By John Mlynczak
Today’s tech-savvy student has an entire internet full of ways to learn music. From YouTube to community sharing websites and subscription services, self-learning has never been more accessible. As an added bonus, students can search for and learn music twenty-four hours a day in the comfort of their own home using up their parent’s data plan. How do we engage students in retail and continue to promote the benefit of education services in the age of free internet learning?
My Peers Have My Ears
As a teacher, I learned quickly that I just was not “cool.” Teacher John presenting information had less significance than a student sharing with their peers. This is one of the reasons why students are more inclined to watch a YouTube video of a 14-year old playing a guitar lick, instead of learning from an adult. Teachers learn quickly that group work, peer feedback, and collaboration are an effective means for teaching music and building social communities, which of course are the very foundation of music making. In retail, education programs must nurture these very relationships. Establish peer collaborations, informal feedback sessions, and recitals to foster a sense of community music making that the internet cannot easily provide.
Have you ever watched a student use the internet? They literally Google everything. The number one way kids look for music they want to play is go to their Google machine and type “How do I perfectly play Perfect by Ed Sheeran on the piano”. Jk- they actually type: perfect ed Sheeran piano chords, bc lbh they literally dont use transition words capitalization nor punctuation much less adverbs lol.
Retailers need to invest in digital marketing. Use location-based ads, upload customer lists, bid on search terms, and do whatever it takes for that Google search to return an ad that says “Learn Ed Sheeran and more with lessons at Mlynczak Music.”
You Can’t Beat Em’, So Join Em’!
Our traditional approach seems to take the high road, arguing that YouTube videos and self-learning platforms do not provide the same quality as a professional instructor and/or published method does. While we are right, when has being right ever helped us win an argument with a teenager? I suggest we encourage students to take advantage of online resources in lessons and incorporate these options as one of many tools instructors use to teach music and motivate students. The key here is that an instructor’s most important job is to motivate, inspire, and guide student learning. Let’s face it, they can learn scales online for free ;-). So instead of arguing against free online resources, have instructors encourage students to use, find, and bring into their lessons all the tools they use to learn music and demonstrate to students and parents that these tools are only one piece of comprehensive music instruction.
The message is that online tools supplement, not supplant quality instruction. Use websites as resources in lessons, implement a digital marketing strategy that targets location-based online advertising, and promote the benefits of peer collaboration and community in retail education programs.
John Mlynczak is Vice President of Noteflight, a Hal Leonard company, and President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators. John will present even more insightful and exciting information in his session at the upcoming RPMDA Conference in Atlanta.