Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to transition my studio over to StudioAutoPilot?

It will take a couple of days to enter your teacher bios and pictures, set up your schedules and enter your closed dates for your teaching year to configure the monthly billing.

In the middle of your set up month, we recommend that before the 15th but not too much sooner as there is less urgency, you can start sending invites to your current families so they can enter their info and set up their accounts.

If you can collect your teacher bios and pictures when you get confirmation that you are confirmed to start, that will let you hit the ground running. Remember! Just use teacher first names and initials - even in the bio!

When your existing families have all converted over, you can turn on online registration and link your booking interface to a booking button or link you put on your main website. Look at some of the other StudioAutoPilot users listed on this site to get an idea of which buttons, links and phrases will work best on your website.    

Tell me about this 3-month free test drive.

If your application is approved, we will give you your configured account at the beginning of your preferred start month. Please don’t think this is just a sales scare tactic we use and we actually accept everyone. We currently say no to about 20% of applications.

We do this to confirm you are the right fit and you will be very satisfied with StudioAutoPilot long term. No software is perfect but we are constantly trying to make it the absolute best system for the right studios.

How hard will it be for me, the owner and my admin staff to be trained on using StudioAutoPilot. Is it really complicated? Do we need to be really “techy”?

I have a belief that if software needs a manual to use it, it sucks. If you can’t figure it out mostly just by clicking around, the software is a failure.

This is what our main admin user interface looks like. Everything you need is simply displayed for you to click and quickly get the information you need. No extensive menu pages. No going through multiple screens with confusing names not actually meant for music studios. We speak your language. We call them families and make-ups, not accounts and appointments, because in our industry that's what they are.

When we started our beta studios in August of 2021, we had NO manual or user guide for StudioAutoPilot. (Don’t worry there is a user guide now). The initial studios literally got started by me sending them emails and screen snips. Also, two thirds of the beta studio owners were older than me (I was born in 1970) and half of the studio owners were in their 60s. They all “got it” quickly because I did NOT make software the way the “pros” say to do it.

As the owner it will be pretty straightforward for you to understand and set up StudioAutoPilot. We require that you, the owner, make the initial set up decisions and be our main contact during the first 2 months. You cannot let your staff set it up and contact us to change crucial settings while you do not know how StudioAutoPilot works. You would not want to let your staff do that anyway. If your staff makes the initial decisions, they could cost you thousands of dollars by making things so loose and always in the benefit of the customer in the name of “good customer service” that they will effectively be writing your paycheck, giving you a pay cut by shrinking your profits.

So bottom line. You can do this pretty easily and set this up. Your staff will get it. People are always afraid of new things, but based on the experience of our “senior citizen” beta group you will be just fine. 

What is the difference between StudioAutoPilot and other software programs?

The 4 biggest differences between StudioAutoPilot and other software programs studio are:

1. The fact that we do start to finish online registration.
2. How our dashboard looks to admin users.
3. How many steps and required settings are involved to do basic everyday functions like registering a student, doing a refund or changing a lesson time.
4. We get ugly to solve the “who took the scissors” problem.

StudioAutoPilot was designed from scratch to do online registration. We did not make a program and then later, after operating it, decided to add some form of online registration. If you look at any other major software program used by studios, no other program offers complete hands-off online registration like we do. 100% of the studios that use StudioAutoPilot use our online registration because it works so well. No one relies on submit or request info forms and shuts off our online registration. If you google the business names of some of the other poster children for other software companies, most of them don’t use any of the alleged online booking services the software says they can provide at all. That tells you their systems may work in theory but in reality they don’t really work so studios don’t use it.

The other more telling thing when you google some of the testimonials of users for other software companies is that some of the studios who gave reviews are not even currently using that companies’ software at all anymore! Houston- got another problem for ya.

Our system does not “do” online registration, StudioAutoPilot is online registration.

Here are admin view home screens for 3 different software systems used by some music schools. On the left hand side they have a menu of options and the 3 lines of the "hamburger" menu to select even more options.

Most software for business use looks like this. It is almost like software companies have a template of “what business software must look like”, that they pull out to make any new software regardless of the industry, needs or how it will be used in front of the customer in a time sensitive situation.

The problem with these other systems and their layout is that everything, even very basic things are usually buried behind multiple screens. You need a TON of training to know how to do basic functions.

I did a little snoop dogging around some of these systems. I asked a few of our initial beta clients that left these systems to give me a guided tour of the old systems just to see how we compare. ( I did this after I already made StudioAutoPilot, and I believe it or not, I did not see anything I wanted to copy!)

These companies have 30-80 training videos that range in length from about 5 minutes to 30 minutes. That’s a long software tutorial binge watch party. I tried to just look their systems and figure out how to register a student and I couldn’t. This is after 3 years of me making studio software! They are not intuitive.

In comparison our system looks pretty underwhelming. It is so simplistic, that the usually comment we get is: “That’s it?” Yep. That’s it.

Here’s our master login page. You stay on this main screen for everything. No hamburger menu needed or anywhere in sight. A studio owner owner can easily know exactly what is happing any time.

Some people think our page is ugly and not slick looking like those “real” software companies. Let them laugh at our “Craigslist” design theme because our system is so easy to use, we have zero videos to understand it and no one has ever complained. It literally tells you exactly what to do when you click through functions. Plus we add or move stuff quickly, logically and easily to make things work well without worrying about wrecking our back end admin view “aesthetic design”.

We give you the most important stuff right up front with normal sounding names in language that studios speak.

I hate seeing software that says “dependants” when referring to students. We don’t teach dependants we teach kids. We don’t sell “services” or offer “subscription packages” we teach lessons. We don’t have “account holders”, “quotes” or “clients” we have families. Out of touch terms like that scream that these software companies don’t really understand how studios really work.

We have very few steps required to do basic studio functions, because we built StudioAutoPilot with the belief that most studios offer lessons in the same format over and over again. The next 100 registrations you do at your studio will be very similar to the last 100 you did. New students will pay the regular reg fee and regular per lesson fee each month, the billing will probably be recurring on a credit card and the schedule will pretty much stays like that unless they student changes days or times or quit.

The other software programs I have toured make you reinvent the wheel each time. When you do a registration, you need select the price, the billing plan, if it is a one-time lesson or ongoing, which room, and other factors which should all be default settings not custom selections each time.

That’s crazy. With StudioAutoPilot most students will register online themselves. For the ones that don’t you send them an invite with the all the default settings built in with not changes needed.

That’s how it should be. Studios are not like an insurance company that need to do custom quotes for each new customer. We are not configuring a car for someone with highly custom options. Most things will stay the same, so why put in the details every time? When I see the number of steps other software program require, I’m shocked that the number of chances there are for admin entry error. We take away that risk by letting you chose default settings and then StudioAutoPilot lets you stay on course.

If you live in a house with kids now or ever have, you know scissors usually disappear into a black hole of invisibility. You may be a better parent than me, but after years of yelling “who took the scissors and didn’t put them back” I found a better solution. We have scissors everywhere in our house. In the junk drawer, in the laundry room, next to the dog food bag, in the garage, in the car, in the pool mechanical room, in the tool box, in our guest room and everywhere else. I don’t need to remember or lecture. Also, no one can get injured by the classic running with scissors (which dummy ever does that?) because you are always 4 steps away for a pair of scissors. My house is like that weird Johnny Depp Movie.

We took that approach with StudioAutoPilot. We don’t have just one place to use a credit card charging terminal, we put one in 3 different places so when you need it it’s there on the same screen.

If a failed credit card needs to be re-run by your staff (most will be done by parents themselves, but occasionally you may do some) there are 3 different retry places to do it. What you need to do is right there where you need to do it. We don’t stick stuff down one way streets into a dead end because it looks slicker and more organized like the software “pros” do.

So those are the main differences between us and them. If you are an easy-going studio owner who doesn’t mind a little coloring outside the lines, hates inefficient ideas and lives in reality, we will get along fine. If you need the professional seriousness the “real" software companies provide, my recommendation is to use them instead. It takes different strokes to turn the world, Willis.

Can we keep our old credit card processor and integrate it with StudioAutoPilot?

No. Our system is designed to do online registration with our embedded processor for a very important reason which I will explain. You complete a simple merchant account application online and it is usually approved and added to your system within 2 business days.

After trying out 4 different processors to integrate, we chose our host processor because it has allowed us to get maximum approval rates for card not present transactions. In online registrations this is the most important factor, it is much more important than trying to save 0.2 of a percent.

Our host processor is made for online sales. I spoke with the CEO and the company realized there is very little risk in lowering standard industry fraud protections for our studios because no one would use a stolen credit card to buy music lessons and show up in person every week with their child to meet the cops. It took a little convincing but I was glad he saw our point. Other processors will insist on standard fraud protection for card not present transactions. Banks and credit card companies are not risk takers.

If you ever shop on non-Amazon sites and have had a credit card not work, sometimes because of an address mismatch error, sometimes for no apparent reason, you may not complete the sale and just buy somewhere else. If you miss 20 registrations per year because a processor is not optimized to approve our type of lesson transaction, that is a major problem. Saving that 0.2 percent is no gain at all if you miss out on thousands of dollars of new registrations that could stay for 5 years.

We can't embed other processors with our online booking system and even if we did you would have too many non-completed transactions to make it worthwhile.

(Google "AVS credit card error" to see what we negotiated to avoid )

Can we use the online registration system to do free trial lessons, discounts, free registration fees, register for a month and get a free lesson or other discount offers like we do now for new students?

We don't automate new student fee discounts or promotions like free first lesson or free registration fee.

We've monitored online behavior for 3 years, if you offer new student discounts to all website visitors, a family with multiple students can use 2 separate emails to make 2 accounts and get a discount if they like, which may not be your intention.

Also, with open online discounts, current students can do a new registration using a different email address if they are motivated to get a discount. For those reasons we suggest studios manually administer discounts and promotions to ensure they are used as intended.

The software seems great and I think it could work for my studio but I’m worried about changes being accepted by my parents and teachers. What if it doesn’t work for us? Help!
Sleepless in Seattle, San Diego, Sarasota, Saskatchewan and everywhere in between 

When I started coaching studios to help them buy or build their own commercial real estate, I discovered how emotional a logical business decision became for them.

There were plenty of unknown fears everyone had. My solution was to start my workshops by getting the room of studio owner attendees to yell out their fears of what could go wrong if they bought real estate. We would get a volunteer to write them down on a big flip chart and keep the list up there all day.

Throughout the day as we figured out an answer to a fear, we would cross it off with a big marker. Our goal was to cross off every fear by the end of the workshop. If we still had things on the list at the end of the day, I would keep going until everyone agreed we had a decent solution to eliminate or minimize that fear and risk.

That flip chart exercise worked fabulously and has helped hundreds of studios own their buildings. 5 of the 7 studios that wrote software case studies above also own buildings that they bought by using my advice. (No, this is not a sales pitch for my real estate workshop, I have retired from doing them.) If you think about it, there are very few reasons not to at least try to own your own building if you have even a small possibility to do it.

Unfortunately, I also saw hesitation and overthinking paralyze studio owners from taking action when there was a perfect opportunity to move from their leased space into a building that they could realistically own. That inaction caused them to miss out on hundreds of thousands or in some cases over a million dollars of appreciation and equity. It was sad to see.

I see the same fear, hesitation and overthinking when it comes to studios thinking about running on StudioAutoPilot. If studios were to “yell out” their software fears almost all of them would say “what if my current parents don’t like it?” Then imagine the worst possible scenario of angry, confused, bewildered parents lining up at the doors with torches and pitchforks like some angry medieval villagers.

A large part of my success in helping studios own commercial real estate came from the fact that they were taking the workshop in the backyard of my 3-acre waterfront property inside 11,000 square feet of my custom-built house and conference center that was 90% paid off. They saw me practicing what I preached and it was working. The “bogey men” and “monsters under the bed” of potential risks in real estate became less scary when they saw the success of the information in action.

They also walked through one of our 13,000 square foot commercial buildings 10 minutes away that we built. 

We gave them every detail of how we started our real estate journey by buying a small $245,000 commercial condo before we even owned a home and still rented an apartment. (That confused our banker a lot!) The attendees then saw how we started with that small $245,000 property and built it into a commercial real estate portfolio worth over 22 million dollars that we owe just $951,507.24 on as of April 30, 2022.

We had so much concrete proof of our buildings, (literally!) it gave them peace of mind. With StudioAutoPilot, we have the same digital proof of thousands of transactions and interactions with various parts of our system since 2019, like these 3 usage logs showing how many times parents have done things as of May 1, 2022 :

Our own studio parents and other studio’s parents have easily accepted and used the StudioAutoPilot platform hundreds of thousands of times without blinking an eye. 

Introducing StudioAutoPilot to your studio parents is as easy as just saying and emailing: “we have a new system that lets you get practice assignments, manage your make-ups and get messages from the teacher”. Parents say: “oh ok.” No big deal. You’ll get pretty much the same resistance to announcing StudioAutoPilot as you will from telling most parents they need to update their credit card. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. I’m not telling you any tall tales. 

This is a new direction for studios I understand. At our own studio it's been our normal for 3 years so I have zero hesitation recommending it. I actually do what I am suggesting that you do. That is very different from other software companies. They do not eat their own cooking like I do.

There is really not a lot that can go wrong. Parents like and understand the system, music teachers are actually a lot more tech savvy than most studio owners give them credit for.

The thing to remember is that in the last 2 years of the pandemic, people are extremely used to change. This is a very easy time to introduce StudioAutoPilot.

Parents are already used to changes like video lessons, everyone working from home, homeschooling, masks and everyone shopping online. Their music school saying “here’s our new system” is a minor blip compared to what has changed in their lives since 2020.

At your studio every week, parents are sitting in your waiting room and in their cars on their phones, tablets and laptops using web-based software and apps to shop, get entertained, communicate and even do their jobs. They have all adapted to and chose those new programs, or their employers or schools have said: “here’s what you’re doing now”. Most of the software and apps they are using probably have only existed for a couple of years. Your parents are used to change and doing things digitally. I assure you, to parents StudioAutoPilot will not be the big mental shift that most studio owners agonize over.

The majority of your parents probably have pretty complex digital lives outside your studio. You are just giving them one new program to add to the 15 programs they are already using to regularly using to manage their family, household, fitness level, shopping, social connections, vacations and finances. If you send them an invite to StudioAutoPilot they will just click it and do it. Give them some credit, they figured out UBER and food delivery apps pretty quickly.

Other industries have already made adoption of online booking very easy for us too.

Alaska Airlines did their first online booking in December…. 1995. 

We are literally 27 years behind the airline industry. Currently, according to our national data research, only 3% of music studios are even attempting to do some type of online registration where people actually pay and try to select a time. Most of the industry is using submit forms and following up by suggesting times. Of course, until now there have been no other really good options for online registration. One side note, if you’re trying to do online registration by using some generic shopping cart software to sell lessons in a lump sum and then find and book times after getting paid, please stop that. It’s a terrible idea for online registration. 

Those airline customers who have been booking online and managing their travel for almost 30 years also take your music lessons. They are the same customers. The market (your current parents) is totally ready and waiting for this. Studio owners themselves are the only obstacle by thinking everyone must be afraid of putting their credit card “on the internet" or “understanding how new different software works” so we need to keep doing things “uniquely” like only our studio does. (But then ironically, all of us studios use the exact same music books, teaching the exact same pieces in the exact same length of 30 minutes per week using the exact same brands of pianos and keyboards. Does any one studio really need to operate with those "unique" policies for their business to work? We don’t need to reinvent a wheel every time, but I’ve seen a lot of studio owners who are utterly convinced that they really do and are terrified to change a thing.)

So, ask yourself if it is just fear holding you back. 

Will this be easier for parents? Yes. 

Will this be easier for your teachers? Yes. 

Will this be easier for your admins? Yes. 

Do you have 2 months over the summer to ty it out free and see that it works well? Yes.

If it “doesn’t work” can you still go back to your old, manual way of doing things? Yes.

If you have read everything to this point, is there any logical reason not to put in an application to test drive StudioAutoPilot? Even if we are totally wrong after reviewing your application and approve you, but StudioAutoPilot is actually not a good fit for your studio, you’ll only spend a bit of time in the summer, (when you have spare time anyway), to check out something that has a lot of upside and has high payback potential forgetting new online registrations for this fall.

This may seem like I’m just trying to sales pitch you, but it’s fair to say that our software can change your life a lot more than the amount of money you pay to us will change my life. Yes, this is a business for me, but I love this software and what it does for our studio and other studios who use it. StudioAutoPilot gives you a whole lot more than just “new software” or a better version of Google Docs.

None of the studios who have started our system have gone back to what they were doing before. A lot of them laugh and cringe at their old policies and ways they were scared to change from just a few months ago, when I showed up with a promise of a better way. Their fear was very real back then, like yours may be now. Going back to their old ways would be like going from using email back to only writing letters again, or from using Netflix to driving to Blockbuster each week.

I know change is feared, but most of our best new technology was feared at one time and we can't imagine life without it now. (I think your phone just buzzed;)

Don’t hesitate – Automate!

Your studio, exciting and new, come aboard we’re expecting you.

I still have questions. Can I contact you?

Yes, please email any questions you have to us at [email protected].