Learning to play an instrument well has always been a challenge and in some communities, instructors and tutors are rare or even non-existant. The dawning of multi-media communications, files and tools has enabled a new industry to appear almost over night. During 2012, we saw the development of ArtistWorks and many that are emulating them. More and more musicians are adding instruction into their revenue stream. A year ago we wrote NAMM 2012: ArtistWorks Presents Next Generation of Music Lessons Online and that next generation has really taken off and is now branching out in many different directions.
More avenues for learning our music are certainly welcome and we always support music education of any kind. The new technology is certainly a great enabler that enables more people to get a quality education affordably regardless of their physical location. How can this not be a good thing?
We run the danger, however, of what I refer to as "volume dilution." Volume Dilution occurs when there is too much volume for any single entity to survive and thus dilutes the field to the point that the providers can't get enough customers to sustain them. Basically, it is survival of the fittest. We have seen this in other areas in the music including tab sites, blogs and online magazines. Many have failed after a short time due to too many people dividing up the pie. Some of the more common victims include the online editions of Bluegrass Now, Bluegrass Music Profiles and other magaziznes.
With music, however, every artist has a unique style and many desiring to learn may have their favorite style that they desire. The availability of a wide range of tutors allows for a greater choice to the student. If a student wants to learn from a particular instructor, that freedom is now there provided, the musician they want to learn from is also providing the educational service. More and more instructors are enterting the business of music education to supplement their performing activities.
While ArtistWorks certainly broke the online instruction world wide open, they certainly weren't the first to try online lessons. In fact, lessons in cassette and then later CD and DVD have been around for a long time. Putting those same lessons online for instant download complete with songbooks occurred a while ago. What ArtistWorks did with their initial Bluegrass Academy was to add the dimension of one-on-one instruction complete with feedback to the student. This had been the missing element in making online education successful and ArtistWorks filled that gap with their Video Exchange™ Accelerated Learning system.
Another thing that happened at about the same time was that online learning became affordable and available to everybody. It used to be that individual lessons could cost $25-$50 every weeek but with the new online methods, prices have dropped to less than $100 for three entire months. Students can learn from the best of the best for less than the guy down the street in his garage. It is a win for the student and a win for the instructor and a win for the industry.
At these prices, will there be enough demand to justify the time and expense for all the instructors? Will we see a sudden explosion followed by an implosion of educational services as we've seen in other areas? Will volume dilution take its toll once again? We certainly hope not. We need more educational outlets that cater to the distributed student base. This new technique may just be the ticket to a whole new industry.
Thankfully, the tools to offer such a service are either low in cost and may even be free. Interactive video conferencing tools including Skype, MegaMeeting, ooVoo, Google Hangout, WebEx, SightSpeed and others are available for a wide range of applications. Many are very well suited to education by offering High Definition (HD) quality video and sound. Most are quite affordable for even the most modest budget.
One thing to be aware of is security. As with all aspects of the Internet, security is a problem with these VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocols) utilities just as it is with web based financial transactions. You want a tool that offers encrypted communication and possibly using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology. This keeps the sessions private and secures the lessons from piracy.
Finally, a good business plan, financial software (e.g., QuickBooks), and the ability to create electronic lessons that are easily distributable through the Internet are all essential. Then, just let the creativity take over. Have a successful school with successful studets and, have fun in the process.