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Posted By: Barb860 book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 02:19 AM
A piano teacher friend mentioned to me recently that she charges a flat monthly rate for her students' lessons, and this fee includes all books and sheet music.
I recall a few of you here who say you do the same.

How does this work exactly? Do you account for every book and piece of sheet music you give to each student and note this on each monthly statement?
Or do you not note any book charges at all?
The teacher I was speaking with does not note any book charges and says it works fine for her and her students.
Posted By: Minniemay Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 03:53 AM
I only charge my students for theory/activity books.

A few years ago, I figured out what I was spending, on average, per student and added that amount into my annual tuition. I also state that students who complete level 6 of Certificate of Merit must purchase their own books when they begin level 7. I still do a fair amount of lending from my library at that point, so even though they are buying their own materials, the tuition covers the cost of maintaining my library.
Posted By: pianoeagle Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 02:07 PM
I charge separately for books and materials and itemize these on the monthly tuition invoice. The cost of books is so different for each student, especially as students advance out of the methods or participate in Guild, NFMC, etc. My concern about including books in the lesson fee is that I would minimize the amount of books my students use (in order to increase my margin). I never find that parents are resistant to buying new books.

The only materials I include in the lesson fee are items that I print from the Internet (i.e. state theory exams).
Posted By: Minniemay Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 02:45 PM
I failed to mention that students generally don't keep the books they use for these early levels unless they want to do so. This has given me a great deal of freedom in choosing materials and kept the costs down for the parents. There might be only one piece in a book I want to use with a student, so they just use the book for that one piece, then it goes back in my library.

This was especially helpful recently with a transfer student. I tried out a total of three different method series before I found the one that really clicked with her. That would have been a terrible expense that I probably would not have gone to if her parents were buying the materials. As it is, I have them all in my library and she is happily making progress.
Posted By: dumdumdiddle Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 04:01 PM
When I first started teaching back in the 70's I used to bill parents for music as those expenses occurred. The problem was that they'd forget to include it in their monthly tuition check and it was just a hassle.

In the 80's I decided to move to an annual 'book fee' that was collected at the beginning of the school year. I would then keep itemized log of each student's books and would refund any monies with the included list at the end of the school year. Too much bookkeeping.

For the past several years I've instead collected an annual registration/enrollment fee that's a flat fee (equal to roughly one month's tuition) that everyone pays. I use this to pay for all students' books no matter what level. Some students will need more books, some won't need as many. I also use the fee to pay for studio supplies that aren't books: stickers, pencils, office and printing supplies, upgrading rhythm instruments, music software, etc... I don't call it a book fee but rather an annual enrollment fee, so parents don't expect an itemized list of all purchases made. They also aren't adding up in their head to make sure the books their child gets equals to the fee they've paid. For me, this has been the easiest way to have parents pay for music books.
Posted By: Barb860 Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 06:12 PM
I like the idea of a fee to include supplies and software, etc. Thank you all for your suggestions and keep them coming, much appreciated!
Very helpful to know what works for you.

I have a library of books that I loan to students for the purpose of learning one piece here and there at the early levels, similar to what Minniemay does. I don't charge a library/supply fee because the students are borrowing these materials, but I still go out and buy new ones and add to the library. It's an expense!
Students are billed for sheet music and books they keep.
Posted By: BinghamtonPiano Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 06:36 PM
I include book/ material fees in my monthly tuition. Parents appreciate not having additional charges billed to them, and those material charges get written off as business expense at the end of the year anyway.
Posted By: keystring Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 06:53 PM
We were always told what to purchase and we bought it. Is there a cost savings if teachers buy the material for the student ahead of time, or what is the reason?
Posted By: Minniemay Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 07:51 PM
My greatest problems when I had students purchasing the music were thus:

- students not purchasing the music or forgetting to do so in time
- students purchasing the wrong books, even when I wrote down exactly what to purchase, including the book's catalog number and having shown the parent the actual book
- the store not having in stock what I needed (and regularly used)
- the store taking too long to get the order in

I do get discounts when I purchase online, and sometimes I get free shipping, but that is not my primary motivator. I want to have what I need when I need it. I am getting ready to go to my state music teachers convention and you can bet I have a list ready for what I will be purchasing.
Posted By: Destiny123 Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 07:58 PM
I have not included the books in the fee but I am this year if they pay a certain way. I have always purchased the books for the students and the parents reimburse me, that way I know they have the right book. There have been a couple of times in the past where students have purchased the wrong book and the music stores around here do not accept books back.

This year I am including the books if they pay the entire year in 2 instalments as opposed to monthly cheques. I get a 15% discount at the local music stores so the cost is worth it in my opinion to not have to collect money every month.
I generally do not loan books out to students, there are exceptions, because I don't know what condition they would be returned in and unless I had something in my policy about it, most parents would not pay for the book if they ruined it.
Posted By: Jennifer Eklund Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/24/12 10:59 PM
I have charged a monthly "materials" fee for a few years now and it works great since I used to have problems with parents "forgetting" to add on the extra amounts for books, etc (even if it was on the invoice!)

I figured out the averages spent and incorporated that into the new monthly fees -- it works great!
Posted By: AZNpiano Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/25/12 06:52 AM
I don't see a point of charging "book and sheet music fees" unless you want to make more money. And that's very little money to be made.

I just make my students go buy their own books, or, if they want me to buy the books for them, I charge them extra.

I also learned not to lend out books. They always come back damaged in some way. Some of these books cost me over $40 per book, so there's no way I'm lending those out. For the really really cheapo parents, I just refer them to imslp.
Posted By: Nikolas Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/25/12 07:33 AM
Ok,

I have a question to that, if you, kind teachers of PW (<- with cherry topping and sugar coating and all that).

If you want your students to buy a book, that is not exactly available everywhere (yet). For example with 'Sketch Music' at the moment it's only available through the EMF website, secure as it gets, through paypal payment, and shipped from Greece. Not the ideal situation.

I've been pondering on what would the best course of action be?

Would the teacher be willing to buy a 'chunk' of books (assuming they actually need them for their students) in a reduced price, so that the students can avoid the hassle of ordering from Greece, etc?

AZN: 'Cheapo parents'! LOL!
Posted By: Brinestone Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/25/12 01:17 PM
Yes. My lesson books are not readily available, so I buy them online and sell them to my students.

But then, I also do an annual music fee so I can build up a huge library and loan out books, saving the parents money. I'm all about making piano lessons easy on the parents where I can. That said, some of my books have not gotten returned, which makes me kind of mad. I definitely need to establish a sort of check-out system where I have a record of who has what and what condition it was in before they got it. I know replacing things eventually is just par for the course, but if a student totally destroys or loses a book, I'd want them to replace it.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/25/12 01:31 PM
I buy the books for students as they are needed. I will tell the parents ahead of time that their child will be ready for some new books and the approximate cost. Then the student gets the books a few weeks later, and then I add that on to the monthly bill, or the parent offers to pay for the books right away. It hasn't been a problem and I don't need to spend a lot of extra time collecting for the cost of books. They understand it's an additional expense, and since I get a 10% discount from my store I don't pass that along to students and that covers my time spent buying the books (I'll usually buy a bunch at one time that I know I'll be needing in the coming weeks).

As far as loaning books, I do that once in a while when a student only needs to work out of a book for a little while, but I keep a log of when it was loaned and to whom so I can keep track. I really try to avoid doing this, however, since things get "lost" sometimes.
Posted By: BinghamtonPiano Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/25/12 06:44 PM
Originally Posted by keystring
We were always told what to purchase and we bought it. Is there a cost savings if teachers buy the material for the student ahead of time, or what is the reason?

Great question! Certain stores will give a "teacher discount", or if you buy in bulk, you'll get a percentage off the normal price. I use many different types of materials with my students (since all students do not learn in the same way), so it is easier for me to purchase the items. It also prevents students from picking up the wrong materials, as sometimes can happen.
But what works for me might not work for someone else. It's just a matter of teacher's preference, I suppose.
Posted By: Elissa Milne Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/26/12 01:12 AM
Any teacher discount is usually 10% at best, and even across books for a number of students this discount probably does not adequately compensate the teacher for the time taken to purchase the books. In other words, no teacher is supplementing their income by any more than a cup or two of coffee a month through supplying books.

Further, teachers risk not selling books that they have purchased in advance, and I would estimate that the 10% discount is completely eroded through the cost of keeping books in stock and possibly never selling them at all.

But there are benefits to teachers supplying books, such as not having to wait for materials to become available (parents might take a week to get to the music shop and then discover the books need to be ordered in, resulting in a three or four week delay), and having the exact right book purchased (instead of one that looks the same but isn't!).

I supply books to my students and charge for books separately to lessons, but I must say the ideas raised in this thread are making me consider moving to a different business model!
Posted By: Theme&Variations Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/26/12 03:57 AM
Originally Posted by keystring
We were always told what to purchase and we bought it. Is there a cost savings if teachers buy the material for the student ahead of time, or what is the reason?


Our problem is that the parents quibble about whether they *really* need this repertoire book or that theory book (they only want the bare necessities, and sometimes not even that) and that even when they are happy to purchase all the required items they often take weeks ... or months to get them.
Posted By: Theme&Variations Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/26/12 04:00 AM
Originally Posted by Elissa Milne
Any teacher discount is usually 10% at best, and even across books for a number of students this discount probably does not adequately compensate the teacher for the time taken to purchase the books. In other words, no teacher is supplementing their income by any more than a cup or two of coffee a month through supplying books.

Further, teachers risk not selling books that they have purchased in advance, and I would estimate that the 10% discount is completely eroded through the cost of keeping books in stock and possibly never selling them at all.

But there are benefits to teachers supplying books, such as not having to wait for materials to become available (parents might take a week to get to the music shop and then discover the books need to be ordered in, resulting in a three or four week delay), and having the exact right book purchased (instead of one that looks the same but isn't!).

I supply books to my students and charge for books separately to lessons, but I must say the ideas raised in this thread are making me consider moving to a different business model!


Thanks for this Elissa, it's made me feel much better about our approach (the same as yours). I definitely agree that it's fair for teachers to have some small compensation for the time spent purchasing books (and the risk of not selling them at all).

P.S. Even when I have photocpied the covers of the required books I still sometimes get students turning up with e.g. the old Alfred series vs Alfred Premier Piano. Argh!
Posted By: Meilen Re: book and sheet music fees - 06/26/12 07:29 AM
I buy all my music online because I live in Switzerland, and the cost of music here is much higher than in most places. And because I want method books in English that aren't available here anyway, I buy everything for my students. I then either invoice them separately or add the books to tuition invoices.

But then I don't charge a monthly tuition because that's just not the way it's done here.
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