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David Hart has become a friend of mine in recent months, and we meet together via Skype on a regular basis. David has been teaching guitar in Australia since the early 1990’s and he grew a large music school with multiple locations that increased by over 3,000 students in a single year. He eventually started the G4 Guitar Network as a way to provide a leveraged system that guitar teachers around the world could join as a franchise. G4 now has over 40 affiliated schools worldwide with many new ones in the pipeline, and it’s a great resource for guitar teachers who want a pre-built model they can use to grow their business.
In this episode, David and I have a conversation that covers topics like how to deal with some of the main challenges most guitar teachers have to face, advice for brand new teachers who want to avoid common mistakes, and how using a pre-built system can make success with your teaching studio a much easier proposition. I highly recommend David and G4 Guitar Network for every guitar teacher who’s been overwhelmed with trying to do it all themselves, and who would like a turn-key branded system for success.
Items Mentioned In This Episode
Link – Music Teacher’s Helper
Link – G4 Guitar Network
Donnie: Hi, David. Welcome to the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast.
David: Thanks, Donnie. Good to be here.
Donnie: Yeah, it’s great to have you. Can we start by just having you tell us a little bit about your story? How did you get started with playing the guitar?
David: Okay, it’s a long story, but I’ll condense it down into a short version. I started way back. I’m 47 now and I started. Really my first attempt at guitar was when I was about eight years of age. My parents, and I don’t even remember. I have no recollection, except for one vague memory of going to a guitar lesson with a teacher. Apparently I went for about three or four lessons, and I wasn’t practicing, so my parents decided that they weren’t going to go on with it. And you know, my parents really, at that stage, had separated, at about seven, so we’re all living in a very small space, so my mother couldn’t afford lessons. We were really on that kind of poverty line, so it just was a huge privilege, but I really loved music.
My mother knew that, and so the passion was there, but no direction and neither of my parents played in music, so they didn’t have any idea of how to help me. And the teacher obviously didn’t know either. So, that was a false start, and then, when I hit high school, at 13 years of age, I met a guy, who had some guitars and we became friends because I was interested in music. Went to his house, saw his guitar and amp, and I think he had a Marshall amp at that time and a Vantage guitar, and that was the time when Van Halen was just coming on the scene. Actually this was just before Van Halen. Van Halen came out probably about a year later and at the time it was really AC/DC really was the main influence, and then Zeppelin and yeah, Van Halen sort of came on the scene.
So, it was a real. KISS as well and that was a real turning point for me, but I started on drums because he was a guitar player. He wanted me to play drums, so I did the drums, and then I went to guitar. I was really mucking around on his guitar and I didn’t have any formal lessons. I was sort of self-taught for about two years, and then I finally decided to go to a teacher because it just wasn’t working. I was hacking away pretty badly. So, I had kind of that false start, and then I started as a teenager, and then, yeah, went from there.
Donnie: Okay. So, yeah, we have a very similar background because my story is almost identical. I started when I was like eight years old and had a false start with a bad teacher, and was influenced by similar bands. I’m a few years younger than you. Not much, but I was a big KISS fan and AC/DC. All of that stuff, so yeah, it’s kind of interesting how the beginning for both of us is kind of similar, but you mention that you took some lessons and that the first time you had lessons as a younger child it wasn’t a good experience. But what was it like for you once you were older?
David: Well, I guess I could say my first lesson after that experience at high school with the school teacher and maybe a couple of students, if you could call those lessons, but there was a guitar class at school, but it was really not very organized and, you know, it was just people telling each other what they could do. There was no real technical advice or how to sit or hold a guitar, or any of that sort of thing, or how to practice even. But when I went to my teacher at 17, I really got lucky. I mean the drum teacher I had – again, I got lucky, because I look back and I’ve worked with lots of teachers. I’m talking hundreds of teachers over the years, and I look back on those two teachers and I seriously got lucky.
The drum teacher was just remarkable. Amazing guy and very structured, very organized, but very positive the whole time. He made you feel that you could achieve, you know, because I was very doubtful. You know, in those days, I thought you either had musical talent or you didn’t, and so that was my mindset at the time, which we know is just absolutely false, but that’s where it was. And so, other kids who had started when they were five and six – I thought they were natural, but they just started a lot younger or had musical parents or good teachers, or something.
Donnie: Yeah. Yeah.
David: I equate it to, say, learning Chinese. If you grow up in China, you’re born in China, of course you’re going to learn to speak great Chinese. You don’t even need to be Chinese. If you’re born in China, you’re going to speak Chinese. You know, and so that’s the thing; is that anybody is capable if you’re in the right environment. It’s what I call 98 percent environment, 2 percent maybe genetic because there are people who come. Every now and again you see someone who’s just got that kind of genetic trait of musical ability, and they’re usually the kind of lucky ones, but you know, most great musicians worked hard to get where they got.
Sorry, to get back to that point, what happened for me was that my guitar teacher, a guy named Mark Bergman, still alive and well in Australia. He learned from a guy who was one of the top BBC Session jazz guitarists at the time. So, he really taught my teacher how to teach and how to play, but he was even more than that. He just had a passion for working with students and really developing you. You just got swept up. There was no way out of it. There was no way that he was going to let you be an average player. He just had this ability, and that’s what seduced me into teaching. That’s why I became a teacher, because of him primarily.
Donnie: Yeah, so that’s a great transition there. So, let’s talk about teaching guitar. You’ve actually obviously been teaching for a long time and you work with guitar teachers now, so how did you kind of get started? You just mentioned kind of the origins of, you know, how the seed got planted to start teaching guitar, but how did you kind of grow you business from there and kind of get to where you are today?
David: It was a pretty tough, long, hard road I would say. You know, the long and winding road would be the great way to sort of put it. You know, when I started, I did what most guitar teachers do and, you know, we know this. You know this from working with them; is we try and do everything ourselves. We try and learn through our own mistakes and, you know, there’s an old kind of phrase, which is, you know, a smart person learns from their mistakes. A wise person learns from other people’s mistakes. And I considered myself pretty clever in those early days. I mean I look at what was happening. I really analyzed what I did wrong and, you know, how I could do better next time, so I was improving.
That was just the way that I guess I was brought up, but it didn’t dawn upon me probably for at least five or six years, and I read an Anthony Robbins book. And I realized, after reading his book, I just got so much out of that. It really just changed my whole mindset. Why haven’t I been reading books before this? So, I think I was at about 26 or 27 and actually the reason it happened was because my business was failing. I just found that it just wasn’t working and I was frustrated. And I don’t even know where I came across the book, but I’ve been reading different books on business, but when I struck Anthony Robbins, it was a mind shift. It wasn’t just about, you know, how to do your accounts or, you know, how to get a bank loan. You know, it wasn’t the kind of practical steps. It was about shifting your whole mindset.
And I realized that applied to everything, not just business, but teaching. And once I started working with students, I realized that it wasn’t just a matter of showing them how to play the guitar. It was a matter of shifting their mind to getting to understand. Going from that as Carol Dweck puts in her book, Mindset, which I recommend reading. Going from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And a fixed mindset is basically I’ve either got musical talent or I don’t, whereas the growth mindset is, well, I may not have musical talent today, but by working on it, I can have musical talent in the future. So, yeah.
So, that’s it really. My thing with teaching was that, and where it really shifted for me in that kind of first stage, and there were obviously stages, but the first shift for me was realizing I needed help and that I wasn’t going to do this alone. That I really had to bring in, and then I actually brought in a coach and started attending seminars. And now I’m perhaps a bit of a junkie when it comes to learning. I’m constantly either reading a book or going to a seminar. Every year I travel overseas, at least two or three times to go to seminars and work with different people on different things. And that’s part of why I wanted to connect with you, and you know, we’ve got a great friendship now, because you’re very knowledgeable.
You know this industry really well and, you know, you and I are sort of bouncing ideas and sharing things. Yeah, so that’s what I’m all about. That’s how I work these days.
Donnie: Yeah, that’s great. That’s another thing we have in common, because I’m a pretty avid reader of business and self-improvement books, especially in the mindset area as well. It makes all the difference. It really does. And one of the things that you touched on that’s so important is being willing to reach out and ask for help, but also being willing to pay for it, you know, because a lot of people, teachers in particular, just figure that they just have to figure it out. And if money is tight, you know, I’m not going to invest any money in hiring a coach or somebody else to help me, and it never really ends up working out. So, that’s a huge thing that I agree with you on one hundred percent.
David: Yeah. Yeah, because I’m not saying you can’t get great free advice. You can. There’s plenty of great free advice to be had, but the reality is, is that if someone is not invested in you, so when you go to a coach, then they’re invested in you. When you go to a restaurant, you know, the people who are waiting your tables and making your food. If you aren’t going to pay for that food and pay for that service, I don’t know that they’d be that keen and they’re certainly not invested in you. And you know, great coaches, as far as I can see, really do deserve to be paid because we want them doing more of what they’re doing. We want them positioned where they can.
This is not saying, again, and I do quote a lot only because I think, you know, clichés are quite powerful, and that is that, you know, you pay for your education one way or another. You either pay for it in the beginning or you pay for it in the end through mistakes. You know, and I did that earlier and I’d rather pay for it upfront, go: “All right, you know, you teach me how to do it.” If you think of all the timesaving things that you’ve learned along the way, you know, one coach that I had that’s worth mentioning is Jay Abraham. Incredible coach, and you know, what he taught me about business and, you know, marketing was just mind-blowing. You know, his kind of exponential strategies of growing a business and, you know, here I was, plugging away, putting ads in the local newspaper, and you know, maybe on a directory or something, but this kind of pre-Internet, and he comes along and just blows my mind away with all these marketing strategies.
He’s worked at all the big companies. Lots of big-name people. So, you know, I spent four thousand dollars or something doing a kind of four-day event with him, and I made that four thousand dollars many, many times over.
Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, that’s usually how it goes.
Donnie: Yeah. So, what made you decide to start helping other guitar teachers? How did you get started being a coach yourself?
David: I guess I kind of fell into it. You know, when I look back, I think there was no intention there in the beginning because I mean this is for a lot of guitar teachers. Their intention is to play guitar and, you know, I was in high school, doing my high school diploma, and at that time, I was playing in bands and gigging already. And I sort of decided that, you know, I wasn’t going to go to University because I wanted a career in music. That’s where I was heading. And as I came out, the gigs were good, but you know, we were the young guns and, you know, we got paid the bottom of the barrel. We were the band that they called upon. We were young and dumb and had no sort of pull in the industry.
But we had – you know, not myself because I was a very average musician at that time and I’d only been playing guitar for really about a year and a half when we were doing this, but the drummer that I had was only 13, but he was incredible. He was just a kid that was just amazing on the drums. Still is, but he doesn’t play commercially. But him, and then we had a bass player, who was older, who was about 30 at time, and then my brother on vocals. And my brother was a really good frontman. He’s great, getting the audience. He’s done a lot of acting and drama, and stuff like that, plus he’d done a lot of what we call talent quests in Australia, where he had to get up and perform in front of an audience. Bit like The Voice or one of those things, but he used to win them all the time.
So, he was all about winning the audience over, and I wouldn’t even say he was a great singer back then. He’s improved a lot these days, but even back then he was a great singer, but he was a great performer. He could really get the audience in and he loved Elvis. You know, he was kind of a big Elvis fan. So, we had that band and we would get paid, but not much. You know, we’d cover our petrol. We’d cover our basics, so there wasn’t much money left. So, I had to kind of get a job in retail to support that, but the teaching was something that I started doing because it made money, and that was the only reason.
And then, as I made more money through teaching, what had happened, because my experience in retail, I developed sales skills and business skills. Mostly sales skills, but I was able to take those sales skills and apply them to my guitar teaching business, and so I was enrolling students quite quickly. Anybody who was ringing up, I was getting students. The sales weren’t the problem. Just about everybody that called I could enroll, and so I realized: “Wow, this is building quickly. I don’t need my retail sales job anymore. I can now do teaching.” And that’s kind of where I sort of got into the teaching.
The next step on that was that it became lonely. I felt very alone because there were no other. You know, I was working in a retail sales team, playing in a band. Used to play in sports teams. I was all about team playing, and the reason I started a school was because I felt lonely. That was really the bottom line. So, I opened a school and brought in a couple of other teachers, and that really worked for me. That was where I felt at home, because I had other teachers to bounce off. And really the growth for me of the teaching was initially for the survival of the business, because if you even have good teachers, if you have a good program, you weren’t going to teach students and it was very hard.
You know, it’s okay when you’re teaching at home, but you don’t have really any overheads. But when you’re in a commercial premise, when you’re paying a rent, you’re paying wages for staff, etc., you need to teach students if you want the business to grow. So, that’s where I really got kind of stressed, let’s say, because it wasn’t working and I had to lay people off, and then, you know, all sorts of problem, but then it’s when, like I said, that kind of Anthony Robbins moment of starting to learn and get other help and advice from others that I really started to step up. It’s a long story, but I won’t go into too much detail, but that gives you an idea.
Donnie: Yeah. So, that’s a great transition into what you’re doing now with G4 Guitar Network. There’s probably a few people at least listening to this or watching it on YouTube that have never heard of G4 Guitar or what you’re doing. So, for anyone like that, can you just kind of give us an overview of what G4 Guitar Network is all about and what you’re doing?
David: Sure. G4 was kind of an extension of, if I can add to that thing about being lonely and not wanting to do it by myself, but wanting to play on a team. When I say alone, I don’t mean I was sort of sad and lonely and depressed. I just was itching to play on a team. And so, I went, you know, through the years. I had schools and, you know, ended up with, and still is, the biggest suburban musical school is Sydney, Australia. But what happened there is, in about 2000, I decided that I needed a change. I needed to do something different. I’d done this. It was all good and I wanted to be able to go to another level. And when I stepped out of that, I sold the business and then moved on. In about 2003, took a couple of years off, and really developed G4 because by that time I was getting a lot into, you know, reading about people like Steve Jobs and learning from those kinds of guys about how, you know, you should really focus on one area. Don’t try and be everything.
And so, I got away from this musical school of teaching every instrument and just focusing on guitar and developing a program, and that was another thing, which was advice that I got about develop a program. You know, you can’t just be Dave’s Guitar School. What is Dave’s Guitar School? You’ve got to have a product. You know, when you think of Apple, they have products. They have an iPad. They have an iPhone. You think of McDonald’s. They have a Big Mac. So, you’ve got to have some kind of product, and that was where okay, so I need to take what I do and put it into a system because it’s working for me. If I could systemize it and, you know, I got this kind of from the e-myth. Put it into a system. That’s where I spent two years developing the G4 Guitar Method. Even though I’ve been developing it for years before that, I really got it together, and then I went in and started the first school.
But to carry on from what I was previously doing is that I then, at that point, decided I was going to open a location, so I was going to have a chain of schools. And so, within that two years of opening, it went from literally zero in a new area. Nobody knew me. I had no sort of, you know, reputation because I sold my other business. I couldn’t open anywhere near there because I had a legal obligation and a moral obligation. I wouldn’t do that. I would go into competition with a business that I’d sold. So, I went across to the other side of Sydney, complete other end, and started from scratch.
And within two years, I had five schools and we’d enrolled over three thousand students. And so, at that point, again, I was becoming overwhelmed and stressed because I had all these people to manage. I had 20 teachers. Five schools. And it was just growing at a ridiculous rate because the system was working, but it was kind of like I’d launched this rocket into space and now I didn’t know where to go. What do I do now? And that’s when the idea for the network, which I’d had before, but this was when I really could of realized it was time for, because having a network was going to put me in contact with teachers around the world, who had a similar idea and a passion, but were owners of their business. I wanted them to have an ownership. I didn’t want it to be where they were an employee, and that’s why I went for the network.
And it’s just working out beautifully. We’ve got now around 40 odd teachers. And last year, at this time, we only had one or two teachers who weren’t in Australia. They were all in Australia. So, in this last year, we’ve now got 20 odd teachers in the US and the UK and one in Canada, and it’s just exploding. In the last couple of months, it’s really starting to take off because we relate. It’s been a whole series of steps to get where we are now, but it’s pretty well in place. Just got a guy from New York joined two days ago, which is exciting because now we’re in the Big Apple. So, we’ve kind of got, you know, guy in California. A guy in Seattle joined only last month. You know, Pennsylvania. Maryland. So, yeah, we’ve got popping up everywhere. Arizona.
So, it’s really starting to come together nicely.
Donnie: Yeah, that’s great. So, sounds like you have this International movement that’s starting up here with G4. That’s cool.
David: Well, it’s a bit like that. Yeah, it’s kind of the, you know, guitar players, guitar teachers that want to play on a team really, and that’s how I would put it. I would just say that we’re coming together, we’re networking, and we’re sharing our kind of passion for teaching and learning from each other because, you know, most guitar teachers operate like Islands. You know, they’re very much isolated, doing their own thing, and they’re reinventing the wheel often. So, you know, there’s a lot of work in setting up a business and to pull all that work that you’re putting into sort of growing your name, your brand, building teaching lesson plans – everything is so huge, and to be doing it for one person, it’s like building a restaurant to feed one person.
You know, it’s a lot of work just for one teacher. So, that’s where we kind of unite. And I spend, you know, my time, literally ten hours a day, developing G4. You know, making it easier for these teachers to operate, which is like them having a full-time employee with 30 years of experience in the business, working behind the scenes for them. And yeah, that’s how I see it.
Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, so could you give some more details about specific ways that G4 can help guitar teachers be more successful?
David: Sure. Sure. I think, well, the number one thing that teachers struggle with is time. You know, when I talk to the average guitar teacher and probably the average person these days for that matter, it’s the time that they struggle with. I don’t have enough hours in the day, you know, trying to do all these different things. And time is not equal for everybody. And so, if someone like a Bill Gates with Microsoft can run a multibillion-dollar business as well as one of the biggest charities in the world, he can be, you know, speaking on stages. Every week you’ll see him speaking on a different stage somewhere. So, if someone like him can manage all that, plus he’s a family man as well – he’s got time for his own kids and his wife -, we could say, oh, it’s because he’s got money. He’s got privilege. He’s got all those things.
And perhaps that helps, but it comes through leveraging and leveraging is really what G4 – the bottom line of what G4 is about. And it’s leveraging your time, your brand, everything. And so, if you think about a guitar teacher and the time they spend as a G4 guitar teacher, they often say to me, “I want to do this or I want to do that,” and I can say, “We’ve already got that done. Here it is,” or if we don’t have it, let me put it on the project list and I’ll work on it. And a recent example would be, you know, a lot of the teachers were talking about parenting, working with parents. You know, parents. We want them to do their bit at home with the kids, and the reason the kids drop out and give it up and stop or quit is because the parents are not there at home, helping them with their practice and supporting them.
How can we make this easier? And I was giving them lots of advice and, you know, one teacher said, “That’s great advice. You should put it into a book or something that we can give to the parents to read.” And great idea. Bang. Let’s do it. So, we got down and it was really three of us that worked on it. When we put this parenting guide together, nine to ten-page guide for parents on how to work with their child, from young children – three to four-year-olds – up to sort of teenagers, and that all came together in a matter of a couple weeks. And that wouldn’t have happened. You know, the amount of time and work that goes into putting something like that together. You know that. You know, putting a book together or something like that takes a lot of time and effort to get it together.
And to know that all the guys in the network can now benefit from that without having to do anything. You know, they can even just make a suggestion and if it’s a good suggestion, everyone agrees on it or a few of us agree on it, then we can have them. So, it’s the prime thing that G4 will do for teachers. Number one is leverage. The second thing that I would say is the network effect. And the network effect is often severely underrated and underestimated as to the power of the network effect. You and I are here, speaking on Skype today due to several layers of the network effect. The Internet is the first example. The Internet wouldn’t exist without the network.
You know, if there was only you and me, this connection would cost millions of dollars to setup.
David: But because there’s millions of people, around billions of people around the world using the Internet, the Internet comes to us at a very low cost, very cheap, and that’s the network effect. So, the more nodes that come into a network, the more value it offers for each person and at a reduced price. So, you know, mobile phones are an example. When mobile phones first came out, the first ones were big, chunky things that were very expensive to run and were only privileged to the royal family and perhaps the US President, and a few people like that. But then, now, look at today. You’ve got guys in Africa, who, on one hand, are starving and on another hand, they’ve got a mobile phone in their hand. Like that’s how cheap the mobile phone has become.
So, this is the network effect at work, and that’s really the effect of G4. As more members come into it, the cost is lower for us and the effects and the benefits go up. So, yeah.
Donnie: Yeah, that’s great. You’re doing some really great things. Yeah, I can honestly. Just from getting to know you over the last several months and learning more about what you’re doing with G4, I would highly recommend any guitar teacher out there, who is interested in taking things up to a higher level and kind of adopting a franchise model with systems and everything kind of pre-built that you can just plug yourself into, you guys have the perfect solution for that.
David: Thank you. Yeah, thank you.
Donnie: Yeah. So, kind of just to wrap the interview up a little bit, what advice would you have for somebody who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time? Maybe someone who is a player and looking for ways to kind of monetize, you know, their guitar habit like we have. What kind of tips would you have for someone just wanting to get started?
David: Okay. The first tip that I’d give is to go and observe other teachers in action. And this is something that, you know, I was late to the game on, but by watching other teachers, I had an experience of where I met a Suzuki violin teacher who was actually the parent of one of my students. This is way back in my 20s. And she taught me an enormous amount, and through her, I started looking at Suzuki and the kind of things, and I had a lot of inspiration from Suzuki and I have the greatest respect for Mr. Suzuki and his whole program and what he’s done. And that’s where I really got the initial seeds of structure. You know, having a structured program.
But when I started bringing in other teachers in part of this sort of running of schools is that I was able to observe piano teachers and, you know, violin teacher and cello teachers and drum teachers, and just different teachers from different backgrounds, doing different things. And a lot of the teachers that I had were, you know, University grads that were working in high schools and so forth, and doing teaching after schools or on weekends. So, I was able to. I learned so much from observing, and this is something that I think a lot of teachers don’t do. I don’t think that they go out of their way to observe.
Go and watch some early development classes for kids. You know, go and spend time in a classroom. There are some amazing school teachers out there. And you know, there are a lot of videos you can watch online as well without even having to walk out of your house. But observing, yeah, really will make a big difference and build your confidence to be able to teach, especially group teaching because I promote group teaching a lot, which I know you do as well because, again, that’s an example of leveraging. You’re going to earn more money and you’re going to be able to help more people. Even if it’s not about money for you, that’s fine. If you’re a great teacher, then you should be helping as many people as you can, and that’s where group teaching.
So, a lot of guitar teachers: “Oh, you can’t teach guitar in group. You know, you’ve got to give everyone one-on-one. You know, it’s all about what they want to do, etc.” Well, go and watch some groups and go and watch them in action. Watch schoolteachers and you’ll see that they very successfully teach almost anything that you can imagine in a group scenario.
The other tip that I would give is to dive into your marketing. Don’t wait for your marketing. This is, I find, kind of a classic where a lot of teachers will say, “Look, I just want to work on my teaching and learn, you know.” Sometimes when they come in, you’ve got, “I want to learn about your program for a while. So, I don’t want to let anyone know. I don’t want to tell anyone what I’m doing until.” And my thing is, is you’re going to learn much faster. It’s like learning to swim. Get in the pool. You know, you’re going to learn. Don’t stand on the edge of the pool and watch. Even if you get in the shallow end, it’s better to be in the pool and to start, and that’s with your business. Marketing is where you’re probably going to have the biggest challenge, especially in the early stages.
You’ve got to get students. You’ve got to get them through the door. And then, once you get them through the door, then you’ll be presented with the problems and the challenges, and that way, as you solve them, that’s where you improve in teaching. And also, you’re learning the marketing at the same time. So, you’re learning the essential skills of marketing, selling, and teaching. You already can play guitar, I’m assuming, so yeah, these are the areas – marketing, selling and teaching – that you need to be working on.
So, they’re probably the two best tips I would give.
Donnie: Okay. So, how can people get a hold of you, David, to get the latest updates and to find out more about G4? How do they kind of get looped into your communications?
David: The best way is just for G4 Guitar, and you can go to G4GuitarMethod.com, and that’ll take you to the website. And on there, you’ll see teach. At the top, there are a couple options. Just click on the teach, and that will take them to the page where they can subscribe and get more information. And there’s a free book there, which is the Essential Guide to Teaching Guitar, which they will get access to when they join, plus they’ll get a whole series of emails and free information on teaching guitar generally and the business involved. And if they want to email me directly, they can do that as well. G4Guitar1@Gmail.com. That’s probably the easiest way to get me.
Yeah, so easy pretty to find. Just search David Hart Guitar or G4 Guitar. You’ll find me.
Donnie: Great, and I’ll put a link to your web page in the Show Notes as well. Make it a little easier for people.
Donnie: Yeah. So, do you have any parting advice for the guitar teachers who are going to be listening or watching this?
David: I think yeah. My sort of final advice would be if you’re going to do it, then do it full on. Be passionate about what you do. I think the reason people struggle, and especially a lot of guitar teachers, is because they’re not really committed to what they’re doing. They may want to be musicians and they’re just trying to teach to make a bit of money, which is cool, but you know, if you’re really going to succeed at something, the way that I see it, you know. You see, for lack of a better example, you know, if you look at war. When they go into war, the first thing they do is they set up supply lines. So, they go into a place and they set up a supply line, protect the supply line, so then they can sustain their position.
And so, from a strategic point of view, if you do this with your guitar playing, and a lot of guitar players go: “I want to be a session player. I want to do this or do that.” Well, you’ve got two choices. Of course you can just full on being a Joe Satriani, but Joe Satriani was a teacher, by the way, and still is. He still loves teaching, and his mother was a schoolteacher I think. But the idea is that by setting yourself up, you know, with something that’s going to keep the money coming in and keep you at a secure position, then you can focus on your guitar playing and all that.
So, especially if you’re young and you’ve got plenty of years ahead of you, if you just spend a couple of years setting up your teaching business, which is an easy, secure way to earn money as a guitarist, opposed to becoming a rock star or a session player, which is highly competitive, highly risky, just spend a couple of years setting up your business and what I do is I will actually show you how to setup your business and even put a teacher in there, so then you’re free to do whatever you want. You can operate from the Internet if you like and be anywhere in the world. You can be touring, but you need to focus those couple of years on doing it. And you know, it’s the same with the guitar students. If you look at learning guitar, it’s like a guitar student coming to me and saying, “I want to be a rock star,” and I go: “Well, that’s great, but first you need to learn to play guitar.”
So, how about we just focus? Spend all your time. You know, four hours a day, practicing guitar. Get really good at guitar. Let’s do that for a year or two. You’ve got your guitar skills down. Now you can start becoming a rock star because you’re solid. You don’t have to think about skills. And that’s the kind of approach to the G4 Guitar Method, by the way, but with the business approach, it’s the same. Just focus a couple of years. Get your teaching business up and running. Get one hundred students. Have one hundred grand coming in. Use 30 to 40 grand of that to pay another teaching. You’re still making 50 or 60 grand, and then you can do whatever you want, rather than trying to do both, which is what I see all the time. I made that mistake.
David: You know, doing gigs. Practicing guitar. You know, running a school. And all these things, trying to, and I never got very good at any of them. Focus on one mountain climb. That mountain first. Set up a supply line, like I said, and then go from there.
Donnie: That’s excellent advice, and I love that plan. Get one hundred students. Make one hundred grand. Hire another teacher to work for you, and then you can do whatever you want.
David: Exactly. The entrepreneurial mindset.
Donnie: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, cool. I just want to say a lot of people might think that I’m crazy for having you on the Start Teaching Guitar podcast because looking at it on the outside, we might appear to be direct competitors, but we really do kind of offer two separate things to two separate groups of people. I mean if someone is looking for a business model and a franchise that they can join themselves up to and become a part of a larger network, you know, where a lot of things are done for you, then G4 is perfect for that, whereas I kind of focus more on the individual, one-off teachers out there who are struggling, and who just need to learn how to operate a business.
And you know, they really just want to maybe not be the best fit for something like what you’re doing, but want to try and make a go of it on their own. So, I think we really compliment each other very well.
David: Totally. I think, you know, and it sort of goes both ways because, in your case, there are a lot of teachers out there and probably the great majority of teachers out there who don’t want to be part of franchise, who just want to run their own little guitar school, and that’s great. And that’s what you do. What I do is I’m about franchising. I’m about, you know, playing on the G4 Team, and that’s not for most teachers. It is for some teachers, but not for most. And you know, I come back to never fear your competition. You know, your competition are your allies and your best friends. They’re the people who are going to be of the most value to you overall because I go back to the days of, you know, when I had my early sort of music schools. I bring up a local music school down the road and say I’ve got a student for you, and they go: “What? You’re the competition. What are you doing, sending students to us?”
And I said, “Because the student is not right for us. They’re not suitable, but I think that you can look after them.” But you know, it’s all about making the pie bigger. It’s not about this one pie and then we’re fighting for this pie. It’s that by working together we make the pie bigger, and I would urge any guitar teacher out there to make friends and connect with the other guitar teachers in the area because each of you have different strengths and together your big competition is YouTube. That’s where all your students are. YouTube is your competitor if anybody. It’s not the guitar teacher down the road.
Donnie: Great. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, so I think we’re kind of modeling that with our relationship and with kind of the cross-pollination that we’re doing. You had me on your weekly show that you do, and now I’m having you here on mine. So, hopefully the guitar teachers who are watching this will take cues from that and go out and network with people, and be more successful as a result.
Donnie: Yeah. So, hey, I just want to thank you for taking the time to be on the podcast. It was great talking with you, and catch you next time.
David: Absolute pleasure, Donnie. Absolute pleasure. It’s great talking to you every time. You know, the last thing I’d say to the guys out there is that we catch up about once a month and yeah, we’re always sharing ideas. And yeah, it’s always good talking to you.
Donnie: Great. Thank you, David.
David: Thanks, Donnie.
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