STG 072: Why Teaching Guitar is a Top Career Choice for the Next Decade


complete guitar player

With the world economy being so uncertain, a lot of guitar teachers are wondering if they’ve made the right career decision. With so many other jobs being replaced by technology, is teaching guitar lessons a safe bet for the foreseeable future? The answer is YES!

In this episode I’ll talk about why teaching guitar lessons is one of the TOP PICKS for a successful career during the coming decade, I’ll tell you about the BIG ADVANTAGE you have as a music instructor in the coming economy and I’ll also give you some PRACTICAL TIPS to help you be successful no matter what kind of new technology comes our way.

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Items Mentioned In This Episode:

Link – Group Guitar Launch Formula
Article – The #1 Job Skill In 2020
Article – 6 Habits of Highly Empathetic People

Podcast Transcript

All right, in this episode, we’re going to kind of look into the crystal ball a little bit and try to predict the future of what it’s going to be like to be a guitar teacher and whether or not it’s going to be a viable and successful career option in the short-term, in the near future, or in the next ten years. And once in a while, I get an email from a guitar teacher who’s worried about whether or not they made the right career decision. They kind of look around and see all the online training courses for guitar that come out – all the iPhone apps and the video games, and all of those crazy gadgets that teach people how to play guitar and things like that. And they wonder: “With all of that stuff, do people still need guitar teachers?”

That’s a legitimate question to ask because, in the past, if you look at history, technology has replaced a lot of other careers. You know, in the past it’s happened. So, in this episode, I want to talk about why a career teaching guitar lessons will be in demand for the foreseeable future, and I’m also going to give you some tips for making the most of the changes that are going to be coming in the next eight to ten years so that you can maximize your success and do really well in spite of them. So, that’s what this episode is going to be about.

Teaching Music Is A Growing Career Field

So, I kind of got the inspiration from this, from an article that was on I’ll put a link to it in the show notes, but the article was called The Number One Job Skill in 2020. The year 2020. So, I’m going to kind of quote a little bit from it, and give you some background here, before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this episode, but one of the things they mentioned was that there are certain fields – certain career fields – that are expected to employ at least 20% more people in the United States by the year 2020 than they do today. And those are: sports coaches and fitness trainers, massage therapists, registered nurses and physical therapists, school psychologists, preschool teachers, speech-language pathologists, personal financial planners, chauffeurs, private detectives, and music tutors.

That’s right. Music educators. Music instructors. Guitar teachers. Music teachers of every stripe are included in the career fields that are expected to employ at least 20% more people in the United States by the year 2020. So, we’re in pretty good company as guitar teachers. And if you look at each of those different career options, all the ones that I named – sports coaches, fitness trainers, massage therapists, psychologists at schools, preschool teachers, financial planners, private detectives, registered nurses, and all of those things, and music teachers – there’s one common thread that’s running through all of those careers. Can you guess what it is? It’s a thing called empathy.

The Common Thread Is Empathy

Empathy is the common thread that’s running through all of those career options. And empathy is simply the ability to – well, the dictionary says that empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, feelings, and direct experience of other people. So, it’s all about that human contact and that interaction with another person. It’s about connecting and relating to the customers that you serve. You could sum up empathy as simply putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and having that human connection with them.

So, every single one of those career fields that I just mentioned, from massage therapists to physical therapists to financial planner to private detective to guitar teacher, all have the human factor. They all have that thread of empathy running through them, and that’s why they’re going to be so successful over the next eight to ten years. You see, successful people don’t operate alone. We all need the support of other people to get the positive results that we’re looking for that are going to help us reach our goals, no matter what they are. All of those different career fields I just mentioned are all about helping people solve a problem or accomplish some kind of goal. Okay, a school psychologist is helping students. A personal financial planner is helping people reach their financial goals. A registered nurse helps people reach their health goals, and so does a physical therapist, and a music instructor helps someone reach their musical goals.

So, people that want to be successful at what they’re trying to do know that they can’t do it by themselves. Okay, they could go out and they could get software and gadgets and DVDs and method books, and things like that, and try to learn on their own, but people that are successful know that they can’t do it by themselves. They all – all of us, we all do. We all need the support of other people to get the positive results that are going to help us reach those goals that we want to reach. We need someone to believe in us. We need someone to empower us. We need someone to break down the barriers and to open the doors and to lead us down the path to the things that we so desperately want to and need to achieve.

Empathy does just that. It breaks down barriers and it opens doors, and it’s actually one of the biggest skills that a lot of business owners seem to lack or not even be aware of. And I can relate to this too, because it’s really easy to get so wrapped up in running your business that you lose connection with your customers. It happens. You know, if you’ve been to places like car mechanic shops, they’re so worried about ordering the parts and troubleshooting the problem and getting your car out of the door so that the next person can come in, and dealing with things like that, that a lot of times their customer service suffers a little bit and you don’t really feel like they care about you and your car as much as you think they should for what you’re paying them. You know, that’s an example. And it happens at restaurants. It happens in every kind of business. You can get so wrapped up in running the business that you lose the connection with your customers that made your business successful in the first place.

So, if you can regain that connection and you’re the kind of business owner that really empowers your customers, that pours into your customers, pours your life into your customers and gives them all of the things that they need to be successful with that human connection, then that gives you a serious competitive advantage over the other guitar teachers in your town, and that’s true for any business. I will pay more money and drive farther and go through more hurdles to do business with someone that I feel understands me, knows me, likes me, cares about me, and is interested in keeping my business and helping me achieve the things that I want to achieve. People are willing to pay more money for that. I’ll talk about that in a second.

But it’s one of the big things a lot of business owners seem to lack today. And the whole thing about technology. You know, that’s the question I always get asked. “Is technology going to replace me as a guitar teacher?” Not in a million years. Well, maybe in a million years, but not in the next ten to fifteen years. Everybody talks about the Internet and how technology is changing the world and changing everything. You know, a lot of the careers that our parents and our grandparents were very successful in don’t exist anymore. Technology made them obsolete. Back 50 years ago, 100 years ago, most people worked in factories, and today factories are employing fewer people because we’ve developed machines and technology that can do the work now a lot faster and a lot more affordable than having a bunch of people do it.

You know, another example is travel agents. You know, you used to have to work with a travel agent, here in America anyway, anytime you wanted to go anywhere. You couldn’t buy plane tickets hardly without working through a travel agent just 15 or 20 years ago. Well, today, with websites like Orbitz and and things like that, you could be your own travel agent. You can find the best deals and the best connections to get where you want to go and do what you want to do, and you don’t need to go to someone’s office and sit down and have them do it for you. So, those are examples of careers that have pretty much become obsolete. I mean you could still find travel agents and things like that, and there are still people that work in factories, but there are just not as many of them as there used to be.

So, that’s what people say. They’re like: “Wow, if that happens to them, then what’s going to happen to me as a guitar teacher?” Well, the truth is there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with another human being who actually cares for you. That’s the fact. No matter how fancy the technology gets, no matter how many cool guitar-teaching aids come down the pipeline, no matter how much software gets developed or anything like that, people that are serious about learning the guitar are still going to try to work with someone that can empower them to be successful. It’s not just about the information. It’s about the experience. It’s about the relationship. It’s about the mentoring that happens when you take lessons with someone.

Examples From Other Industries

So let’s look at some examples from different industries. Personal trainers. That was one of the groups that I mentioned. The most successful personal trainers at like a health club, for example, don’t just run their clients through a set of exercises. You know, you could get that information from a book. A video could show you how to do exercises. You know, same thing with guitar, right? The most successful personal trainers don’t just do that. They also talk about the pain and rewards of getting back in shape. They tease a little bit. They flatter you a little bit. And sometimes, if it’s a member of the opposite sex, you know, maybe they’ll even flirt with you a little bit. And all of that kind of heightens the experience if you’re working with a personal trainer. They connect with their clients in a way that builds their motivation and makes them feel excited to work out and excited to come to the gym and excited about the results that they’re seeing.

And a trainer like that, before long, their clients keep coming back to the gym not just because someone is helping them exercise and get in shape, but it’s because they want to spend time with a friend and they want to do something extra to win that person’s respect sometimes. So, they work even harder because of the relationship they have with the trainer. So, that’s the same thing that happens with us as guitar teachers. The most successful guitar teachers don’t just run their students through a workbook or through a set of exercises, or through a method book, or through a string of concepts or something like that. They talk about the pain and the rewards of learning how to play the guitar. The hard parts. The easy parts. The fun parts. Why it’s worth doing and what kinds of challenges and obstacles you have to face as you approach it.

You know, with our students, we pick at them. We kind of tease them a little bit. We keep it lighthearted. We build friendships and relationships with them, and we connect with them in a way that helps them to be more motivated to succeed. And what happens? Well, before long, our students keep coming back to our teaching studios because they want to spend time with a friend, with a mentor, and they’re going to work harder in their practice times and do extra things to win our respect. You cannot bundle all of that into a software package. You can’t manufacture that and replace it with technology. It’s impossible. It can only happen with one person working with another person.

The same thing is true with health care. I mentioned nursing and physical therapy. Okay, those things have benefited from technology, right? So, we have the technology now, like they mentioned in the article, that technology can monitor your blood glucose level. They can do a blood test on you. Man, I know this firsthand from my prostate cancer. Man, I got poked with so many needles and had to give so much blood. It got tiring after a while, but they can take a little bit of your blood and run it through a computer, and they can find out all this information about you. But only a real person can inspire someone with a disease to make lifestyle changes that can improve their health. A computer can’t do that. Technology can’t do that. The only thing that can do that is a real person who cares.

Let’s also look at education. I talked about teachers and things like that. Well, technology can monitor a child’s counting skills, for example. If a kid takes a placement test or something like that, they can identify weak areas in their education and help them learn certain things better and assess the situation from a lot of different angles and things like that, but only a caring human – a person that cares – can inspire a child to be a lifelong learner. Okay, we don’t just need information. We don’t just need assessments. We don’t just need systems. We need people. We need someone to care about us. Someone to believe in us. Someone to empower us and draw the greatness out of us that we know is there, but we can’t seem to release it on our own.

That’s the power of a mentor. That’s the power of what someone believing in you can do. Technology can never do that. It can make some aspects of learning easier and automated and less expensive and things like that, but at the end of the day, if you want to master something, if you want to be the best that you can possibly be, the only way you’ll get there is if someone leads you there.

Another example: food service. Restaurants and things like that. You know, there’s always going to be a demand for bartenders and waitresses, and people that do person-to-person, face-to-face food service. Why? Well, even though food can be dispensed from a machine, you can swipe your card and you can get food right out of a machine, you can get drinks right out of a machine. You know, if it was all about that, then there would be no restaurants. There would just be vending machines all over the place. But people want more than just food quickly and easily. People want someone to talk to, who knows them by name, right, who can answer questions about the menu and who can make recommendations and who can smile at them and make them feel a little bit better about themselves during that brief moment in their day.

Okay, people are willing to pay extra for the ability to mingle with people who understand how to hold a conversation. So, that’s what people are looking for and that’s why all of these occupations, and particularly being a music teachers – that’s why it’s not going to go away. There’s only going to be more demand for good guitar teachers in the next ten years, because in a rapidly automating world, where technology is advancing left and right, you cannot automate empathy. You just can’t do it. It’s like this conundrum, right? This continuum that we’ve always been talking about in the past. You’ve got efficiency on one side, and on the other side you have the human soul. And it’s not an either or thing. You really need to have both.

Efficiency vs Soul

Yes, you can use iPhone apps and online courses to learn some things on the guitar. Yes, you can, but nothing can replace interacting with a live teacher who can inspire you to greatness. You know, who can draw the best out of you. The greatness that you know is there. If you look at technology, that’s one of the reasons why social networking sites, like Myspace originally, then Facebook and Twitter, have become so popular. You know, the online world is so impersonal. I mean yeah, we have discussion forums. Yeah, we have chat. Things like that. But online is all about just consuming information, and those sites – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all that. Those brought the relationship factor back into being online to a small degree. It’s still not the same. You know, it’s still very artificial, but it’s better than it used to be.

So, since that online world and since technology is so impersonal, people need that personal connection. They need someone who cares about them. And when a guitar teacher really cares for his or her students, the students know it. They can feel it, and you can’t fake it. You can’t fake caring for your students. They know when it’s real. And whenever you offer the human connection, when you care enough to draw the greatness out of your students, then they experience a benefit that is priceless. So, efficiency is important, but you can’t have efficiency without soul, without heart, without the human factor, without empathy.

How To Practice Empathy In Your Teaching Studio

All right, so that is why teaching guitar is going to be a viable business – a top career choices – for the next decade. Now let me take a few minutes, as I wrap this podcast episode up, and let me talk about some ways that you can make that even more effective in your business. So, here are some how-to’s for you.

1) “Try On” One Of Your Student’s Lives

So, the first thing that you need to do if you want to practice more empathy and you want to improve the level of empathy and all the benefits that come from it in your teaching business, you need to try on your student’s lives. Okay, that sounds kind of crazy. Try on, like used in the sense of trying on a jacket or trying on a pair of shoes, right? Try on your student’s lives. Try to put yourself in their position to the point where you understand exactly what they experience. Okay, that’s what empathy is all about. And there’s an article I’m going to link to. It’s called Six Habits of Highly Empathetic People, and it’s at the Berkeley website. I’ll link to it in the show notes so you can check it out if you want to learn more about it.

But one of the things they mentioned that fits totally into what we’re talking about here is the fact that one of the best ways to be more empathetic is to become a guitar student yourself. I talk about this a lot as ways to improve your teaching skills and have more to offer and keep growing as a musician, and things like that, but also, one of the big reasons why you should be doing that is because you put yourself in the shoes of your students and you see things from their perspective, and it changes the way you do it. So, take some lessons with another teacher. Okay, and don’t just study the guitar. Study the guitar teacher. Study the experience of being a guitar student. Look for ways that you can make things better for your own students based on your experiences taking lessons yourself. That’s a great way to have more empathy in your teaching business; is to become a student yourself. Become one of your own customers in that sense. Then you see everything from their perspective and you can readjust the way that you teach guitar so that it fits them like a glove and gives them what they’re looking for.

2) Look For Ways To Increase Empathy

Okay, so try on one of their lives and see what it’s like to be a guitar student yourself. For some of us, we haven’t taken lessons in ten or twenty years, and you might’ve forgotten what it was like. So, do it. It’s easy. Find someone and take some lessons yourself, and put yourself in their shoes. The next thing you could do is you can look for ways to increase the empathy in the way you run your teaching business other ways. And here are some ways to do it. You can find ways to understand your students better by doing surveys and polls, by asking them questions, even just by watching them. Watching how they interact with each other. Watching how they interact with you. Okay, study them and get information from them, and find out what they care about and what they struggle with, and what their dreams and goals and passions are.

Okay, the better you understand your students, the better guitar teacher you can be. The next thing you could do is you could find ways to remove the friction in their lesson experience. You know what friction, right? It’s the thing that people stumble on. It’s the thing that slows people down. It’s the thing that causes people pain in a business relationship like taking guitar lessons, for example. And if you can identify those areas of friction in their experience and get rid of them, then everything works better and you can have a better experience for your students. So, you want to make sure that your systems are running smoothly. And if they’re not, you want to make them run more smoothly. So, by your systems, I mean make it as easy for your students to schedule their lessons as possible. Make it as easy for them to pay for their lessons as possible. Make it as easy for them to communicate with you as possible. Make it as easy for them to come in and out of your teaching studio as possible.

All the different aspects of your business that interact with your students. Make sure there’s no friction. And then put in new processes if you can to handle the things that can be done better. So, it’s good once in a while – you know, maybe once a quarter, once or twice a year – to take a step back and just look at your business from an outsider’s perspective. You know, maybe you could even get your friends or someone, or heck, I can even help with that. Just to look at things from the outside and say, “Wow, okay. This is a glaring problem that you should maybe take a look at fixing,” because sometimes when you’re in the middle of the forest, you can’t see the whole forest because all of the trees are in the way. You know? So, take a look and identify problems, and then resolve them, and that’s going to remove friction for your students.

You could also make the whole student experience feel like it was custom-designed just for them. You can find ways to roll out the red carpet for your students. You could treat them like kings and queens, and make them feel really cool. Recitals are a good way to do that, where you can get them up on stage to perform and then you can honor them in front of everyone that they know. So, find ways to remove the friction and make things better for them. Another thing you could do is you can plan and execute everything you do by looking at it from your student’s perspective first. So, before you change anything, before you do anything, before you take any kind of action, always filter it through: “How are my students going to respond to this? How is this going to impact their experience? What are they going to think?”

Okay, and this is just the golden rule. Jesus said this two thousand years ago or something, right? Do onto others, as you would have them do onto you. So, put yourself in their shoes, like I said before, and design a teaching business that your students are going to love. So, you reevaluate your lessons. You reevaluate your policies. Your studio. Your curriculum. Your website. Everything. You look at it all through the eyes of your students. If you are one of your students, what would make them all feel special? What could you do that would make all of those systems and all of those things special and useful for one of them? If you take a look at your business through those eyes, then there are a lot of ways that you can make things better and create a better experience. So, these are all taking little practice steps of empathy here.

The next thing you could do is you could look for ways to empower your students. And when I say empower them, I mean come up with ways to make them famous. You know, come up with ways to give them the spotlight. Come up with ways to show them off to the world. Again, student recitals are a perfect way to do this kind of stuff. But don’t try to keep the attention and success all to yourself, right? Let your students shine. Let them have all the glory. Doing this can change their lives and it can change your business forever too. Okay, so find ways to empower them. Become like the magician that helps grant their greatest wishes, man. Figure out ways to help them get what they want, and you’re going to endear yourself to them in ways that you never dreamed possible if you didn’t do that.

And the last thing you can do – well, actually I have more than this, but you can give your students easy and open channels to give feedback to you. A lot of times they’ll tell you some of this stuff if they have a chance, but you’ve got to give them a voice. You have to ask them to let you know how you can improve things. And then, whenever they give you suggestions, you need to listen to them so that you can give them what they really need and what they really want. But set up channels for them to talk to you, man. Set up a special hotline number or, you know, a special email address where they can give you feedback when they have problems, or put a suggestion box outside your teaching studio, or something like that. Okay, and then ask them to use it so that you get valuable feedback from them.

3) Market The “Human” Advantages Of Your Business

Okay, so those are all ways that you can increase the empathy in the way that you run your teaching business. And then this is the last point that I wanted to make. Another thing you could do is you can market the human advantages of your business. So, like I said before, people will pay more for an incredible human experience with you as a guitar teacher. Okay, people are looking for that human experience. They’re looking for empathy. So, why not? If you can provide it, why not market that as your key point of difference? Your core differentiator. The thing that makes you special and unique as a guitar teacher, because no one can copy that. No one can say, “Oh yeah, I do exactly what this person down the street down.” They can’t steal your empathy from you. They can’t imitate your empathy. They can’t imitate the way that you care about your students. They could do it their own way. They can experience and express their own empathy and they can empower their students in their own way, but they can’t do it exactly like you.

And most of them are not even going to be aware of this in the first place. They’re going to be more concerned about competition and worrying about whether or not Rocksmith is going to put them out of business or something like that. If you focus on the human connection, if you provide that empathy and that human experience, you can market that and people will respond to it. So, highlight the fact that you can provide that human advantage for them in your advertising, in your marketing, on your website, in your conversations with people. Okay, don’t just advertise the fact that you teach guitar lessons. Emphasize the value of the human connection that you offer.

So, advertise things like that you mentor guitar players. You don’t just teach them. You mentor them. You don’t just teach musicians. You coach musicians. Okay, advertise the fact that you work like a personal trainer for their guitar skills. That you deliver above and beyond just giving them information about the guitar. Okay, and yes, if you do that, you can even charge more for it. There’s an amazing amount of value in empowering other people. If you understand how to provide that value, how to deliver that value, and then how to communicate that value so that your customers understand it, then you can charge a lot more money than you probably every thought you could as a guitar teacher and actually get paid that much. Okay, so it’s a really good thing to do. It can totally revolutionize your business, not to mention keep you gainfully employed as a music teacher well into the next decade.


So, the point that I’m trying to make here is that your teaching business, at the end of the day, should be all about your students. No matter how fast the technology advances, if you’re one of the teachers who can understand and maximize this human advantage, you’ll never have a shortage of students to teach. It’s not just about teaching guitar lessons. Remember that. It’s not just about the lessons. It’s about empowering people and it’s about changing lives. If you can do that, then you’ll be successful on every level.

Thank You For Listening!

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Feel free to use the comments section below to let me know what you think about this episode, to suggest a topic for a future episode or just to join in on the conversation with other guitar teachers.

STG 072: Why Teaching Guitar is a Top Career Choice for the Next Decade was last modified: May 12th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder