Tech Tuesday: Online Subscriptions

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Online Subscriptions. I have to be honest, I don’t like them. There are typically three types of payment options for subscriptions you will find online. Monthly, 6 months or yearly. Some offer all three options. IF I decided to sign up for a subscription, my least favorite is monthly. I’m not a fan of having monthly bills (been there, done that), let alone paying monthly for a resource. And what is even worse, there seems to be this trend going on where I am seeing more of them. (More on that later)

With that said there are a few online resources, that I feel has value, actually most have value but it’s whether or not I want to pay for it each month or year. So for today’s Tech Tuesday post I wanted to get into the nitty gritty of it all.

First I wanted to go through some of the subscription based resources that I am aware of. I’m sure I am missing some, so you can add some to the comments if you so desire.

*GAMES-

MusicLearningCommunity.com ($19.99 a month for teachers)- It took me years before I finally decided to subscribe to MLC. Why? Because of the monthly subscription. Did I mention I don’t like them? So over the years I researched, I pondered, I got upset that it was a monthly subscription and then I finally signed up for the free trial. Needless to say, I found value in it for my students and now use it as their theory assignments each week. I needed to make sure that if I was going to pay $20 a month that I had to make FULL use of it.

TonicTutor.com (10 students for $7/month; 20 students for $15/month; 30 students for $23/month; 40 students for $30/month;  60 students for $45/month; Under 10 students for Free). I have a free account for Tonic Tutor. But if I wanted all my students to have individual scoring access I would need a subscription. I don’t use this resource enough (occasionally during lab time) to make it worth it for me.

Theta Music Trainer ($7.95 a month or $49.00 a year). This is an ear training based game subscription resource. While it has value, I tried it- didn’t use it enough to make it worth subscribing.

Midisaurus ($49 a year). Wait a minute? Isn’t midisaurus a software program? You got it folks, it seems the latest trend is to turn software programs into subscriptions. I DO NOT LIKE! And won’t subscribe.

Alfred’s Essential’s of Music Theory ($129.99 annually for teachers). Once again another software based resource now a subscription. See above vent…

SoftMozart.com ($149.99 a year). And once again, see above vent…

*MUSIC-

PianoMarvel.com ($12.00 a month for teachers and their students; normally $15.00; 30 day free trial available) I recently signed up for the free trial of Piano Marvel. Piano Marvel is a program I’ve been looking at for years. (Did I mention I usually don’t dive into subscriptions based resources?) I have to say that I have been impressed with the program, I do have some concerns with it as far as using it as a main method per se, but it does have its value and I am highly considering subscribing to it this year.

PianoMorning.com ($49.00 a year). PianoMorning is another one that I have subscribed to for years. I don’t mind subscribing so much to this one since I get something each week from it. PianoMorning includes not only music, but theory, technique and composition sheets that I can use. Because I am a subscriber, everything is reproducible. I like that it is only a once a year subscription.

WillBaileyPianoTunes.com ($5.00 a month or $30.00 a year). I just recently subscribed to Will Bailey Piano Tunes. The big reason besides getting new music each week for my kids to enjoy is because of my new Clavinova. I wanted more resources for my students to use with it, and Will Bailey includes midi files (in addition to audio files) with all his pieces. The yearly subscription price I think is right on the money. And each week my students and I can enjoy something new from him. In addition to sheet music, Will has made video tutorials to help students with improvisation and chord chart playing. Perfect for accompanying or learning pop songs.

*APPS-

There seems to be an upcoming trend with some apps that are subscription based apps. I am NOT happy to see this. In addition to game apps, such as PianoMania, you will find music reader apps where you will need to purchase individual pieces (ie: NoteStar). With these types of apps, if I had the option, I would just prefer they give a yearly subscription option versus pay per song and have access to it all. Wouldn’t that make more sense and bring more value for your money?

*ADVERTISING

I am not going to even list all the music teacher advertising sites out there because there are so many nowadays. They usually are yearly subscription based sites.

*OTHER-

MusicTeachersHelper.com (Basic (up to 20 students)- $14 a month; Plus (up to 40 students- $29 a month; Premium (unlimited students- $49 a month)- In a nutshell MTH is what I call an online “secretary” for your business.

Regarding payments… my wish list for companies that have these subscription based resources is that they offer several payment options. Some offer only monthly, some offer only yearly and so on. It would be really nice to have more then one choice. And I would also suggest that if you give a yearly option over the monthly option that it saves the teacher who committed for a year a nice discount (perhaps a month off?). Some do this and I do appreciate it very much.

My biggest complaint with online subscriptions are mostly with what I would call static subscriptions. Meaning you are paying a monthly or yearly fee but not getting anything new from it except for the “privilege” to use it. What ‘used to be’ software programs are my biggest complaint. My husband is a videographer and uses Adobe products. These products (such as Creative Suite) used to be available as a software. No longer is the choice to purchase the software, instead if you want to use their products, customers are forced into switching to a subscription based program (upwards to $75 a month!!!). This is making quite a lot of people upset (including my husband). Promises of keeping things updated are not being met and there are a lot of unhappy customers with this new system. There are rumors that Microsoft Office (yes, that is Word, PowerPoint, etc…) is another one that is considering switching to a subscription based program. Both of these are what I consider static services. You really aren’t getting anything new then what you would receive if you had just purchased the software out right. (Or at least not enough value to make the extra incurring expense worth it).

So if all these resources are switching over to subscription based programs what is going to happen when we can no longer support them? This all ADDS UP!!!! For fun, I thought I would see how much it adds up. Say like I am a teacher who has 30 students (thought I’d pick a fairly average number). And say like I decided I wanted to subscribe to all the game resources above, music resources and MTH. (*Note- I am not counting apps or advertising) This brings me to $1465.00 a year. If I had 30 students I can divide that number and that is $48.83 in subscription fees PER student a year!

First, teachers should not eat that expense. We are music teachers for goodness sakes! If you are like me, I already charge $100 a year for my studio registration fee. This already covers some of the subscriptions I do use for my students, among many other things. There is no way that I am going to raise it even more.

Some of you might say, well then just don’t subscribe. And yes, that is a totally valid solution. And maybe that’s what should happen. If everyone boycotted subscriptions maybe they would think twice in changing over to that format. (I’m speaking to mostly the ‘static’ resources such as software and apps- which is my biggest vent)

I would like to hear from you, music teachers. What do you think of subscription based resources.? What do you think of apps going the subscription route? What is it about a subscription that would make you consider subscribing?  What would you not subscribe to? Let’s be a voice and be heard! Because frankly I just can’t afford anymore subscription based resources. I am very picky what I subscribe to. If it doesn’t meet my needs or gives me the most bang for my buck then I no longer subscribe. PLEASE comment below!

19 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday: Online Subscriptions

  1. Not a fan of subscriptions either and my site will never ever go the “subscription route” because of the same concerns you have. Piano Marvel is a tough one for me too-I don’t use it enough because the logistics of being a traveling teacher and trying to set PM up on the fly is just too time consuming and it doesn’t survive as a sole ‘method’ for lessons.

    I understand it from a marketing perspective that this a subscription offers the company/distributor ‘guaranteed income’ but as a consumer it’s not attractive because as you said everything adds up. It’s less work for them if they’ve got you locked in and they don’t need to worry about constantly marketing their products. I would elaborate more, but I am in total agreement with you so there’s not much more to say :D!

  2. It also took me years to subscribe to MLC. If she had offered a yearly subscription rate with a discount over the monthly rate, I would have subscribed years earlier. I finally decided to try it for a while, and I do use it a lot, but feel that for the $20 a month, the website should be more modern, easier to navigate, the games should have better graphics and music, etc. But I do like that she has a game for every little concept.

    I also subscribe to Theta and I love it. I use it extensively with my intermediate and advanced students and they seem to really like it. I love that it has a more modern look as well, and found the yearly subscription price to be very fair.

    I love MTH. It is totally worth it. I am grandfathered in at their old rates, however. I find the new pricing a little too expensive for my tastes.

    I agree with you that it is ridiculous that these software programs are turning into subscription services. It angers me as well and I find it to be disloyal to the customers who have been with them for years. It seems to be the way of the future, unfortunately. My brother, who is currently working on his MBA, says that subscription services are the most profitable and only way to run an online business now and has been trying to encourage me to take some of my ideas and develop them into subscription services. I find it to be too much work and too exhausting 🙂

  3. I hate subscription based resources too and subscribe to very little because of it. It took me a long time to sign up for Music Teachers’ Helper because of this but I want to have a website for my studio and this is the main reason that I ended up subscribing. I don’t use many of the other features because I use Microsoft Home & Business financial software for finances & invoicing. I do use the calendar feature and keep my student/parent information up to date. I had my families go online to my website this summer to sign up for summer lesson slots and that was really great!
    I just subscribed to MS Office because I use Word and Publisher a lot in running my business and can use it on more than one computer but I don’t like having to subscribe at all!
    I also subscribe to Music Learning Community but frankly, my students don’t use it much, even when it earns them points in a practice promotion. Many students don’t EVER use it so I’m considering dropping my subscription.
    That’s it! I don’t want any more! It just really runs into too much money for what you get and use.

  4. I strongly dislike subscription services. I switched from a Windows laptop to an iMac after Christmas. When I went to re-purchase Quickbooks, I was told that I would have to “rent” it (aka subscription) which I completely refuse to do (the sales guy said “it’s the way of the future!”, as if that’s a good thing!). I also chose not to use MTH for that very reason – I don’t want to “rent” my bookkeeping service. I’m now using the app Moosic Studio which is not subscription-based (the invoicing module/update should be coming soon, hopefully in time for invoicing for the fall). I tried Theta last year, but found hardly anyone was using it after 3-4 months, so that will not be renewed this fall.
    I’m not a “need-the-latest-and-greatest-tech” kinda gal, and I think that shows in my preference for non-subscription resources; subscription-based resources had better be sleek!

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these resources, I too have considered checking some of them out but have been hesitant because I don’t like subscriptions either- they can really add up! I personally prefer to pay once to use something and therefore have begun using more apps and referring students/parents to purchase their own (since most have an iPhone, iPod or iPad these days anyway). We’ve used Studio Helper, the multi-teacher version of MTH for 5 years now, but will be moving to something else soon because it has several billing glitches since their major update 6 months ago- however, I don’t know how our business would survive without something like this, therefore I think it’s definitely worth it to subscribe to some type of service to manage calendar/billing/contacts, etc. The other business-based subscription that we use regularly is Constant Contact- an email service that houses/manages our contact list and allows us to customize emails, surveys, etc. I think it is well worth the money for our business marketing needs as well as announcements of studio events, newsletters, etc. I’ve also recently turned away from Flickr and other subscriptions to house photos, etc. There’s just too much to keep up with… now, if they would just come up with a yearly user fee for iTunes/iBooks I’d be happy- happy- happy- (and so would my financial manager husband)- I’ve been using Music Tube alot lately instead 🙂

    -Robyn Harris, MT-BC

  6. I’m so glad you’ve written this article, Jennifer, to address this trend! I, too, am very disappointed to see Adobe products and Microsoft Office moving to a subscription format. 😦 I strongly dislike monthly fees. I don’t currently subscribe to anything that charges monthly fees because they turn me off.

  7. Right now, I’m subscribing to MLC, TT, MTH and Piano Marvel. Just added that up… and it comes to about $950.00/year. I would love to use Piano Mania, but just can’t bring myself to spend MORE money right now!! I DO use all of these services quite a bit in my teaching, so really don’t want to give any of them up. (I’m hoping to be able to do my invoicing through Moosic Studio when they add that piece, and that will save me $348.00 a year.)
    I collect an annual “lab fee” from students — and that will come to about $2600.00 this year. Before the subscription services, I was purchasing music software (Music Ace, Alfred Essentials, etc.) which was pretty pricey … but certainly didn’t come to almost $1000.00 per year. Of course, many of them don’t work on Windows 8. At least with the subscription services, you are constantly getting new/updated material.
    Sounds like we are all in agreement that we don’t like paying these subscriptions … anybody have any ideas on how to bring the cost down, other than dropping them?

  8. As a piano teacher and software developer, I look at this from two different angles. I can certainly see the reasoning behind setting up a subscription service – developing and maintaining software is very expensive (either in terms of time or in terms of hiring someone to do it), not to mention the overhead costs, especially if you’re maintaining a web-based product. If you’re targeting a niche market, such as music teachers and students, then you can’t count on a large number of downloads, or a high level of website traffic, to support a low or “free” price. There needs to be a way to make money.
    On the other hand, I don’t care for online subscription services, either. The Moosic Studio approach of charging more up front, with free updates and no subscription costs, might be the way to go. The main problem I see with that is that there is a “drive to the bottom” with mobile apps – the top money makers are the free or “freemium” apps that depend on advertising or in-app purchases. The free or nearly-free apps get orders-of-magnitude more downloads than expensive apps, and the download numbers decrease exponentially with increase in price. Good or bad, that’s just how mobile app customers behave. It will be interesting to see how well Moosic Studio does long-term.
    I think a good opportunity for music-teacher online resources would be to develop a combination of web-based services (that are free to use) along with in-app purchases. With the advent of the Mac and Windows 8 app stores, the in-app purchases could apply to desktop as well as mobile devices (basically, everyone). A teacher or student could use the basic services for free, and then only pay for premium features that she wants, at a reasonable cost (to use indefinitely, not for a limited time). To sustain the model for the long term, new features could be developed that would keep the service fresh and supply a longer-term income stream for the developer.

  9. Jon, I really like your idea of using the basic service for free, and only paying for premium features.
    I have cancelled all music subscriptions except MTH, which I have student fees cover. I added up my cost one year and said “That’s it!” I need to find another way.
    I currently use iPad’s “Pages” app for invoicing, “Numbers” for bookkeeping, “Square” for monthly fees, various low priced and free apps for theory, and a website and Facebook page to connect with parents and students. I am with Jennifer…. static resources are frustrating and a waste! If product sales go down from lack of subscriptions, maybe companies will think twice about this new trend.

  10. I am not a fan of monthly subscription fees either. The only subscription I have at the moment is MLC and I am considering dropping it since my students don’t use it. New students will generally use it for a few weeks but after that, they lose interest. Part of this is probably my fault in a way since I haven’t been able to keep up with giving relevant MLC assignments lately but even when assigned activities, students do not always utilize the site. I am definitely more a fan of single purchase apps/software or annual subscriptions. I have been considering Piano Marvel and Piano Mania but refuse to add another subscription at this point. If Microsoft Office and Adobe start charging subscription fees, I will likely stop using their services as well, especially if there is no added value.

  11. I miss-listed the only subscription I use. Not MTH, although they are a good service, I quit that subscription. I didn’t want a monthly fee to cover what I can do myself. The only subscription I currently use is MLC, which students cover. I certainly hope Microsoft Office and Adobe don’t begin requiring a subscription.

  12. I’m not a fan of subscriptions either. I have been tempted to sign up for MTH but so far, I am continuing on with my own invoicing, budgeting, and use of method books, theory, supplemental music, etc. I also use my website page and my composition page on Alberti Publishing to connect with students and parents. My next imminent purchase is the iPad and I truly can’t wait to use that in my studio! (I know, late to the party right? Well…I’m soooo excited about it and appreciate all the great information that you make available and that all the piano pedagogy community so graciously shares) The monthly subscriptions make sticking to my budget way too much of a challenge.

  13. I don’t subscribe to anything and I don’t think I ever will. I’m also very upset with Adobe. I use Creative Suite for everything I make. If I had to pay a monthly fee, there is no way I could offer my material for just a donation. Adobe should really look at their price point! Great article, Jenifer, by the way!

  14. Love this article. As a music teacher, I have a tight budget. I have downloaded lots of “free” trials. I have used these free trials as a test to see if my students would use this means of learning and having fun with their music. Like someone else said, students will use this for a week or two and that is that. 7 years ago — maybe longer — I ran across Jayde Musica. It was note reading and it was free. It is still free. Lots of features have been added and I find it very useful in my teaching. They do ask for a donation but it is not required. If you are like me, you don’t mind giving a donation if something is working for you. I can work on notes as well as ear training. Students enjoy and they learn. I donate $20 a year. Easy enough to budget. The website is jaydemusica.com

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