Teach Music Online: A Beginner’s Guide

Beginners guide to online teaching


Welcome to the Teach Music Online Beginner’s Guide. It’s great to have you here!


At this point, you’ve done some initial research, made the decision to teach music online, and are looking to take your first steps into the online teaching world.


That’s great news! Welcome to the online music teaching community.


After making the decision to step into the online teaching realm, many musicians struggle to get their businesses off the ground.


As well, even once you’ve launched a website, built a social media following, and even written an eBook or app, it’s hard to know what to do next.


This article will break down the different roadblocks that people face when they start teaching music online.


Whether you’re interested in teaching private video lessons, writing an eBook, or launching an app or software program, the information in this article will benefit your work.



Teach Music Online Starter Kit


This article is written more for people who’ve made the decision to work online, and have either booked a first music student or started writing an eBook or App.


If you’re unsure about whether you want to get into online teaching, or haven’t begin exploring your options yet, check out my Online Music Teaching Starter Kit.


In this free PDF, you’ll learn everything you need to know about what options you have to teach online, and how to pursue those options from day 1.


Enter your email and first name below to get your Starter Kit directly to your inbox, and begin your journey to teaching music online today.






Table of Contents (Click to skip down)








Teaching Music Online – Private Students


When moving into the realm of teaching music online, you’ll quickly notice that there aren’t as many differences from in-person teaching as you might expect.


Sure, some things are going to be different, such as communication, watching for technical issues, etc., but for the most part it’s the same thing.


Now, with technology there are always going to be pitfalls you’ll want to avoid, and quirks that’ll come up over time.


To help prepare you for these issues, and to help you stay ahead of the curve, this section will break down common online teaching problems and their solutions.


Not everyone will deal with these items, but in my experience you will see most of them over time if you continue to teach online.


So, being aware of these problems early on, and learning how to deal with them, will prevent unnecessary headaches in your online music teaching business.




Booking Online Music Students


As you begin to work with your first online music students, booking will become the first issue to crop up into your field of vision.


When working with in-person students, booking is fairly simple, you look in both your calendars, find a time that works, and that’s it.


But, with online students, they’re often in different time zones, and could even be on a different day than you for the lesson.


This makes booking a bit trickier online compared to in person.


But, not to fear, there are a number of ways to ensure that you get the right time for the lesson in your calendar, starting with your calendar.


Calendar apps such as iCal now have a built in time zone adjuster that you can use when booking lessons.


So, if a student suggests 5pm London time Tuesday for the lesson, you enter 5pm GMT (London time), into your calendar and it adjusts it to fit your local time.


If you aren’t comfortable doing that, or are worried the calendar will make a mistake, you can also use the world clock website.


This site tells you what time it is right now in any city on the planet.


With this site, you can work out the current time difference and do the math yourself.


So, if you’re on EST time, and the student is in London, that’s a five-hour difference, meaning the lesson would be at noon EST and 5pm London time.


Either way will work, but be prepared to make a time zone miscalculation once in a while.


It happens, you’re off by an hour, or do the math wrong, and students will understand if it happens once in a long while, just don’t make a habit of it.


As well, you’ll need to learn when different countries do daylight savings, and which countries don’t do it at all, as this changes your schedule twice a year.


For example, Brazil is a country that changes their clocks earlier than the US, which is earlier than Europe, etc.


Because of this, a lesson that was every Tuesday at 4pm EST with a student in London will be at 3pm for a few weeks as you do daylight savings before them.


As well, lessons in different hemispheres will change times throughout the year, as you “spring forward” they’ll “fall back” with daylight savings.


This can cause a few issues when you first begin, but with time you’ll become accustomed to working these time shifts out in your schedules.


Just be aware that in March/April and October of each year you’ll have to look ahead at those months a bit to see when each country does daylight savings.


Then you can get ahead of the curve with those changes as you begin to schedule lessons in those different time zones.




Receiving Payments


There are a few ways that you can receive payments from students, with PayPal and bank transfers being the most common.


With bank transfers, you’ll have to look at what is available with your bank and in our country as it’s not always an option.


For this reason, PayPal is the best option when receiving payments from students for online music lessons.


With PayPal, you can request money from a student, which is then sent to them by email, and they can pay with a transfer from their account.


If a student doesn’t have a PayPal account, they can also pay as a “guest” using a debit or credit card, not a problem.


There are some countries in the world, very few, where this can be a problem, using a credit card or PayPal to make payments, due to government regulations.


In these cases, you can receive a money order if you’re comfortable with that method of payment.


Unfortunately there are a number of money order scams out there, and so it’s not something that I feel comfortable with in my own business.


When using PayPal, for transfers or card payments, you will be assessed a small fee per transaction, typically around 4%.


While this can add up over time, you can claim this as a business expense on your taxes and receive a partial or full refund for this money at the end of the tax year.


As well as learning how to use PayPal, which is very easy, make sure to become familiar with their reports and other documents.


This’ll save you time during tax season when you need to find those records to calculate how much you can claim back in transaction fees for your payments.


Lastly, it is not advised to give a lesson to any student before they’ve paid for that lesson, for a number of reasons.


The main reason is that there is no recourse if a student decides not to pay after the lesson is complete.


If you take their money, and don’t teach them, then that student can file a complaint with PayPal, or give you bad reviews online, both of which can ruin your business.


This makes is far less likely that you’ll not show up for a lesson, lowering the risk on the student’s end with the transaction.


But, if a student says they’ll pay after, and then don’t, you really have no way to get your money from them after the fact.


Because of this, it’s not a good idea to teach any online music student unless they’ve paid for the lesson ahead of time.




Dealing with Cancellations


As you begin to book online music students, you’ll quickly have to come up with a policy for dealing with cancellations.


You can have one that mimics your real-world lessons, such as students must give 24 hours notice or pay for the lesson, or make up a new one for online students.


In my experience, if the student doesn’t show or doesn’t give 24 hours notice, having them pay for the lesson is appropriate.


This prevents students from not showing up and you having to sit there waiting for them during their lesson time, not getting paid for the time you’ve committed.


But, if a student starts a lesson and their internet cuts out, which doesn’t happen often, it’s appropriate for them to receive credit for the time not used in the lesson.


So, if you teach for 15 minutes, and then the student can’t continue for technological reasons, you would reschedule the remaining 45 minutes for another time.


As this rarely happens, and is beyond the student’s control, this has proven to be a good way to deal with this issue in my lessons.


You might feel differently, but your students will appreciate a little leeway with these sorts of issues.


On your end, make sure to have a smartphone with a 3g or 4g connection handy in case your internet goes out and you have to reschedule a lesson.


Any time you have to miss a lesson, for illness or other issues, make sure to tell students right away.


As students aren’t traveling to your place for lessons, they won’t mind the odd reschedule; just give them fair notice to rearrange their plans for the day.


And, it almost goes without saying, any lesson that’s missed on your end should be rescheduled free of charge to the student.


In my five years teaching online I can say that the reschedule and cancellation rate with my students is far lower than with my previous in-person students.


If students are sick, or it’s raining, or traffic is bad, they can still do the lesson from the comfort of their own home.


Because of this, I’ve seen about an 85-90% attendance rate for all lessons booked with my online students.


This is far greater than my previous in-person students who had to deal with traffic, childcare issues, illnesses, etc. and couldn’t make as many lessons.




Skype vs. Google Hangouts


Though you have other options when teaching music students online, in a one-on-one situation, Skype and Google Hangouts are by far the most popular.


Both are free services, and both have pros and cons that you can check out to decide which is right for you and your students.


Skype is a free program, anyone can sign up without paying, and provides and easy to use and high-definition experience.


While Skype has superior video quality to Hangouts, it uses more broadband bandwidth to communicate with your students.


This isn’t really a problem most of the time, as the majority of internet connections in the world can handle Skype, but it can be an issues from time to time.


If you or your students have family members that are streaming videos, or playing video games online, it can slow down your Skype video feed.


If asking them to stop while you teach isn’t an option, then Hangouts becomes a good backup plan in these situations.


Hangouts has a lower quality video experience, but still fine for lessons, and it uses less bandwidth than Skype.


This makes it a solid choice for when your internet is being shared in a household, or when your student has a slow connection.


The only caveat with Hangouts is that both you and your student need to have a Gmail address to login and use the service, but that’s free to obtain.


In my experience, Skype is better for teaching music online, while Hangouts is good to have as a backup when needed or when students prefer that service.


Try both out and then see what you think, you might have a different preference, and that’s perfectly fine.


What I would advise against at this point, is purchasing any software or service that allows you to teach through video online.


The free versions of Skype and Hangouts are high quality and provide you everything you need to teach online.


One of the biggest reasons people teach online is the freedom to not give up a cut of their lesson fees to a store or academy.


Don’t fall into that trap online as well, use a free service such as Skype or Hangouts and save your money.




Technology – Love It and Hate It


Modern technology is great, you wouldn’t be moving into online music teaching if it wasn’t, but it’s not all a bed of roses either.


One of the biggest questions that comes up from new online music teachers is”


“Do I need to buy a ton of new equipment to teach online?”


The short answer to that question is no.


If you have a laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or even smartphone, that’s been built in the last three to five years, you have everything you need.


The vast majority of devices built in recent years come with a built in camera and microphone, the only two things you really need to teach online.


Beyond these items you can explore other options, such as multiple cameras, audio mixers, etc., but they’re not necessary for a quality teaching experience.


In my experience, what tends to happen with students who have a lot of gadgets hooked up in the lesson is that those gadgets don’t always work.


A lot of time can be wasted in an online music lesson if your technology doesn’t work.


Now, if this is on the student’s end, that’s up to them to handle and either fix or go to a simpler setup for that lesson.


This is fine; as they’ve chosen to use the technology they are interested in using for the lesson.


But, if it’s your technology that’s not working, you can’t take lesson time to fix it, that’s not what the student is paying you for.


For anything that takes more than a couple minutes to fix, a reschedule or refund for that lesson is necessary on your part, which is not ideal.


So, to avoid unnecessary issues with technology, keep things simple.


Start with what you absolutely need, camera and mic, and then slowly add a few things if you want from there.


I’ve been teaching 25 to 30 online students per week for five years, and that’s all I’ve ever needed to have a successful lesson.




File Transfer During and After Lessons


One of the advantages to teaching online that will quickly become apparent is the ability to share files immediately with students.


This can be done in a number of ways, depending on the type and size of the document you want to send to the student.


For example, if you want to send an mp3 you created in Band in a Box for the student to jam over, email will work fine.


But, for bigger files, you’ll need to use a file transfer program such as Dropbox.


Files such as PDF, word documents, and small audio or video files can be sent most of the time through email to your students.


But, if the file is too large for email, you can upload it to a shared Dropbox folder that the student has access to.



Or, if the student doesn’t use Dropbox, you can email them the link, or message it to them in Skype or Google Hangouts, and they can download it from there.


Between email and a free service like Dropbox, you’ll be able to send links and files to students before, during, or after your lessons when needed.


One thing that won’t work that well, is sharing files directly through Skype during a lesson.


I’ve found that files shared in Skype take a very long time to download, and therefore this isn’t a practical option for file sharing with students.


What does work well in Skype, if needed, is the ability to screen share with your students, and vice-versa.


If you quickly want to show them something such as notation, or other diagram, and it’s on your computer, you can just share your screen with them.


As well, if a student is learning how to use software in their learning such as Sibelius, Garageband, or BIAB, you can ask them to screen share so you can help them address those problems and see exactly what they are doing in real time.


Between sharing files and screen sharing, you’ll be able to transfer all the non-verbal information you need to your students in a practical and easy manner.




Taking Notes vs. Student Note Taking


The last thing to consider when delving into online teaching is whether you as the teacher will take notes, or the student will take notes, or both.


There are pros to you taking notes, it allows the students the chance to focus on the lesson at hand, and not get distracted with writing down instructions for example.


As well, it’ll ensure that the students don’t make any typos or mistakes in their notes that can cause problems in the practice room.


On the other hand, students might need extra clarification on an item that you quickly jot down, and they’d benefit from more detail.


When teaching first-time students online, I’ve found the best way to approach the issue of notes is to offer to take all the notes on my end.


Then I would put together the notes at the end of the lesson, add any notation or diagrams needed, and email them a PDF of the notes after that.


But, I also leave it open for students to jot down ideas or questions etc. in the lesson that they can keep for their notes and records going forward.


From there, it’s also a good idea to allow the student to email questions about the notes or material to you between lessons.


Taking time to answer a student’s question will always be better than getting to the next lesson and realizing the student has been practicing incorrectly.


Keep your approach to note taking open as you work with each new online student.


Some will want to write notes, some will prefer you do all the writing, and others will prefer a mix.


Over time you’ll recognize what that student needs and the best way forward for them in your lessons.


Regardless of whether you send them notes, it is beneficial to takes notes on what you’ve covered in the lesson, and where to go next, for your records.


This makes it easy to jog your memory if needed on what you’ve covered, what your thoughts were on the last lesson, and where you should go next in the lessons.





Launching a Music eBook Online


Whether you decide to teach private lessons online and release an eBook, or just go the route of being an author only, writing an eBook can be a fun experience.


Many music teachers have grown up with their favorite method books, and as you develop your career you might find that it’s time to write your own.


So, now that you’ve researched the book, written it, edited and formatted it, what do you do next?


Knowing where to sell your eBook, how to deal with updates, and providing customer service are just a few of the elements you’ll need to address when launching a music eBook.


This section will delve into those items, and more, as you learn about what to do next after you’ve written your music eBook.




Where to Sell Your eBook


After writing your eBook, congrats by the way not an easy feat, you’ll need to find the right platform to sell your eBook online.


There are several options that you can choose, and finding the right fit for you and your eBook can be one of the most important decisions you make with any product.


The most obvious option is using Amazon, which works well for many people.


Amazon is a strong choice for those without an online following or email list to market to.


If you’re just starting out, and haven’t built up a following, then Amazon’s internal search and recommendations can get the word out about your book.


But, if you have already built a following, and have an email list of dedicated readers, then Amazon might not be the best choice.


While Amazon has a huge customer base, it’s easy to get buried in the mountain of other books for sale in your genre on the site.


And Amazon takes a chunk of your income for their fees, which is something to consider if you could sell the book yourself.


When going the second route, you can sell your eBook through a service such as eJunkie or GetDPD.


Both allow you to upload your eBook and files to their site, and then they handle transactions through PayPal.


As well, both allow customers to purchase eBooks with a credit or debit card, though the transaction is run through PayPal for security purposes.


Each service will have slightly different payment structures, such as a monthly fee versus a percentage of each sale, so read carefully before committing to any service.


Using a service such as eJunkie, and selling the eBook yourself, has its upsides and downsides.


You won’t have a built in customer base such as you would with Amazon, but then you don’t have to pay a large fee either.


For those that have an audience of followers, it’s worth looking into selling your eBooks directly from your site with a hosting service such as GetDPD.


As well, you can experiment with selling on both Amazon and on your site, though Amazon has rules about this so make sure to read carefully before committing.


If you’re still unsure about which route is best for you, look at other authors, even in other industries, that are in your situation.


Then, see what they do. If they use Amazon there’s probably a good reason, so it’s worth checking out.


But, if they sell directly from their website, then that might be the best option.


Read, ask questions from other authors, and experiment, over time you’ll find the best fit for you and your eBooks.




Dealing With Audio and Video Files


When writing a music eBook, you’ll undoubtedly want to include either audio or video examples, or both, with your material.


As music is an aural art form, hearing musical examples is one of the most effective ways to teach and learn any musical concept.


While adding audio and video to website articles is pretty simple, including them in an eBook can be tougher than it looks.


If you choose to sell your eBook on Amazon, embedded audio isn’t an option at this time, though it may be in the future.


And, if you sell it on your own, embedded audio can be tricky as some devices, such as iPads or iPhones, can have trouble playing embedded audio files in PDFs.


Because of this, you need to experiment with how you deliver your media files to customers who’ve purchased an eBook.


If they deal directly with you, you can work with a designer, or do it yourself, where you embed audio files into the PDF and have them play directly from there.


But, if you go this route, make sure to test the PDF on all devices, desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets, both PC and MAC, to ensure that they work.


I’ve found that it’s very hard to have embedded audio work across all platforms, as laptops can read these files fine, but phones and tablets can cause problems.


If you find the same thing, then there are a few easy solutions to ensure all of your customers can access your media files.


If you’re only using audio files, then delivering them as Mp3 files along with the PDF eBook is an easy way to provide those files to customers.


Or, you could link the audio text in your eBook to an online audio or video file that people can watch or listen to in their Internet browsers.


Be careful with this second option, as many customers will want to work with your eBook offline, and so providing only online media files can cause problems.


If you sell your eBook through Amazon, you can include text at the beginning of the book that invites people to go to a page to download media files.


This can be set up automatically through your email newsletter provider, so that people just enter their name and email address, then are instantly mailed the files.


Whichever way you decide to go, embedded files, separate files, or email after the purchase, make sure to test, test, and test again.


It can be easy to try an embedded audio file on your PC laptop and find that it works before launching, only to find out later that MAC’s can’t read that file correctly.


Testing will prevent this issue from happening in the first place.


As long as you provide quality material, in a format that is accessible on any device, overall your customers will be satisfied with their purchases.


If not, then they won’t, which can cause problems for your business in both the short and long term.




Customer Service


There’s a bit of a common misconception when it comes to selling eBooks on the Internet.


It goes something like this:


“I’ve put in the hard work, written the book, launched it, now I can sit back, relax and the hard work is over.”


If you’ve had this thought, and we all have at some point, I’m going to burst your bubble today.


When you launch an eBook, the hard work is only beginning.


While your days of writing and editing are through, customer service will now take up that time in your daily schedule.


Customers will email with questions about the material in the eBook, how to open files, with download issues, payment issues, etc., and anything else you can think of.


While it may seem overwhelming when the first emails start rolling in, staying on top of customer service is very important to the long-term success of your business.


Make sure to reply to emails within one day, and always be polite and courteous, even when your customers aren’t.


When people write to you, sometimes they’re frustrated with something else, or are having a bad day, and your reaction can help or further fan the flames.


If someone is terse or rude in an email, respond politely, offer the help they need, and offer further assistance if needed.


You’d be surprised, but I’ve never had a second terse email after responding in this fashion.


In fact, I often get emails back thanking me for being professional, and sometimes apologizing for the first email.


These things happen, and you can’t control other people.


But, you can control your reaction, and being polite, and friendly can go a long way to defusing a tense situation and connecting with people in the long term.


Lastly, most of what you’ll deal with in customer service has nothing to do with your eBook material or music in general.


You’ll be answering questions about technical issues that have cropped up because customers have purchased your eBooks.


These issues range from not having a PDF reader on their computer, to an outdated one, to having malware or a virus, to having an outdated operating system.


You’ll quickly become an expert in diagnosing and fixing computer problems of all kinds through dealing with customers who’ve purchased your eBook.


Though many, if not all, of these technical issues are unrelated to your actual eBook, take the time to help these people out.


All they want to do is access your eBook and become better musicians through your teaching, and if you have to troubleshoot a computer problem to get there, it’s worth it.


People will be appreciative of your help, and if you solve a technical problem for them, they’re more likely to purchase another of your eBooks in future.


Now, you will run into situations where you quickly realize that their device is either too old or too damaged to function properly.


In these cases, if you’re over your head and can’t Google an answer, refer them to a computer technician.


Offering help, and doing some research on common problems such as recognizing when Adobe Reader is out of date, is one thing.


But anything overly technical should be referred to experts who can fix a damaged or older machine.




Taxes and eBook Sales


Before we look at tax and eBook sales, I want to stress something; I am not a tax expert.


Every country is different and has different rules on how to deal with taxes on digital products such as eBooks.


Therefore, if you have any questions, concerns, or doubts about anything tax related, go see an expert.


It’s never worth taking a chance with something like taxes, hoping you’re doing things right, as the consequences can be life altering.


So, I won’t address anything tax specific in this article, or any article on this site, except to say that you need to talk to an expert when dealing with taxes.


Now, there is one area of taxes that I will address, and that’s whether to include tax in the price of your product, or add it in at the point of sale.


In North America, for example, tax is added at the point of sale.


This means that if you want to buy a $20 product, and sales tax is 20%, then at checkout you would pay $24.


In Europe on the other hand, a 20€ product is 20€ at the point of sale, taxes are included in the price, not added on later.


When selling an eBook, you’ll have customers from all over the world, and so it’s a better experience for those people to include tax in the price of your eBook.


That way people from Europe aren’t upset that tax was added on, resulting in a higher price than expected.


And, customers from places like North America are pleasantly surprised that there is no added tax at the point of sale.


Now, this does mean that you’ll make a bit less money, as you’ll need to pay that tax yourself rather than adding it to the sale price of the eBook.


But, there’s no production or shipping cost to any eBook you sell, so you aren’t going to lose any money, you just won’t make as much as you possibly could.


This is a small price to pay for keeping your customers happy, and preventing complaints from people not used to adding taxes at the point of sale.


Though customs for dealing with taxes may be different in your country, it’s best to look globally when making these decisions, as your customers will be global.


And, don’t forget, any questions about taxes and how to collect or pay them need to be addressed by an expert.


You’ve worked hard to get this far in your career; so don’t let guesswork on taxes ruin that for you going forward.




Editing and Fixing Typos


No matter how much you edit your eBook, how many friends you have look over it for you; you will still find typos over time.


Well, more accurately, your readers will find typos for you as they work through your eBooks.


This happens, even to professionally published books and articles, nobody’s perfect.


But, while typos do occur, that doesn’t mean you have to live with them.


One of the best parts of releasing an eBook, compared to print, is that you can make changes and immediately see those changes.


If you find a few typos, save them up for a bit to see if you find any more, then replace your eBook on your sales platform with the updated version.


That way all new customers will have the new, typo-free eBook.


As well, if the typos are something that you think could cause confusion, or are significant enough, you can send out the updated version to previous customers.


This’ll provide the best quality product for your customers, and it shows people that you care enough to fix mistakes and update their previous purchases.


If you’ve spent enough time on the editing process, you won’t find many typos, but they do happen.


The key is not to freak out over them, though you probably will, just correct the mistakes, wait a bit to see if more occur, then send out the update.


Lastly, readers will email you to let you know about any little typo in your eBooks, and they should.


Don’t take this to heart, respond politely, inform them that an updated eBook will go out shortly, and thank them for pointing out the error.


People aren’t trying to correct you or make you feel bad, they’re actually trying to help you out.


A little thanks and some kind words to those that find typos can go a long way in building a long-term relationship with your customers.




Updating eBooks Over Time


Besides fixing typos and updating your eBooks to reflect those changes, you might consider doing a second edition of an eBook as time goes by.


After four or five years, you might find that you’ve changed your thoughts on certain parts of an eBook, have new material to offer, or are just better at design.


All of these can be reasons for you to do a complete new edition of a previously released eBook, then launching it as a new product at that point.


Now, this article is about your first eBook, so it’s a bit premature to be doing a second edition for most readers.


But, that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t begin preparing for that eventuality, even if you’re in the process of writing your first eBook.


Once your book goes live, and people buy it, you’ll start receiving customer feedback.


People who buy your book will email you to say what they like, and offer suggestions for future changes; it’s part of the normal buying process.


When people do write you emails like this, after thanking them for their thoughts, keep track of what they say.


If one person suggests that you change something, then it’s their opinion.


But, if a dozen people make the same suggestion, it’s worth looking into for a future edition.


So, keep a spreadsheet of all the positive comments, and criticisms/suggestions, that come in for your eBook, which you can revisit when the time is right for an update.


You can also solicit people’s opinions by sending out a survey to your email list.


When doing so, make sure to only send it to people who have purchased that eBook, don’t send it to your entire list.


People will be confused, and maybe upset, if you ask them for their opinion on a book they haven’t purchased.


As well, after you launch your eBook, you’ll continue to teach private students, give workshops, and study on your own.


All of which provide new experiences, new problems to address, and new solutions to these problems.


These revelations and experiences may change your mind, or provide new insight, into material you covered in your eBook.


When this happens, again make notes of it, and then when the time is right, you can incorporate these ideas into a second edition of the eBook.


You’ve put a lot of hard work into writing this eBook, so you don’t want to just let it site and grow old over time.


Treat it like a living, growing idea, one that you can continue to update over the course of your career.


This will ensure that you provide customers with the best and most up to date information, and you won’t ever think:


“Ugh, that book I wrote 20 years ago, that wasn’t my best work.”


Make sure that whatever you offer your followers, whether it’s free lessons, an eBook ,or private lessons, is always your best work.


Second editions, and third and fourth etc., are the best way to ensure this is the case with your eBooks.




Sales and Package eBook Deals


Once you have your book out for sale, have chosen your price, and started marketing it, you can look into offering periodic sales.


Events such as the “birthday” of your site, Black Friday, the 4th of July, and other holidays are good choices for times of the year to hold a sale.


When running a sale, make sure to provide enough of a discount that it provides incentive for people to buy your book, but not too much that it looks cheap.


Usually 25 to 40% off is a good place to be when holding a sale, and you can offer different discounts at different times of year as well.


If you’re using eJunkie or GetDPD or other service to sell your eBooks, you simply set up a discount code through the site.


You do so by setting the discount, either a percentage or set amount off, and then creating a code such as “sale” that your customers use when buying the eBook.


You can also set an end date for the discount code, such as one week from the sale launch, so that there is a definitive end date to the sale and it’s not ongoing.


You can also use a discount code for the launch of a new eBook, such as giving people 25% off a new book during the first week that it’s for sale.


This can help generate more interest in a new eBook, and make people feel more comfortable buying a book that hasn’t been on the market for very long.


As well, discount codes such as these make for a nice bonus offer for your newsletter subscribers.


Giving a 25% discount code to anyone who subscribes to your email list is a good way to say thanks for signing up, any time of year, and gets people interested in your eBooks right from the beginning of their relationship with you and your site.


The key is not to overdo sales, three to four a year is a good place to start, as if you have sales every month, people will begin to complain about the normal prices.


If someone paid $20 for an eBook, then saw it on sale every three to four weeks after that for $12, they might feel that they’ve been cheated.


As tempting as sales are, keep them for special occasions and use them wisely.


If you have more than one eBook for sale, you can also offer a “package” deal on your eBooks.


This would mean, for example, offering two books that retail for $20 each as a package for $30 when bought together.


Packages work well for customers who are fans of your work and want to buy most, or all, of your products.


This way they get to own your eBooks, and you give them a discount for buying in quantity, so it’s a win-win situation.


Regardless of how you organize your sales and discounts, having different price points for your eBooks, at different times of the year, is important.


It allows people to purchase your books at a price point that’s comfortable to them, and it helps create interest in your books throughout the year, not just at launches.






Releasing a Music App or Software Program


The final section of this article will look at launching a music app or software program.


Getting to this stage in your business could be the first thing you do, or it could be at a point where an eBook is selling well and you want to convert it to an app.


However you reach this destination, it’s a good idea to be prepared for how releasing an app or software program works.


As well, if you’ve already published an eBook, either on your own or through Amazon, this process is quite different.


Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for any differences that you find between eBooks and apps, so that you’re not caught off guard down the line.


Because building software and apps is more involved and technically complicated than launching an eBook or teaching lessons, this section will assume that you don’t have a finished product yet in hand.


From there, you’ll learn about taking an idea in your head out to launching it as a product, and everything in between.




Choosing the Right Platform


The first thing you’ll want to do when building a music app or software program is to figure out the best platform, or platforms, for your product.


This would mean deciding between Apple and PC, as well as between offering your product for phones, tablets, desktop, or all of the above.


With apps, you’ll need to look at whether iOS, Android, Windows, or all of the above is the best route to take.


While there are more Android phones and tablets than Apple, I’ve found with my own apps that for every 10 apps sold on Apple, I sell one on Android.


This might not be the case for everyone, but after having this experience with my first app, I decided not to offer future apps on Android for the time being.


This is because it takes a lot of time to convert and update apps for multiple platforms, and the return on that time wasn’t enough for my apps to make it worthwhile.


So, you’ll need to consider which platform is best for you to ensure that you don’t spend a lot of time on one, when it sells a small percentage compared to another platform.


Things to consider with this decision would be location and language as well as your user base.


If you live in France for example, and want to release an app in French, it would be best to research app sales in France on different devices.


Then, you can go with the one or ones that have the best sales record.


If Apple is the best platform in Canada, but in France it’s Windows, then a French app would best be launched on Windows.


Over time you will also begin to get customer feedback that can help you make this decision.


If you launch on Apple, and then get a number of emails from your followers requesting the app for Android, then it makes sense to launch it there as well.


The same is true for different devices.


If you have an app that’s only on iPad, but people request it to be released for desktop or on phones, that’s worth looking into.


In my experience, it’s best to start small, launch on one platform, then make adjustments in reaction to customer feedback.


It’s better to go this route than to spend hours building an app for Windows, when all your customers prefer it on Android.


Also, talk to your coder, or to other friends or peers that have released apps in the past.


Their experiences will be invaluable to you when you’re launching your own app, and deciding on where to distribute that app to your customers.




Revenue Split Models


Here’s a typical situation that many music teachers find themselves in, maybe it sounds familiar.


You’ve been teaching for a while, and you’ve come up with some new and exciting ways to approach the material in your genre or on your instrument.


At some point, a student or friend or peer suggests your method would be great for an app.


A light bulb goes off, “Yeah” you think, “This would be great as an app.”


So, you plan it out in your head, maybe put some ideas on paper, and you’re excited to take your idea to the app store and turn the music world on its head.


Then, suddenly, you realize you have no idea how to code an app, or even what that entails.


Now, your great idea is about to die an early death even before you’ve had a chance to see it come to fruition.


If this sounds even remotely familiar, don’t give up quite yet, there’s an easy and relatively common way to get your app out and not have to learn coding; revenue sharing.


This is where you work out a deal with a coder who takes your ideas and puts them into digital form.


While you may think that hiring a coder is expensive, and it can be, you can find coders who will do the work up front for revenue split on the back end of the launch.


This means that you both work on the app, them on the coding and you on the musical material, and when it starts to sell, you split the revenue.


You can split revenue 50-50, or find another arrangement that is suitable for both parties involved, but the important thing is that it can be done.


I’ve spoken to many people over the years with great ideas for apps, and software, that have given up because they didn’t want to learn coding.


By working with a coder, you’ll be able to have your vision realized and not break the bank up front in the process.


Now, how do you find a coder to work with?


If you don’t know anyone who’s already doing this type of work, the best way is to check out other music apps on the app store and see who built them.


If you have apps that you think are made very well, contact that coder and see if they’re willing to talk to you about a revenue share model for your idea.


Some won’t be interested, some will want money up front, but others will be interested in what you’re doing and possibly work with you.


You won’t know until you ask, so doing research and then reaching out to possible partners is the only way to find out.


Lastly, remember that you won’t be splitting 100% of the sales price from any app you develop.


Companies such as Google Play and Apple take a chunk of your money, plus there are taxes taken off as well.


So, when working out the math for any potential app ahead of time, a good estimate would be 60% of the sale price to be split between you and a coder.


In other words, you would receive roughly 30 cents for every dollar made on an app sale or in-app purchase.


It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with in-app sales and subscription based models becoming more popular, there’s potential for a solid return on your time and hard work invested in developing a music app.




Updates and Ownership


Once you’ve decided to produce a music app, and are in talks with a coder if you aren’t able to do it yourself, you need to consider updates and ownership.


As both of you will be putting in sweat equity to the project, you’ll both want to ensure you maintain ownership of your work should things end at some point.


If you decide to stop selling the app, or end your relationship with the coder, it should be made clear in your contract what happens to the material in the app.


A standard agreement would say that the coder keeps the coding and you keep the musical material used to build the app.


So, if the coder designed a guitar fretboard player for the app, that’s theirs.


But, if you came up with a unique way to teach scales on that fretboard, that’s yours.


However you decide to arrange ownership of any material related to the app will be fine, just make sure to include that in any contract you sign with the coder beforehand.


As well, apps need to be constantly updated.


Sometimes these updates are small and sometimes they require a lot of work.


Updates are needed when operating systems update, when new phones or tablets come out that have new sized screens, and just to improve app performance.


Because of this, it is necessary to include updates in your agreement with a coder.


Since broken apps don’t sell much, a revenue split agreement will usually be incentive enough to keep the app up to date.


But, you want to make sure everyone’s clear on this, and it’s in writing, so that you aren’t surprised in six months if the coder asks for payment to update the app.


Make sure it’s clear what each party is expected to do after the app is launched.


This would include updates from the coder, but also your responsibilities as far as marketing and promotion of the app through various channels.


Though it seems like a small item, having an understanding about these issues will prevent a lot of headaches down the road.




Taxes and Apps or Software Programs


As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a tax expert and am just sharing my experiences here.


Therefore, any tax questions or concerns you have need to be addressed to a qualified tax professional.


Now, when selling Apps and software, you’ll need to consider whether you are paying tax on that income at purchase, or if it’s your responsibility to pay it after.


Some delivery systems will take a percentage off of your payment for taxes, like your employer would with your paycheck.


While other platforms give you your full share, and then it’s up to you to pay your taxes in full at the end of the tax year in your country of residence.


Make sure that you understand this ahead of time so that you know how to plan your finances accordingly.


If you think that you’re paying taxes up front, but really aren’t, then you can get a nasty surprise bill come tax season.


This is never a good thing, especially if you’re just getting started with your music teaching business and every dollar counts.


So, make sure to read the terms of service and talk to professionals as well as people who’ve used these services before, to see how any platform handles taxes.


It’s better to be overeducated and prepare than guess or not do your research and get nailed with a big tax bill if your app or software program has healthy sales.




Different Versions of Products – eBook, App, Software


If you’re considering moving into the digital world, one item that you’ll have to consider is whether to release the same product on different platforms.


This would mean considering releasing the same book as an eBook, app, or software program.


The obvious benefit to this is that people will have the choice as to which platform they prefer when using your material.


At the same time, multiple choices can cause confusion for some people, who buy one product when they really preferred another.


As well, different platforms will have different prices, as people don’t usually want to pay a high price for an app, but for software are more comfortable with a higher price.


This can also be a benefit, as people can choose to purchase the produce that best suits their budget and delivery method.


On the other hand, seeing the same product at a different price, especially if they bought it at a higher price before seeing all of the options might upset people.


The best way to deal with this decision is to do market research.


Ask your students, your followers on social networks, your email subscribers, or just your friends and family.


See what people say about various delivery methods for a product, should it be only one or should there be options.


As well, ask them about price points, how they feel about different prices for different products, or should they all be the same.


In the end, you’ll need to make the decision, and that might change over time as you launch the same eBook as an app for example down the road.


But, arming yourself with as much information about what your customers prefer is the best way to make the right decision for your business.




Download vs. Hard Copy


If you’re releasing a music software program, for MAC, PC, or both systems, you may want to consider whether it’s best to launch as a download, hard copy, or both.


While it may seem outdated to release a hard copy, on a disc for example, of a software program in this day and age, it might be worth considering.


Some customers like having a hard copy of programs that they purchase, while others are fine with a digital only copy of any software on their computers.


The best way to find out what your customers want is to ask them.


Running a survey or asking your social networks is the best way to find out exactly what your followers prefer.


It might be surprising that they prefer one delivery method to another, or you might get back the exact results you expected.


Either way, asking your followers directly will take the guesswork out of any production questions you may have when it comes to selling music software.

4 responses to “Teach Music Online: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Larry Garnett says:

    Well done again Matt. Hope to see you back in Ottawa again soon. Larry

  2. John Fulling says:

    This sounds like a great way to make a living for a guitar player. I’m in my 4th year of classical guitar study now. Both my junior and senior recitals will be in these upcoming two semesters. I have some fears that I won’t be able to pull it off, because I have been struggling with the classical R-H technique the whole time. I can use a plectrum just fine, by the way. Maybe you just want a comment here, but I’m going to ask a question: I’ve been told that I explain things well (on the guitar), and I actually love talking about music and guitar things with people with the guitar in hand, and it’s my favorite way of learning new guitar things, but…I have some self-doubts as to whether my teaching would merit financial payment by students. Part of the problem is that I’ve never given a formal/paid lesson before. Here’s the question: Do you think it natural to be insecure, before starting this enterprise, about my own methodology and payment justification? Anyway, this is a fantastic article. Thanks for posting. Sounds like a great way to make a living.

    • Matthew Warnock says:

      Hey John, thanks for checking out the article, glad it’s helpful. I would say if you’re doubtful, if possible, start by working for a music school or academy, where you teach for a school first to gain experience. That way you’ll have a group of experienced teachers and staff around you to guide you when you first begin teaching. They can answer questions etc. so that you’re not worried about getting off on the wrong foot. If that’s not possible, I would say just go for it, take a few students, and learn along the way. Nobody’s perfect, you’ll make mistakes teaching just like performing, but if you learn from those mistakes and keep at it you’ll get better at it over time. That’s where I would start.

  3. Matt Warnock says:

    Hey John, thanks for checking out the article, glad it’s helpful. I would say if you’re doubtful, if possible, start by working for a music school or academy, where you teach for a school first to gain experience. That way you’ll have a group of experienced teachers and staff around you to guide you when you first begin teaching. They can answer questions etc. so that you’re not worried about getting off on the wrong foot. If that’s not possible, I would say just go for it, take a few students, and learn along the way. Nobody’s perfect, you’ll make mistakes teaching just like performing, but if you learn from those mistakes and keep at it you’ll get better at it over time. That’s where I would start.

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