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School of Rock is shaping the next generation of musicians, one school at a time.
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For over 20 years, School of Rock, the 2021 winner of Global Franchise’s Best Children’s Service & Education award, has been enriching the lives of kids and adults through music education.
Originally launched as a single location in Philadelphia in the late ‘90s, School of Rock has developed into a trademarked brand and global phenomenon, now operating and franchising over 500 after-school music instruction schools open or in development in 15 countries, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain and South Africa.
It’s also the recipient of numerous accolades such as the Top Children’s Music Enrichment Brand in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, a 2021 Top Franchise by Franchise Business Review, and more. And there are no signs of slowing down.
KEEPING THE MUSIC GOING
During the challenges the world faced in 2020, School of Rock kept the music going, fostering connection and community to students around the world with loud success. By adapting its business model to offer virtual one-on-one music lessons, delivering exclusive access to some of the world’s most famous musicians, new curriculum updates, virtual concerts and more and expanding into Taiwan and Ireland, alongside 27 school openings, the brand ended the year on a trajectory of continued growth and global expansion.
Innovation has been key to School of Rock’s success, beginning with its core music-education approach, The School of Rock Method, which, earlier this year, was awarded a U.S. patent validating it as an exclusive concept and practice.
“While we’ve become more sophisticated, and built our curriculum out significantly, the core idea is the same as it was at the start”
The groundbreaking School of Rock Method builds musical proficiency through its proprietary Method App, Method Book collection, SongFirst approach, Method Engine, and performance based music curriculum.
The program sets itself apart from traditional programs that generally focus on one-on-one instruction and rarely teach students how to perform with other musicians. School of Rock is proud to have also been awarded Franchise Update’s 2021 Most Innovative Use of Customer-Facing Digital Tools category of the Products & Services Innovation Awards.
THE METHOD TO SUCCESS
The School of Rock Method combines one-on-one instruction with group rehearsals and live performances, an approach which allows students to learn techniques, theory and sight-reading, and quickly apply those skills performing with other musicians. Students start their musical journey by learning to play songs that inspire them. Classic songs like AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ are used to teach technique and theory.
“While we’ve become more sophisticated, and built our curriculum out significantly, the core idea is the same as it was at the start,” says chief development officer, Tony Padulo. “If we can get kids inspired and cultivate their connection by having them play the music they want to play.
“We can use that excitement to teach them the same concepts they would learn elsewhere with the trademark performances we are noted for. In theory, within a few months, a brand-new student could be playing his or her first real rock concert as part of the curriculum at a real venue in front of an audience. The result is that our students become engaged and enthused and emerge as great musicians.”
Another unique aspect of School of Rock – and a factor contributing to its immense brand expansion – is its status as a Recognized Global Children’s Franchise, receiving valuable accolades throughout the years, such as Best Children’s Service & Education Franchise 2021 and Top Five Educational Franchise Investment 2020 awards by Global Franchise magazine.
School of Rock understands what it takes to succeed as a franchise, and has a proven track record going back to the mid ’90s. Over the years, the brand has developed the techniques, the business processes, and the franchisee-centric culture that provides a blueprint for the franchisee’s success.
The concept travels well, due to low logistical, supply chain, technological, language and operational complexity. Popular music and child enrichment is universal, and School of Rock’s concept allows customization to celebrate local popular music while instilling musical proficiency.
“I think the reason we’re doing so well is that music has such a universal appeal,” says Padulo. “Unlike a food business where you may have to adapt the concept for local taste, we don’t have that issue. Whether you’re in the U.K. or South Africa or Brazil, there might be variations of local rock, but the basic premise of English-sung rock music is universally accepted.”
And while local flair is certainly included in the School of Rock curriculum, some legends transcend borders: The Beatles, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen are heard at every location, taught by veterans of the industry. Not just heard, mind you, but thunderously echoed through the hallways: “We’re definitely looking for somebody who doesn’t mind the noise,” laughs Padulo. “That’s always our first criteria, because while it’s music, it is noisy!”
THE PROFILE OF A PERFECT FRANCHISEE
Beyond just a tolerance for loud rock shows, some of the more general aspects sought in most master franchisee partners are individuals, or an entity, who are successful, ambitious, energetic, motivated and are comfortable in setting and achieving demanding targets for themselves, their staff and their customers.
“I think the reason we’re doing so well is that music has such a universal appeal”
The individual qualities a School of Rock master franchisee need to thrive include an astute business mind, proven track record of managing an organization in a fast-paced, demanding environment, strong knowledge and awareness of the local music scene and trends in their country, access to the financial resources to develop and then continue to support the School of Rock franchise business on an on-going basis, resources to create and execute an aggressive expansion plan to build brand awareness for all services, committed to delivering a fast-track return on investment via the rapid development of the franchise business through recruiting unit franchises within the master franchise country or region, and access to an established team of people with shared entrepreneurial beliefs and combined experience in human resources, finance, operations, sales and marketing.
Experience in franchising is also a benefit, but not a deal-breaker. Passion for music, education and for creating a business with high community impact, are essential.
In fact, many successful School of Rock franchisees are former or partially retired musicians or music industry execs, but others are successful entrepreneurs from other industries. There are also parents impressed by how School of Rock transformed their shy, isolated kid into a self-confident musician, finding his or her identity performing with a band onstage. Regardless of their background, all franchisees have one thing in common: an appreciation for the opportunity to improve the lives of children in their local communities through the power of music.
GROWTH ON THE HORIZON
Putting 2020 far behind it, School of Rock gears up for another strong year with a record-breaking student count and a projected 37 new school openings including 10 international locations.
The globetrotting franchise continues to set its sights on new ventures overseas, targeting the U.K., Italy, Germany, Singapore , the Middle East, and South Korea. Looking beyond that, School of Rock plans to grow from between 35 and 50 new schools every year, domestically, and at a rate of two to three new countries per year. Ambitious? Sure. But it’s got the track record to back it up.
Another very important ingredient for School of Rock’s success is the franchising awarding process, with a clear path that allows candidates to properly evaluate the opportunity and the chance for our team to analyze if the potential franchisee is a good fit.
The franchise is far from foolhardy: “We’re not the kind of franchisor that comes out, says we’re going to do 150 locations a year, and then five years later they all start closing,” says Padulo. “We’re looking for sustainable, solid growth; growth at a rate which allows us to not jeopardize or compromise on the level of quality and support that we’ve been providing over the last few years.”
For Padulo, the message is clear: “We have plans to be responsibly aggressive. We’re very bullish, but we plan on growing at a reasonable rate that we can sustain.”
NO SIGNS OF STOPPING
In addition, the team continues to enhance its current offerings, including work to regularly improve the School of Rock Method and its proprietary tools. And earlier this month, School of Rock amped up its exclusive GearSelect program by offering U.S. students the ability to purchase a wide assortment of professional musical instruments and accessories from 40 of the world’s most innovative and recognizable music brands including Fender, Zildjian, Roland, Boss and more.
First launched in 2019, the elevated program includes a new GearSelect catalog – an impressive print and digital portfolio of more than 1,000 high-quality musical products that can be purchased by students at their local School of Rock.
School of Rock is also committed to bringing more diversity to its curriculum and all aspects of the business. Starting with the launch of new season shows and resources to highlight black musicians and women in music last year, more new content is being developed to highlight communities who have been historically oppressed. School of Rock’s dedicated Diversity Committee has been developing a variety of action plans to make our system more equitable, diverse and inclusive.
As CEO Rob Price states, “this is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of School of Rock as we continue to build on this momentum and expand across the globe to fulfill our mission to enrich lives through music. If there is a love of Rock music and a desire to learn in a group format, then there is potential for School of Rock.”
AT A GLANCE SCHOOL OF ROCK
Year established: 1998
Number of franchised outlets: 300
Location of units: 15 countries
Investment range: $1.5m+ for master development, $322,000 - $521,000 for individual units
Minimum required capital: $1m for master development, $125,000 for individual units
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