Want Guitar Lessons From Metallica? Yousician Launches New Artist Series

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Yousician — a leading music education platform that offers lessons in guitar, bass, piano, voice and more — is launching its first-ever artist partnership series, the company tells Billboard.

The new Spotlight series is essentially a “Master Class” for musicians, with added interactive elements provided by Yousician’s real-time feedback technology, and launches Friday (Aug. 27) with a course from singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, followed by a course with Colombian rock artist Juanes in October and another with heavy metal icons Metallica early next year. All artist deals include an upfront fee, licensing royalties and a revenue share model in which artists are paid a percentage of revenue from customers who sign up for a Yousician subscription specifically to access the artist’s course. The company additionally invests in the content shoot and accompanying marketing campaigns for each of the Spotlights.

In the platform’s inaugural Spotlight course, Mraz will offer personalized tutorials for some of his best-known songs, including “I’m Yours,” “I Won’t Give Up” and “93 Million Miles.” The musician will additionally offer tips and tricks on playing the guitar and ukulele, talk about his songwriting process, perform his music and more. Juanes’ course is a partnership with popular language-learning app Duolingo that will focus on communicating through the universal language of music, while Metallica’s course will offer a “unique window” into the band’s songwriting process and include tutorials by band members themselves showing users how to play their most requested songs.

“I’ve partnered with Yousician because I hope that anyone at any age feels that now is the right time to learn,” said Mraz in a statement. “Yousician makes it so easy to learn and play. It’s like having a friend to personally guide you on your musical journey.”

Hadley Spanier, head of brand marketing and artist relations at Yousician who joined the company in January 2020 after a stint as senior vp and head of marketing at UMG’s Verve Label Group, calls the Spotlight series a “natural progression” for the growing platform, which currently boasts a combined 20 million users across Yousician and its associated guitar-tuning app GuitarTuna. Spanier tells Billboard the initiative grew out of a series of live virtual sessions the platform hosted last year, which saw artists including Mraz, Declan McKenna, Heart’s Nancy Wilson and more performing for students and offering real-time feedback.

“There’s so much potential for artists, both on the exposure side to our 20 million users, and also on a revenue side, because we are able to put together pretty attractive financial offers for artists as well,” says Spanier.

Some of the company’s current and future Spotlight courses — which are included with a Yousician Premium+ subscription — will entail partnerships with other brands. The partnership with Duolingo for the Juanes course will serve to amplify the introduction of language-customization capabilities on the Yousician platform, which became available in a total of five languages starting last year (with plans to add more by the end of 2021). Spanier describes the partnership as a “three-way consolidated marketing campaign,” with cross-promotion across Yousician, Duolingo and Juanes’ official channels.

The Spotlight initiative was made possible by Yousician’s recent $28 million Series B funding round, which the company announced in April. Led by Silicon Valley venture firm True Ventures, new investors in this round included Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Paul McCartney’s investment arm MPL Ventures. The Series B came on the heels of a successful 2020 for the company; over the course of that year, Yousician’s recurring revenue increased from $30 million to $50 million, while its user base rose from 14.5 million to 20 million and its paying subscribers increased by 78%. The number of songs played in the platform also saw a sharp 100% increase, rising from 150 million in 2019 to 300 million in 2020. The Yousician app alone was downloaded 14 million times last year — up 52% over 2019 — while GuitarTuna was up 10% to 32 million downloads. (Though it’s currently available in 154 countries, the company notes that most of Yousician’s active users reside in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.)

Much of this recent boost can be attributed to the pandemic, when more people in the U.S. and abroad turned to virtual music lessons following the wide-scale shutdown of in-person instruction. Indeed, since the start of the pandemic in the U.S., Yousician reports that its active user base and revenue have both increased by 60%, while the company is trending toward a 60% increase in paying users during that span.

In light of this momentum, the Spotlight series is being introduced at a critical juncture for Yousician, which is now looking to further differentiate itself in the growing virtual music lessons space by offering an added incentive for users to invest in their music education — and buy into the platform itself — over the long-term.

“Our greatest challenge is not our competitors or the technology or anything, it’s people’s motivation to get over that hurdle and actually start learning and then stick with it,” says Spanier. “We believe that we offer the best mix of things to keep people going and inspired, and we think that artists coming on board is going to…keep them motivated to play.”

With the launch of the Mraz course, Yousician is offering a discount of 25% off Premium+ and Family Plan subscriptions at this link. In September, Mraz will give away signed ukuleles to five users who complete his course.

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