Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash
Musicians often have big dreams and ambitious goals, from pulling off that first recording session in a professional studio to crafting a hit. Like most people, however, they struggle to reach those goals. What’s missing is a skilled and engaged coach, someone to play the role of a personal trainer, to break the process down into steps and keep the aspiring artist focused and moving forward.
Online music education platform Soundfly sees this, and is rolling out the Headliners Club, the culmination of years of research and instruction, of observing how exactly people learn best online. Soundfly’s formula: pair high-quality content with dedicated mentorship by experienced musicians. The site eschews passive learning and business hacks, the dominant approach and subject matter of online instruction. Instead it offers pinpointed targets, active involvement with a mentor, and new ideas tailored to the musician.
“Concretely, you outline a project or goal with your mentor,” explains musician, founder and CEO of Soundfly Ian Temple. “Let’s say you’re a producer and you dream of getting a song placed in a TV ad. We’ll pair you with a mentor who has done that before and set a concrete target for the next four weeks. Then the mentor breaks that goal up into weekly challenges you’ll take on to get there. You might analyze a song from a favorite ad of yours, adopt some of that song’s tricks, and then get consistent weekly feedback from your mentor on how to make your track reach the same level of professionalism.”
This specific, concrete, engaged approach sets Soundfly apart from many online offerings. The service has established a powerful set of best practices for mentors, focusing not on communication channels, streamed lectures, or collections of videos, but on benchmarks, teacher response times, and meaningful custom assignments. “There is some science behind the way we set things up,” notes Temple. “They are similar to what personal trainers use: small wins, constrained activities, regular and appropriate validation, and targeted specific feedback.”
The Headliners Club builds on Soundfly’s existing menu of free and tuition-based courses — ranging from orchestral arranging to Ableton-based production to indie tour booking — as well as its rich trove of content on the business and art of making music on its Flypaper blog. With more than a million unique visitors to the site last year and 35,000 students among its alums, Soundfly and its mentors responded to growing demand from students, who wanted to keep working with the mentors they had learned from in their courses.
“Some of our dedicated students really loved the courses and loved their mentors. They wanted to keep working with them,” recounts Temple. “Usually, the relationship concludes with the course, but clearly that wasn’t where many students wanted it to end. We said, ‘Sure!’ Then we had to come up with the right product.”
The right product was a four-week, club-like package, urging students to address the specific issues of a personally important project: doing the final mixes on an EP, finishing a set of songs, learning a new skill or approach to their instrument. Students come from all walks of life and range from die-hard professionals in training to serious amateurs with artistic visions.
“Our most committed student has been a part of a course or the Headliners Club every month,” says Temple. “She’s a school teacher from the Midwest who’s become a kickass producer. She’s tackled everything from beat making and melody composition to understanding sync and licensing issues. Students like her and the mentors who inspire them are the heart of Soundfly.”