Churn (a leaky bucket) Could Be Killing Your Piano Studio

If you’re struggling to keep your music studio schedule full and you’ve been looking for more and more students, you might be thinking about the issue backwards – you may need to think about how to keep piano students from leaving.

Music studio ‘churn’ is a far more important factor if you want to have an efficient and profitable business.

Music studios are essentially a type of subscription or membership business. We’re nothing like a shop, and we’re not even like a regular service-based business such as a lawyer or a nail salon.

Yes, those businesses (and all businesses) rely on repeat customers, but most music teaching studios are run more like a gym, where the default is that you stay in the club. If you don’t like a supermarket anymore you just don’t go, whereas you have to intentionally opt-out to quit a gym or a music studio.

Music Studio Metrics

The most important factor for success in any subscription business like ours is not how quickly and cheaply we can find new customers. There is no point adding a bunch of students every month if they’re just going to quit the next.

It’s much more cost-effective to retain the students we already have.

The metrics we use to track how long your students stay with you should be top of mind for any teacher who’s looking to grow their studio. So bear with me while I do a little defining…

What “Retention” Means

Your piano student retention rate is the percentage of students who stay from one billing period to the next. You could choose to track this monthly if students sign up for one month at a time, but for most teachers, it will be easiest to track this from one year to the next.

Excited Children Returning to Piano Lessons

To calculate your retention rate you just need a few easy numbers:

  • How many students did you have at the end of one year?
  • How many returned the following September? (Don’t include new students here – only returning ones.)

Your music studio retention rate is then just the second number divided by the first. For example, if you had 30 students at the end of last year and 25 came back in September, you have a retention rate of 25÷30, or 83%.

What “Churn” Means

Churn is just exactly the opposite of retention. It’s the percentage of students who quit each month, semester, year, or other relevant billing period.

Your music studio churn rate will be the opposite of the retention rate you calculated above. In our example, 5 students out of 30 quit. So our music studio churn rate is 5÷30 or 17%.

What “Lifetime Value” Means

The lifetime value (LTV) of your students is the total income they will generate over their time in your studio. So, if you charge $100/month and a student stays for 6 months, their lifetime value was $600.

It is particularly useful to know the average lifetime value if you’re going to run ads or other paid marketing promotions because you need to know how much you can afford to spend to acquire a new student.

However, even if you’re not going to do any paid marketing, I’d still encourage you to work this out. It will help make clear to you quite how important improving your music studio churn rate is, if nothing else.

How to Fix Your Leaky Bucket

You might get a bit of a shock when you work out these numbers and realise that your studio’s retention rates aren’t nearly as good as you thought.

If that’s you, then you have a leaky music studio bucket on your hands. But don’t worry, there are lots of ways to repair your bucket and keep piano students from leaving your studio.

Involving Parents

The first and most important factor for most ‘leaky bucket studios’ is parent involvement. And before you throw up your hands and declare that parents in your area just aren’t supporting their children at home, let me assure you that you have a bigger role in this than you may realise.

Happy young family piano

If you want to improve in this area, here’s some suggested further reading:

Improving Your Business

Sometimes the reason students are falling through the cracks in a studio like sewing needles has nothing to do with the teaching. Sometimes it all comes down to the business not running efficiently.

If you suspect that may be the key for you, try these articles:

You can find even more useful articles about improving your business on my Piano Studio Business page.

Difference Makers

The last reason your music studio churn might be high is a little uncomfortable… maybe, you’re just a bit, well… boring?

If you feel like you’re just not standing out from the crowd, then try these on for size:

Does your studio bucket have a leak?

How will you be working to fix your churn rate and keep piano students from leaving? Tell us your plans and woes in the comments below or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.

1 thought on “Churn (a leaky bucket) Could Be Killing Your Piano Studio”

  1. Churn is a pretty basic but important formula. What complicates the formula for me is mobility. Depending upon where you live, you might have a fairly stable customer base, with minimal corporate transfers, or like me, have a churn rate automatically higher as a result of people being rotated in, then out, of the area. As an example, I’m losing two families to relocations, which in my smaller studio is pretty significant.

    Some of my families are those true golden fans that will recommend you to their friends and neighbors. Others won’t write a testimonial or review no matter how much you ask (typically indirectly through a monthly newsletter).

    In finance terms, one would say that you should be charging students more in that situation because your acquisition costs are going to be higher as a result of lower LTV. That works better in theory than reality!


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