SmartMusic: Comparing Classic to New

Apologies for the long delay between posts. I am in the midst of my Master's Project for my program at the VanderCook College of Music. Couple that with the normal stress and business of three ensembles and a studio of 112 students, and you see why I haven't been writing.Earlier this week, SmartMusic released a publicity campaign touting their new web-based version coming this Fall. I have been both a private and public beta tester of the software, and I've remained pretty quiet as we've moved through the testing. I can tell you I am very excited for the implications of this as my district moves to 1:1 with Chromebooks for grades 5-12. Let's take a look at what the new version has to offer:

Going completely web-based means that students and teachers can access SmartMusic on any device that can connect to the Internet: laptops, tablets, phones, Chromebooks, etc. SmartMusic has created a new page entitled Meet the New SmartMusic that has a lot more information including:

  • YouTube Video describing the new program

  • Comparison PDF looking at the Current SmartMusic and the New SmartMusic

  • Calculator for estimating the new cost of outfitting your program

  • Info Sheet PDF for communicating to administrators

Unfortunately, the information about all the possible options and costs seems to be spread out over several e-mails, webpages, and blog posts from SmartMusic. I'll do my best to consolidate them here:

Classic SmartMusic New SmartMusic
Educator Subscription $140.00 Block of 50 Students + 3 Teachers $399.00
Practice Room Subscription
increasing May 2016
Block of 5 Additional Students $40.00
Student Subscription $40.00 1 Additional Teacher $40.00
Full Access (per Student) $20.00

If you aren't familiar with some of SmartMusic's terms, here are some quick definitions:

  • Educator Subscription: Log-in based, not pinned to a single device. Ability to access entire library, create and grade assessments, and perform/self-assess.

  • Practice Room Subscription: Pinned to individual devices by an Educator Subscription. Allows for the creation of Free Student Accounts which can only be used on pinned devices. Accounts logging in to pinned subscriptions have access to the entire library and can complete assessments. SmartMusic is increasing the cost of this subscription to $99 beginning in May 2016.

  • Free Student Accounts: Log-in based, not pinned to a single device. Can only access the library and assessments when logged-in to a pinned Practice Room Subscription.

  • Student Subscription: Log-in based, not pinned to a single device. Gives students access to entire library and ability to perform and complete assessments.

In the New SmartMusic, the equivalent of Educator Subscriptions and Student Subscriptions are included in the Block of 50. Two full blocks would constitute 100 students and 6 teachers. Adding additional individual teachers costs $40. Students can be added in blocks of 5 for $40 as well. Teachers will still have access to the entire library, as well as the ability to create and grade assessments, and perform/self-assess. Students will only have access to what is assigned to them unless their subscriptions are upgraded (Full Access) for $20 per student.

A Practical Example

The high school where I teach will have 112 students in 10-12th grade band next year (95 last year). Here is a cost-comparison of our different options:

  • 2015-2016 with Classic SmartMusic ($456)

    • 2 Educator Subscriptions @ $140 each

    • 4 Practice Room Subscriptions @ $44 each

    • 95 Free Student Accounts

  • 2015-2016 with Classic SmartMusic & Full Student Access ($4,256)

    • 2 Educator Subscriptions @ $140 each

    • 4 Practice Room Subscriptions @ $44 each

    • 95 Student Subscriptions @ $40 each

  • 2016-2017 with Classic SmartMusic ($676)

    • 2 Educator Subscriptions @ $140 each

    • 4 Practice Room Subscriptions @ $99 each

    • 112 Free Student Accounts

  • 2016-2017 with Classic SmartMusic & Full Student Access ($5,156)

    • 2 Educator Subscriptions @ $140 each

    • 4 Practice Room Subscriptions @ $99 each

    • 112 Student Subscriptions @ $40 each

  • New SmartMusic ($919)

    • 1 blocks of 50 students + 3 teachers @ $399 each

    • 13 blocks of 5 students @ $40 each

So you can see that we are paying more money either way we do it. If we stick with Classic SmartMusic, we will pay $220 more. If we upgrade to the new system, we will pay $463 more, slightly more than double what we currently pay.

You can also see why SmartMusic was having to change their pricing schemes. They pay royalties to music publishers any time a piece of music is opened in their program. Based on the feedback I've been seeing on social media, several programs across the country used practice room subscriptions to reach larger numbers of students. SmartMusic was missing out on several hundreds of dollars in subscription fees from our program alone. In our system, that was $3,800 this past year alone.

So is it worth it?

Oh ya, you betcha. Unfortunately, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the private beta, and because I don't see images of the New SmartMusic being made public yet, I don't believe I can legally share my own. I can talk about the features they list on their website:

  • Browser-based: I have tested this in Google Chrome on my Macbook Pro, my school Lenovo laptop, my iPad, and our school's Dell ChromeBooks. It works outstandingly well!

  • Import MusicXML: They haven't yet released this feature, but they are touting the ability to import any MusicXML file for assessment, not just SMPX files created by Finale!

  • Zoom and Reflow Music: The way the program engraves the music on the screen is truly a thing of beauty. There is an immense flexibility in being able to scale the music larger or smaller to fit the screen of the device being used. It's not just the page that zooms. Noteheads, staves, everything adjusts.

I have typed and deleted a few bullet points several times here as I have double-checked what information they have and have not released about the new SmartMusic. I can tell you, I am very excited about the implications of this for our program. I'll let you know more after our discussions with the district and as SmartMusic lets us discuss more!

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Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.