a raise. The other tutors are quite happy to leave tuition costs the same each year! I’ll use some of this wording in my letter to the school. Thanks, Mary
So glad to hear this is helpful. Feel free to email me a draft of your letter for proofing or feedback. firstname.lastname@example.org
Great article! This course helped me improve myself and raise my costs so much – https://bit.ly/2DJxLCM !
So glad you found this helpful!
Agreed! In 30 years of piano teaching I have never had complaints when raising tuition. I think its because our studio experience is packed with value. A sense of community between parents and students is also key.
do you raise your rates annually? do you set your increase by a % or a fixed dollar amount? I typically raise my rates by $5-10 a year. Pretty minimal but I consistently raise them.
I totaly agree on this. But I have a question.
If you continuously adding new value, then it will put more and more responsibilities for you. How do you handle it?
Every year the cost of living raise. But we know, most of them do not add any new value for us. It just go higher. Economical things.
But of course we can not say that we raise our tuition because our cost of living go higher, right? There must be something pleasant to say to the parents. E.g adding value.
But I see it will have us more task to handle in the future if we keep adding value.
great question. Value can be added and it can also be reinforced. It can be added with new perks. It can be reinforced through focus on customer experience. For example someone in my office sits in for 3 minutes on a lesson “i was walking by and your playing caught my ear. what are you guys working on?” we then email the parent “I sit in on Jessie’s lesson today for a minute and am so impressed with her progress. She really seems to love the guitar” this allows the customers to reconnect with their feelings about your business. The more the customer can reconnect with their initial hope and excitement the more value you add. The more the are reminded why they love your service so much.