Matthew Edwards

Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

Why do voice lessons cost so much?

I’ve heard parentPortrait of Harry Belafonte, singing (1954)s and singers ask why voice lessons cost so much, which is interesting since I just had a European colleague ask why voice lessons in the United States are so cheap. I started thinking about this question and thought I’d share the reality of what a teacher gets paid. For this example, let’s assume that the instructor teaches 20 hours a week, charging $50 an hour and teaches 50 weeks a year. This is a little unrealistic as a work load (most teachers don’t get a consistent 50 weeks), but it gives us a nice even number to work with – $50,000. In addition to the 20 hours a week spent teaching, the teacher probably spends another 10 hours a week preparing for lessons, reading about the industry and voice pedagogy, answering emails, taking care of the books, and marketing the studio.
Now let’s look at the taxes they pay.
  • All self-employed teachers pay a 15.3% self-employment tax
  • The teacher then pays income tax at a rate of 15%.
  • Their total tax at this level comes to $12,059.
  • In Virginia, they would pay a state income tax of $720 + 5.75% (the rate for income over $17,000). The teacher’s total tax due to Virginia would be $2,414

So when it’s all said and done if you earned $50,000 a year as a single person, your take home pay would be around $35,527 (not accounting for any local taxes). That equates to a tax rate of around 29%, meaning that almost 1/3 of what you pay your teacher is going to the government.

Let’s look at one other big expense. In the U.S. you have to pay for health insurance on your own. For a single person at that income bracket, a mid-grade policy will cost around $3,204 a year (with a $3,500 deductible). That reduces the teacher’s income to around $32,323. So what’s the average hourly wage?
  • 20 hours of teaching
  • 10 hours of office work
  • For a total of 30 hours a week, times 50 weeks a year = 1,500 hours
  • Divide the take home pay of $32,323 by that amount and you get a wage of $21.55 an hour.

For a highly trained professional who likely holds a master’s degree if not a doctorate degree, that wage is rather low. Your teacher only gets to keep 65% of what you pay them. The other 35% goes to taxes and health insurance. The figures presented so far don’t even include studio rental expenses if the instructor teaches outside of the home (costs will vary). You could also add in expenses for conference and workshop attendance ($1,000-3,000 per event), both of which are critical for keeping up-to-date with the most recent scientific, pedagogic, and career information.

Hopefully you realize that voice teachers are not being greedy, they are just trying to survive. If anything, they are likely under charging for their services. The figures above do not even account for the supplies the teacher must purchase to run their business. Most teachers choose this profession because they love music and they love helping others improve their voice. They’re not trying to “take you to the cleaners” [no offense to any of you out there who happen to be cleaners :)]

~Matt

P.S. They also like Holiday gifts. Cookies are great, but gift certificates are really nice!
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9 comments on “Why do voice lessons cost so much?

  1. Jeff Costello
    November 17, 2014

    Great post, Matt.

  2. Jonathan Flom
    November 17, 2014

    Wow! Great perspective!

  3. Mel Howe
    November 17, 2014

    really great post, Matt! I charge $50/hr in Syracuse and always think it’s too high, so I bend a little with some students… but this post reminds me to stick to my rates — I do have to make ends meet!

  4. Lucinda Maxey
    November 17, 2014

    I used to charge 60 but dropped it to 50 in 2009 as the recession hit. You forgot to mention the cost of the grand piano, the thousands spent on music, and the printer ink to give the students music. They should go get it themselves, but they never do. We can complain all we want–truth is, we wouldn’t want to do anything else.

  5. rodphil549
    November 17, 2014

    There is absolutely no way to get $50 an hour as a private teacher here in the Ozarks of Missouri. I would never get a single student. Of course, the same with tennis lessons (which I also teach)… but I didn’t get almost a PhD to teach that. 😉 People just won’t pay that much for lessons here.

  6. Gina
    November 18, 2014

    Also business and liability insurance are expenses that you forego at your own peril about $500 a year for a basic plan covering one piano and the music.

  7. Marnie
    November 18, 2014

    Interesting because in New York/NJ/Philly, you aren’t usually getting good voice lessons for cheaper than 80-100 bucks. Which really does seem astronomical and is out of financial reach of a lot of voice students. I WISH I could find a really great voice teacher for $50/hour.

  8. Marilyn Vaughan
    October 3, 2015

    Currently i’m charging near about $45 to my old students, and $60 to the new one. But, i think i am an economical vocal teacher 😀

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2014 by in Misc. Thoughts.

Ranked the #1 New Release in "Vocal and Singing" on Amazon.com (October 2014), "So You Want To Sing Rock 'N' Roll?" covers voice science, vocal health, technique, style, and how to find your artistic voice in a way that is beneficial to both singers and teachers. Order your copy today!

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