The pandemic caused everyone to shift. Chances are if you were a full-time singer, you saw all of your income shrivel up in one day. Chances are you, like many others, started teaching voice online.
So many full-time fabulous singers did shift into teaching and found themselves with a way to ease the financial burden of losing performance fees while also discovering if they liked teaching. Now you like it and the consistent income. So, now what?
You are getting back to signing singing contracts but aren’t sure how you are going to support students while getting back to being a full-time singer.
Now that things are starting to pick up, you may be wondering how you will maintain your studio once you head back out on the road because your schedule will be unpredictable. The good news is: now we are comfortable with online lessons and you can continue to offer your lessons when you are available on your days off or between performances. If you feel that teaching too many lessons when you are supposed to be resting your voice is not good for you, I have some ideas that can help.
1. Before you head out to a gig, be sure to move to a tuition or subscription-based model. This means you need to change your business model to require a commitment from your students. Requiring a commitment from them ensures you both know the time it takes to instill good pedagogy (which is long!)and will also give you recurring revenue. You can still offer Drop-in rates, but this will be more difficult if you don’t know your schedule. Drop-ins also don’t guarantee you income, and let’s face it; we can all do with a little more stability in the coming months as we shift into what is next post-covid.
2. Work your availability into your new business model. Let’s say you are doing a gig for a month, and you know you will not be able to commit to every Wednesday at 1:00 for a student. If you work flexibility into your subscription or tuition, your bases are covered. For instance, you can offer four lessons in six weeks or double up when you return. Or you can offer a set number of lessons over a certain amount of weeks with some weeks being flexible if you or they can’t make it. Basically, stop selling just your time. Read this blog post about Value-Based Pricing in the Arts by Michelle Markwart-Deveaux for great information about structuring your model to suit what your students already value in you as a teacher. This model works! I was able to go away for two weeks and not miss any income because I had flexible time already worked in my schedule when I made my studio offers. And if you have made it this far into this blog you must be a singer-teacher. So, you MUST get to know about SECO and Michelle Markwart-Deveaux. You're welcome.
3. Use asynchronous tools in place of lessons. Have you learned these terms this year? Asynchronous means not in real-time. Think of it as watching a video to learn something and then checking in with the teacher. I use this in my studio, and we like it. I use it even when I am not on the road. It allows students to know they can be in touch if they have a problem during a practice session. Of course, you may want to set some boundaries with this as some students can begin to rely on it for every practice. My policy states that you receive three asynchronous check-ins during the week if you are a part of my tuition model. Drop-box and Marco Polo are great tools to use when wanting to work in asynchronous time. However, good ole texting and email do too.
4. Develop projects for them to do while you are away. In addition to asynchronous practice check-ins, working on projects can be a great way to stay on top of things while you are out of the steady schedule. We all know that there is more to lessons than just the hour of technique per week. Get them involved in some of the things you do for them outside of the lesson time. Make them a list of repertoire to listen to on youtube and give them homework in making a new repertoire book or audition package. Ask them to commit to sending five recordings of their foreign language diction. Assign them to watch a list of musical roles and take notes on the singers and stage direction. Ask them to list what their strengths are and what specific goals they have for their voice. Have them do audition research. So many things are starting to open back up. Get them involved in the process of learning what auditions will look like moving forward in your area.
5. Start group classes. Group classes are an excellent way to build community within your studio. I found these classes to be the best addition to my studio over the last year. Everyone wants to be together, especially younger children and young adults. Providing a place for them to hang out and sing is very special. You can add this while you are away from the consistent schedule to see how you like it. I plan themes for the group lessons. We start with our sound muted and I lead them in group warm-ups, and then we take turns going through the warm-ups unmuted. Then each singer presents a song either memorized or something they have been practicing. It’s been a fantastic way to continue performing, and it continues to be a great way to support my students.
It will take time for the music industry to recover from this year. We most likely won’t be coming back to full-time singing for a bit longer, and no one truly knows what the industry will be able to do to support singer fees to get them up to pre-covid levels. So, don’t give up on what you have established this year in your voice studio. You can combine good teaching, get yourself back on stage, and support your students simultaneously. It just takes a little planning and some creative work. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.