Here’s a stunning fact. Scott Houston “The Piano Guy” sells how to play piano videos in a ten box set for $100. He sold 300,000 of these sets for a gross of 30 million and has another 20 separate disc’s for sale meaning his speculative gross sales could be double or triple that. I came across this encouraging news 2 1/2 years ago, midpoint into the development of this project. These sales figures might be numbers only someone who was at the right place and at the right time can reach. Mr. Houston has had a national presence since the late 90’s, was one of the first to do this and has infomercials so compelling and convincing I heard of someone buying the set but never bought the piano. One of his infomercials show a lady and customer stepping down from the alter after playing at a church service being greeted, hugged and congratulated by her friends and family, she and everyone in tears over her accomplishment. Effective but schmaltzy marketing. It made me think to say something on my site, but probably won’t, if you need motivation go to www.scotthousten. but if you really want to learn to play buy from us.
If you’ve read any of the above information you know I record with high end equipment just like many of the popular and successful learn to play sites that not only teach piano, but drums, guitar and other instruments. Similarly, we have multiple camera angles and a state of the art web site but what they don’t have that we do are shadows when a piano key is depressed, multiple parts of the instrument on the screen, sections played in slow motion and most importantly, sections of a song or lesson, sometimes only several seconds in length, played repeatedly because the video hosting site has chapter markers. This is so effective in allowing one too learn more complicated songs, songs customers want to learn to play, rather than the most simple songs other sites are only capable of teaching. I read about a gentleman who expressed disappointment after searching the web for a program to teach him piano, saying the songs were too simple and uninspiring. Other sites who film someone playing anything but the most simple and slow song don’t work because it’s impossible to follow. A lot of these sites supplement the video with sheet music, but I don’t use it, for good or bad, and if I were to provide it, it would scare away all but the most seasoned note readers. What I am providing as a supplement to the video are the songs written out in letter form. Another huge advantage our instructional program has over the competitions is we could offer any type of music by filming players specific to a genre or style thus having for sale something for everyone. Most other sites are limited by what the one player they have can play.
I gave up the idea of selling disks and decided to stream the videos when I found out Wistia, a web hosting site, has the capability of putting in chapter markers, something You Tube and Vimeo don’t have. I was happy to change over because there are no production and shipping costs. How big is the online DVD or streaming music instruction market? I can’t find any statistics but it always surprises me when you here, say for instance, the #2 pencil is a 500 million dollars market, and I bet the music instruction sales numbers are quite high.
If you are receiving payment based on a percentage of the sales our relationship would be that of partners and the question that may arise is, why do it, why complicate things and not just continue to pay thru cash or trade like I’ve been doing. My answer is (1) a complicated life is more interesting than a simple one and working as partners would add an interesting dynamic to the relationship I would develop with the you, the talent (2) if the projected sales estimates are accurate there’s going to be enough money for everyone (3) overall musicians I feel are undervalued for the joy they bring into the world and it would be a way of remedying that for those involved and (4) people work harder and smarter when working for themselves.
Some musicians whose trade secrets and knowledge that took a lifetime to learn don’t want to sell that for so little. One piano player I was recording, who after asking repeatedly what I wanted him to explain, where I actually sat down next to him on the bench and said, can you explain how you do such and such, stopped, looked at me and said “I’m not showing you that, that’s a trade secret”. I didn’t blame him and the session quickly wrapped up and even though he wanted to come back I said no, there was no point regarding the instructional series. Most players were not like the player described above but some other players, specifically a couple of teachers, weren’t interested in returning, some holding back with me encouraging them for more information.
What I envision, at least at the beginning, is partnering up with a select and limited group and number of players-teachers, possibly 12 piano, 6 guitar and 4 drummers who would be willing to dedicate some time and themselves to the project and come in for multiple sessions to teach or play songs. This learn to play music series would be as well produced as any of the best series currently online, have a much better way to learn an instrument thru the post production techniques I mentioned, have the best musicians showing and explaining their craft with a state of the art website. After going online with this I would expect the critics to rave about it and thru sites like face book, twitter and some schmaltzy marketing the word would spread and the product would sell. A friend of mine’s uncle was one of ten salesman handpicked in the mid 1960’s by a rich businessman to sell computers. He invited these charming men on his yacht handing each $10,000 in cash as a starting bonus, promising all would become millionaires, and all did. We’ll probably not become millionaires but I expect all of us to make money. I have no signing bonus to offer but what I can give is my commitment to see this project thru to completion. In the last 5 years I have invested over a couple hundred thousand dollars in equipment and thousands of hours in time. Some of the money and time was dedicated to buying recording equipment to produce professional sounding CD’s and studying to be a mixing engineer, which isn’t specific to producing the video series , but I learned nonetheless. Learning to record video and audio and also edit each to produce this learn to play video series was a real study. I don’t want anyone to doubt I’m not all in.
Developing a product that could be sold worldwide could secure a future I may never have envisioned. I want this to succeed, not only for myself, but for you. Success as a group is sweater than success alone, plus who in society has given us so much as artist? As an aesthetic or I should say art appreciator, though not to the likes of Oscar Wilde, imagining life without art, beautiful architecture, music and books is depressing. If you decide to help produce this series we would have agreements, contracts and auditing checks but I promise I would never cheat you in any way, for I am honest, some people say, to a fault.
The players, if on royalty payments, will get 25% of their gross sales based on what their individual songs or courses sell for. I will explain how this will be kept track of in another article. For musicians who are more famous than obscure, whose style is unique or more in demand the percentage could go much higher, possibly as much as 65%.
We are starting off with only piano but I would need a minimum of 500 songs and 12 instructional courses before making the website public. At the time of this writing, April 15, 2018 I have about 240 songs and 3 courses. I can record, edit the video, make the previews, place the chapter markers, and post this into the website at a rate of 20 songs or a couple courses a week which puts making the website live in the near future. I will be going back to work soon for about 6 months but still recording part time so a launch date of a year from now is a reasonable estimate.
Let’s revisit the Piano Guy Scott Houston who sold 300,000 10 disk sets and has 20 others to sell. 3000,000 x 10 is 3,000,000 and say 3,000,000 more for the other 20 brings us up to 6,000,000. Say we do 10% of that in ten years or 600,000 songs and the players profit averaged $2.50 bringing the player’s total revenue is $1,500,000. Let’s divide that by 20 players which is about $75,000 per player over 10 years or $7,500. a year. The first several years would be proportionally lower until the site became more popular. If it was looking like the site was becoming popular I would train and hire a couple of editors and someone to help with the recording and instead of making 20 songs per week produce triple that. I would continue to record the piano but concentrate on other instruments such as drums, guitar, violin, cello and after a couple of years have thousands of songs and courses for sale. It would be an immense catalog of instruction that I dream would rise to the status of sites like Lynda.com or become a household name like Craig’s List, at least in the music world. If that were to happen each and every one of your sales would go off the chart. Could it happen? You don’t know until you try. If I can produce this series in the most professional way and together we formulate the lessons that are clear and easy to understand, only that will give us any chance of any success. My ambitions are to make a living plus some selling this series online and self-congratulations will be in order when it happens. For you these payments could provide some financial benefit from now and at least another 7 years. These royalties would take time and build as the series became more popular but Albert Einstein’s advice was live and work for the future, and how could Mr. Einstein be wrong. If your future is short because of your age your royalty payments would go to a benefactor for the remaining time they were due to you.
This letter should have given you some insight into the online DVD market, my commitment to the project and your potential for revenue. In the above example the guess that our sales could be 10% of Scott Houston’s was only speculation, and like anyone, cannot know what our market share will be. I encourage you to do your own research and look at some of the instructional sites online. I encourage you to go to the theverybestpianoinstruction.com and look at the songs and courses or call or come to the studio to talk in person about the project.
Since this letter is more introductory in nature than specific, topics such as how and when you’ll get paid, who would take over if something were to happen to me, or what specifics are in the contract will be forthcoming if you decide to participate.
Royalty payments are not a requirement and you can get paid or I can trade work for these sessions as described in the section “Invitation to Record”. If you want a CD or performance video made but also work for royalties, the fair market value of these services can be deducted when your songs or courses start selling. Because you’re dedicating your time and energy to a project with deferred income, and some might say risk, I will pay you for the sessions which would be deducted when your songs or courses sell.
My thoughts to help promote the site are to get the majority of the recording done and website ready, then try to attract several musicians of notoriety, someone with some star power may do it for the extra income and/or as an altruistic act to help others learn. Lastly I want to say selling on the internet makes anyone with a computer a potential customer and people or companies with an innovative and quality product can do very well. I think and hope that for us. My number and email are listed in the contact information so don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions. Thanks for reading this letter.