Many musicians have made their bread and butter by teaching in order to support their music-making and performing habit. Teaching is not for everyone, particularly those who are rude, stressed, unfriendly, unhelpful or not very good at what they do. However, if you are an established teacher serving a local clientele or a musician who enjoys helping beginners learn something new, then considering online teaching as a flexible way of earning additional funds might be for you.
When a trend hits the NY Times, it's usually pretty widespread by that point. So Catherine Saint Louis' article about the popularity of online music lessons may be a sign that such teaching is entering the mainstream. Her article looks at music teachers and students using webcam-based systems such as Skype:
"Students who used to limit the pool of potential teachers to those within a 20-mile radius from their homes now take lessons from teachers — some with world-class credentials — on other coasts or continents. The list of benefits is long: Players of niche instruments now have more access to teachers. Parents can simply send their child down the hall for lessons rather than driving them. And teachers now have a new way to build their business."
Taking a student from total beginner to well-rounded musician is best saved for the well-prepared teacher but a strong performer who communicates clearly and interacts positively may find that coaching on specific skillsets is a good place to start. Beyond traditional lessons, both new and established teachers might include short-term sessions that build on the current skillsets of students. For example, a student who has always played songs from sheet music might enjoy learning to improvise or to jam with others. Coaching students on performance skills is also a possibility.
Lisa Brown's 7 Easy Steps to Teaching Music Lessons Online features Internet-specific details from installing and testing appropriate software and hardware to establishing a payment system to setting up your teaching studio. Handling any of these in a haphazard manner will certainly undermine even the best teacher.
But Brown also includes thoughts on the lesson itself as well as the important issue of self assessment. Here's where giving a few free lessons online for feedback or having another teacher observe your lesson will be key to your longterm success. You may already be a great teacher but the online experience will introduce unexpected challenges for which even the advice of an experienced online teacher will only partially prepare you.
Be sure to consider the limitations of your web tools. Some webcam systems do not allow for simultaneous communication which can make it impossible to play duets with one's student. Others may be inconsistent in their performance. While Skype offers some possibilities, including Skype Prime, the growing range of video chat systems often designed for other uses, such as Google+ Hangouts, means that taking the time to experiment and seeing what fits you best is in order.
Established teachers or teachers seeking a platform designed for teaching might consider services such as WizIQ which is paid platform.
Currently a variety of teaching and advice marketplaces are testing the waters and they might be just the thing for finding new students which can be even more difficult than teaching them well. Examples include MinuteBox and the soon-to-launch Rukuku as well as marketplaces that cater to both on and offline teachers such as Betterfly.
Though teaching is not for everyone and online teaching will not suit all instructors, considering the possibility may open up new directions for your future as a working musician.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.