Armstrong’s Examination of Non-Profit Potential Using the Think Inside the Box Method

Remove seemingly essential elements

Music services usually focus on instrument rental and/or instrument instruction.  These are “givens.”  If they are removed as “givens,” what’s left?  The physical space, the belonging to an organization, socializing with other students, collaboration.  It is also possible to be the middle-man for instrument rental and instruction, to provide a method in which instrument suppliers and instrument renters can find each other or instructors and students can find each other.  With the removal of the “givens,” there is less required commitment upfront, increasing consumer’s freedom to customize their services and create unique musical experiences.  When providing music services to inner-city students, this level of individuality and customization could be key.

Bring together unrelated tasks or functions

College-level mentors/tutors can have highly positive influences on the academic and life success of junior high or high school students.   One other activity that I feel has the potential to promote focus, connection, and critical and creative thinking is improvisation.  If the inner-city program involved college-level mentors/tutors who were also musicians with the ability to improvise, they could be helping students work through challenging social and academic concepts and wrapping up the sessions by teaching musical improvisation, having jam sessions, etc.  It would be an enjoyable experience for both parties, and I believe it would also have a strong positive impact on the student’s ability to think about life and schoolwork in new and different ways.

Copy a component and then alter it

Usually, there is a regularly scheduled weekly lesson to see what the student has done with the assignment given at the last lesson.  To copy and alter the component, students and instructors could have a shorter catch-up lesson in between the regularly scheduled lesson to answer student questions, keep the student motivated and on-task, and move forward faster when possible.

Separate the components of a product or service and rearrange them

Usually, someone who decides to take music lessons goes through a process such as:

  1. choose an instrument
  2. rent the instrument
  3. take lessons
  4. eventually achieve a level of proficiency
  5. share successes and progress with family and friends about once a year
  6. collaborate with others at your level of proficiency
  7. seek out ways to continue using what you’ve learned

Rearranging the process could like something like:

  1. rent instruments for a day or two
  2. meet with instructors and other students to see which instrument and instructor you like best
  3. choose an instrument and start lessons with an instructor
  4. share successes and progress with family and friends as often as you like
  5. collaborate with others
  6. seek out ways to use what you’ve learned
  7. achieve a level of proficiency
  8. repeat any of the steps above

Make the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment

  • When a student reaches a new progress level, the student can view on the online collaborative platform new/more people at the newly achieved level with whom the student can collaborate.
  • Inner-city collaborations can be predetermined based on a few students doing well in school (within the program or not) and one student not doing well in school.  The ratio could be kept at 2 to 1 minimum.
  • Lesson frequency changes in response to student’s preparedness and the rate of student’s progress (not just because it’s 5pm on Tuesday).

Armstrong’s Examination of Non-Profit Potential Using the 4 C’s of Marketing


How do instructors want to handle the donation of lessons?

  • Use donations and grants to compensate instructors
  • Give instructors the option to donate their time to one student for one year and instructors can claim it on their taxes (only employed instructors…background checks, reliability, quality, etc.)
  • Company pays instructors and claims the services donated on its taxes

For what purpose do individual instrument suppliers want to supply their instruments?

  • In the Craigslist format, give instrument suppliers the option to charge a rental fee or to donate the instruments for inner-city student use
  • In the Craigslist format, let the instrument suppliers and instrument renters specify the time duration for which they will rent the instruments

For what purpose do donors wish to make donations?

  • Pay instructors for their services
  • Repair and maintain donated instruments
  • Purchase and maintain screens and technology for online lessons
  • Purchase portable stands for student use

For what purpose do online instrument rental companies wish to supply their instruments?

  • To make money with rental fees
  • To donate instruments to inner-city students for a specified timeframe

How do inner-city schools wish to select the students who will receive these donated music services and instruction? How do inner-city schools want to split the responsibilities involved in providing this service?

Who provides the technology and screens for private and focused lessons?  Company donates these?

Who pays for the instructor’s time?  Donated by instructor or company or paid for by donations and grants?

Who provides the instruments?

Who provides the space for lessons, practice, and collaboration? 

  • School provides the lesson space and ensures the security of the technology and screens?
  • Alternative lesson space in the company’s physical location (still have lesson online) and also a good practice and collaboration space between lessons

What are the requirements for students receiving the music services? 

  • Application process?
  • Teacher or administrator recommendations?
  • A meeting with the student and/or parents?
  • A basic music skill assessment?
  • Online intake questionnaire?
  • A minimum GPA requirement for the student?
  • A minimum number of collaborations or performances?


Allow students to access all of the company’s online resources and platforms

  • Color coding system denoting skill level/progress
  • Collaboration and social platform
  • Physical location availability and reservation system
  • Music learning modules, free literature, etc.
  • Music theory training
  • Music ear training
  • Composition sounds and notations database
  • Youtube sharing of performances and collaborations
  • Discussion board for student feedback, suggestions, and requests
  • Instrument rental platform (Craigslist)
  • Online instrument rental company option (partner company)

Allow students to access the company’s physical locations (gyms) for practice between lessons, social interactions and collaborations, and for emergency or alternative lesson space


Allow students to determine their own purpose for the music instruction and resources which can be used to measure the program’s success on an annual basis, as well

  • Collaboration and socialization
  • Technical proficiency
  • For fun
  • To enter music competitions
  • To consider a career in music

A trial phase of one month where students can try different instruments, instructors, locations, personal goals, etc.


Choose from different physical locations

Choose purpose/personal goals

Choose instructor and instrument

Choose from instrument rental or donation options

Choose how to support the program

Stephen O’Neill- The 4 Cs and Kano Model applied to the Music Gym/Member Organization

Stephen O’Neill’s 4 Cs and KANO analysis of music membership club (music gym)


The 4 Cs-


Consumer (Co-Creation)- what does the consumer want or need? The product will need to be desgined with the end user in mind. What would potential customers want out of a music membership club? Would they just want instruments? Would they want lessons? Would they want food and beverage? Are their other amenities that need to be considered? Are there specific things regarding the ambience that need to be considered?


Interesting fee structures might include: a monthly membership, a per visit fee, perhaps even free guest passes for friends and or family.


Additionally, could this in fact become a destination for evenings and weekends? In addition to borrowing instruments or having lessons in a club or gym environment, would it not also be interesting to market or push social aspects for the benefit of the consumer?


Cost (Community)- the price of a product is only one factor of total cost to the consumer. Other factors that would need to be considered include travel time, ease of use of the music club, membership or collective vs. traditional buying or renting of instruments and paying for lessons. What benefits might this model offer to the consumer that they could not get from renting or buying instruments using more traditional means?


One key play, in my opinion, would be the added benefit of being able to “hang out” while trying out and experimenting with instruments. Could this model also serve a vital social function for members of the “club”?


Communication (Customization)- traditional marketing in the four Ps would focus on convincing the customer to buy the product. But, what if we entered into a dialogue with potential customers (and then existing) customers about what they wanted from their membership organization? How much is fair to charge for this type of service? Would one model be running the business by charging what people believe they can afford? If there is a monthly fee for membership, what would members expect or demand in return for purchasing a membership?


Even more importantly, how might we customize the experience or the communication patterns to suite the needs of each individual member? One thing that might be interesting is to continually assess feedback from customers regarding what types of products/instruments/services they would like to have in place as part of their “music gym” or “music club”. Could their be a mechanism in place within the “gym” or “club” for individuals to come together to form bands or informal groups for the purposes of playing together?


Convenience (Choice)- I was in a Best Buy this weekend, I had to drive really far away from my house in order to get there. It was rather sad really; I mean it wasn’t all that busy. And, most people were looking not buying- myself included. I guess my point is- with the Internet businesses have to be more convenient in order to maintain customers. This could be particularly true for a membership organization. Where is it located? Is it proximate to areas loaded with artists and musicians? Is it in an area that is conducive to being social? Can the surrounding area tolerate the noises associated with the music?


One feature would be the ability to take instruments away from the “gym/club” or to have them delivered to your house or wherever you were going to need them. However, this may in fact take away from some of the potential social aspects I touted above.


Would it not also add to convenience to include a coffee shop or even a bar or beer in this type of establishment?


The Kano Model-


Capturing Data-

  • Dallas is a very large city, which means the target market is large
  • There are currently not any “music gym” or “music club” models that I could find in the Dallas area
  • Dallas is home to the largest art district in the Nation, see:
  • On-line music rental ranges from about $20.00 per month to $60.00 per month for one instrument


Reflection and Analysis-


  • It does seem like the market is prime for this type of service, as I could not find a “music gym” or “music club” in the Dallas area.
  • I really think it would be cool to integrate these instruments with social aspects or ways for musicians to come together to play together- much like meet up.
  • Also, a coffee shop or food/snack venue might even turn this type of service/product into a hangout for folks during evenings and weekends
  • Lessons, either professionally led, or by other members could be integrated into the “gym” or “club”.
  • Because average instrument rentals range from $20 to $60 per month, it is possible that you could charge $50 to $70 for members to have unlimited access to instruments or to try a variety of instruments. Perhaps, one could package a one-instrument rental with access to the “gym” or the “club”.


Brainstorming/Key Differentiators-

  • This type of product/service does not exist
  • Can bring in social/club aspects
  • Price could be competitive
  • The ambience of the location will be key factor
  • Integrating coffee shop could attract additional customers and enhance social feel
  • Encourage member led lessons or opportunities for members to play music together, meet and greet, etc.
  • Arts district could be a solid location to attract folks likely to take advantage of this type of service

Online musical instruction: Dragonfly Effect & Kano Model by Keith M.

Dragonfly Effect

Focus on one goal: Driving traffic to a website that sells online music instruction services

Grab attention:
Start a YouTube channel with some free tutorials and post a link for further instruction (that consumers would have to pay for)
Offer video testimonials that show the contrast of where music students started and how far they have progressed
Go big on visuals, but small on text
Call local media outlets searching for stories to tell them about your new business

Methods to engage others:
Show examples
Start a Podcast featuring students
Offer many avenues for feedback
Utilize social media to post content, rewards, and discounts regularly (but not overwhelmingly)
Offer referral bonuses

Empower others:
Inspire emotion
Give students a reason to perform (anti-bullying concerts, fundraising events, etc)
Let the child make choices in their own instruction

Kano Model

Capturing Data:

  • large market for music instruction in the Dallas area, especially for children (very competitive, parents take it seriously)
  • some music schools offer online instruction, but they also offer in-person instruction, either in-home or in-studio, individual or group lessons, and sometimes instrument rental at their physical location
  • some organizations offer a service like but for music – helps find in-person or online music instruction (
  • some offer payment and instructor communication options online (
  • some focus on being selective and require student dedication shown by a formal application, an application fee, review and formal matching of student with instructor by the organization, only in-person lessons, etc. (Dallas School of Music)
  • most organizations focus on instructing children.  Some sites mention adults, but the photos all feature children receiving instruction.  No top organizations seem to focus on instruction for elderly people, business people, stay-at-home parents, or inner-city students
  • When online lessons are available, they are offered through Skype

Reflection & Analysis
The competition for any form of music instruction venture in Dallas is going to be tough. The key will be to find a way to differentiate our service from the others offered in the area.

Brainstorming: Key Differentiators:
Customer Service
Unique Hours (to accomodate children in school or adults who are full-time workers)
Collaboration (students teaching students; peers working together; jam sessions, etc.)
Recruit credibility (noteworthy instructors / equipment)
Prestige vs. affordable (find the “blue ocean” — a road less traveled for the music instruction services in the area)
Have web site accommodations that other sites do not (instrument rental, etc)


Armstrong’s Examination of Online Music Instruction Services – Empathetic Design as Used by IDEO


  • large market for music instruction in the Dallas area, especially for children (very competitive, parents take it seriously)
  • some music schools offer online instruction, but they also offer in-person instruction, either in-home or in-studio, individual or group lessons, and sometimes instrument rental at their physical location
  • some organizations offer a service like but for music – helps find in-person or online music instruction (
  • some offer payment and instructor communication options online (
  • some focus on being selective and require student dedication shown by a formal application, an application fee, review and formal matching of student with instructor by the organization, only in-person lessons, etc. (Dallas School of Music)
  • most organizations focus on instructing children.  Some sites mention adults, but the photos all feature children receiving instruction.  No top organizations seem to focus on instruction for elderly people, business people, stay-at-home parents, or inner-city students
  • When online lessons are available, they are offered through Skype


  • 9% of population is 65 and older
  • the largest populations are Hispanic/Latino (42%), White (29%), and Black (25%)
  • Education of ages 25 and older: 73% have H.S. degree or more and 29% have bachelor’s degree or more
  • Ideal client is someone who needs convenience, has limited time or limited mobility, is comfortable using technology, is motivated to log-in and learn music, and is interested in taking advantage of additional online or website resources or service offerings


  • Need a better video chat option than Skype: perhaps Googlehangouts or FaceTime
  • Need something for instrument rental or instruction payments: perhaps Paypal
  • Need something for renting instruments from other people (like Craigslist)
  • Need something like WIkipedia for composition students
  • Need to provide students with video cams and microphones?
  • Need to provide video cams and microphones and laptops to instructors?

Perceived Constraints:

  • Some people are not comfortable with online instruction
  • less in-person interaction can mean less trust and commitment to continue lessons
  • some are not comfortable using technology
  • it is a new concept for many music instructors as well as potential students
  • much music instruction pedagogy and history focuses on being in the same physical space
  • loss of control over consistency of quality, consistency of company image, and representation of company by instructor
  • need money, time, and skills to create a platform to transfer many aspects of in-person lessons to online services and resources
  • can seem to be less professional or of lower quality than in-person instruction

Real people:

  • confusion about the role of parents in the child’s instruction
  • frustration when student can’t see what progress is being made
  • confusion about what is expected of the student
  • confusion about when payment is due
  • confusion about where to get the needed materials and supplies and what materials and supplies are needed
  • concern about how much to invest in music instruction (time and money)
  • need more opportunities to learn and understand concepts, ideas, and techniques (smaller doses of more instruction between formal lessons)
  • like:
  1. celebration about small accomplishments
  2. being free to make mistakes without embarrassment
  3. having long-term, challenging goals
  4. showing friends and family their accomplishments
  • hate:
  1. seeming irrelevance of what is being learned
  2. practing with a metronome
  3. trying to remember when to pay (embarrassing)
  4. feeling embarrassed to be an adult student
  5. having a lesson when student is not fully prepared

Visualize new  to the world concepts:

  • Wikipedia for composition sounds/notation
  • instructor/student platform and/or app for assigning objectives and activities, student submissions and logs of activity, general communication between student and instructor, scheduling of lessons, etc.
  • database of free music activities, external resources, etc.
  • movable screens for instructor use to create consistent, private, and distraction-free online lessons
  • online feedback to the company regarding student experiences, requests, suggestions, etc.


Spady’s (Snappy) Synthesis 4-15-14

Lots of people know they want to “try” learning to play an instrument, but they don’t know which they’d like to play, if they’ll even like it, or how long they’d like to commit to lessons. And they don’t necessary live in a place conducive to practice (easily annoyed neighbors), can’t fit a piano/cello in their apartment, etc.

What if learning to play an instrument was more like having a gym membership?  You have access to any instrument and class you want?

Observations & Data
The current standard in Dallas for instrument rental is to pay monthly (or on a rent-to own basis). With a 3 or 12 month contracts. And pricing ranging from $20-65 depending on the size of the instrument (with instrument maintenance included in the price).
Schools are a common target, with “School kits”  packages that include extra equipment such as music stands, etc. (which are delivered along wit the instrument, directly to the school).




1. Specify context of use

Context of use would be (potentially) threefold: on-site, online, and rental/take home.  The service would be primarily a resource a “library” of classes, experts, and equipment that could be sought out.

2. Specify requirements

I. Variety of choice of equipment
II. Access to several locations to practice, learn, or be instructed (both physical & virtual).

III. Short-term time commitments (for subscription, choice of instrument, class sign up, etc.).

IV. Minimal financial commitments- consumers get to “try” their instrument before they buy it.

3. Create design solutions
The solution is a users who can create their own custom packages depending on their financial standing, interest level, ability to commit, and preferred learning environments.

4. Evaluate Designs

I hypothesize that a user would respond positively to a custom package, so long as they knew what their options were. The one thing that could prove precarious would be overwhelming them with too many options or nuances, therefore a question to help them determine what would be a good fit (such as what Chase does when you apply for a credit card); as well as levels of packages (that can we tweaked) would be an ideal solution.




Monthly subscription-based access to a one-stop-shop “studio” (library of instruments if you will) location with various: instruments, equipment, and supplies  that could be used on site, or rented out.

The place in the market would primarily be novice musicians, who want to “try before they buy,” would like variety and flexibility, and who aren’t ready to make heady investments int their equipment. Particularly for students (high school-college)

Service could include levels. Entry level would include access to instruments (both on-location) and on some kind of temporary loan-out agreement, and free in-person classes.  While a secondary level might include online modules, literature, access to private “practice” rooms, etc.

Target music classes directly (both in high schools and in the collegiate setting), as well as music supply stores, music clubs, etc. and short-term Groupon-esque incentives.



Working through the service design process using a variety of design methodologies