Over the Past 35 Years, LearnToPlayMusic.com has Transformed the Music Lesson Industry Three Times, Generated More Than 25+ Million Books & Video Sales and is About to Unveil the Netflix for Music Learning
Every successful company has an ‘Origin Story’. For LearnToPlayMusic.com it began in 1979 with a stuffed toy Koala, two guitarists from the ‘big country city’ of Adelaide, Australia, and a ‘back of a napkin’ plan to conquer the world of music education publishing.
For a company that has defied convention by flying under the radar for most of its life, www.LearnToPlayMusic.com (a.k.a Koala Music Publications) has a lot of reasons to celebrate on its 35th birthday. The company has just launched a new ecommerce website, and wrapped up production on the first season of its acclaimed WebTV series, Music Space. Now it has plans to unveil a new state-of-the-art digital music lesson content platform that will provide the next game-changing evolution of the music lesson industry for up and coming musicians who want to play the songs they love and get into the business.
For company co-founder and CEO, Gary Turner, it’s no exaggeration to say that he’s as excited about the business today, as he was when he started back in 1979. Coming from the same working-class music scene in Adelaide, South Australia, that had helped to produce Bon Scott, lead singer of rock legends, AC/DC, and many other Aussie rock icons, guitarists Gary Turner and Brenton White, were two young musicians playing in bands and touring around Australia on bills alongside rising superstars like INXS. It may have been ‘living the rock’n’roll life’, but it didn’t pay the bills, and that’s when Gary and Brenton took a calculated left turn and went into the music education book publishing business. “I don’t think we appreciated it at the time, but innovation was the reason we started Koala. As guitarists teaching younger kids, we’d get frustrated by the lack of guitar lesson books teaching the contemporary playing techniques of our heroes,” said Gary. “So, we pooled our savings, and took a chance on writing and publishing our own. Of course, there was no such thing as Adobe Photoshop, or even home computers back then. Our first books were put together with a type-writer, rulers, scalpels, glue and letraset sheets. Even Progressive Guitar Method Book One, which has gone on to sell over 6 million copies, was produced in that old-school method.” Success came quickly, and the duo were always looking for new market opportunities and new methods to produce their books.
That spirit of innovation saw the company become the world’s first music education publisher to include CDs and DVDs with their books. Then, in 1999, as the digital revolution was transforming the publishing establishment, Gary, who was by then the company’s sole owner, took another calculated gamble and rebranded the company to, LearnToPlayMusic.com.
Spearheading that transition period was Recording Engineer and Digital Media Producer, Andy Wallace. “I had just finished production work on US singer/songwriter, Ben Folds’ first solo album ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs’, recorded at Gary Turner’s ‘Krell Studios’ in Adelaide, when I came on board as LTP’s digital media production manager,” said Wallace. “We were building this huge content library for all the different DVDs and videos and online projects we had in development. I remember we were recording hundreds of musicians, and producing thousands of hours of instructional video footage for dozens of different music instruments. It was a crazy exciting time for us all.”
Even for LearnToPlayMusic.com’s Director of Print Operations, Brett Duncan, the changes he’s seen have been nothing short of amazing. “When I first started we were producing and printing our products in Australia, then we’d ship to our distributors in the US, or the UK, or Europe, or Japan,” said Duncan. “Now everything is global, and I’m managing production in the US and Australia and China. Sometimes I’ll have to fly from Sydney to Amsterdam to London or Nashville, and then over to Toyko or back to Australia – all to meet with different production teams and distributors. I still find time to play a few gigs and jam when I can though, and I do get to meet some great musicians in my travels.”
“When we first started, if you were a kid who really wanted to learn how to play the guitar, or the piano, or the violin, you had two options; you took lessons with a teacher or you bought a music lesson book from the local music store and taught yourself,” said Gary Turner. “In today’s world, kids are armed with laptops, tablets, and smartphones and now social media and digital content sharing networks are the focal point of their lives and are used 24×7 to keep in touch with friends and family. To tap into this new lifestyle, we realized that once again that we needed to transform our business. In 1999, we started this journey by digitizing over 35 year’s worth of music lessons, music books, and an entire library of analog instructional music videos.”
“We have been tracking the success of subscription-based digital music and movie downloading services and platforms such as Amazon Prime, Oyster, Netflix, and Spotify. These music publishers and media companies have been very successful at transforming the way they interact with and sell new services to customers,” Turner continued. “We think the music teaching industry is going to be very impressed when we unveil our new leading-edge digital music platform, which will make it much easier for aspiring musicians, their parents and music teachers, music schools and music stores to get involved and share the wealth from the booming digital music industry.”
“Our mission has always been to help kids, teens and older students to learn how to play and rock out on their first Fender Stratocaster, or pound the skins on a Pearl drumkit, or saxophone in the school band,” Turner added. “Our new digital media platform doesn’t change our mission, it’s just a more innovative way for us to achieve it. And that’s the true measure of LearnToPlayMusic.com’s success.”
Music Education Revolution
For more information on LearnToPlayMusic.com’s new digital media platform, click here.
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