MSMP 78: Chris Wilson on The Arts Online

It’s not often that you’ll hear a guitar strumming in the background of the Mads Singers Management Podcast, but that’s precisely what my guest Chris Wilson was doing at one point when we discussed the changing ways his team gave music lessons post-Covid.  Chris graduated from the Berklee College of Music in the 1990s as a guitarist and started teaching in his apartment.  Before long his practice grew and pre-Covid he and his team of 25 were servicing 650 clients at the Academy of Music and Art just outside Chicago, Illinois.
One of the challenges that Chris faces is that there are no long-term music instructors in his team.  A lot of these people graduate from arts programs, as Chris did, and want to do something in that field.  So they will go to auditions or try various options while teaching, whether that’s in music, dance, or theater (all of which Chris’ academy normally offers).  Sometimes they teach for a few months, sometimes for a few years, but if they end up working in the arts, they will stop teaching, and if they don’t make it in the arts, they leave the field entirely.
 
While Chris can’t control the circumstances of his crew of creatives, he has found a way to keep them teaching with him as long as possible: offering flexibility...within reason.  Understandably people in the arts will sometimes need to leave for an audition suddenly and will need to deal with their group of students.  Chris and his team have found ways to accommodate that, but it all starts with that attitude that everyone is there to help everyone else.  Options include:
  • Getting a fellow teacher to substitute for you
  • Making a video for your current students, asking if they would like to delay lessons for a week
Anything is possible...except just leaving without telling anyone.  
 
While employee retention is key, so is employee training.  It’s not that obvious, but being qualified as an artist doesn’t make you a great teacher.  Chris realized this right away and put together a mentoring program making sure that the newest teachers had time and conversations with the most senior teachers.
 
We also talked a LOT about books that impacted each other (linked below) and Chris shared his passion for proper delegation, which for him means giving as much support as possible to someone when you delegate, not assume they know everything and abandon them.  We also talked about the adjustments he and his team have had to make during Covid (music and dance lessons are fairly easily done online, theater productions cannot be done at all).
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It was fun to have a musician on the show and I think you’ll enjoy our discussion.

Key Learning Points:
 1. Chris tells of the (accurate) warning he received that there were “no jobs waiting for students of the arts.” - 1:30
2. Chris talks about being part of the gig economy - 2:53
3. Chris shares his initial mistake in management, then how he rectified it - 5:20
4. Chris notes that being qualified as an artist or musician doesn’t qualify you to teach - 10:04
5. Mads chimes in, noting that often the best way to learn is to teach - 12:41
6. Chris observes that many creatives are, indeed, shy - 13:43
7. Chris points out that delegation should not be abandoned - 15:07
8. Chris talks about the transitional nature of his workforce - 20:00
9. Chris and Mads talk about the benefits of remote work post-Covid - 26:40
10. Mads questions the point of being angry...ever. - 35:00
 
Resources Mentioned:
Connect with Chris Wilson