Rock House Method
“The biggest issues with guitar instruction methods before we started Rock House were: It wasn’t cool, the existing approaches did to work in terms of effectiveness, They did not represent the current audience or today’s musicians of influence, or the way people learn in this era and most important students were not getting all they could from their favorite artist.” Explains Joe Palombo co-owner/co-founder of Rock House.”People get home and they have a video that outlines some techniques or demonstrates how to play a particular song, but they’re kind of on their own. We wanted to come up with a different approach – one that was more effective and really helped create new musicians.
“We looked at the issues and asked, ‘How do we solve these problems?’ The thing that sets apart Rock House is that John [McCarthy – co-founder], who is a principle player from the business side of things, is also an extremely accomplished musician. Having a key figure in the company who can also understand things from a musican’s standpoint is something that makes us unique.”
“The first step was to get artists to understand that we built a better mousetrap,” says McCarthy. “We don’t just put out one product with a given musician, like other companies have done in the past. In most cases, each artist we work with ultimately has a minimum of two, and more often four or five, products with us. Most important is what this does for the student and the retailer. If someone likes an artist and is willing to buy an instructional product from them, aren’t they likely to buy two or three?
“What happens when the student is done with only one product that is, like, 40 minutes long? He or she is left frustrated, stuck, and wanting more. We solved that problem by working with each artist to reveal all that they do and who they are as musicians. It gives the students all they need to really delve into an artist’s style and gives the retailers more to sell from popular guitar players of influence in this era. You can’t have a guy like Alexi Skolnick or Vernon Reid and expect to really help people learn their full musical story in one DVD.”
The Name Game
The Rock House Method’s credibility is convincingly bolstered through the enlistment of some of contemporary music’s most respected names as instructors. Current artists affiliated with the program include: Doug Wimbish, Bernie Worrell, Marc Rizzo, Rusty Cooley, Dave Ellefson, Rob Arnold, Will Adler, and Jeff Loomis, among many others.
“We didn’t want to just hire musicians and throw them on a DVD,” says Palombo. “Their thing isn’t really teaching, most of them; their thing is performing. Our approach allows the artist to have as much involvement as they like. Then the instructors we have on staff study each artists’s style to fashion the lessons that will be taught in a particular program. They work together with the musicians, who have final approval over the end product. Not only did we get really premier talents to get on board, but because we have the instructional DVDs and we have the Web site, it allows us to only put ‘meat’ on the DVDs. All the ‘fat’ is off. All of that extra stuff is on the Web and when people want it, it’s there for them to access. That’s part of the whole trick to what we’re trying to accomplish, which is really getting people to learn in a meaningful way.”
Creating Musicians – And Marketing to Them
Since Palombo and partner John McCarthy introduced the Rock House Method in late 2002, it has become “the fastest growing and most widely used musical instruction system in the world.” Joe is quick to point out what distinguishes his company’s system of music education from other methods: “We’re really teaching is technique, not just songs. Creating musicians one lesson at a time is what we’re trying to do here.
“Rock House is an actual house. We have loads of gear, so it immediately makes the artist comfortable. While here, we train the artist for two to three days, with them on camera in our in-house studio, so they get a feel for it, then we take them to the big studio to shoot the DVDs.”
And Rock House knows the musicians they’re creating – really knows them. And that can benefit the companies Rock House partners with “What we did was to create a unique way to identify the people,” Joe explains. We can actually identify who they are – which guitars they have, the whole thing.” The Rock House registration system gathers customer data that Rock House collaborators can draw upon to can to craft well-informed marketing campaigns. “The system allows us to identify each customer by the specific product titles they have,” says Palombo. “This helps customers, who receive more effective training and can benefit from a thriving community, and it also provides in-depth information about their preferences, buying habits, and background.”
To spread their message, Rock House has partnered with a number of big- (and not so big) name manufacturers. To date, the suppliers that carry Rock House products inside their entry level instrument packs include: Peavey, Washburn, Casio, Silvertone, Ovation, Ibanez, Ashton, Frontera, Behringer, SX, Volcano, Martinez, Spectrum, Richwood, Coast Music, Burswood, Jay Turser, ESP, Jim Deacon, Power Group, Switch Music, Valencia, and Mahalo. Additionally, Rock House also collaborates with EMG, GHS, and Moody Leather Guitar Straps on various ventures.
“This whole explosion happened with the mass market, we saw it coming,” says Palombo. knew it was coming and, because of that, since 2002, nearly four million guitar boxes that were sold around the world have had a Rock House DVD in it. That’s at least four million people who got their first experience of learning from Rock House. Of course, not everyone sticks with the program and registers, but we have over 160,000 users registered at the site and that grows by 150-250 per day.”
“I just see this continuing to grow – I can’t see how it wouldn’t,” offers Joe. In addition to reasonable pricing (on average between $20 and $30 per title) and an effective distribution network via Music Sales, the expectation seems reasonable. “We have a truly unique and marketable system and I hope more and more get on board,” Joe Palombo says.