The Varsity Musician’s Playbook Part 1: Studio Interdependence

Once my piano students hit middle school, I often lose them to sports.

If this is a statement you’ve either said at least once in your career or heard a colleague say, raise your hand.

Me, me, me!

Yes, you over there, with your hand up – this post is for you!

At every conference I attend, while there are many excellent sessions, there are always one or two whose message sticks with me for good. At this past MTNA Conference (2016 San Antonio), my “sticky” session was by far:

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Commitment Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

Bam! Wow, the title hooked me. As someone who enjoys the business side of running my piano studio – this was my type of session.

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Parades: A Double-Marketing Whammy

Last week my studio families and I walked in our 5th annual parade since I opened in 2011. A 5-year anniversary is a perfect time for celebration, so I wanted to share a little more about it with you today.

Not only are you going to see photos from the last five years, but I’m going to share how a simple community event like a parade can become a core marketing tool to grow your music studio.


2011 – Year 1

The year I started my studio, I was living off only 10-15 students and needed to go on the cheap. My logo had not yet been designed, so I just cut a simple sign out of black poster board and borrowed my mother-in-law’s beautiful T-bird.


The keyboards I made from foam-core poster board I bought at Wal-Mart.


My hubby is a trooper. 🙂

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School Music Teachers: A Marketing Gem

After hearing me share how I built my studio to 45 students in less than two years, a colleague recently sent me a message on Facebook inquiring about one of the specific tactics I mentioned,, which was marketing to music teachers in the schools.

I thought her questions were ones that many of you might enjoy hearing my answers to but first here was her inquiry:

I’ve heard you mention before that you had good luck meeting with school music teachers, letting them know about your services and asking them to refer students to you.

How did you find out which teachers to contact?
Did you call or email?
Did you meet with them in person?
What did you say to make them more likely to agree to the meeting, and what things did you bring up during the meeting?

One of the many marketing tactics I took in the first two years I was open for business included contacting and meeting all the school teachers in the county and surrounding counties in person.

Psst…there’s a freebie at the end to help you organize your new marketing strategy, so stick with me!


Why This is So Important

Who is it that parents go to when they look for lessons? They ask the kid’s music teacher. You should know who they are and what they look like, so if you see them around town, especially in a small town, you can at least put a face with a name.

Building rapport with school music teachers is building your referral network.

Since I keep detailed records of every inquiry, conversation, and contact I have with potential students, I can announce for a fact that 6% of my total inquiries thus far have come from the school music teachers. This includes those who only inquired as well as those who ultimately registered. Even better, 8.7% of my total registrations have come from this marketing effort – nearly one in eleven.

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Marketing with Postcards (it’s not what you think!)

I would take a strong bet that when you hear the phrase “Marketing With Postcards,” the first thing that comes to mind is a mass-mailing marketing strategy.

Am I right?

Today I want to share with you how postcards can be useful for marketing your independent music studio – but from a different angle.

The best part is that it’s much easier and cheaper than any mass mailing marketing strategy.

Would you like to hear what it is?

Student birthday cards!

My next bet is that you just rolled your eyes a little after reading that I’m calling student birthday cards a “marketing” tool.

Am I right again? LOL

In this post, I’ll explain why it’s a good marketing strategy, then share details on how I do mine and organize/streamline the process.

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Picnic Performance

I’m excited to share with you a wonderful informal performance I host for my students in the summer.

You’ll not only get all the nitty-gritty including repertoire used, and my preparation checklist, but I’m going to show you how this performance can be used as a marketing tool!


Until last year I didn’t do any kind of recitals during the summer. I believe in keeping summer commitments as light as possible, which is why I make summer optional for families. I usually have 60% of my students take summer lessons.

(Since you’re a piano teacher I know you’re wondering…yes my income drops in the summer. However, students who don’t take have to pay a $25 non-refundable holding fee. This amounts to several hundred dollars which helps a little with the reduced summer income.)

Last summer, however, I decided I wanted to do an informal picnic performance for students taking summer lessons.

I can’t remember the exact reason I decided to do this but do recall seeing Irina Gorin posting on Facebook about a picnic with her studio families and I thought it was a lovely idea. I’m always looking for ways to build community within my studio and what better way than to have a meal together!

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Article in the Piano Bench Mag

piano-bench-mag-july-2016I wrote an article for the July edition of The Piano Bench Mag called…

32 Ways to Market Your Studio.”

Below is a teaser excerpt, but to see all 32, you will have to visit The Piano Bench Mag in iTunes! The app is free to download and you can either purchase individual editions or pay for a yearly subscription.


If you’re interested in learning more about The Piano Bench Mag, you can catch past reviews by  fellow piano bloggers.

Natalie Weber’s Review

Melody Payne’s Review

You can also follow The Piano Bench Mag on Facebook.


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More Parks and Recreation Classes

Last week I held several classes for our city’s Parks and Recreation department including a class for 5-6-year-olds, 7-8-year-olds, and 9-10-year-olds. (The photos below are of the latter).

Holding these classes is just one way I try to continually market my business and keep my name in the community. If you missed my first post that included detailed information on the Tot Music Time for 3-4-year-olds, read it here.

I take from a variety of materials for these classes including Piano Fun for the Young, Celebrate Piano, and Faber’s My First Piano Adventures. Since it’s just one class, the students don’t receive any books; I mostly do improvisation activities, exploration of the piano, keyboard topography, and playing along to song tracks with a steady beat.

We start by playing the Piano Safari animal improvisation game. This game works great for a large range of ages.

View their video here.

I open up the piano, and we explore and learn all the parts.

Download my Piano Parts Cards

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How One $0 Marketing Effort Yielded Over $5,000 Tuition

In the summer of 2013, two years into my studio, I decided to start offering classes through our city’s Parks and Recreation Department to help grow and market my studio. Several people had mentioned it to me when I first opened but I pushed the idea aside – silly me. I don’t remember what made me decide to finally try it, but I haven’t regretted it since.

I’m going to share with you first a little about the logistics of holding these classes and then will share my lesson plan, materials, and photos from one of the classes, Tot Music Time.

Next week I will post information and photos on the other classes.


The Low-Down

Our city’s Parks Department offers programming throughout the summer. Anyone can offer a class. All you have to do is send in the class title, description, date, time, and if there will be any charge. They do all the advertising, and registrations and simply send me a class list a few days prior. I send them the offerings in January so they are ready for the printing of publicity.

I run the classes either the week of Memorial Day (if I know schools will be out early), or the very first week of June to allow for student sign-ups for any summer classes I might hold. I hold two classes a day, 11:00 am and 10:00 am. (I have them fill up the 11:00 first in case there aren’t enough sigh-ups for the second class then I don’t have to come in as early!)

Each class has a set minimum and maximum. This is based on the “move-around” space in my studio, the number of keyboards I have, and lastly, the amount that I need to stay sane (I don’t do large groups well!) 🙂

The classes are broken down into ages:

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Webinar: Wild West of Marketing


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I’m excited to announce that I will be hosting a free webinar with Tim Topham this coming weekend!

(Don’t be confused by the date on the image as that’s Australia time. It’s Saturday evening June 4 here in the US. See below to find out when it is for your time zone.)

I’ve been listening to his podcast from the start and we met for the first time at MTNA 2016. This webinar is the session I gave in San Antonio, hence the “Wild West” theme of course! 🙂




what Tim has to say

I’m very pleased to give you front-row access to my free webinar next weekend with Amy Chaplin called “The Wild West of Studio Marketing“.

It’s a live 1-hour online training on Sunday 5 June at 8am AEST.

What time is that for me?

What’s it about?

If you’ve ever wondered about the best way to market you studio, create buzz and build student numbers, you’re going to love hearing about what Amy has achieved in 4 years of starting a studio from scratch.

Most importantly, not only does she have a great story and fantastic marketing ideas, she’s researched, analysed and graphed the outcomes of more than ten different specific marketing strategies, so that you can save time and money learning which ones work the best.

I was completely blown away by Amy’s presentation at the MTNA conference this year.

Not only is she a fantastic, genuine and knowledgeable speaker, she has the research and analytics to back up what she says.

Just wait until you see the graphs!!




How do I register?

Just click the button:


This webinar has passed!


I hope to see you all there, yee-haw!