Reactions to Pricing

I recently blogged about the changes in pricing to SmartMusic for 2016. There will be some addiitional information about pricing coming soon from MakeMusic, which I will blog about afterwards (keep your eyes open for this news).

One of my internet colleagues and I shared an exchange about pricing this week. My colleague's concern was that the change in SmartMusic pricing ($399 for 50 students) represented a price increase for them. Currently, they use a director's subscription ($140) plus two practice room subscriptions ($44 each). Their current cost is $188 per year for SmartMusic, which is used by 70 students in two practice rooms. To make matters worse, two of the $399 blocks will be necessary to provide access for all 70 of their students. And I understand that some schools do not allow music programs to charge their students for anything (instrument rental, uniform cleaning, or anything else). Other schools are allowed to collect a music/rental fee.

No matter how you do the math, $188 to $798 is an increase. To compare, MusicProdigy covers all your students for $1500 (content not included), and PracticeFirst would be $6 per student (minimum of 100 subscriptions–plus some included content). That said, you need to work with all three programs to know the positives and negatives of each program.

Going back to the issue of price increase for this school (and many like it): part of what you get with SmartMusic is extensive content (particularly for band and orchestra, and now choir) and familiarity (it was the only option for years). MakeMusic pays royalty fees on the content that is used–and they know exactly what is used by each account A school with an education subscription and a few practice rooms, where 70–or in my own past, 150–students use those accounts, MakeMusic wasn't getting a profitable return (in my case, I was making my own content, so I am an outlier). We know this because there was an attempt to charge $8 per user of practice room subscriptions several years ago (the backlash was so strong that they did not pursue that plan). That was a few years ago–but even so, that $8 cost per user wasn't a “guesstimate” by the company–it was a number that reflected the actual cost (and need for profit) for the company. We really should be thanking them for keeping this option so long.

And this needs to be said: companies dealing with technology in music education have a passion to help music education, but they need to be profitable.

The new “block” price of $399 for 50 students might be a price increase for your program. That said, with those 50 subscriptions, you have access to all of SmartMusic's repertoire (you'll have to make assignments for your students from that repertoire). However, under the old pricing, one teacher was $140, and each student subscription was $40. If you had a teacher and seven students subscribe to SmartMusic this year, that was more than $399. That leaves 43 more students per “block” that can get access that may not have had individual go-anywhere access before. If you have 70 students and have to buy 2 blocks, perhaps the additional 30 subscriptions could be used in other ways (faculty band?).

And most importantly, students will be able to take SmartMusic with them, on any device (iPad, Chromebook, Windows Computer, Mac) and not restricted to two practice rooms.That freedom might be worth the added $610. But I understand the barrier of funding–we receive no direct funding from our school for our choir program.

Those are my thoughts on the issue–not an attack in any way, but an attempt to look at the issue from the larger aspect of profitability, convienience, and competitors.


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