Lessons in Loyalty: How to Keep Your Students

If you face an ongoing struggle with your music lesson program, it can be turned around with a few key strategies. At 2017 Summer NAMM, Melissa Loggins of Music Authority looked at how to keep students engaged, so they stick with your program. It starts with marketing and recruiting (both students and teachers), and ends with a thriving lessons operation built on customer and student satisfaction, commitment and loyalty.

As a retail business owner and voice and piano instructor, Loggins also manages Music Authority’s growing lessons program, which averages 525 students weekly. It includes a rock program, six bands, an adult choir, a guitar ensemble, four summer camps and two to three student concerts a month.

She advised retailers to first measure their retention rates by knowing school year registration numbers, before summer and after summer. She stated that only 7 percent of students who “are taking a break for the summer” will actually come back, but it’s possible to beat that shocking statistic with insight and ingenuity. Loggins dropped fewer students during the summer by enrolling 58 of them in multiple lessons and holding spots for 14 students returning in the fall, who were willing to pay during the summer to reserve a teacher.

Here’s how she did it. (Watch the video for highlights and the Q&A at end.)

Create a Store Culture
Loggins said she wanted to create a culture that inspired loyalty in families and a feeling of fellowship. #MusicAuthorityFamily was created two years ago to achieve this. At the company’s summer rock camp, students got divided into two teams. As posts on Facebook and social media grew for both teams, they decided to use the hashtag, and it picked up within a week. Loggins remarked that the family concept worked well because she operates in an area where most residents have moved in from far away. “We embraced it, and the culture became our brand,” she said.

Loggins mentioned that she often takes over local restaurants with staff, students and families. (She calls the restaurant ahead of time.) Activities like that reinforce the family-first culture, and the restaurant owners are happy to get the business on an off night.

Embrace Your Brand
Loggins emphasized that once you have the brand, you can’t turn it over to someone else. You have to represent the brand yourself. She recommended the following:

• Get out of the office.
• Know your people.
• Live the culture.
• Make a hashtag.
• Put it on a T-shirt.

“You live the culture,” Loggins said. “It comes down to me, despite my fantastic staff. I try to be at every single concert. I make a point to reach out to each of the students who performed. If I can’t make it, and ask them how it went.”

Despite the fact that Music Authority has hundreds of students, she shared that she tries to take a personal interest in all of them. Loggins recommended asking about school, remembering their birthdays and asking how a song is coming along. This also matters to the adults. Loggins added that her customers and students buy Music Authority’s T-shirts because people are proud to be part of the culture.

Be the Person Who “Cares About My Kid”
Loggins mentioned Maddie, a cheerleader, guitar student, sister and vlogger. Maddie interviews student band members, and Loggins posts it. Remember: It’s important for students to know they’re important to you.

Be the Person Who “Understands My Cause”
Music Authority commits to six service projects per year, including causes related to children, animals, military and first responders. Loggins described Alicia, a parent, spouse (her husband takes lessons at Music Authority), an advocate for the Honor Air program (Loggins partnered with the program, said a few words on stage at a concert and raised $1,000), a Music Authority “roadie” and Music Authority booster club member. The MA Booster Club is incorporated; the parents get PR for the store, put on special events and help support Music Authority in different ways.

“They love what we do and are part of what we do,” Loggins said. “We have given them ownership of Music Authority.”

Be the Person Who “Gives Us a Place to Call Home”
Loggins told Preston’s story—he was a “new kid” from Dallas, guitar student, bandmate and little brother. At Rock Camp, he discovered he had a place where everyone liked to do what he likes to do. He spends two to three hours a week at the shop. “Music Authority is home to him and a lot of kids who feel comfortable and at home,” Loggins said.

Get Social
Music Authority also hosts family-style events, including a night at the ice cream parlor, family picnics, basketball games and dance contests. A group of dads even volunteered to help with cleaning and landscaping.

Loggins added that Music Authority allows for makeup lessons because she wants to make lessons easy for families. She has teachers who haven’t lost a single student during the summer. (She said the company once lost 50 percent of its student base during the summer months.)

The priority is the students. The bottom line is, “Are my students taking lessons and are they enjoying them?”