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Musician, author, educator, and music industry consultant Bobby Borg gives advice about starting a music-lesson business. Read the post and watch the videos to see Bobby’s 10 tips for launching your own business giving music lessons.

Excerpted and adapted from the video, “How to Start and Run a Successful Music Teaching Business.”

Most musicians know how difficult it is to make music and money… and money and music. Right? It’s very difficult.

When I graduated from Berklee College of Music, I made money and covered living expenses by teaching music lessons. But not everybody knows how to set up a music-lesson business, and they usually do not know how to create a curriculum, target their market, price their services, or promote their business.

I’m going to offer 10 tips that can help you to be more successful at creating a music-lesson business.

1. Learn your craft

This might seem like a very basic tip, but I’m 100 percent serious. You have to ask yourself if you are skilled and experienced enough to teach because you can do damage to people if you are not. For example, if you don’t have and can’t teach proper vocal technique, you can lead students down a path where they could do physical harm to their instrument, i.e., their vocal cords. If I do not teach proper drum technique, I can create years of bad habits, bad posture, etc.

So make sure you really are skilled and experienced before you start teaching. Put in your 10,000 hours and don’t just do it for the money. Ask yourself if you are ready to teach and take on the responsibility of helping new and advanced students develop habits and practices for their musical development.

2. Target a market

Lots of people don’t think about targeting their market when they go into teaching, but this is important because it’s going to impact how you set up your business.

For example, if I’m teaching drums to 8–12 year-olds, I might be focusing on things like how to hold the sticks, coordination, and just trying to keep them engaged. 12–20 year-olds are going to want to know all the chops and polyrhythmic fills. And beyond that, my audience might want to know things like how to groove, how to win the audition, how to get the gig, and what they should get paid. So you need to focus in on your target audience and ask yourself where your strengths are as a player and teacher.

Once you’ve figured that out, you have to create a curriculum for that target audience. In other words, don’t wing it — be prepared. I had a folder of rudiments, a folder of solos, a folder of grooves, a folder of Latin jazz, I had charts prepared… This way, you look extremely organized and you’re proficient in your teaching, and your students will respect that.

3. Do market research

Studying competitors is something a lot of people don’t do, and when they think about competitors, they think negative things like, my competitors are out to get me and I’m out to get them. Wrong. Competitors are your friends. You can learn from them: study their strengths, look at their products, their pricing, their promotion. Look at their weaknesses, what they’re not doing well, and, more importantly, look at the hole in the marketplace they’re not covering. Maybe that’s where you can position yourself and create a competitive advantage.

4. Set goals

I know, you hear this advice all the time… set your goals, blah blah blah. Well, it’s important, and it’s even more important to set SMART goals: you want them to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Road-mapped, and Time-based.

Be specific. Do you want to teach music part-time or full-time? Do you want 10 students or 100 students? Do you want to create a franchise? It’s important to be very specific about what you’re trying to achieve.

Measurable. How do we know when we are successful? You need a quantifiable component attached to your goals, like, you’re trying to make X amount of dollars per year or you want to get X number of students in the next three months. This is very important, because now you can measure and manage your success. If you have no specific, measurable component, you can’t know if you’re making progress.

It’s also important that your goals are attainable, otherwise, you’ll never achieve your definition of success.

Road-mapped is all about figuring out how you’re going to get where you want to go, including promotion and marketing.

Last is time-based — you always want to set a time frame to attain your measurable goals.

5. Define your product

When people think about their product when they go into teaching music lessons, it’s easy to be vague. “I teach drum lessons” or “I’m a vocal coach.” There’s so much more to it — expand that product description. Do you just teach drum lessons one-on-one or could you teach ensemble lessons? Can you teach drummers how to play with other musicians, how to lock in with a bass player, how to play behind a vocalist? What about stage performance lessons, stage techniques? There are a lot of specifics you can focus on.

Bobby’s got five more tips for you in this next video… check it out!

Want more music career advice? Don’t just read it… watch the videos on Bobby Borg’s YouTube channel.


Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician (Second Edition), Business Basics For Musicians (Second Edition), and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. Learn more at www.bobbyborg.com.


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