Charlie Tottman outlines the impact that technology has had on the life of private music tutors and asks what the future might hold for the profession.
Few could have predicted the pace at which technology has progressed in even the last decade. Twenty years ago, the internet was an established platform for email and communication, but it was not seen as a way of conducting your business or as an effective way of advertising your services. Taking music lessons in 1999 meant a flick through the yellow pages, followed by a phone call and a trip to the local music shop to purchase a book.
Today, anyone with an internet connection can access a vast number of free learning resources using their smartphone. They can study for a degree in music by accessing all of the relevant course material online. Tutors themselves are able to sit in the comfort of their own home and use the internet to advertise their lessons, share free content and offer paid Skype lessons to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Given the pace at which technology has improved and the increasing connectivity of all our devices, how has the traditional private music tutor been affected?
Platforms such as Youtube, Facebook and Instagram have enabled tutors to be able to provide a variety of free online content. This content is created to appeal to an audience who may then choose to purchase paid lessons, apps or courses in the future. These platforms have facilitated the rise of so called, ‘Youtube celebrity’ music tutors who have gained notoriety around the world because they have been able to share their lessons with hundreds of thousands of people.
Those who predicted that the internet would eventually signal the end of the need for the private music tutor seem to have been proven wrong. As many tutors will attest, the demand for private lessons seems to remain strong. Conversations with my own students seem to always conclude that people still regard the personal approach provided by an actual tutor to be entirely preferable to learning online. As a result of the access that many now have to free online lessons and content, technology actually seems to have opened up more of the world to music, increasing the appetite for music education.
What might the future hold?
Looking twenty years into the future, how can we even begin to predict how the landscape may continue to change? Virtual, fully interactive guitar lessons perhaps? Maybe you’ll be able to conduct your lessons from Hanwell, whilst appearing as a hologram in Honolulu? However we see the future evolving, surely past advances in technology have taught us that we need to embrace change and that generally technology can help to improve the quality of our services. Perhaps more importantly than that, the internet in the last twenty years, has undeniably brought music education to everyone. Those who may have otherwise not been able to afford lessons, have been able to access music education and in turn, use technology to share their music with the world.
It’s hard to reason against increased access to music education. I certainly feel that technology provides endless opportunities for students and tutors who are willing to embrace it and if technology continues to progress at a similar rate, the future looks pretty good to me.