Musico’s Yonatan Pistiner on Adapting Music Education to the New Status Quo
If someone has been asleep for the last year, they might not recognize the new world we are living in. Not just masks and social distancing, but more...
If someone has been asleep for the last year, they might not recognize the new world we are living in. Not just masks and social distancing, but more the fact that digital patterns have accelerated well ahead of their time, to cater for the new stay at home climate. That includes shopping, remote working, and education. The face of education has changed drastically, with millions of students globally, forced to learn from home. This has led to a massive rise in e-learning, which takes place usually from digital platforms. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as studies have shown that learning on these platforms leads to an increased learning retention rate and it saves time, which could mean that these changes are here to stay.
To some extent, the world of music education has lagged behind other experiences kids and teenagers are used to, which are overwhelmingly digital and highly gamified. This problem was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, which resulted in teachers having to carry out some or all of their lessons online, without having the necessary tools to keep students engaged and entertained.
Musico, a unique startup from Israel, is digitizing the music education space, by helping educators as well as brick and mortar schools to adapt to their students’ growing expectations and to the realities of hybrid learning.
Musico provides teachers - whether they teach in-person, online or in a hybrid setup - with what they need to fill these gaps. By using its centralized platform, teachers can manage their different activities with all their students, deliver engaging lessons and teach them online or in-person. Musico not only saves them time and allows them to substantially improve the lesson experience, it helps them improve student retention and scale their business with viable hybrid teaching opportunities.
We asked Yonatan Pistiner from Musico how Covid has changed the music industry.
“Covid accelerated a process that was already underway. Everybody had a chance to become more familiar with digital platforms and how the learning process works. I will take an example for myself, it’s not related to music but still. I’m a chess player. When Covid started, I realized that I would have to switch to start taking lessons online. After I had done this once, to be honest, I dropped my previous teacher. And I started to learn chess from people from France, England, USA because suddenly I saw how we can do it differently, and with better quality. It was just better that way. It's the same with music.“
“The only difference between chess and music is that you want to play music live. And this is what we offer. Our online interface allows you to have an amazing experience, even if you are not physically nearby, combining the features of digital and live. So this liveability is bridging the gap and makes the experience so fun that I truly believe that it will be the next step. Moreover, some changes are already visible. For example, Australia, which has reached a post-covid era, is offering new plans for customers. And if until now it was a personal interaction, and then only online, now these are new hybrid packages that did not exist before Covid. For example, you will physically come to classes in person once a month, but 3 lessons will be taught online. So you and the teacher don't need to drive, and it's a little cheaper. So all of a sudden you see those hybrid models that are very interesting. And it’s a matter of time until such formats come out and more and more people are involved.”
For Musico and other similar platforms, Covid represented an opportunity.
Jonathan said, “I think this is the best opportunity for us because as a young startup we are looking for early adopters. But thanks to Covid, we all became early adopters. Everyone got familiar with digital platforms and had the opportunity to see how great they are. So the time has come for us to move on to market strategies, to meet more instructors, to get to know more music classrooms whether it’s private or public, to start integrating Musico with them.”
How large is your user base?
“Up until now, we have around 250 institutions and over 100 music instructors that use Musico. We have over 7 000 weekly students accessing and learning in the Musico framework with schools and teachers. Our main market currently has about 80% of customers from the US. The rest of the users are from all English-native areas: from England to Australia and New Zealand, but also we are seeing interesting growth in Malaysia. Also, organic growth is outlined in Europe, especially in Holland, Germany, and a little bit in France.”
What problems does Musico solve for the music industry?
“We see too many gaps in the existing online music education system. In general, at a high level, the whole world is moving towards online. It's hard to deny. In general, at a high level, the entire education market is moving towards integrating online into the learning process. There are no more checks, no more hard copies at all. And, of course, the same transformation is taking place in the field of education. In the States, for example, more than 75% of the public sector is already working with learning management systems in the schools. And it is only a matter of time before it will be 100% of the entire school system in the United States and possibly in the entire world. And when it comes to after-school programs - arts and music in particular - there are no tools to provide the same digital experience. So first of all there’s a gap that we want to bridge.
Students go to school, work with digital services, and then go to learn music and use a notebook or a hard book or something like Google Drive. It just doesn't make sense. So Musico bridges this gap by providing what we like to call consumer elements. Super fun, interactive, engaging elements for all students. But at the same time, a digital and management platform for teachers who can do one-to-one, or one-to-many sessions.”
“The second is the common future of education as a whole. We can say that 2011 was the first e-learning boom. The first apps and online platforms began to appear, online courses were created and promoted to the masses, giving access to knowledge. It was brilliant. It exploded. But over time, fewer and fewer people completed the courses they purchased. It makes sense, because watching a video of someone talking and then another one, and another one is hard. No effect because it is not engaging, there’s no feedback. So, around 2013, the next wave of e-learning began with gamified apps like Duolingo or Simply Piano by JoyTunes. But they have a different problem. Apps like these are awesome to start with because it's very exciting at first, but after one, two, three months of playing it gets boring, it's the same repetitive action. So this is the same problem.”
“Many students start checking it, but then they quit. Therefore, we believe that the future of education as a whole is a combination. This model includes gamification and engagement, which is great for learning. This way students can learn interactively, in a fun and comfortable way. However, our model also allows the teacher to be always in the learning process to adjust the training program, assess progress, and correct mistakes. In addition, a long-term relationship is formed between teacher and student. We believe in this combination. Provide students with an amazing learning experience that sticks in the Z-generation world. Provide a gamified and interactive learning experience while keeping the educator in the process.”
So what makes you different?
“When it comes to one step further we really want to be the biggest hub for music education. We already have over 200,000 lessons and learning materials. At the same time, we are as flexible as possible and adapt to the students. You take lessons online while calling the teacher. And what is really smart about this is that the teacher can see all the data of your progress, progress in rhythm, articulation, dynamics.”
“At the same time, we are as flexible as possible and adapt to the students. You take lessons online, while once every two weeks there is an online lesson with a teacher. And what is really smart about this is that the teacher can see all the data of your progress, progress in rhythm, articulation, dynamics. So, you can discuss your progress and define a program for further learning. At the same time, the teacher checks the technique and corrects mistakes. This way you get a super personalized learning experience that is both comfortable and gamified.”
What’s your business model?
We have the buyers. On one hand, It can be a private instructor that simply has a small music studio with twenty students. On the other hand, It can be a big school with more than 1 000 students. And the business model is that they pay per student. So they get us, they purchase licenses for the students, so they grow with us. Thus, completely different schools are connected to our platform. If we talk about the users of our platform, they are completely different, ranging from age to their interests and place of residence. But they have one thing in common - a love of music.
Have you raised any investment?
“So we started as a local family office in Tel-Aviv, Israel. The company grew gradually. But significant investments have actually been made in the last 12-16 months. The first is AltaIR VC, they invested in us, which is amazing. They also invested in Miro and OpenWeb companies. We are glad to be in the same row with them”.
“We also have another great investor - Digital Disrupt. The founders of this VC, professional investors Andrey Belozerov and Artem Ermolaev, have tremendous experience in the educational sector, which is extremely important to us. We want to bring people with the smart network. So they can teach us and help us. And the work with Digital Disrupt, to be honest, is amazing. They are super transparent people. It’s fun when we have an investor that you can communicate via WhatsApp, via Telegram. We can ask any question, whenever you want, which makes us real partners. Plus they have a great view of the entire market. This is especially important for us as a company that wants to grow with great network effects.“
What are the next 5 years for Musico?
“Talking about the next 5 years for Musico, we see a global release of all gamified material created on our platform. Therefore, when someone wants to play something, instead of going to a YouTube video, looking for chords, or searching and downloading a special app, the person will simply launch our interactive music lesson and play. And then it is a great hook to ask if the person would like to try a 30-minute lesson with us. Why not? Of course, the growing number of our students will help us to popularize the platform. In addition, we have already accumulated a large amount of content created by educators on the platform, a lot of data behind those lessons, and this amount will only grow in the future. It is the digitization of the musical educational space, bringing the gamified and the human together. This is what we truly believe in. To be honest, it is a matter of time before there will be a million students on our platform who can learn music in comfort.”
Education has changed dramatically since 2019, and this has created an opportunity for eLearning products of all types to find their niche. No one knows what the future brings, but we can assume eLearning will play a big part in education for all niches.