Outrageously Priced Materials?
Ruth M., Washington
Who has a nice response to this missive that I received today?
“I am happy to pay you for your time, and am overall pleased with the program (and with you especially), but paying for the books is more difficult when they are, quite frankly, outrageously priced. ”
I do not really know what traditional materials cost as I have only taught SM. I know one thing is that I need to go over the importance of and the use of SHM.
Ruth P., North Carolina
I wouldn’t say they are outrageously priced, but I admit that I have been concerned lately about asking parents to buy the Foundation books in addition to the accompaniment books, Songs for Children, etc. etc. Even though I see value in all those ‘streams’, it really adds up for the parents. Would love to hear other’s thoughts.
Ruth C., Australia
When I used to teach traditional I also used to teach for the Australian Guild of Music Education.
This is one of the music educating systems in Australia – and I put students through their exams.
So beside the tuition fees, there was the cost of the books and also the cost of exams.
Here is a breakdown of the costs using current Australian prices
Music Books – any level above Grade 2 – had to have at least 3 books at $30 – $40 each
and we would choose one song out of each book to learn and play for the Examination.
Examinations costs anywhere between $50 – $150 depending on the level
Theory Workbooks – $10 – $15
Theory Exams – $50 – $150 depending on the level.
There was never any CD’s or DVD’s to help.
Another suggestion for you as the teacher – go onto the Simply Music website and note
the cost of replacing the individual CD’s and DVD’s. Then compare that with the cost of purchasing any
normal Music CD from a music shop or any DVD from a shop. In Australia the SM costs are very low
G. Mark Klass
I tend to agree that they are rather high. I have taught traditionally for 40 years and even when purchasing a lesson book, theory book, finger power book, fun book, and assignment book the total cost was usually around $33 – $37. However, if a student says this to me I just say, “Yes, everything seems terribly expensive these days. Would you like to make a partial payment today and the rest next week?”
Sue C., Australia
When I first speak to people over the phone enquiring about lessons, somewhere in the conversation I tell them that the materials and lessons cost a lot of money and give them a way out if they need it. I say there is a CD, DVD and the books and that they will last a fair while and they will get the value from the expense outlay.
Later, when student is up to next level, I will say to the parent/s a few weeks before that we are up to the next level or program and it will cost $xx. (I may say that I do understand if we need to hold back a week or two due to finances). I ask – Are they ready to go ahead? I like to get this agreement.
This backfired with a group once when one in the group did not want to purchase a book. But within a week or 2 of seeing how well it worked with the other students, they were asking for it.
Missy M., Nebraska
Honestly – most method books cost anywhere from $9.00 – $16.00 + for traditional lessons. A student can be working a theory workbook and a musical score book at the same time. In addition to this “traditional way of purchasing books, we have a DVD (which most DVD’s these days cost at least $20) a CD, (most these days cost $15.00+) and other helpful, vital materials which help allow a student to have Breakthrough results using this method.
I think there have been posts, maybe even archives, on the ECL comparing the amount of money invested in traditional lessons over a certain number of years, to the results a student can achieve in Simply Music lessons for the same length of time. In the long term, and short term, they are saving when one compares the amount of knowledge learned, processed and retained.
This is one way of looking at it. I also tell my students that I don’t make any profit from the SHM’s. It is my way of contributing to their success.
Robin Keehn, Washington
I wanted to let you know that we are aware as we release more programs that you have a lot of streams to manage and choices to make and that there are financial implications for students who have to purchase the materials that you require.
Two things: First, we are currently discussing if and how we can combine curricula. For example, it may be that when you purchase Accompaniment I, Songs For Children and Accompaniment Variations are included. I think this idea has credibility but we need to work through the details and consider the implications.
Second, we are working towards the digitization of the Simply Music materials. Again, there is much to consider and we still have things to work through but it is our desire to digitize teacher and select student home materials. My guess is that this will have an impact on the cost of materials for teachers and for students.
Finally, the SHM provide a complete audio-visual package that supports a student’s learning in a way that is unique. This support means that students can always do their homework and never say, “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do so I didn’t do anything.” As a former traditional teacher, I am especially thankful for the SHM because I have never once heard those words teaching SM. They can even miss a lesson and not get behind.
The SHM are a wonderful resource for students. Some may say they are expensive but I believe that students who use the materials properly find them to be of great value. Make sure you are assigning them to watch the DVD, listen to the CD, use the Reference book at home, keep the Playlist and write their assignments in the Notes book. When they see what an integral part they play in the lesson and at home, they will appreciate the value they provide.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I would simply tell the parent that they are receiving incredible value for those materials. Like others have said, if you add together the typical cost of a new DVD, CD, and two instructional books, it’s not outrageous at all; in fact, I think it’s a great deal, especially considering they get breakthrough results in return.
Keep in mind the psychological component – if you give any hint of agreement about the materials being overpriced, it will instantly minimize their value in their eyes.
Lori N., Utah
I’ve been trying to come to terms with this, too. I have to watch carefully that I don’t apologize for the cost – that doesn’t help things at all. One thing I’ve realized is that I need to be sure I use each new part of the program thoroughly and creatively with the students, not letting anything sit unused for too long a time, so they don’t wonder why they bought it. Maybe it would help them feel better, too, if they are reminded that a lot of these books will be used and referred to for a long time.
I believe the materials are good and that the entire program is worth it. But if I can learn to play everything myself and understand the purpose of each step, I think I will be more able to talk convincingly about purchasing the materials. Then I’m talking from personal experience. This is an advantage teachers who learned to play through Simply Music have over those of us who learned other ways.
I wonder, too, if prepping a student and parent for a new stream might help, such as learning and playing improv games with major and minor triads before actually giving them the accompaniment book. Make it feel like a reward or special accomplishment to be able to move into another stream.
I’m afraid this is all theory since I am such a novice at all of this! I hope more experienced teachers will share their thoughts on this topic.
Helen P., Minnesota
Besides being a new SM teacher I have taught Kindermusik for over 20 years. I see a real distinction between a method like Faber Faber or Suzuki 1,2,3 and a true and complete curriculum like Simply Music or Kindermusik.
As it has been said this is more than pages in a book that is left to the educator to bring to life and the student to attach, but a comprehensive set of materials that supports various learning styles and produces dramatic results. Although I have not been in the piano teaching business too long, I have not had an inkling from my families that the cost of home learning materials are out of line with their value.
Parents might understand the distinction between method and curriculum. I will explain it that way should it come up for me.
Louise H., Michigan
I think one discrepancy that I would like to see changed is the cost between levels. Level one materials include the notes book, the playlist book, the practice pad, and the relationship graph, which are not in subsequent levels. It is cheaper to order level 2 and up components individually than packaged together. It would be nice to see the price reflect this rather than pay the same amount for each level.
If we compare apples to apples, the cost of Faber books, if all 4 are used, is about $27 with the CD an additional $11, and a practice book, $5.50, costing about $44 altogether. Many teachers do not use all these components, and teachers can purchase the materials for a 40 to 50% discount. There are a lot of songs in each level, but no DVD. At the end of Faber level one students are just beginning to play hands together.
I think attitude about price varies greatly depending on where you are living, if a family is one income or two, if the family is home schooled, or if the family is large. I try to be very respectful of families who struggle to provide a quality education for their children.
Digitizing materials would be wonderful, especially if the price is reduced. I am excited to see that come out!
Shari G., Colorado
I’m relieved to hear that Simply Music is considering combining curricula. I love, love, love, all the new materials but feel the increased financial obligation to families is asking too much of them and is not good for my business. I have no problem with the costs of the current foundation materials, Accompaniment, CD’s, DVD’s, Arrangements and so on. I agree that the materials are extremely valuable and provide tremendous support at home.
I’m hopeful that Simply Music will find a solution to reduce the cost of the materials that will work for everyone. I would hate to leave out these new materials because of the cost. At the current price, I will be picking and choosing what I will incorporate into my lessons because I don’t feel comfortable asking students to pay for it all.
Patti P., Hawaii
I’ve only had one mom comment on the price. I pointed out to her how expensive DVD’s & CD’s are, in addition to the cost of the book itself, and I also added that no other program has such a complete program of home support materials. She seemed to be at least somewhat satisfied with this answer. I know that money is a bit tight for this family, so she is watching expenditures carefully.
Many of my students have come from other programs where each child had to buy their own set of books because they are consumables. These families feel like the Simply Music materials are a deal because they only have to buy Foundation 1 one time, and can reuse the materials for the next child and the next.
I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. If they are moving quickly through the materials, as a student who had previous lessons might be able to do, I can understand a concern for how quickly there is another $45 plus tax and shipping for the new level. I just told a class this week, which is almost at the end of a level, that we would be spending some time sharpening our playlist and learning more arrangements of the songs we already know. They learned the current level very quickly, and are always eager for a new song. So far they seem to be keeping up with the playlist, but I’m concerned that it’s soon going to be too big for them to handle, so I’m going to spend some time expanding their arrangements and focusing on their accompaniment skills.
Sharon B., Australia
I’ve had 2 students quit because of the price of materials. They were both students with prior learning who whizzed through a couple of levels. In spite of me teaching them accomp. It isn’t easy to judge the rate of progress before you start off.
Susan J., South Carolina
I taught the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library method before I found SM, and if students were to purchase the five or six books in each level-Lessons, Solos, Theory, Technique, the CD & more, it would easily have added up to more than the initial cost of the start up SHMs for SM. In fact, I keep those HL books and show them to prospective students at an FIS and how they compare to the costs of SHMs, but also how that traditional method keeps them playing single notes in each hand for two full levels BEFORE they would ever get to play songs like the very first song in SM level 1-Dreams Come True! That could have taken a year to complete those HL two levels in the traditional method. In the first level of SM & ACC 1, we learn to play in 12 major and minor keys, learn 144 chords, playing In all 12 key signatures, and can transpose, improvise, compose and arrange and accompany ourselves singing, other singers or other instruments playing with us, hence a much more practical application of what we learn.
I also tell them how after taking over 12 years of “traditional” lessons, I could do none of those extra skills, so they are going to be learning to become a complete, well-rounded musician in a much shorter amount of time than it took me and many other classically trained students! It’s really like comparing apples to oranges! When I play some of the songs from levels 1&2 and variation arrangements, as well as the blues in the first few levels, and tell them they can learn to play holiday songs in time to have family and friends sing around the Christmas tree, they are usually convinced that this is indeed a method they can all learn and that there will soon be a world where everyone plays!
Hope that helps you explain to the Mom that she is choosing the best, most natural, yet comprehensive method for her child to learn the piano! I also remind them of the added costs of uniforms, shoes, equipment, etc for sports, gymnastics, dance and other extra-curricula activities that her child(ren)may do someday, if they are not already doing so!
Original discussion started 3/05/2012