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Why Is MasterClass So Popular (And Expensive)?

MasterClass weaseled its way into the homes and minds of many with its advertising blitz that featured captivating clips from its classes with renowned professionals. Their domination of pre-roll ads on Facebook at the helm of 2020 helped draw in those stuck at home and eager to learn more (for just $180 a year, paid upfront).

At the time they had only 80 teachers. That number has now grown to well over 150.

So, why is MasterClass so darn popular? And what’s with that high price and lack of a monthly subscription option? Let’s get into it.

Why Is MasterClass So Popular?

MasterClass’s popularity is largely due to world events (read: 2020), name recognition, and cleverly cinematic marketing.

MasterClass picked up steam at just the right time. People were stuck at home with hours on their hands that they just didn’t quite know what to do with. People were also turning to new hobbies like writing that novel or taking up cooking. MasterClass was there to fill that gap.

MasterClass is popular in part because of its timing to the market. While it launched on May 12, 2015, it didn’t have massive popularity until 2020. At that point it had slowly built up its catalog to 80 instructors, providing a nice variety to interest a variety of people.

But it’s not just variety that caught people’s attention. It’s who was teaching these MasterClasses. MasterClass gives you a sit-down with big names like James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, and Gordon Ramsay.

And not only did they have big names on the scene, but they also have cinematic, romantic production quality. The sets assembled or green-screened for these instructors are lavish and enticing. A mood is created. You feel like you can be a chef or a singer or America’s next great novelist. This directly translated to a moving marketing campaign that left you feeling empowered.

Naturally, it gained popularity.

Why Is MasterClass So Expensive?

MasterClass is so expensive because of the cost to have big names featured, the cost of the high-production value they provide, and the need to do all that and still pull a profit.

You’re not just learning writing from Joe Shmoo, you’re learning it from Joyce Carol Oates or Margaret Atwood or Judy Blume. You aren’t scrolling through a recipe on a faceless website with too much backstory. You’re in the kitchen with Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck. The high price is due, in part, to name recognition.

Some of these instructors haven’t done a ‘course’ yet. (And for some, that fact is quite obvious.) So there’s also that exclusive allure. And beyond that, celeb figures come with a price tag.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, instructors may make $100,000 upfront with a revenue share based on class engagement. With a catalog of over 180 of these fancy, schmancy big-names, that’s a lot of money invested and the company needs to make it up somewhere.

However, I find it best to look at the subscription with a cost-by-class to determine if it’s too expensive or not. At $180 a year for over 150 courses, you’re not paying that much per class. As long as you want to watch more than one class it isn’t all that pricy when you compare it to online classes by no-name individuals who charge in the hundreds of dollars for one course.

Is MasterClass a Gimmick or Ripoff?

MasterClass is not a gimmick or a ripoff. They deliver on what they say they will provide.

With that being said, however, MasterClass is not without its criticisms. As a subscriber for nearly two years, I have plenty of my own.

Not Interactive

While at the start there seemed to be a level of interaction between instructor and student and among students themselves, that no longer seems to be the case. Without interactivity, it does take something out of learning a topic as you can’t get feedback.

Not on Par With Standards of Other MOOCs

When you look at MOOCs from Coursera and edX or other big names on the market, MasterClass doesn’t really compare. You aren’t getting a true course experience. You’re mostly getting in-depth documentaries and some instruction videos.

I certainly think you can still take away valuable information from these classes (otherwise I wouldn’t still be subscribed). But I think you need to go into it understanding that it isn’t like taking a class or getting a certification on Coursera. I would place it more into the infotainment or edutainment area.

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