I had the opportunity to go on the Brian Britt Show and talk about music and the TakeLessons story. Check it out below:
The transcription is below if you'd rather read.
Brian Britt: I'm here today with Steven Cox, he is the founder and CEO of America's largest music lesson company, TakeLessons, the website is TakeLessons.com, which is an online service that matches music teachers with students in over 3,000 cities across America. I just think this is one of the neatest ideas I've ever heard! I noticed that your mission is to make a positive lasting impact on millions of people through music. How did you come up with the idea of TakeLessons?
Steven Cox: Sure, so we very specifically picked those particular words, if you look at our mission to make a positive, lasting impact. So, first of all, positive. When we first started off, it's something that I personally believe in as well, if you're going to make some kind of impact, let's make it as positive as you can on as many people as possible. I think that some folks are built to make a good impact on 5 people, on 50 people, but we personally believe we have the option to make that sort of impact on millions and millions of people all throughout the nation. I come from a very musically oriented family. My grandparents cut records, my parents cut records, all my brothers are still session players and they play, they're very very musically oriented.
BB: You had no choice did you!
SC: I'm actually the least musically oriented out of the entire group, to be honest with you. I kinda got the half music gene and the half business gene.
BB: Which means you can actually afford to buy instruments.
SC: Yeah, so what's really cool about it is I played in bands all my life and djed to pay my way through college in clubs and those sorts of thing and just been absolutely involved in music since I was probably four or five years old.
BB: Did I see a pic of you playing guitar on the website?
SC: Probably, yeah, guitar and bass and a little bit of keyboard and all of those things. In between I had done internet startups. That's my true, real business and I had been doing that for about 15 years. After the second one I had done I had taken a little bit of time off and was able to do something I was passionate about as well as internet companies, and while I was doing that, all along this time I had been in bands. I remember this very specific band I was in, we were a two piece band at the time. It was me and my buddy Enrique and we were here in San Diego and he was really, really awesome at music, he had a masters degree in music performance, incredible musician as well as an awesome, awesome person, and here I was, I was kind of okay, pretty good, but not quite as good as him. And after a gig in Encinitas we went to drink margaritas which is what we did after gigs and he said hey, I have to quit the band. And I'm thinking, you're the only one who's any good!
If you quit the band, this is really bad for me! So I got to talking with him and he had just got married. He and his wife were trying to buy a house in Encinitas, which on a musician's salary.. well, on anyone's salary quite honestly is tough to do. He goes, "I just found out I have a little baby on the way and I can't make a living as a musician, so I'm going to go take a job at Chili's as a busboy to pay my bills." And here I am thinking, here's this incredible person who has a passion, 6 years of experience in school trying to make a living doing this and that's horrible!
BB: Kind of an epiphany for you. You saw the lightbulb, like this is not right.
SC: That's exactly the case. I was doing it more for fun, he was doing it for a carreer. I said are you trying teaching? He said, I've got my poster it's hanging up at the local drug store and nobody's calling me. I said, why don't you use the internet for that? He said I don't know how. I said, well, I've done a couple start ups, that's kind of my gig, so why don't I help you. And the more we got into it and this was 2006 at the time, it happens to be a three billion dollar industry completely ignored by technology per say.
BB: So music lessons is a 3 billion dollar industry? I would have never guessed that in a million years and I'm a money guy. I would have been way off on that.
SC: It's giant, there are so many of these, they call them niche markets, that happen to be multi-billion dollar industries. We took a look at this and in essence there was a theorum that we had that I had along the way that we had seen product move to the web in a big way. We had seen Amazon, Zappos was selling shoes; people said no one's gonna buy shoes on line but here it is. And so we had a general thesis that at some point in the future services were going to move to the web in a big way, similar to the way product had moved to the web and we thought, wow what a great idea to test. First of all, it helps Enrique stay out of Chili's and make a living doing what he loves to do
BB: He could actually afford to go eat at Chili's instead of having to be a busboy!
SC: You got it. And the second thing was, that it's very very difficult to try to find a great instructor. And when I was doing some research I had a good friend who had a nine year old daughter and she was a single mom and I said, hey, how would you go about finding an instructor? And she said, well, I guess I would just ask my mom groups, that's about all I could do.
BB: Or maybe from the schools or what have you?
SC: You got it. And i said you could do that online, you could go to maybe, perhaps Craigslist. And she looked at me like my head had popped off. She's like, are you crazy? There's no way I'm going to go to Craigslist and find some long haired dude with tattoos to invite him in to my house to spend time with my kids.
BB: Wow, isn't that true. So there's a safety issue here in people's minds.
SC: Exactly. She goes you know, it's very very creepy.
BB: Because any serial murderer could advertise on Craigslist and say hey, I'm a music teacher!
SC: It's not just with music teachers, it's with all services in general, it's a very… not to knock Craigslist, they don't control necessarily the content, but there's a lot of shady things that happen.
BB: It's just like a community bulletin board online, no background checking, no nothing.
SC: Exactly. So that's really the problem that we look to solve. Number one is how you make it drop dead easy to find a safe certified instructor that is background checked that has references, and that's what we do with all our instructors. The second thing is, how do you help artists make a living doing what they love to do and keep them out of Chili's. The whole premise of the idea was that we want to empower people to make a living doing what they love to do and music has personally affected my life, it's affected your life, it's probably affected the lives of nine out of ten of your listeners in a positive way. That's something that we wanted to do, kind of as a life mission, is to make that positive lasting impact on people.