Bartering lessons - Does swapping for lessons work?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:21 pm

Piano teachers are pretty empathetic as a group. When a student or a parent comes in saying that they can't afford lessons, some teachers will reduce their rates. I don't advise doing that for many different reasons. However, another option is to barter for some or all of the lesson fee, exchanging lessons for yard work, home maintenance or any other mutually agreed upon service or product. Putting aside the tax implications, do you ever barter for lessons? Has it been successful in the sense that the other party has always carried out their end of the bargain? Do you continue to do it? Any pitfalls to avoid? It's my impression that many teachers have, at one time or another, bartered for lessons, so there should be a lot of experience and tips out there that all teachers can benefit from, if you will tell us about your own situation. :;):
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Wed Nov 03, 2004 3:23 pm

I bartered just once, long ago when I was still at the Conservatory. I became very friendly with an Italian family in the New York area, and I gave piano lessons for a time to the teen-age daughter in exchange for Italian lessons from grandmother ("Mommalina"), who had emigrated from Naples about 35 years before.

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Postby pianoannie » Fri Nov 05, 2004 4:03 pm

It's interesting that you would bring this up, because the past week or two I've been pondering this very subject. I'm considering offering a barter arrangement with one particular student's mom, but I'm still thinking it through. At this point in time I have nothing helpful to add to the discussion, but I hope others will jump in.
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Postby Beckywy » Sun Jan 02, 2005 9:38 pm

I have a student whose mother is a hairdresser who works our of her basement. The days I go to get my hair done, her daughter receives 1 credit for a lesson.
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Postby 106-1093894628 » Wed Feb 02, 2005 1:29 pm

I have found it very helpful to swap lessons to help a family in need, and also for my son to receive sax lessons while I taught their child piano. The only problem I ran into was, I wasn't pleased entirely with my sons lessons and it was awkward to discontinue the lessons. Perhaps easier not to get involved in the long run.
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Postby mirjam » Sat Mar 26, 2005 6:08 am

I think it's important to have the same lesson fee for every student. If you start bartering with one student, other students will hear about it and might refuse to pay their lesson fee, maybe also want a barter arrangement. In the past I've had some students who said they couldn't afford the lesson money. With adult students I offer them the possibility to have lessons every two weeks. With children I don't do that, so I won't accept them as a student. I also think the lessons will be taken less seriously if the student doesn't pay for it.
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Postby 106-1114213467 » Fri Apr 29, 2005 11:48 am

I also bartered with a family that had a big cut in income, and planned to quit lessons. The student was promising and practiced daily. Her mother was a hair stylist and instead of paying the mother, I kept records and deducted it from the tuition.

I probably would barter only if a good student was involved, meaning one that practices and is motivated, and then for a limited time such as three months, etc.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:07 am

Given the "dire" economic news of the last few days, I thought it might be a good time to revive this thread on bartering, since, in poor economic environments, people often tend to turn to barter for goods and services. One critical element of making barter work is a clear set of understandings about what, exactly, will be done by each party in the exchange. Too often, it's something like "You give lessons and I'll do yard work for you." In extreme cases, that can result in the teacher giving the lessons and the student looking around the yard, but doing no actual work. Of course, one can conceive of problems the other way around, but that seems to be less common.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:46 am

Like Dr. Leland's example further up, a lesson-for-lesson exchange. Piano is my second instrument and I cannot afford two sets of teachers and lessons. I'm tickled pink.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:39 am

pianissimo wrote:Like Dr. Leland's example further up, a lesson-for-lesson exchange. Piano is my second instrument and I cannot afford two sets of teachers and lessons. I'm tickled pink.

Yes, lesson exchange is a great idea. Of course, the great majority of situations in which one might trade involve students who can't teach lessons on another instrument. In that case, one must work out other, mutually acceptable, trade arrangements.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:08 pm

The difficulty being, of course, that this is how music teachers earn a living. I am a freelancer in a different field, and will occasionally provide my services free of charge, at a reduced rate, or even in such a bartering arrangement. However, the phone company, hydro etc. do not barter, and bills need to be paid. The same is true for a teacher. It must be difficult to see a young person who is sincere and willing to learn but not have the money to pay for lessons, while others who have paying parents may be lacadaisical and not appreciative. You would want to help.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:26 am

I've long been giving some thought to whether I should address bartering for piano lessons on the main part of the site. That's the reason I started this thread some time ago. I have decided that it's a worthwhile thing to do, so the next site upgrade (today or tomorrow) will have new articles on that subject.

If you have bartered for lessons, either as a student or teacher, please tell us about your experiences, good or bad.
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Postby Tranquillo » Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:01 pm

I have never bartered and always had a parent supportive enough to pay for the lessons. I am very grateful for that ... I know many other students who have part time jobs hence having enough to pay for their lessons.

What I really don't understand is why not find a job in the local area - weather it would be flipping burgers or mowing lawns and use that money for lessons? ... The service you Barter for - wouldn't that be worth a lesson?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:07 am

Becibu wrote:What I really don't understand is why not find a job in the local area - weather it would be flipping burgers or mowing lawns and use that money for lessons? ... The service you Barter for - wouldn't that be worth a lesson?

This is discussed a bit in the article I wrote for the main part of the site. Most businesses have "overhead" - the cost of maintaining an office, paying utilities and salaries of support staff, etc. The individual can provide the same services at much lower cost, simply because he doesn't have the overhead expenses. The teacher may benefit, if she needs services that are otherwise too expensive, precisely because of overhead costs. There may also be tax advantages for both parties. Thus, bartering can make sense for both parties in certain situations. My article also makes the point that money is usually the easiest and best way to carry out most transactions, including paying for piano lessons.
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Postby Tranquillo » Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:00 am

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Becibu wrote:What I really don't understand is why not find a job in the local area - weather it would be flipping burgers or mowing lawns and use that money for lessons? ... The service you Barter for - wouldn't that be worth a lesson?

This is discussed a bit in the article I wrote for the main part of the site. Most businesses have "overhead" - the cost of maintaining an office, paying utilities and salaries of support staff, etc. The individual can provide the same services at much lower cost, simply because he doesn't have the overhead expenses. The teacher may benefit, if she needs services that are otherwise too expensive, precisely because of overhead costs. There may also be tax advantages for both parties. Thus, bartering can make sense for both parties in certain situations. My article also makes the point that money is usually the easiest and best way to carry out most transactions, including paying for piano lessons.

Exactly! Money was put into systems in the first place so that there needn't be this confusion over weather 2 donkeys sell for a cow or in this case weather a piano lesson sells for a car wash. Money was implemented to stop this confusion with bartering ...

This system of bartering never occurred to me honestly. I wonder, if its a cultural or community thing. I would guess the relations with a teacher and student would have to be pretty close to barter, also the student I would imagine would be keen and hardworking to barter with a student.

See, where I live, there are a variety of students. Lessons are not too expensive but to some families they seem like an arm and a leg. Here teachers don't mind going overtime, its almost like its part of the culture. (there's not need to worry, she'll be right, its Australia) ... teachers don't even put an extra charge when they go over. (its not part of their job of course but they are dedicated). But still, if people can't afford lessons I have never heard of stories where students say "can I trade you a car wash for a piano lesson?" ... I do know of many (teen) students who work for their lessons, doing jobs (like flipping burgers or working in retail shops) but I never have heard of students bartering here ... is it ever spoken of in the US?
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