Why Zoom Saved Us

For so many businesses lockdowns have absolutely decimated their income streams, preventing their customers from attending their premises to purchase the service or products that they provide. In April 2020 I was very concerned that the numbers of lessons taught by the music teachers in our teaching community would take a nose-dive right down to basically nothing, as the entire business had be designed for in-person lessons.

However, I had underestimated the desire, ability and determination that the teacher community had in regard to moving their lessons and their students online within just a small numbers of weeks. To put it another way, the ability for music students to take lessons on Zoom, Skype, Teams and other platforms saved us as a business and enabled us to continue to keep going during the last year.

Of course, not all of the music teachers in our community moved online – for some, the instrument made it challenging to move online. Drum teachers, for example, have had a more challenging time teaching online compared to guitar teachers. For others, the way they taught didn’t suit to online teaching, some singing teachers are a good example of this as they focus a lot on addressing the way that a student’s posture, neck tension and stance impact their voice – something that they just couldn’t translate to the online environment. Finally, for some teachers, the technical abilities required to move online were just a step too far and they felt they couldn’t achieve the results they wanted from a technical point of view.

Nonetheless, this is certainly a smaller number of the teachers within the community than I would have expected prior to lockdown. There are teachers who had previously told me they would never teach online, that once lockdown came moved online and have been teaching really successfully (and dare I say it, enjoying it!). The numbers of online music lessons enquiries have massively increased, perhaps unsurprisingly, during lockdown – creating an opportunity for music teachers to offer lessons to students that are located across the world.

This has enabled students to access incredibly high-quality music teachers that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to in their area, as well as enabling music teachers to do things they never thoughts possible before – for example, move house and retain students in large numbers or consider going on tour and taking students with them virtually. From all of this it is clear that a music business like the one that I run required an online music lesson strategy and we are delighted to announce a new part of the platform dedicated to online music lessons and the teachers within our community who are able to teach them.

It will be really interesting to see the legacy of lockdowns and whether students will continue to enquire in such high numbers for online lessons or whether Zoom lessons – of all types – will be consigned to “that is so 2020”! Only time will tell, but as teachers we have learned so much about teaching via Zoom and I can say that had this not happened then I am sure that many businesses would no longer be with us.

Posted under MGR Music, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 21, 2021

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Music Lessons Launches

Each student’s inspiration to start learning to play a musical instrument is slightly different. Sometimes it is parents that encourage a child to learn an instrument, with them selecting the instrument and taking them through the process of learning – for that student to later fall in love with that instrument as they see themselves succeeding upon it. Quite often, however, the motivation comes from the student itself – perhaps inspired by the music that they are passionate about, wishing to replicate it.

I certainly fall into that group, with Nirvana being my inspiration to wanting to learn to play the guitar. It wasn’t that I wanted to “learn to play the guitar” in its own right, instead I wanted to play along with my favourite Nirvana songs. It is a subtle difference but one that meant that I practiced a lot, as I wasn’t thinking I was learning the guitar but instead getting better at playing along with my favourite songs. It is akin to an individual that is trying to motivate themselves to go to the gym, compared to the athlete who is training for an event – for the latter going to and being in the gym is just part of the process, rather than a goal in its own right.

As many academics will agree, the 10,000 hours rule to master a skill like playing an instrument, is so well-document that it really is as simple as the number of hours a student puts in will determine their ability. Therefore, my motivation for playing Nirvana songs simply meant that I was built up more hours spent on the guitar, without really noticing that I was practicing. This was really the secret to me learning the guitar. The second aspect of the hours invested is the quality of that practice or learning. I can certainly say having a guitar teacher to help guide me through the information in a logical way had a huge impact on my learning ability.

This is why I believe there will always be a case for professional music teachers being able to find work, even with resources like YouTube out there. The reason is not a students ability to access content, but the ability for a student to go through the relevant content in a logical order. In other words, it is the teacher’s ability to curate the content and tailor it to an individual student that makes their music lessons so impactful.

All of this has been on my mind this week, as I was delighted to see that the team put MusicTeacher.com live and students can now start to enquire for music teachers featured in the music teacher database. This will help students, with an array of motivations to learn their chosen instrument, to start their journey towards the 10,000 hours. It is a great moment and now we will wait for the first enquiry to come through the database!

 

 

 

Posted under MGR Music, Music Teacher, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 13, 2021

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A New Music Teacher Platform

It has taken many months but it is with tremendous pride to share with you the launch of a new music teacher database, named MusicTeacher.com. This is part of a vision to develop the platform into an internationally recognized platform for music students to find professional music teachers, giving them the confidence that they are taking lessons with high-quality music tutors.

With the success of the mgrmusic.com platform, where I believe we carefully developed a business model and perfected our internal processes, we are now ready to bring that onto the international stage with a website that is easily recognisable and rememberable. I will be updating as often as I can, updating on key statistics like the numbers of teachers who form part of the music teacher community on the platform and the numbers of music students who have enquired for lessons.

The very first steps will be planning the migration of the current music teachers featured on the mgrmusic.com, moving their profiles over to the new platform and communicating out to teachers the rebranding. This will be a gradual process, individually migrating each teacher’s profile, as well as the pages of the mgrmusic.com that will find a new home on MusicTeacher.com. The old platform will remain live for music teachers to access their community area and the forums, but activity and focus will switch to the new platform over the next few months – with the clear aim of growing the community of music teachers in areas where we have recieved high numbers of enquiries during 2020, namely America and Asia.

The platform itself will be very similar in structure to mgrmusic.com, with students able to search for music lessons to find high-quality, professional music teachers, able to teach their either in-person or online. These teachers can be located anywhere in the world and will be carefully vetted and interviewed before being included on the new platform. It is a really exciting project to start and I will keep you updated as frequently as I can with the progress and migration to the new home of our international teacher database.

Posted under MGR Music, mgrmusic.com

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 6, 2021

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Teaching in Rolling Lockdowns

Currently, the teaching world is facing a few potential bumps in the road, as are many other sectors in the arts and beyond.

Since the initial UK wide lockdown started to ease over the summer and schools returned to normal, many music teachers were able to resume their duties providing their environments were safe to do so.

For many teachers this means working in more controlled spaces with additional measures put in place to ensure safety. This could be wearing PPE, using hand sanitizers, and introducing social distancing measures to teaching areas where possible.

As we start to fast approach the tail end of 2020, the normality we’d hoped to have seen by now seems to be moving further away as various regions of the UK move in and our of more localised lockdowns. Currently called circuit breakers or fire break lockdowns.

What does this mean for many teachers?

Many teachers will be unable to operate during these rolling lockdowns. This means both teachers home studios or business premises will be closing temporarily as they are considered non-essential services.

Now is a better time than ever to have a backup plan.

The easiest way to try to maintain your workload through this constantly changing time is to speak to students early and bring up the idea of temporary online lessons.

Many teachers around the country have found much success in taking their lessons online during this testing time so as things continue to evolve, it’s certainly worth bringing that topic up with students.

Check with your students and see if they’d be interested in Zoom or Skype sessions for the duration of any periods of “lockdown” to ensure their learning is not disrupted.

Online lessons are a different dynamic to face to face lessons, but in our industry, we currently have to do what we can to survive.


Guitar Lessons London

I’m thrilled to announce that we have begun work with Lucas Polo who will be heading up our Guitar Lessons London page.

Lucas is a seasoned touring musician and I look forward to him bringing all this experience and knowledge to our base of students. He is based in the centre of London and will be servicing his local area of future guitar stars.

I welcome Lucas onboard and look forward to many years of continued success.

Posted under MGR Music

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 27, 2020

Socially Distanced Performance

As the UK prepares to enter another wave of potential lock downs, the hospitality industry is once again dealt a blow.

Venues are still not able to host regular performances by musicians, comedians and performers. Theatres still face closures and bars are unable to host their weekly singers.

Let’s talk about socially distanced gigs. Can these be a viable way of reviving the live music industry or are they too far removed from what we expect from a live music experience.

The pros of a socially distanced gig are:

Performers can Perform: This is a big one. Over the last 6 months many performers who depend on their gig based income will be able to take the stage again and perform their music. This includes artists who write their own music and working bands who perform at weddings, functions and bars.

Smaller audience sizes mean more intimate performances: Imagine getting to see your favourite band of all time, but only 50 other people can attend. That makes it a very intimate and personal experience. You could be up close and personal with an artist that you might normally see with a crowd of 1000 plus.

Venues, staff and technical crew get to keep on working: We’ve all seen the massive knock on effect Covid-19 has had on the behind the scenes staff. It’s easy to remember that musicians and performers have lost work, but don’t forget about the sound guys, the lighting guys, the riggers, the stand hands. Socially distanced gigs allow them to get back to doing what they love too.

Now let’s look at some potential cons:

Reduced audience numbers means less ticket sales: If you rely on your income from performing, then it may not be a reliable income stream with these measures. You’d have to perform to smaller numbers which means less ticket sales. The only way to keep your earnings up would be to raise ticket prices, but the major risk there is in alienating fans. You don’t want to price yourself out.

Venues may struggle to cover costs: Venues have overheads. Staff costs, security costs, running costs. Many grassroots venues work with local talent to work out payment deals where the venue get their costs covered from the bar/door and a little of the profit goes to the performers. Can venues still earn this additional income with smaller numbers in attendance?

The feel just won’t be the same: Many musicians live for that feeling of stepping out onto a stage and feeling the packed rooms energy. Will this energy still be present with a socially distanced crowd?

This topic is going to be a big talking point over the next 6 months as musicians and performers all around the country try to find a way to keep their show on the road. Do you think it’s possible to successfully put on a socially distanced gig and is this potentially the future of the arts industry?


Bass Lessons Greenwich

Here is a quick business update from mgrmusic.com.

We’ve just teamed up with the fantastic bass teacher Flo Moore who will be heading up the Bass Lessons Greenwich page.

Flo is a graduate of the Royal Academy and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, The Barbican, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and other prestigious venues.

I look forward  to hearing from students who get to share the experience and knowledge of Flo in her lessons and I’m excited to see her success grow.

Posted under MGR Music

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 20, 2020

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Make Your Teaching Space Safe

If you’re a music teacher and you’re able to resume teaching, either from your own music studio or from a school premises, you have to consider how you’re going to make this as safe as possible.

There is plenty of advice out there from the UK Government on what measures need to be in place. You can use this information to start to form an idea of how to ensure the lessons you offer are as safe as possible.

Let’s look at a few safety measures and discuss how they could benefit or hinder a music lesson:

Face Coverings: The main advice from the Government is around the wearing of face coverings. It is possible to conduct music lessons while wearing a face covering. This reduces the transmission risk of the virus and keeps you both safe. Many students will probably be more than happy to comply with wearing a face covering, especially if you work from a home studio or a professionally owned studio. The potential negatives are around communication. Some students may find it harder to hear things you say while wearing a face covering, so you may need to reinforce some points.

Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is a great way to reduce risk and it should be essential in any teaching area, especially where instruments are shared. The downside is that for people who play stringed instruments such as guitars, hand sanitizer can tenderise the fingertips.

Social Distancing: This is the easiest one to implement if you have the space to do so. If your teaching space allows it, you can simply set up slightly further apart than you usually would. There are not really any potential negatives to this, other than minor inconveniences such as sharing sheet music would be made more difficult due to sitting further away from the music stand.

Online Sessions: Many teachers have taken to the internet to maintain their schedules. If you are in a position to do so with certain students, it might be worth exploring if Skype/Zoom lessons are suitable. You’d need to make sure you both have a stable internet connection. It will change the dynamic of the lesson so it won’t work for everybody.

Plexiglass Screens: If social distancing in your teaching space is tricky or not an option, perhaps looking into a plexiglass screen divider would be beneficial, similar to those you now see in supermarkets and bars. This would allow you to be a little closer to your student but still safely protected by the screen. This, combined with face coverings would really improve the safety levels.

As you can see, there are a lot of options to consider when it comes to teaching in a safe and compliant way. It’s very important to keep checking for the latest advice and keep up to speed on all the latest suggestions for keeping you and your clients safe during this time.


Singing Lessons Wimbledon

I am very excited to announce that we have just started working with the fantastic Melissa Toy who will be taking on our Singing Lessons Wimbledon page.

Melissa is a fantastic singer and teacher. She has over 10 year experience and teachers across all genres. She is a qualified Voice Specialist and holds a first-class BA (Hons) in Creative Musicianship.

I am very excited to see how Melissa career grows and I look forward to hearing from students who benefit from her experience and expertise.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 13, 2020

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New Website Designs

I am always looking to present my business in the best possible light, be that via face to face meetings or just the general online perception of what MGR Music does.

In recent weeks I have turned my attention to my website and how it looks. I always strive to ensure my website meets all the expected standards of the modern-day web surfer. I want the website to always look modern and contemporary while still maintaining a very small business feel. I don’t feel a grandiose, corporate website would work for my business because we are not a global enterprise, we are a small team of musicians and music teachers who are passionate about creating sustainable careers for other teachers.

I decided to revisit the overall design of some of my location specific webpages and see if I could enhance them even more. Over the last year I have attended many workshops on web design and I wanted to put some of my new skills to the test. Here is a little preview:

I want to streamline the user experience and give them all the information they need in a short, concise manner on a website that is easy on the eye and cross compatible across multiple platforms. After all, most people browse the internet on their phones and tablets these days, it makes sense to make that a big consideration when designing something.

I am very excited to roll this new design out, but it is not without its challenges. I’ve been working to integrate the ReCaptcha tool to the contact form that you see on many websites, this presented many challenges which I will cover in more depth soon.


Piano Lessons Solihull

A small business update here for you, we’ve recently started working with the fantastic Callum Fisher who will be the teacher connected with our Piano Lessons Solihull website. Callum is a mobile teacher who travels to students within his covered region and he provides some very high quality and informative piano lessons.

We are extremely excited to have Callum on board with us and we look forward to growing his student base and seeing his business really blossom in the coming year.

Posted under MGR Music

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on August 16, 2019

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Impact of Brexit / Piano Lessons Leeds

I think everyone is tired of Brexit, no matter their individual views on the outcome they want for the process. With the impact of the second delay effecting small-businesses I thought I would be interesting to explore specifically what this impact is and how start-ups might be able to mitigate it.

After talking with start-up owners it is clear that Brexit impact is very much dependant on the type of business model that a start-up runs. For example, those business models that require the import of resources or the export of products to EU countries and beyond have some of the most direct concerns about any change in cross border trade-deals.

This can be contrasted with eCommence websites that are focused on selling British made products or re-selling services in the UK. Changes to cross border relationships is less impactful, so concerns quickly turn to the impact of Brexit on consumer confidence and spending power. This approach certainly falls into broader business fears of an economic downturn post-Brexit that would cause lower sales for start-ups.

Unfortunately, from my conversations with start-ups there was little optimism about Brexit – even from pro-Brexit start-up owners. The main reason for this is no-one I spoke too could define with confidence at this stage how Brexit would turn out, so inevitably they worried that it would be a type of Brexit that they didn’t want. One that would negatively impact their business.

As we turned to ideas about how to mitigate against the start-ups most feared impacts of Brexit talks became more positive. For example, all the start-ups I spoke to acknowledge that surviving economic downturns are part of running a successful business over the medium to long-term. So investing time in planning how would we run our business if we had a 30% decrease in sales during 2020 is worth doing regardless of Brexit. I remember reading James Caan’s book, where the former Dragon’s Den investor wrote about how he had to “button down the hatches” to survive one economic downturn that effectively stopped major companies hiring for several months…a problem if you run a recruitment start-up! Therefore, having a strategy in place for economic downturns is no bad thing regardless of Brexit.

Exploring how to deal with changes in cross-broader relations fell into two categories (1) understanding what the changes meant so that the business was compliant, could rebuild their supply chains with a clear understanding of timings and also continue to build positive relationships with suppliers or buyers in the EU was key.

Category (2) was the specific short term impact of Brexit that might disrupt supply chains in such a way that would negatively impact the business, frustrating customers and loosing short-term business. As we have heard in the new stockpiling is a common response to this, though a costly expense for a start-up to undertake.

While it goes beyond the scope of this article to provide specific advice for start-ups planning for Brexit one thing that became clear from my conversations with start-ups was that having open discussions about Brexit and its impact on your business is a healthy thing to do. Several start-up owners actually said they felt better having spoke about the impact of Brexit on their business – simply having a conversation about it seemed to have helped them to air their fears.

So do reach out to other businesses through your network and speak to business owners like yourself to explore how you industry is planning for Brexit. Even if the outcome of these talks is for you to put something in place to plan for an economic downturn that is no bad thing to have planned out.


Piano Lessons Leeds

A small business update is that the mgrmusic.com team have been delighted to launch the Piano Lessons Leeds music hub earlier in April. Working closely with local piano teacher George MacDonald, who is a professional piano tutor with many years teaching experience, the team is looking to built one of the leading piano schools in Leeds over the next few years.

George is well placed to be able to lead this development having graduated with a BA Hons (Music) in Jazz Piano at Leeds College of Music. This local knowledge of music education within Leeds is combined with a wider network of musicians that George has performed with through the various bands. Enabling him to connect students to local musical opportunities as they develop their piano playing to a level that would enable them to perform. I know that the team are delighted to have him onboard and I wish him a warm welcome, as well as every success to the new Piano Lessons Leeds school.

Posted under MGR Music

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on April 28, 2019

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GDPR / Piano Lessons Bristol

GDPR – SME Panic Grows

Another week and more panic in the business world about GDPR. I think small and medium sized companies have been spooked by big companies trying to “re-consent” their users/newsletter lists. This has prompted SMEs to try and do the same, often resulting in less than 5% response from their newsletter listings. In other words, they have decimated their newsletter lists, now panic that a core sales route for their business can no longer be used and are extremely anxious about the effect of GDPR on business.

The EU is driven, in many ways, to facilitate greater trade between EU countries. What a travesty it would be if the introduction of an EU law, like the GDPR, has such significant implications that it caused a sudden drop in trade. Especially in the SME sector, where margins are often tight and livelihoods are always at stake. However, in recent days I have also seen several articles that say the “re-consenting” emails that keep appearing in our email inboxes, might be unnecessary (and in some cases illegal!).

For example, BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones investigated this subject further. He interviewed a data protection legal specialist who explained “90% of the emails are unnecessary – it doesn’t have to be re-consented unless you didn’t get consent in the first place” (GDPR: The great data privacy panic). Essentially good data practices before GDPR would be recognised after the 25th May 2018 – after all the law cannot be retrospective.

Another interesting read was a WordPress Guide to GDPR: (GDPR Compliance – Everything You Need to Know. Most interesting thing being the cost of non-compliance, that, according to the article, in most reasonable cases, starts with a Warning, then a Reprimand, then Suspension of data processing, the a Fine. Like most legal disputes I am sure it is in the interest of both parties to resolve an issue without having to go to court. This article suggests that businesses that act reasonably and react reasonably to complaints should be able to avoid more serious ends of that disciplinary process.

There is no doubt that the introduction of GDPR has caused a panic in the business world. Its impact might well be negative in regard to damaging reasonably run SMEs, fearful that they might be non-compliant simply stopping sales routes that actually are reasonable uses of data. Nonetheless, it is clear that reform around data was needed. What is most evident that SMEs need more support to understand what an introduction of a new EU law like this is to their specific business case.

Piano Lessons Bristol

Away from GDPR, this week has seen the launching of a new music hub in Bristol. Bristol is one of the most important cities for music in the UK. It has a thriving music scene with a very engaged population of Bristolians who enjoy supporting all arts. Indeed, Bristol was the second city I expanded into when I first created the business from my Lafrowda flat (something you can read more about in The Tab). Over the last few years this has been focused on guitar lessons, singing lessons and drum lessons. However, I am very excited to announce that the Piano Lessons Bristol music hub has been launched this week.

Dan Somers, who is a mobile piano teacher in Bristol, is a fantastic tutor to take on piano students in the city. With his many years teaching experience, combined with his Music Performance and Production degree from the London Centre of Contemporary Music, Dan is already one of the leading piano teachers in the city. His ability to provide students with lessons in the comfort of their own homes makes his lessons accessible to many more students across the city – including those that face mobility and transport challenges.

Like many of the music teachers I know across the UK, Dan is an active musicians. Alongside his piano lessons her regularly performs in a swing band called Ruby & Her Howlin’ Boys. It is so important as a music teacher to have a creative and performance outlet, alongside working as a music teacher. After all, if the only time you play the instrument is during beginner music lessons with students you quickly loose your own enjoyment of playing. All musicians have to continue to push themselves to continue to develop, learn new styles of music and broaden their musical horizons. I am really excited to see how we can develop this music hub in Bristol, having launched it earlier this week.

Posted under GDPR, MGR Music, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 25, 2018

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MGR Music Progress Update & Guitar Lessons Manchester

Progress Update – Introduction

It has been over six-months since I wrote my last progress update on the development of the national music teacher database. As we are edging towards the summer again I thought I would write a group of mini-blog updates on how everything is develop in real time. This will give entrepreneurial students a real insight into how businesses develop day by day, week by week. I have found from first hand experience that while progress can feel slow on any one day, by making multiple good business decision overtime that progress is multiplied dramatically. Conversely, the consequences of a poor decision can significantly impact speed of growth, especially when the pace of growth increases.

In this mini-series of blog posts I will take you inside each of the key decisions made each week, providing insight into why these conclusions have been reached and analysing the results of these decisions. By doing this I hope to take you with me in my entrepreneurial journey. Enjoy!

Think, Try, Do – News

One exciting development away from the business is that I will be working with Emily, Katie and David of the Think, Try, Do team on a new project that will be released later this year. The project will focus on interviewing 50 current and former University of Exeter student entrepreneurs. It will not only explore their “success stories” but also examine the motivations behind their entrepreneurialism. Asking some of the more philosophical questions behind what really makes a successful entrepreneur and how can we help develop other students with this mind set. There will be more on this to follow in due course, with the first interview of Matt Morley, of Savvy, having been the first to be interviewed for the project.

MGR Music – Six Months of Development

In my last post (August 2017), I talked a lot about trying to get the national music teacher database off the ground. Comparing it to a plane taxiing along the runway, not fully knowing if when the plane stopped and the throttle was applied the plane would take off. I also talked a lot about my determination to make the platform into an online community of music, using it as almost a “Facebook for music teachers”.

Nearly six months on it is really interesting to reflect on this (part of the reason why I write this blog!). Firstly, I am pleased to say that platform has taken off, developing as a place where students can find highly-qualified music teachers in their location. Interestingly, having trialed the platform during early 2018 as a “social media” platform for music teachers, I ended moving away from that idea completely.

Two reasons became self-evident; firstly, put simply music teachers didn’t use it (or want to use it) as a social media platform. While we have forums on mgrmusic.com that are active, music teachers continue to prefer to post questions and seek advice in our Music Teacher’s Group on Facebook. As much as I wanted our music teacher community to engage with the platform as a the location to create the community upon the true was Facebook provides a better frame work to do that. A realisation therefore was we should concentrate on developing the Facebook group since that is the place where music teachers feel comfortable to engage with one another.

Secondly, being a small team we cannot compete with multi-million pound online social platforms. It sounds obvious when you say it, but when you are developing something that you really want people to use you can convince yourself that people will use it. However, compare it to a platform like Facebook and you can see the limitations of our platform. Matt Morley summed this up perfectly to me – “users expect the speed of Google and the user friendly app feel of Uber”. The platform we made was good, nonetheless, it isn’t our core business to provide a social media platform for music teachers. It is obvious to those music teachers that the platform, while being full functional, isn’t as good as Facebook…and why should it be, considering the cost investment of the two platforms.

Two months ago I have such a clear thought. It was a true moment of realisation; “as a small business we should only concentrate on our core business”. With such a small team we don’t have the luxury to input a lot of time into projects that are not absolutely central to the business. Reflecting on this I would say that over the last two years I have developed a lot of different ideas, with an array of success, however very few of these ideas where absolutely central to the core business. Once I realised this it became obvious for me what I needed to do; sandbox projects that did not contribute to the core business and re-focus on making the core business awesome.

MGR Music – Guitar Lessons Manchester

Refocusing on the core business was the significant change of business strategy that has taken place during 2018. Specifically, this has meant the planned creation and launch of local music hubs. Each music hub will have a high-qualified and experienced music teacher, offering lessons to students in that area. I am very proud to say at the start of May 2018 we officially launched our first music hub, Guitar Lessons Manchester.

This was a huge step up from what we had previously offered, which was essentially a database of music teachers. This left the student to find a suitable teacher for themselves, rather than creating the infrastructure for great music teachers to provide professional tuition to students. Although some areas had consistent steams of enquiries, including for drum lessons in Leicester and guitar lessons in Manchester – as mentioned in my last post in August 2017 – I felt we could do so much more in locations where high numbers of music students were getting in touch. Therefore, in early May we appointed Dan Hall as Head Guitar Teacher at Guitar Lessons Manchester, creating our first music hub.

Dan is an extremely experienced guitar teacher, having taught the guitar for over 10 years both privately and in local schools. He is a qualified guitar teacher, having gained a FD Pop Music and Performance University of Salford. His impressive experience and knowledge as a guitar teacher is backed up by a fantastic approach to the lessons. Adopting a “no pressure” style of teaching Dan works hard to ensure are inspired to learn, rather than forced to. This approach to teaching, that draws a lot upon what the guitar student wants to learn, really resonated with me as a guitar teacher. The music hub will be based in the Stretford area of Manchester, with great transport links from across the city. Dan and I will work extremely closely together to provide the highest-quality guitar tuition that Manchester has to offer. This focus and investment in these music hubs will provide opportunities for guitarists of all abilities to rapidly progress in an environment that is ideal for guitar lessons.

It was fantastic announcement to launch Guitar Lessons Manchester with Dan this month. I have plans to launch a small number of dedicated music hubs across the UK over the next 6 months and I will keep you up to date with this progress. After nearly 6 months of development of the platform it is wonderful to feel that I am taking the next steps in my entrepreneurial journey and look forward to sharing this experience with you.

 

Posted under MGR Music, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 5, 2018

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Google Mobile Update

On the 25th of April 2015 Google brought out one of the most significant algorithmic search updates since the famous Panda/Penguin updates. Responding to a major shift during the last four years in the way that people search on Google, the leading search engine introduced this update to place mobile friendly websites higher in mobile searches than “non-mobile friendly” websites. This makes sense as over 45% of website users are now surfing the internet via their smartphone devices.

So what does this mean for the internet, well potentially the change will have dramatic ramifications across the globe as, on the top level, many of the FTSE, Dow Jones and S&P 500 companies do not have “mobile-friendly” websites – this update could see them drop off into Google obscurity until they re-aline with Google requirements for all websites. On a small to medium size business level you will see companies that generate a large proportion of their clients, if not all their clients, from the internet potentially destroyed as leads dry up due to drops in the mobile search. So what is it specifically that Google is requiring websites to be?

Well, originally websites were created to be viewed on wide-screened desktop (and more recently laptop) devices – this gave them an appearance where a lot of information would be displayed from left to right, before a user would scroll down “below the fold” as Google puts it. Those of you who use your smartphone to view websites will know that a “non-optimised” website will present this same information again within the same format, giving a website that requires a serious amount of zooming before you can read the text. A mobile friendly website tends to push the same content into blocks that re-size perfectly for all mobile devices – avoiding a client to zoom in and increase they scroll down through the information. Moreover, they are drawn through the website with links that are tappable on a mobile device – rather than the minuscule links on a non-optimised website that gives the frustration that many of you will share of tying to click one link but getting a completely different page to the one desired due to the links being so closely placed together.

This change in the Google algorithm has had a profound effect on many businesses, all of whom have been scrambling to get their websites updated fast enough for the algorithm update (the time between the Google announcement of the update and the actual update was only eight weeks, which isn’t long if you need to completed redesign your website!). Thankfully, in my case though the website designs did need updating to make them mobile friendly they didn’t need completely new designs – instead we adapted what we had to comply with the new algorithm requirements.

Guitar Lessons Swansea

Here you can see on the Guitar Lessons Swansea website how mobile users would see the websites prior to the mobile update – the text is almost unreadable due to the tiny size and the users ability to toggle through the website is much reduced due to the tiny links

Therefore over the last few weeks, with the help of 1010 Media, we set about updating the designs of all the websites to ensure that the music business’s websites would be complainant with the new Google algorithm. And I am please to reveal the finished article – something that we have tested extensively during April to ensure that it works seemlessly on all mobile devices, from iPads to Android smartphones (and I guess even smart-watches!).

Guitar Lessons Middlesbrough

The Guitar Lessons Middlesbrough website is an example of the post updated website, where the content has now be optimised for a mobile device enabling the user to scroll down (rather than zoom in) for information. You might note the menu bar at the top that enable users to easily access other pages of the website.

I am especially excited to watch the analytics of the websites to see how this improves enquiry numbers, or client engagement with the website from mobile devices now that they are being update. It will be a slow process for me to update all 120 websites, but over the next 60 days I am to do just that – and no matter where you are with your business I would advise you to do the same. You can view here the Google Page Speed Analysis program to determine if your website is suitably responsive to mobile devices – Google will also provide pointers on how to improve that page. I guess my question to you, as a student business who sells products online, is can you afford (i) to have up to 45% of your audience poorly catered for with a non-mobile friendly website and (ii) can you afford to drop off Google’s mobile searches? If the answer is no, then best get to updating soon! But don’t despair – as with all algorithms Google will constantly review your website promoting it again once it complies to its requirements, therefore, you can still reverse any negative changes you might face over the next few months.

On the business front thanks to the help of many University of Exeter students that are helping me write and create new websites I am pleased to announce that we have finished Piano Lessons Sheffield website this week. As a business we are keen to continue to expand to over 120 websites across the UK within the next 4 months. It is going to be a big challenge but I think we are certainly up to it! Alongside this I am keen to look to the recruitment side of the business to ensure that we are hiring new teachers as new websites are created. It is a big challenge to balance the time input into all areas of the business but overall I feel that we are going in the right direction.

Posted under 1010 Media, MGR Music

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 3, 2015

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Progress Update: Guitar Lessons London

I thought exactly one year to the day when I launched Guitar Lessons London I thought I would write a short personal update on its development, a story of pivoting, entering the most competitive music tuition market in the UK and constant development to appeal to an audience that is like nowhere else in the UK. Originally rather than a Guitar Lessons London website the site was targeted at the entirety of the UK, under a “Guitar Lessons UK” branding with subpages for different teachers within locations – yet it quickly proved inefficient in generating the number of enquiries needed to support multiple guitar teachers across the nation.

Guitar Lessons London - originally launched under the a 'Guitar Lessons UK' branding

Guitar Lessons London – originally launched under the a ‘Guitar Lessons UK’ branding

Therefore, when the opportunity arose to move into the London guitar tuition market – a dream of mine since launching my music tuition business in first year of university – I pounce upon it, purchasing the www.guitarlessonslondon.com domain name and rebranding the website to “Guitar Lessons London”.

However, this quickly struck a problem as with a UK map potential students only had the very smallest of areas to click on to locate their teachers, so with the help of Andy from 1010 Media we decided to include a borough by borough map of London as the focus of the websites homepage. Whenever you design a website you have to be really clear about the customers journey through that website, once a potential client is on your website how are you going to get the from A (the first page they view) to B (a purchase, enquiry, content viewing, email subscription page depending on your aims for the website). For the music tuition websites the aim is to get them to enquiry via a contact form so having a clear customer journey for this new look Guitar Lessons London website was key: (i) landing page (ii) click on borough on map (iii) select teacher (iv) read about teacher (v) contact.

Guitar Lessons London - second design, with London borough map

Guitar Lessons London – second design, with London borough map

Yet, after this update was launched the truth was it simply didn’t work! How could this be? Well, the truth was this had disturbed a central theme that had helped the success of all of the other music tuition website; primarily that each website was designed for one teacher, creating a personalised experience for a potential student that didn’t give them more choices to make about which teacher they wanted. I found that providing potential students with a multitude of teachers actually decreased enquiry rates as a client simply wanted one teacher that looked professional, friendly and able to teach them the music that they wanted to learn. There was a second cold point that we quickly learned – that even 5 clicks from landing page to enquiry was too many to ask of the majority of web users who went through this thought process: (i) enter a website, does it look good? (ii) looks good, read a little info (iii) sounds good, I will enquire – making it a three step process. And a final third point was that by presenting a multitude of teachers the website gave the impression that it was a music agency rather than a personalised website ran by a great guitar teacher – a quick search for “Guitar Lessons London” on Google would show that my direct competitors all presented in the same manor: a music agency with teachers, rather than individual teachers running their own website. This meant that my website simply didn’t stand out from the rest – no wonder the enquiries were so low despite the best of intentions when we launched the second design update!

So despite all the hard work, as well in investment in this second design, in February 2014 I decided to develop a new model where the website replicated the normal locational website templates with a “lead teacher” who could deliver lessons to students within their own homes across London to see if I could increase enquiry numbers. Implementing this template would make the website much more personal, hopefully improving enquiry numbers through a model that had already been proven across the UK. Another huge time investment this third updated came into place and I quickly saw a rapid increase in the number of enquiries coming through the website – yet it was still way off what I would expect for the number of searches made per month in London for guitar lessons.

Guitar Lessons London - third design, personalised to a single 'lead teacher'

Guitar Lessons London – third design, personalised to a single ‘lead teacher’

Clue another step back and analysis of the analytics of the websites – turns out the Londoners spend even less time on the websites that in other cities across the UK, meaning basically even if they liked the website that they didn’t have the time/motivation/patients to get to the final “Contact Me” page. Ever heard of “London service” – turns out the same is true on the internet! (Why wouldn’t it be?!) So to combat this I decided to additionally put a contact form on every one of the pages that I want a client to work through when they land on the website, everything from the “About Me” page to the “Prices” page. This again dramatically increased the number of enquiries coming through the website – yet is it finished, certainly not! There is still plenty to develop on the website over the next year or so to help to increase the conversion numbers of the people entering the website to completing the target action desired by the webmaster. I have found that nothing ever stands still on the internet, it is an ever evolving field where a inconveniently placed link or one click too many will half the number of conversions you will make – but what am I complaining, I would do just the same on your website and so would you!

Posted under 1010 Media, Guitar Lessons London, MGR Music, Progress Update

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on April 17, 2014

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Week Nine

This week marked one of the most exciting SETsquared events of the year – The Deloitte Business Pitching Competition! Held in their London Stonecutter Court HQ, just of Fleet Street, the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey & of course Exeter sent their top five entrepreneurs to win cash prize investments into their businesses. Last year one of the businesses that won the competition went on to gain a reported £100,000 pound investment into their idea, helping to expand their business throughout London – (see where they are now at The Underground Book Club). Representing the University of Exeter at this years’ prestigious event were Instabear, SoundSYNK, Macaw, Carverts and George Edwards. Arriving at the Deloitte HQ at 12 we were quickly thrown into a full networking event before being split off to present the business ideas, along with over 20 other business drawn from the other four universities. First to go was Ali of Macaw Designs, a tailor made fabric business where Ali personally designs iPad, iPhone, Kindle & laptop cases from beautiful materials for you – check out the image below!

Macaw Designs

Macaw Designs – beautifully tailored by Ali Gillum

Ali was followed by Michael of Carverts, a start up company that pays students to all businesses to advertise on their uni cars. Before Carverts handed over to Instabear, who performed an excellent pitch of their Instagram Polaroid picture printing business soon to launch! Our afternoon was rounded off by first class pitches from Tom Charman of George Edwards (a new student clothing business Rampant Sportingesk) and the SoundSYNK team (an Iphone app that synchronises devices to play music in time with one another!).

Carverts – sign up to earn cash while driving in Exeter!

Other notable pitches came from Bath, where one student had created a personalised business to business letter writing company that had an unbelievable rate of clients opening the letters and responding. As ever Elephant Branded made an appearance along with a few other extremely impressive businesses! After a talk from a few of the Deloitte hosts the final awards were announced and we are seriously proud to say that Instabear came second! Losing only slimily to the letter writing business. Great result for the University of Exeter! I think the students got a lot out of the day, experiencing how to prepare a 5 minute investment like pitch, getting a taste for how it feels to work in a huge corporate multi-national like Deloitte as well as networking with some fantastic entrepreneurs from other universities! Great day!

On the home front things are really progressing well with MGR Music, with guitar websites going online in Sunderland, Portsmouth and Reading as well as singing websites being created for Manchester and Derby. As you can see it was a busy week, the flagship Guitar Lessons London website also made great progress this week with the final few things coming together. I will be launching the website on my 22 birthday on the 17 April 2013, very excited! Plenty to do before then, but what a week!

Posted under Carverts, George Edwards, Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, Macaw Designs, MGR Music, SEiR, SetSquared, SoundSYNK, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 3, 2013

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Week Eight

Student business of the week was certainly Jamie Wild Sculptures established by third year business management student Jamie Wild! A passionate artist Jamie started designing sculptures during his A Levels before being asked to produce commission pieces for friends and family. As the business grew the projects got lager, now Jamie is aiming to go part-time post graduation to pursue his hobby!

Crashing Boar – Jamie Wild Sculpture

I also met with Rishabh who had an innovative idea within the city distribution networks, combining green power with time-sharing driving – I will keep you updated when we can release more info, but very exciting! Here up at the Innovation Centre I occasionally meet Exeter alumni, this time former music student Chris dropped in to gather advice on his now wedding composition business idea – a cracking concept we discussed profiling his client and where to find there. Quickly we found that for a personalised organ composition for a wedding we are talking about clients in the top 5% of most lavish wedding ceremonies in the UK, therefore rather than accessing these clients through wedding trade fairs where the chances of meeting a client are too small we used a pivot technique to focus Chris’s business on building relationships with high-end wedding planners who might be interested in providing this additional service.

Here at MGR Music things have been bubbling along nicely, hiring a new teacher in Sheffield while expanding into Oxford and Hull with new guitar websites! I now have over 45 websites covering almost every city in the UK and things are really starting to hot up as more teachers are signed up! Exciting times!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Jamie Wild Sculptures, MGR Music, SEiR

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 24, 2013

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Week Four

Another furious week this week up at the Innovation Centre as we awarded grant funding to our first student business of the year! Dan Wiseman, a recent drama graduate and current owner of Webwise Media, pitched for grant funding to help develop his software solution to digital signage management. Named Screenfish, the idea successfully negotiated its way through two business plan development sessions, multiple meetings with Innovation Centre staff and a Dragon’s Den style pitch before gaining funding. Congratulations to Dan, I will keep you updated as how the project is going!

Screenfish – Webwise Media Ltd new software package!

I also met a student during my weekly drop in sessions who pitched one of the best business ideas I have heard all term! Instabear, which has already gone online this week, is an awesome website where you can finally get your Instagram photos printed! Offering both Polaroid’s and snaps check out their website and like their Facebook page – great job by final year student Solly Akhtar!

Instabear goes live!

This week also saw me travelling up to Leicester and Sheffield to interview guitar teachers for the Guitar Lessons Leicester and Guitar Lessons Sheffield websites. A really exciting trip, I managed to interview a total of five teachers in Leicester and Sheffield hiring a new guitar teacher in Leicester to work with!

Interviewing is a hard process to get right, especially in the context of my sub-contracting business where I have to pitch the business model to them while they try and pitch themselves to me. There is a lot of research to suggest that interviewing is actually one of the worst ways of selecting the right people to work for your organisation as the process is far from objective. Personality, appearance and the fact you both support the same football/rugby/bowls team invariably prompts you to hire the person you get on with rather than the best candidate for the job! Always take applications first and then select the final candidates to be interviewed by a colleague who is not the decision maker before interviewing the last two or three yourself!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, MGR Music, Student Businesses, Webwise Media, Wiseman Media

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on January 27, 2013

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Week Three

JD Solis were the student business find of the week! Ran by Alex O’Mahony-Zed, Nathaniel Rankin and Samuel Cooledge this premium operation began in summer 2012 as the three Exeter University students saw an opportunity in the polo lifestyle market. Manufacturing a simple but stylish polo belt, made in the colours of your polo team, the belts sold extremely well during the summer months at numerous polo tournaments! Targeted at the polo audience rather than the players themselves this high-end market enables a tasty margin on each belt sold. With a great marketing strategy, namely trying to encourage the players themselves to wear the belts through sponsorships and giveaways to make them desirable to the audience (a common business strategy for sportswear brands), the trio successfully built up JD Solis as a polo brand and are now looking to bring this success across to their online sales.

JD Solis – Polo Belts!

This week also saw a few fantastic developments for MGR Music – this week the final website designs for the Singing Lessons Location, Piano Lessons Location and Drum Lesson Location have come through! Andy of 1010 Media has yet again done an amazing job creating extremely professional website templates that we have already started building this week. Check them out below! Already finished are the Piano Lessons Glasgow, Drum Lessons York and Singing Lessons Nottingham website thanks to MGR Music Tuition’s team of student copy writers – it is now over to me to find some teachers!

Final Piano Lessons Location Templates!

Posted under JD Solis, MGR Music, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on January 20, 2013

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