Skip to main content

Making a Living Q&A

Lesson 13 from: Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent

Mike Johnston

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

13. Making a Living Q&A

Lesson Info

Making a Living Q&A

We'll take some questions from the online world and then I'll play a little bit more drums and then we'll get out of here so bring on the questions all right? First one from javier ortiz I really liked s won most of my clients are kids and they go to school in the mornings leaving time for their lessons in the afternoon on lee my schedule is empty in the morning. Any advice on that? Yeah that's an awesome question and that is a reality my my teaching day was always three to eight that was my teaching day and that was part of the drummers life was that one I never ever have to wake up until my body wakes itself and so if you get some of those really cool elvis curtains you could probably sleep until eleven am it's awesome so or I haven't even better option for you be productive all day and that was a really cool thing. So yeah, my teaching schedule was always three to eight and then I worked backwards from there once I filled up three to eight then the next adult student that was maybe ...

retired he's two thirty and the next lady who's retired she's too and I'm working backwards but I never was like ok, I'll have a noon student and then I just then I have nothing to do tell three my schedule is three to eight p m that's and that's a really common thing for activities for kids so a lot of parents are used to taking their kids somewhere at, you know, five o'clock or even his latest seven thirty and when it comes to children like you mentioned, parents loves love stuff that where their kids out so if you can play with them and get them excited and then they come home and they want to go to bed that's pretty red. So, you know, the the evening thing that's just kind of the way it is hot here and you just have to start lee said building backwards from there so three to eight is a drummer or drum instructor's life, and then if you can get a two, thirty two one, thirty one, but that's where it goes, so all right, let's, go ahead and ask, you know what? These I don't even have a name because so many people ask these a couple of questions about what certifications validations you need, and then also your thoughts on professional organizations that's a great question. So as faras degrees and stuff for private teaching it's unnecessary, to be quite honest, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go to school by any means, and we'll talk about that, but there's never been a time in my entire career, and I've done the record deal thing I've done the kind of side man thing where I'm hired to somebody else's gig, but I'm not in the band I've done the just, you know, casual gigs, what we call like, you know, weddings and parties and stuff, and then I've done the teaching thing I've done clinics done stuff like this never once has anyone asked me where I went to school other than just curiosity, but no one's ever asked for a degree, so no, you don't need it. What you do need to do is you do need to study now you could do that with an instructor, a private instructor that you really look up to, you could definitely do that in a school and as faras like, well, why does everybody go toe like berkeley or musicians institute, orlando institute music or william patterson in new jersey? I'll tell you what, there's nothing that can compare and there's nothing I could ever teach you that would compare to being in an environment where everyone around you is doing everything they can to get better ten hours a day that will cause you to grow so fast. So two years of berklee school of music as faras graduating, you can just leave the week before graduation if you want parents kill you, but you could you don't need the degree you need the time there where you're stuck around other drummers that air fighting to get better and when you walk down the hallway and all you hear is people practicing, what do you do? You go mess around and do nothing, you're going to go sightseeing no way like turn around, get my sticks I'm going to get in a practice room too, because everyone else is getting better around me and I don't think that you can recreate that by yourself unless you're massively driven. I might be passionate, but I don't know if I'm the most driven person in the world when it comes to drums and I know that I practice way better when people are around me practicing because I feel like I got to keep up to keep up and music, schools and music institutes are perfect for that. So as far as the teaching thing and the degree no, unless you're going to teach at unaccredited school it's not necessary, but as far as being a young musician, you know kind of in that eighteen to twenty five year old range and thinking about really putting in two years of time at a school where you're forced to do nothing but focus on your own craft, I think that'd be extremely beneficial the only thing I would caution is the cost it's very expensive on dh um I have nothing in the works right now, so I'm definitely not trying to promote anything. But I hope someday to start my own college, where I could promise parents job placement, because in art you get way better and then you still have nothing and that's just how it goes. You go to any of these music schools, you're going to get way better is your instrument, and you're still on your own there's. No job placement. I would love to have a system in place where I could, you know, connect with these music stores in these studios and these schools and say, will you agree to accept a mike sauces dot com graduate when they come out? And if I could get five hundred places all over the world to say yes, then I could tell parents I can get you that forty grand back or what? I don't know what tuition is these days for two years, but I can get you that money back within two years of time. Your your son or daughter will make it back and that would be a great thing to do and I think I don't see why that's impossible I have no idea why just went off on that tangent but it's really a huge passion of mine to someday start something where I could promise parents they get that money back or least the student can make their loans back right away so that's that for that now, as far as you know organizations if you're a drummer and I don't know what this would be for guitar bass or ah, you know keys, whatever just join the ps percussive arts society it's just something to be a part of it just makes you looped into what's going on in the educational field of drumming and it makes you feel a part of like, does anyone care about this stuff? And then you go to the p s website like, oh, somebody does care about this stuff and they have a yearly, you know, convention called basic because of our society international conference now when I read when I referenced my pay six solo earlier that's what I was talking about is I played at the pace it our pace of conference and so I think that joining pace it would be a great thing for any drummer out there, especially if you're interested in being an educator the other thing is, why couldn't you go out of your way to create some sort of organization in your local area with teachers? It wouldn't be that hard you go to all the local music stores you say look, let's agree we're not fighting for each other. Students show them my freaking slides and billy that's or competition, you know, sweep the leg. Joni that's our competition, whatever you have to do but grab people and tell them like, hey, what if we just got together? Once a week? I'll pay for the snacks, you know, whatever it is, but let's, just talk about how we can grow things and let's talk about different ways to explain things let's, bring up a topic, you know, dotted notes all right? We're all musicians here. How do we all explained out of notes? Bass player, you go first drummer you go next singer, do you even do you even think like that? I don't know, you know? And they're like, yeah, I went to school, I think like that. Okay, fantastic. How do you explain dotted notes and let's? Figure this out. Let's grow this thing. I don't see any reason why you couldn't create your own, you know thing that in your in your local town next next up let's go for all things photographed says when teaching at a store does the store take a percentage or does the teacher pay rent for space and it would be an estimated amount? Oh what's a fair rate sure that's a great question both happened so sometimes you have somebody that you know, the store takes a percentage of what you make, which I think is very fair on all ends because if I'm teaching that I'm paying if I'm using the room that I'm paying you and if I'm not using the room that I'm not paying you, the rent thing happens sometimes, but that's not as common as far as a good percentage I think an eighty twenty split is a really fair percentage on dh and that would be eighty two the instructor twenty to the store because if you think about I think really sixty forty would be the fair split unless it's at a store and what I mean by that is when you don't understand is the instructor is your beating up someone else's drums and you're letting a student beat up someone else's drums you're also enjoying light and heat or air conditioning there's all this overhead that goes into you being in that room two year like it's empty nobody's using it trust me someone is in charge of paying for it and they wish they were paying less so I think that that's you know, sixty forty split would be great now here's where we get to the eighty twenty now my student leaves and he's like, oh, I got to get drumsticks now you have a customer but you have a weekly customer and next time he's like, can we please get that new drum set? Okay, mom drops fifteen hundred bucks it's kind of worth an eighty twenty split yeah, I'm using your gear and have to replace the heads and I've got your lights and I'm using your air conditioning, but I also you wouldn't even have this client every week unless it was from my lessons, so they're walking around your store spending money and guess what little brother wants to start playing guitar boom there's another five hundred dollars cell so I think an eighty twenty split in a store is a very good split and somewhere in the seventy thirty, sixty forty split would be great if it was just a location that only offered lessons. But you know, that can change too, and I think it's really important for youto find something that you're happy with and understand and you know what if you're not happy with it, start your own place I did that I taught at a place actually I was happy there they had a great spot it was an h eighty twenty split, but I got I got so many students, I got up to ninety students in a week while ninety students at an eighty twenty split of one hundred dollars a month is eighteen hundred dollars a month that I paid to that place to teach ninety customers that they had running around buying things, and it wasn't that I thought that was unfair. I thought it was actually extremely fair. It was, I thought nineteen hundred dollars is a lease. I could have my own building for nineteen hundred hours a month and pay for the organising, and if I did that, I could have five or six teachers teaching underneath me, paying me the twenty percent, and then they could pay the entire overhead. And now that nineteen hundred dollars stays with me and actually get nine thousand dollars a month to teach ninety students rather than seventy two hundred dollars, don't put me on that one. So that was the goal with all that stuff was to constantly grow and grow and grow. And so when it comes to the split thing, try the best you can. Even though you're a drummer, even though you're an artist, try the best you can tow have that mindset of an entrepreneur. And just think, you know, when I usually when I walk into a starbucks and I think I wonder what would be like if I worked here? My first thought is I'd be manager within two months, and I would own this place within a year. I know that sounds cocky. I can't think any other way I can't afford to think like I just work here at the counter for the next six years, it just that's just not how I'm wired. I'd have to manage this place don't have to talk about who how did this get here? Who franchise this to get this here. How do I get that right? I'll just move mine over there and like, if you think about that in drum lessons and music lessons in general, you're always moving forward and it's, wherever you are, it's just that that steptoe where you're going, you know, because you never ever reach your goals the second you stand on your goal, you've already created a new one that you gotta step forward to and that's how business works, at least with me. And I can tell you this because our our business is built out of artists. Most of these people aren't wired to be business people that's understandable, I'm not wired to be an artist that's why everything I create on that instrument is a struggle for me, and I really have to kind of borrow it from other artists first before I can do anything with it, but if you can have a little bit of business sense than you're rocking and I would tell you guys, this is the same for all athletes. If you're going to go to college, please get a minor in business. You are the business. How could you not be taking marketing classes and in business classes and accounting classes when you are training yourself to become the business that's way more important than, you know, taking like, oh, I had to learn marambra it's a cool use that a lot traveling with your marimba lately? Probably not. Maybe you are and if you are that's totally cool, but what I'm saying is, if it's not after herbal tio, don't waste that time doing that when you could be learning about marketing and branding at a university level, you know, so don't take another one. Yeah, I mean, we've got plenty wear not like wind down the tangent, mike perfect, yeah, it's a couple of assembled fire like this this ties into what we were just talking about heavier ortiz I don't own a place where I can teach my own class or teach classes so I teach the classes that my students houses would you recommend working toward getting my own place to teach the lessons or do you recommend going to a store? What do think about teaching in home that's perfect hobby or what you're doing is absolutely brilliant for building your clientele and there will come a time at like ten to eleven students it's too much to drive to their houses it cost you too much and gas you're losing an entire lessons worth of time getting from one house to the next schedules never match up but a ten students have promised you this almost any store in the country would take you if you had ten students they would even ask you to play drums you just say I have ten students they're willing to transfer from their houses to this location are you cool with that? And they say yeah, yeah one thousand dollars of revenue well, you know, whatever they're cut is let's say they're getting out of your thousand dollars a month they're getting three hundred of that that takes care of one of their tiny bills plus they've got new clients in their store yeah, you can come in on wednesdays so I would definitely recommend doing that absolutely andi this might well, this one might not actually be his rapid fire but simon stewart in a couple others aa lot of students and teachers take to skype drum lessons or online one on one lessons is this the way forward or is it something you should think about doing in the future and how do you just how do you make one on one online lesson successful yeah it's a great thing by the way simon I know what you went through and I love you, brother so yeah, I mean, you know, with the skype thing it's it's where technology has us and it's a great thing that I can say hey, my favorite drummer lives in japan um can I have a lesson with you and he's like yeah, you can it's you know however much money one hundred dollars for the lesson that's fine, but monetizing that into like, a really big thing and really making a connection you almost have to go as far as I've gone and what I mean by that is multi camera angles somebody running those cameras good sound because it's very hard through just skyping a webcam to teach that instrument imagine my webcam like picking that up I'm like all right man let's work on this I'm going to take you over the kit real quick and I go did you hear that not really so you have to go pretty far to do the skype thing it's totally possible but as far as it being a viable business option you're backto one on one and you know the reason why I left doing the kind of private lesson thing and god and went into the online world in the live streaming world was because I had enough of a following where I thought if I could teach one hundred of you at once it would only be one half hour for me would be one hundred lessons and if I could scale that into a thousand into two thousand ten thousand someday a million then I would still only be a half hour for me I know that you just did the math you like to do that he would have landed his helicopter on the roof so but that is like I said that's that's my vision so when I think of skype it's like it's I think it's good but limiting its really limiting just because it's you know how are you really seeing the student play but if it's something that you're into that I think it's something you should try for sure on dh see where it goes from there buddy all right we've got one from matt curl how would you advertise the teaching studio and build a steady roster without spending a ton of money you talked about like the assembly idea are you thinking a poster on a pole on the street advertising in the store what your advertising ideas yeah, I mean, that is tough, matt and you know, the thing with the schools is definitely something that I hope launches your brain into like I could totally do that I'm in with the school obviously if you have and I definitely don't want to get into this too heavy, but if you have different faiths, being a church drummer is an awesome thing because you're surrounded by a crowd of people that are there every sunday and they see you play and because of the faith that's happening, whatever that is, whatever the nomination is, they kind of feel like they have a connection with you and you're not cheating them out of anything like you're not lying to them. It's ok, I believe this and I played these drums and if you dig it it's here, so I think you know, being a church drummer can also really build your roster and build some following and build some acknowledgement of who you are in your town there. The thing that is and I know you personally because you've been to one of my camps when you're a longtime mike's listen student, I know that you're not that comfortable with public teaching and but you dude, you should be you have one of the best personalities ever you're on unbelievable drummer all the mikes lesson students love it when you post videos to our facebook page because you just have that it factor whatever it is it's not blowing people away with your chops it's just like god that sounds cool any place so I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to go your local store and say hey can maybe you can't host a clinic just yet because if you have the mat curl clinic and there's no branding behind that girl no one would show up but what you could do is host of specific topic that you're fantastic you know and and make the topic bigger than you instead of matt curl that's not the topic the topic is afro cuban drumming tiny letters with macro so you're branding the topic who cares who's teaching it tomorrow night afro cuban drumming yeah I'm there who's teaching I don't know I don't even see the name but it's afro cuban drumming so now you're at this store people are coming for the topic and you and you're saying like look ill you know I'm sure there will be twenty people show up, they'll all shop it will be great you're just trying to get the story till clarence in space and let you do it and you're starting to brand yourself and then if you have twenty people those people going to get to know you pretty well so I think that be a good start, all right? We've got time for maybe one more good than some final thoughts sure on dh then if you want to play us out I think that befriended heuristic all right, so this is one that is we it's a little bit going back in the day, but it's something that I know is personal to the founders of creative live and and a lot of us here nelson lee jeremias and a couple others asked how would you teach a special needs student and you find that like drumming is therapeutic and helpful you want talk a little bit about special needs students? Sure, yeah, absolutely I've always been you know I don't know kind of drawn to it one of my first friends when I was growing up because you know, like when you're a kid, you have like your friend that's like your only friend, then you've someday get two and three and one of my first friends growing up his name was john patry novich and john had down syndrome when your kid you don't know what down syndrome is, you don't know anything just know that kid's a little different, but he's one of my buddies and we watch star wars who cares and you know it spending out of john's house and then I learned what that was as I went on then as I learned more and I don't know why, but in my school I never saw the special needs classroom like I wasn't inundated with I didn't see it, so it was almost like I didn't really I realized that it existed in public school, I think I thought that in my school district special needs kids went to a different school because I never saw what happened was simon says, my rock band, we started touring and we thought on a business level two time to business, we have to play these clubs at night, but no one's going to be there because no one knows who we are, even though we're signed were touring there's twenty people, these clubs, but schools are full and those kids don't get to leave, so why don't we go to schools? Because then we have a sold out audience every day and we have that chance to audition are banned and say, hey, tonight will be at this place, would you like to come out? So that was our goals? We start doing schools well, as I'm going around the country when schools I'm seeing special needs classrooms and I'm like, you guys all go to the same school, I don't remember this, so I started asking those teachers hey, as soon as we're done playing, can I come talk to your classroom? Like they'd be really important to me, you know, I had a kid that I was friends with that had down syndrome when I grew up and I think that's a great thing for any kid to have is to have a special needs friend when you're a little kid because you don't know that anything's going on so you're unbiased and I think it's awesome, so I appreciate my mom for, you know, making that french have happened, so anyways, I go into these classrooms and I just talked to the kids about like him and just so you guys know you are so freaking brave because I'm considered like, a normal, everyday kid, you know, I had my braces in my acne and whatnot, I was scared out of my mind to go to high school, and I hadn't I mean and I was, you know, just a dude and you guys come here every day and rocket and that's awesome and I just wanted let you guys know that you are the you are the popular kids, you are the cool kids cause this is way cooler it's easy to come to school when you're six foot two ripped with muscles and you're the quarterback, how hard is it to show up to school? It's not, but you guys come every day you never complain you're always here and you learned and that's amazing. So I started that's how I started working with special needs kids and as far as teaching them privately on the drum set, it's a tough instrument to teach two special needs kids depending on the needs. If it's somebody with down syndrome like I've talked before, the drums are allowed really loud, and a lot of people with different disabilities are sensitive to the sound, so it can be a scary instrument. So then it's like hate, what we're going to do is this lesson is free. We're going to introduce your son to the lesson no matter how this lesson goes, I just need you to pay attention your son and daughter or daughter for the next two days, do they want to come back? Did they like it? Do they think that I am a monster and they don't ever want to be around me and my loud noises again, so don't don't make the decision when you leave here today take two days to let this set in because it might be all those things where they were scared and they just don't know how to handle it, but then eventually they got into it now the other thing besides special needs would definitely be disabilities what disability stop you from playing drums? Well, we have a student on I'll probably talk about different subjects I get through it but I've taught a bunch of students that have disabilities and it's fine you know it's just one of those things where it's like well okay you don't have a leg you don't have an arm what we're going to quit you clearly aren't quitting on life why would we quit on the instrument so you just work around it you know it might be all those things where you know I'm missing my left leg from the knee down I can't really use the high it's like all right clamp the high hat down hey, I lost my right leg what the heck am I going to do I want to play a right handed room said all right we're going by a double bass drum pedal will clamp the hyatt down we'll put x that's over here and close tie it's over here and then you'll just use your left foot for bass drum on with the slave double pedal all right but I stuck with my left foot you know we used to suck with your right foot and you got better at it so let's start the journey man I mean I'm in it with you you know if you want how all learned left foot all learn left foot lead now we're even I suck you suck let's go so I think you just have to do it you know

Ratings and Reviews

fbuser b4d93b5f

Mike is such a great educator. He is well versed in all aspects of teaching and also branding and making a living with it. He is a passionate and truly dedicated teacher. I also really liked that he made it clear that teaching is not a plan b for him but his true calling and it can be such a rewarding experience. I got a lot out of this session and I truly recommend it to anyone who is interesting in taking this path.

a Creativelive Student

Mike, thank you for your wonderful teaching. I have been a performer and vocal educator for over 20 years and I've learn so much today to add to my own personal instruction. These teachings are so transferrable and your passion is simply awesome. I see you and I see a reflection of myself. I'm going to study you some more by purchasing this session. It's been awesome to watch. Thanks for the inspiration!


This is the most brilliant class. There are so many great points in here, it is an information overload; but explained it such a simple way. I watch one of these videos almost every week, just to top up on what I should be giving my students - it serves as a good reminder and an even better teaching aid. Mike; time and time again, he releases great media that everyone must see. I can't speak highly enough of this.

Student Work