My opinions on the matter…
As a piano teacher, I wonder sometimes how people can afford lessons. But when I see the cost of cell phone plans, cable tv, eating out, I wonder how people can afford those things too. I think it is a matter of priority. If the cost of lessons is such that you really, really can’t afford them, then ask what is more important, cable tv or piano lessons; eating out or piano lessons, etc.? Maybe you can make some adjustments so you can afford lessons.
Unless your piano teacher is someone — a housewife, teenager or college student are the most obvious examples – who is teaching just to make some extra income, then the piano teacher is probably making the bulk of, if not all of their income from teaching lessons. This means, in most cases, that they are self-employed. Unlike a typical 40-hour a week employee, a piano teacher has to pay 100% of their social security/medicare taxes, has no benefits (like health care). They will also be spending time away from lessons on administrative tasks (like tracking attendance, keeping track of payments, scheduling, etc.) that they deserve to be paid for too.
Although I have known a few teachers who had around 60 students each week (1/2 hour lessons) most teachers do not have that many. Even with that many students, that is only 30 hours a week, not full-time. So, unlike a typical employee, they are working fewer hours which means in order to make a full-time income, they have to charge more. From a teaching perspective, I would not want to teach 80 students a week. It is too hard to keep track of who is doing what and how well. Plus, how many students could I expect to get between 9:00 and 5:00p on a weekday? It is doubtful anyone could get enough students for full-time work. Even if they started later and ran later, working that type of shift is not ideal and not good for any sort of personal life (eg. families).
Playing the piano is not a skill that everyone has. To have the experience and ability to teach is a skill that even fewer people have. In addition to paying for a teacher’s time, you are also paying for their skills and experience. The more a teacher has been playing and the more they have been teaching, in theory the better a teacher they should be, at
least as far as all the ‘tricks’ of the trade go. So, the uniqueness of a teacher’s skill raises the price.
All of this to say that teaching piano is a business. I suspect that if enough students wanted to take lessons from a live teacher (as opposed to the very questionable online or video lessons that are available), then the cost would go down. Certainly if I had 50 students I could afford to keep the rate lower than the market rate for a bit longer before raising the rate.
Please avoid the temptation to shop around for the cheapest teacher, you probably will get what you pay for.
I teach lessons in Gainesville and Micanopy (close to Gainesville, Williston and Ocala, Florida). I’ve been teaching here for over 10 years and have been playing the piano since I was 8 (a long time ago). I currently have openings in Micanopy. (July 2011).